“We will decide this election, really it’s a question of whether we vote or not. It’s that simple.” Gloria Steinem
For weeks now I’ve been lining up chairs and turning my house into a theatre. Whenever I find more chairs, I start another row. This will be a full house and it should be a handful.
Out front, horse drawn carriages and buggies are drawing up to the curb on my street. Antique cars are coming around the bend in every direction. Sacagawea walks up from the banks of the Columbia River in Chinook on The Lewis and Clark Trail.
Eleanor Roosevelt gets things started in her sing song voice, “We don’t know our strength until we are in hot water!”
A few ladies sit in rockers, skirts and petticoats making a wide girth. Others prefer a hard bench, and still others insist on standing, but most are in chairs. I never could have anticipated such a turn out.
Margaret Mead interrupted important research she was doing in Samoa for the occasion, and hangs her pith helmet at my door.
Freshly bailed out of jail, Margaret Sanger proclaims “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether or not she will be a mother.”
Abigail Adams agrees, “Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”
“Here, here!” comes up from the crowd.
Elizabeth Stanton, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Clare Barton, Betty Friedan. Scanning around the room, I am impressed by the number of writers: Margaret Fuller, Kate Chopin, Zora Neale Hurston to name a few.
“America’s future will be determined by the home and the school….” declares Jane Addams, feminist, social worker, and friend to the poor.
“And voting!” they all chime.
In the remaining minutes before the debate begins, I try to explain to them who our moderators are, Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley, and Bob Schieffer.
“I think,” states Elizabeth Stanton, “that the young women of today do not and can not know at what price their right to speak and to speak at all in public has been earned.” There is great agreement among all, settling down to a palpable quietude as the debate begins.
I am watching for Betty Friedan. I am watching for Margaret Sanger. I am watching for Margaret Mead. I am watching for Elizabeth Blackwell, first American female physician. I am watching for them all.
I am watching for the women who died at the hands of back-alley abortionists. I am watching for women whose education was derailed by unwanted pregnancy. I am watching for all the young women who were sent off to Homes for Unwed Mothers. I am watching the debates in the company of all these extraordinary women and we will not blink.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer,” muses Zora Neale Hurston as she slips into her wool coat.