This week (August 26th) we celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the passing of the nineteenth amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Hard to believe, isn't it--that for most of the country's history women were denied the right to vote? That women should vote along with men seems so simple and self-evident now, but less than a century ago, it was the stuff of rallies, protests, and bitter debates in kitchens and bedrooms. Many men failed to understand that women were simply demanding that most basic of rights--the right to have one's voice heard.
Abigail Adams understood this. On March 31, 1776, she wrote to her husband John, then attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. "And by the way," she wrote, "in the new code of laws...I desire you would remember the ladies." She implored him to allow women a voice in the new government. John's response was rather predictable for the time: "I cannot but laugh." Over a century later, "Remember the ladies!" became a familiar cry at Votes for Women rallies.
Abigail's thoughtful letters are now part of history; they are her legacy. As a writer she understood the glorious freedom of self-expression. As a writer, I can't imagine anything more suffocating than having one's voice suppressed. I hope I never take that hard-won right for granted.