You know what I love? Voting!

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

90 years ago today, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed women throughout the United State the right to vote.

Having been born in the 1970s, it’s difficult for me to even conceive of not being allowed to vote. But when you think about it, 90 years is really not all that long ago. The history of the battle for women’s suffrage in the United States is both fascinating and depressing (and well chronicled in the excellent anthology One Woman, one vote: rediscovering the woman suffrage movement, available at the Oakland Public Library if you want to learn more about the subject), but mostly, it’s amazing to me when I think about the absolutely relentless persistence of these women involved in the movement.

But what’s even more awesome is what the leaders of the suffrage movement did after they got what they wanted. I mean, it would have been so easy to just celebrate their victory and put the years and years of pamphleting and lobbying behind them and just enjoy finally getting to relax. That’s totally what I would have done.

But they didn’t. Instead, they decided to channel their energy and the nationwide organization they had built up into making sure women used their hard won right to vote responsibly. And thus they transformed the National American Women Suffrage Association into the League of Women Voters. They engaged in exhaustive study of issues, lobbied for what they believed in, and mostly importantly, worked tirelessly to educate voters so that everyone could make the most informed possible decision when they went to the polls.

90 years later, voter education remains at the heart of the League’s mission. For the election approaching this November, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear from candidates for Mayor if you want to. The race will be covered extensively in traditional media as well as blogs and other online publications. There will be forums all over the city organized by all sorts of different groups. For City Council races, you will also likely have several opportunities to see the candidates speak side by side, and you can expect at least some coverage in the local newspapers.

But the sad fact is that for many of the races on your November ballot, nobody cares. It matters a lot who you put on the BART Board and the AC Transit Board and the Peralta Community College Board, but unfortunately there is simply not enough interest in most down ballot races to justify very many forums or media attention.

But there is one group of people in Oakland who work tirelessly to ensure that voters have an opportunity to hear from everyone, and that’s the League of Women Voters. They don’t endorse candidates, but they make sure you have the opportunity to make an educated decision by organizing and televising forums for all those races nobody else can be bothered with. They produce the Easy Voter Guide so that everyone can understand the issues on their ballot and make informed decisions. They produce the wonderful Smart Voter website, where you can go anytime to compare all the candidates, side by side. They send people out to neighborhood meetings all over the city to explain the Pros and Cons of each ballot measure in clear and objective terms.

This work isn’t always the most exciting. But it incredibly valuable and essential to a well-functioning democracy. I am extremely proud to be a member of the League of Women Voters of Oakland, and if you aren’t one already I hope you will consider celebrating this day by becoming one. (Men are welcome too!)

If you’re already a member, you can always help support the League’s work in addition to your dues by making an additional donation. And if you really want to join the League but are being held back because the cost is prohibitive to you, you can always contact the League of Women Voters Oakland and inquire about our dues-assisted memberships.

So please, take a few moments today to appreciate the tireless work it took the guarantee women the ability to vote, consider honoring their legacy by joining the League and finally, enjoy my favorite song from Mary Poppins.

Well done, indeed, sister suffragette!

18 thoughts on “You know what I love? Voting!

  1. CitizenX

    Then there was the 26th Amendment. It passed in time for me to vote as an 18 year old in the 1972 presidential election. “Why change Dicks in the middle of a screw? Vote for Nixon in ’72!” Ah. Those were the good old days.

  2. CitizenX

    And, it (voting) is a habit I continue to present. I love it, too.

    Oh. Happy Birthday, Nineteenth Amendment.

  3. Kevin Cook

    Happy Birthday 19th Amendment! If we’re actually going to allow voting then everyone should be allowed to cast a ballot guided by hearsay and ignorance or simply to ignore the right all together. However, it seems important to note that many historians find a more than simply synchronic relationship between the women’s suffrage movement and the debacle of the 18th amendment’s passage.

  4. MarleenLee

    I sincerely hope that the League sponsors a forum on the City ballot measures. I have sent emails to the officers a couple of times expressing my interest in participating, and never got back any sort of response, which I have to say was quite disappointing.

    The one event I went to that was sponsored by the Leauge (on the Public Ethics Commission) was extremely poorly attended (I was one of around 8 peole there, and most of the others were people I know who have filed complaints with the PEC). I don’t think they do a good job of publicizing events – they have my email address, but never send me any emails about events!

    Needless to say, I fully support the mission of the organization, but so far I have not been that impressed by our local chapter.

  5. Barry K

    Marleen, at that event at the Redwood Heights Center, I was really surprised that the LOW turned a blind eye to the Quan supporter that was there handing out flyers for the kick-off Quan campaign. (Plus she’s on one of Oakland’s commissions.) Talk about a Public Ethics conflict and/or violations.

  6. V Smoothe

    Marleen –

    On ballot measures, the League provides Pros and Cons presentations to any group that requests them. Additionally, we will have a larger program on the issue. I believe that it is going to be held on October 5th in City Hall and feature a presentation about Ranked Choice Voting followed by Pros and Cons for both State and local ballot measures. I would have to confirm the details, but I will post about it here as it approaches.

    If anyone has a group that would like a League member to come speak to them about the ballot measures, please let me know and I will put you in contact with the appropriate person to set that up. You can leave a comment or you can e-mail me at v at vsmoothe dot com.

    The League puts on a number of different types of events. I believe the one you attended was a Hot Topics meeting. This is an intimate monthly gathering focused on one specific issue. I usually enjoy them when I attend. I did not go to the Public Ethics Commission one. Some are better attended than others, but it is always a small event.

