Just the other afternoon while I was sitting in the Los Angeles traffic I heard a very amusing news story about a woman who had thrown away her husband's absentee ballot after promising to mail it. Completely unrepentant, she was very proud of herself, claiming her husband had voted for the "wrong" side. Ironic timing I thought -- we just celebrated the 92nd Anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. Clearly, this woman has her own ideas about what women's suffrage means.
All joking aside, a woman's right to cast her vote is not to be taken lightly. In 1869, our courageous "foremothers" Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. They held salons and traveled across the country to build momentum for their cause. It was a long bumpy road for the suffragettes. Years later in 1917, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and 216 other female protestors were arrested outside the White House for picketing Woodrow Wilson's administration with signs demanding equality.
The women were brutalized, jailed and chained to their cells. Thirty-three of them remained imprisoned and forced to endure torture until the press was made aware of their plight and broke the story. The negative publicity generated by the ongoing conflict between the suffragettes and male police officers finally forced President Wilson to call a special session of Congress. This paved the way for ratification of the landmark amendment years later on August 26th, 1920.
I have never taken my right to vote for granted. I give full credit to my cousin, who was a woman and a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson during his run for the presidency against John F. Kennedy. "Women have nothing to do with electing presidents," she told me one day as she explained the Electoral College.
This moment has always stayed with me. Instead of making me cynical or discouraging me, it made me excited for the day when I could be part of the decision making. I still remember when I turned 21, the legal age to vote back then. I marched right over to Beverly Hills City Hall and registered to vote.
Women are not a special interest group. We represent half the country and have the power to sway the election in November. There have been quite a bit of backwards ideas about women expressed by various male chauvinist politicians of late. The good news about these outrageous statements is that they have made women tune in and realize we have to get out there and vote -- stick up for ourselves.
It's strange to think we are still going in circles about women's rights and equality in the 21st century. What I find even stranger is women in this day and age who, when they cast their vote, are simply echoing the opinion of the men in their lives. It is no wonder so many politicians do not feel the need to endear themselves to the "gentler sex."
The Internet has done so much for the world and these days it makes it so easy for us to inform ourselves and participate. The nonpartisan website for the League of Women Voters of California is a wonderful resource. You can even register to vote on this site.
I was recently invited to a dinner party honoring Steve Wynn. Being the very creative personality that he is, he started the evening with a round table discussion about the upcoming election. One by one, he asked all of his guests to make a prediction. This was not my Mahjong group. This was high stakes, and the last thing I wanted to do was lose a friendship over religion or politics. This was not a risk I wanted to take.
Fortunately I am a very good bluffer. When my turn came and my host pressed for my opinion, I got brave and broached a controversial international incident I knew was on the tip of everyone's tongue, "What really happened with Prince Harry at your hotel?"
This got me out of the hot seat, but truth be told, what I really wanted to do was encourage every woman in the room to register to vote. Despite what your husband or sons think and despite the Electoral College. And whether they are red or blue, in November make the choice to walk and vote in your own shoes.