Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Women of Wednesday: Woman's Suffrage redux


Not surprisingly, the America’s Notable Women seriesprofiles lots of women who were involve in the century-long effort to securethe voting franchise for women, and many more who worked for the rights ofAfrican Americans and other minority groups. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are the best-known of the Suffragists,of course, but many others worked both in public and behind the scenes to gainfull citizenship for all Americans.

Today’s bizarre efforts to make it more difficult for women,the elderly, and members of minority groups to vote is creating a whole newcrop of Notable American Women. Ironically, many of these women were alive towelcome the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, now they have lived longenough to see those hard-won rights taken away again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Dorothy Cooper, a 96 year old woman from Tennessee, was denieda voter-id because her birth certificate says her name is Dorothy Alexander.Dorothy, who has outlived two husbands, does not have a copy of her most recentmarriage license.

Thelma Mitchell, 93, also from Tennessee, was denied theright to vote using her State-employee ID card. She can’t get one of the newvoter id cards because she doesn’t have a birth certificate.

Ruthelle Frank, 84, has been unable to obtain a voter id inWisconsin because she never had a birth certificate. A former elected officialherself, she points out that being required to pay for a birth certificate tovote is a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on charging a fee for theopportunity to vote.

Another Tennessean, Virginia Lasater, 91, has been unable toobtain a voter id because the DMV refused to accommodate her need to sit downwhile waiting her turn in the lengthy line of applicants.

In Pennsylvania, Viviette Applewhite, 93, was also denied avoter ID for the lack of a birth certificate or driver’s license. So farApplewhite is the most likely candidate to wind up in a future Notable Womenbook, as she has agreed to be the lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit againstthe Pennsylvania law.

You don’t have to be elderly to get caught in the new laws’traps. Rita Platt, also from Wisconsin, is a librarian in the St. Croix Falls schooldistrict (which presumably means she’s already passed a criminal backgroundcheck). She was told she could not obtain an id without paying for either a birthcertificate or a passport. In addition, Wisconsin’sapplication for a copy of a birth certificate says the applicant must present a“valid photo ID” – but won’t issue the ID without a birth certificate.

In Texas, Jessica Cohen lost her documents in a burglary, soshe is unable to get a voter id. (Texas’ law was recently declaredunconstitutional by the Supreme Court.)

While the elderly and minorities are the most likely peopleto not have a birth certificate or a valid driver’s license, women aredisproportionately impacted by the new voter id laws because (news flash!) womenare far more likely than men to change their names, so that their birthcertificates don’t match their current documents.

Check out the National Women’s History Museum’s “Rights for Women” exhibit. 


I'm Jet . . . said...

Wow. Good summary and talking points, Sally.

Mur said...

"...women are far more likely than men to change their names, so that their birth certificates don’t match their current documents".

Many of my friends' daughters (and my own two) have chosen not to take their husband's names after marriage. Part of the reason is that women are waiting longer to marry and have established their own, professional, identities. While record-keeping has improved over the last decades, I can't imagine what it must be like to lose the proof of your identity, of yourself, and no longer be allowed a basic American right. Will this current trend make a difference? We'll have to wait and see.

Diane Mayr said...

EXCELLENT POST! Yes, I'm shouting!

Diane Mayr said...

One more thing--remember the ERA, which was never ratified? There's a plan afoot to seek ratification once again. I'm hoping the population of 21st century Americans is more enlightened than those who voted against the ERA the first time around. My own mother told me back then, "I didn't vote for it because that would mean men and women have to use the same bathroom." [Imagine a primal scream coming from me!]
Click here.

Diane Mayr said...

And yet another one-more-thing--there's a Women's Rights Historic Bus Tour planned for September 25-27, 2012 offered by the National Women's History Project. Information can be found here.