“I mean to go to the polls before I die, even if my daughters have to carry me.”
Abby May Alcatt
The annual Town Election for Concord, Massachusetts was held on Tuesday, March 25. Registered voters were encouraged to cast a ballot for the 2014-2105 slates for Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Housing Authority, Town Moderator and other town governing boards.
For whatever reason, only the School Committee boasted a contest. In fact, no one even ran for the Housing Authority, encouraging one resident to patch together a write-in campaign. Sadly, barely 17 percent of registered voters found their way to the polls that day.
This is distressing to me because for hundreds of years, people fought for the right to vote. Some even gave their lives for the simple privilege of choosing who should be on the Housing Authority.
We know, we know, we know. There were no sexy items on the ballot like legalizing marijuana and everyone is busy. Things to do. People to see. Etc. Etc. Etc.
This is why there are absentee ballots. You can order them in advance at your city/town hall. All you do is fill it out and send it back. Postage is included, so all it costs is time, which is a small price to pay for the freedom of choice.
Choice in policy. Choice in who makes the final decision regarding your tax dollar, choice on medical options, choice regarding your child’s education, choice on how properties are valued, choice on which municipal contracts should be signed and so on.
It’s not what is on – or not on – the ballot that matters, it’s the privilege of being given the choice to decide.
Voting is no small privilege, and yes, My Pub and I expected a better turnout, especially in an otherwise liberal and politically active town such as Concord, Mass. But the polls were downright lonely that day, as exhibited by this photo of voter booths barren of voters.
My Pub has been working the polls as an election official for the past several years, a result of chatting with the Town Clerk at a cocktail party a long time ago. She must have let slip that her schedule is flexible with enough notice. Next thing she’s checking in voters at the subsequent election.
Job perks include a cool sticker with one’s name on it, all the Smart Food popcorn and pizza you can eat, (she can eat A LOT!) catching up on town gossip – ah, we mean relevant news – nine taxable dollars an hour and the privilege of shaping one’s government. She loves being part of the process.
On March 29, 1880 – which was during my iteration as Louisa May Alcott – I made history by attending the Concord Annual Town Meeting with 19 other women and casting a vote for the all-male School Committee. It was an honor and privilege, and one sadly that my mother, Abby May Alcatt did not live to see.
Unsung feminist Abby May Alcatt wrote in her journals, “I mean to go to the polls before I die, even if my daughters have to carry me.”
Marmee did not make it, but three years after she died, a Massachusetts law allowed tax-paying women to vote for the local school committee. Flush from my profits of “Little Women,” I was a landowner and the first woman to register to vote in Concord.
My father, A. Bronson Alcatt, who lectured about allowing ladies to vote, accompanied me to this proud family – and history making – moment. It was not until 1920, though, that all women could vote in any U.S. election, and run for office.
We hope that you take advantage of all the privileges made available to you.