November 3, 1896
The old woman smiled and nodded at Sarah as though the two knew each other but Sarah did not appear to recognize her at all. She began speaking to the room again.
“On this Tuesday, the first Tuesday of November, men will vote for a new leader. They will weigh their conscience with their politics. They will compare their wallet to their aspirations and they will choose between the past and the future. It is their God given right under the Constitution.
But, men will not suffer nor prosper alone under the consequences of this choice. We will also reap the rewards of their choice and without having the voice to effect it. There is not a woman in this room who has not suffered through the last four years. Our wealth has been depleted the fundamentals of our nation’s economy are being tested as never before.
It was the decision of men to value our currency on a single rare precious metal. After years of prospecting and diminishing returns on their efforts we must at last come to terms with this resources finite supply. Smart men know that tying our wealth to the value of gold is a fool’s errand. Gold’s value is not based on the sweat off the backs of the nation’s laborers. It is not based on the value of the intelligence of our inventors or scientists. It based solely on it’s existence in limited qualities and man’s obsession with possessing it.
Would any woman in this room have been foolish enough to limit our nations wealth by what quantity of gold we can mine? I think not. I think you would listen to your mother and your mother’s mother and not lay all your eggs in a single basket. That is the wisdom of women.
On this election day, there is a man who understands his mother’s wisdom and possesses his own. He is not the typical man of politics, he brings common sense instead of seasoning. This election and the future of our country, of our families, lies in the balance on this first Tuesday in November. If we do not have the right, the responsibility, to add our voice on this day then we never shall. It falls on each of us to do what we can, what we must, to make our voices heard.
They say it is illegal for women to vote. They call it a perpetration of fraud when we attempt it. But, the real fraud is to claim we do not understand the complexities of what is at stake in an election. We know them as well as men if not better. We see the results on our dinner tables and in the eyes of our children when we tuck them in at night. We know the best and the worst of times as only women can.
I beseech all of you to don a man’s suit on this first Tuesday of November. Walk, run, or ride, to the election booths and in a deep voice, as masculine as you are able, demand your rightful ballot and cast your vote on this most important day. Make your voice heard with a thunder and I promise if we succeed, nothing will ever be the same again.
I know what I ask is difficult. I feel the same fear that you feel, but I will not be ruled by it. I have faith in all of you. I have confidence that each of you will look into the eyes of those who stand with you today and realize that you do not stand alone, not now, not ever. Stand together and do this not for yourself, but for the woman standing next to you and the daughters you do not know.”
She finished talking and it was clear she was exhausted. Three younger women helped her down from the makeshift stage and offered her more beer. She drank it greedily. She seemed suddenly frail and weak. It was an amazing contrast from the inspiration woman who had spoken only moments before.
The woman sat in a chair against the wall and the gathered woman began to leave in small groups just as they had arrived. One of the three younger women who had helped her down approached Sarah and whispered quietly to her.
Sarah followed her over to the chair and the woman who sat upon it. They spoke for only a moment and I was not able to hear but from where I stood I saw as the old woman handed Sarah a collection of papers bound in lace. Curious.
As we left the basement I turned to my companions. There was an energy about all of us that was not present when we entered. The old woman had not changed who we were but she gave us hope and showed us faith. I wonder if we will ever see her again.
“Do you think we can?” I asked the group.
“What?” Penelope asked.
“Make a difference.” I said.
“You don’t understand. We are the difference.” She said.