by Pam Pacelli Cooper
October is American Archives Month. As the leaves fall and we turn our energies indoors, we can begin to think about the archives in our own homes: troves of letters never read or catalogued; memories not yet recorded; years of photos cached in disorganized files on multiple computers, thrown into shoeboxes, lost on smartphones. Read some of the blogs from the National Archives on the joys and importance of organizing and storing our histories here: https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/american-archives-month
Voting and the November 2020 election: Memories in need of an archive
Have you ever thought about creating an archive of your family’s voting history? I never had until this year, when I realized what an important part voting plays in my family’s history, especially for the women.
As I scrolled through the articles about archiving, I realized that I had never written down any of the stories passed on to me from my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother about their voting histories. In a year where voting rights are being challenged in many states, I thought a brief history of voting in our family might be of interest.
Great Grandmother Isabel was born in 1869. If she had lived in many of the United States, her first vote would have been cast when she was 50 years old. However, because she lived in Kansas, she was able to vote in the national elections as of 1912 at 42, because the spirited women of that state won the right to vote before other states: https://tinyurl.com/yxmcwlwh!
Great grandmother never forgot what it was like to live without the right to vote. Alive until I was 12, she drilled into me how awful it had been to have men running her life until after she had borne all of her children. She never missed an election, state or local, until her death at age 88.
Her daughter, on the other hand, took voting for granted and always voted the way her husband(s) did. Or didn’t vote at all.
My mother took on her grandmother’s mantle, voting all the way up to the 2018 election. She was almost 93. She knew the importance of women’s rights, and she worked tirelessly for choice during the 1960s and, later, for helping seniors to vote and keep their voices in the mix of democracy.
Archive your own Family History of Voting
If you created an archive of your family’s voting history, what would it contain?
- Who was the first person in your family to vote? Where and when?
- Was your grandmother/great grandmother able to vote?
- What are the stories in your family about voting?
- If your ancestors came from another country, could they vote in their country of origin?
- What is the family custom about voting and participation in elections, national and local?
- Has anyone in your family ever had their vote denied/suppressed? What are the family stories about that?
- Does your family ever discuss the importance of Women’s Suffrage and the Voting Rights Act?
Please share some stories from the archive of your family’s voting history in the comments section.