My Friend The Suffragette

In 1991, during college, I got involved with the Upper Valley League of Women Voters.

On an absolutely gorgeous fall Saturday, we were gathering signatures on a petition that had something to do with abortion rights. I’m fairly certain it was a call to reverse the global gag rule.*

My partner in the project was an older woman with a voice like Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. She’d walk up to the older alumni (and older Dartmouth alumni at the time were all men) strolling Main Street, stick a clipboard in their faces, and demand to know what they thought about abortion. They all signed the petition, I suspect whether they agreed or not. She was forceful.

We were talking about what got us involved in this work. Feeling pretty chuffed, I told her about starting the Students for Choice group on campus.

She talked about marching for suffrage with her grandmother.

WOW. She’d been marching, organizing, agitating, and petitioning her whole life.

I’m so glad acknowledgment of the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment rippled through the internet this week so I’d have a reason to remember that day, and to remember my friend, the suffragette.

Suffrage parade, New York City, May 4, 1912, Library of Congress

*In case you are keeping score, the gag rule, which prevents non-US organizations that receive US funds for non-abortion-related family planning services or advocacy from using their own funds to advocate for, educate about, or provide abortions. It was established under (and with the blessing of) Reagan, championed by George H.W., repealed as his first act in office by Clinton, reinstated by George W., and repealed by Obama.

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