Three or four years ago, when Hillary Clinton was beginning her serious run for the presidency, my strong-willed, girl-power-all-the-way daughter, who was 12 or 13 at the time, surprised me by saying she did not want Clinton to win.
“Why not?!” I said, and with a judgmental feeling I couldn't conceal. “She'd be the first woman president ever!”
Looking me straight in the eye and with a calm, steady voice, the kid retorted: “Because I'm going to be the first woman president.”
OK then. No women's-rights lesson needed here. I smiled and told her she could very well do it.
The exchange became one of those cute stories you tell Grandma and a few friends, and that was the end of it. Until last week, when I joined a friend at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) for its exhibit, “Women's Votes, Women's Voices,” marking the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in this state.
After introductory comments by four women's groups sponsoring an event tied to the exhibit, I toured the displays with my friend and some other very smart, engaged women. As we remarked on the displays — very well-done, with artifacts, multimedia, concise text, and great photos — one of the women said how important it is that we not take for granted our right to vote, and the hard and courageous work that won that right.
Yes, we all agreed instinctively. But then I thought of my daughter, who's now 16, and her onetime prediction that she would someday work in the Oval Office. She wasn't worried about whether she herself could vote; she was more concerned with the millions who'd be voting for her.
“I might be OK with my daughter taking for granted her right to vote,” I muttered in my friend's ear. She quickly chided me, in that very Seattle, 'Don't-let-anyone-else-hear-you-say-that' kind of way.
I did shut up, and I also knew I only half-meant what I had said. In fact, that evening I told my daughter about where I'd been, and about the “Night of Terror,” which took place in a Virginia prison in November 1917, during the national women's suffrage movement. Some 40 women had been arrested for picketing the White House, and one of them, Lucy Burns, had her hands chained to the cell bars above her head, left hanging there overnight. The women were beaten, kicked, and force-fed food infested with worms.
In the context of appreciating past struggles and how they've gotten us where we are today, I certainly don't think people should take the women's suffrage movement for granted. I know I want my own kids (I also have a 12-year-old boy) to be informed, empathetic, and empowered by that kind of bravery.
But if you define “taking for granted” as always assuming something will be there for you, then the young women of today can take suffrage for granted all they want – and some, I hope, will ride that attitude all the way to the White House.
If you go: "Women's Votes, Women's Voices," through Oct. 3 at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), 2700 24th Ave. E., Seattle. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until 8 p.m. on First Thursdays. Admission is $6 to $8 (4 and under free).