Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Political party activists. Government officials. Lawyers. Judges. Lobbyists. Abolitionists. Temperance workers. Prison reformers. Suffragists. Activists for civil rights, women’s health issues, peace and justice, welfare rights, labor rights, marriage equality, and national health insurance. Elected office holders. Civic leaders. Protestors. Journalists. Poll workers.

There are many ways for American citizens to participate in the political process. Although elections are central to our form of government, they are only part of the story. Contentious and hard-fought because they matter, elections can lead to wide-ranging changes in policies affecting health, employment, education, personal relationships, income, and foreign affairs. They can redefine our most basic constitutional rights. They can even determine the definition of citizenship—including who has the right to vote.

But after election day, the work continues: changing the status quo is never quick or easy. The Schlesinger Library collects and makes available for research the correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and other papers of determined women who refused to accept failure. These documents bring to life their years of struggle, frustration, and eventual triumph in expanding rights and opportunities, and lessening hardships, for millions—and their continuing work for full equal rights for women. They worked within the system, and they worked against it, as circumstances demanded. They worked through established means of petition gathering, lobbying, and letter writing, and they protested in the streets and disrupted meetings. They were dedicated, clever, and resourceful and built coalitions to increase their effectiveness.

However, issues once won are rarely settled and have to be fought anew by subsequent generations. Old arguments are dredged up and take on new life, in new historical contexts, with new technological possibilities for spreading the word. New organizations join long-established groups in organizing for change or defending precarious rights. Many of these organizations—local, state, and national in scope—have placed their records in the Schlesinger Library, where others may learn from them and be inspired.

To honor their struggles and help shape your own future, VOTE TODAY!