    We also do several bigger programs each year. Last year, those included a panel discussion about the State budget featuring County Administrator Susan Muranishi, former City of Oakland Deupty Administrator and City of Oakland State Lobbyist Niccolo DeLuca, and Dr. Tony Smith, OUSD Superintendent, a conversation featuring Tony Smith alongside Police Chief Anthony Batts, moderated by Belva Davis, the host of KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” at our annual luncheon, and a lengthy talk from Author and Journalist Peter Schrag about the initiative process in the State of California at our annual dinner.

    I definitely agree that the League could do a much better job with publicity. I have made helping improve publicity efforts for League events one of my main goals for helping the League in this coming year. The Oakland League is an entirely volunteer run organization, and the more active members we have, the more we are able to do. If you want to see League be better, I recommend becoming a member and devoting some time to helping improve the areas where you see deficiencies.

  7. hplar

    One more thing I would like to see more about – LWV. I suppose I could sign up and get on their email list, but until a minute ago, I think the only thing I knew about the LWV was voter info presented during election season. Apparently, they are not a one trick pony.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    The LWV has been a or maybe THE leading voice for transparency in local government. They are so dedicated that someone often attends the little-noticed but oh-so-important Rules Committee meetings (which occur at the awkward time, Thursday mornings).

  9. len raphael

    V, how about another in depth post about the LOW’s public records/transparency proposal? My understanding is that the LOW is simply asking that state law be honored by the City, but it’s stonewalling.

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    It took a ridiculously long time, but the City Council finally approved the creation of a citywide records management program in July. That is a good subject for a post, though. I’ll add it to the list.

  11. Naomi Schiff

    LWV member and Cleveland Cascade rescuer Barbara Newcombe, a retired newspaper librarian, is an Oakland treasure who has championed the free flow of information for many decades. (She’s our current mother of the year, too!) Quiet, with a steel backbone and a relentless focus on truth, she is a records management heroine. If only she wanted to be mayor! (But she is too busy.)

  12. MarleenLee

    I recall seeing her at a PEC meeting begging the City to reform records issues before she dies, or words to that effect. However, I am not convinced that the records management system will do much to improve legal compliance with respect to the Public Records Act and Sunshine Ordinance. While it may help city officials find documents they are looking for, it will do nothing to address the fact that most officials seem to have no interest in taking the time to look for them in the first place, or comply with the timelines. I don’t know if LVW has authority to do more than speak at public meetings, but I would welcome some additional support on my PEC complaint, set for the next hearing on Sept. 8!

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    I can’t believe nobody had anything to say about the Mary Poppins video! I loved that song so much when I was a kid. I would put it on and just rewind the tape over and over and over again and sing along. I’m sure it drove my parents crazy. Did nobody else do that?

    I mean, what’s not to love? The lyrics are hilarious:

    We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats
    And dauntless crusaders for women’s votes
    Though we adore men individually
    We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid

    And whenever I watched it, I would always have so much fun trying to imagine what all the other characters are thinking. I mean, Ellen (the maid) spends the whole time rolling her eyes, so it seems like she doesn’t care particularly much about suffrage.

    Katie Nanna, though, is a little more of a mystery. You’d think a no-nonsense woman like that would think she deserves to vote, but she just clearly has no patience whatsoever for the whole thing. I mean, obviously she’s got a lot on her mind what with the missing children and quitting her job and all. But I always wondered about the way she doesn’t seem to get sucked into it even for like, a millisecond.

    Of course, I suppose it’s possible that she does support women voting but thinks Winifred doesn’t take the issue seriously and is just involved in the movement for the wild stories she gets out of the whole thing. Which I admit, does kind of seem to be the case when she’s signing, but then when you watch the next scene where her husband is just completely oblivious to anything she has to say, you think that she must have desperately wanted to be able to vote if for no other reason than so she could have at least one place in her entire life where what she thinks actually means something.

    I always thought Mrs. Brill (the cook) was definitely a closet suffragette. There’s just something so wistful and longing about her expression when she’s signing along at the end there, like she would never tell anyone, but really wishes she didn’t have to work so she could go out and spend her days passing out pamphlets and getting hauled off in irons too and even though she acts all horrified when Winifred pulls up her skirt and shows her…um, I don’t know what those underwear pants things are called. Anyway, I like to think she’s just pretending to be shocked but secretly wishes she could be so bold as that too, and that when she goes home she does it in front of the mirror and delights in how scandalous she’s being.

    Oh, and then at the end of the movie where Mr. Banks lets her tie her votes for women sash onto the kite? I cry every time. What a great movie!

    Except for that stupid song with the old woman about the pigeons, of course.

  14. livegreen

    Great movie, great song. Though they have less meaning, I prefer the tunes in the songs “A Spoonful of Sugar” & especially “Step in Time!” because of the dance.

    I do like the Suffragette song, & agree it is by far the one that has the most meaning and represents some of the positive change that was happening at the time.

    BTW, thanks for the connection between the Suffragettes and the LOWV. What a fantastic organization (constructive criticism included).

  15. MarleenLee

    My opinion of our local chapter of the LWV just sank further. I checked out their website and I see that they are officially supporting all the new Oakland taxes. Apparently they made this decision at their “summer retreat.” Unfortunately, their summary of the Measure Y fix (“Measure BB”) fundamentally misstates the measure and the impact of the proposed changes. They state that Measure Y required minimum police appropriations/staffing before the money could be spent. In fact, the appropriation/staffing is a prerequisite to collection of the tax, not spending of the money. This gross misunderstanding of the measure speaks volumes about the level of analaysis (or lack thereof) that went into their recommendations. Moreover, without reading the arguments pro and con, and without additional information on the taxes, how can they make an informed decision about their recommendations? How does supporting these tax measures support the principles of “good government?” What a disappointment.