You go (vote), girl…thanks to Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Note from the editor:

It seems unbelievable now, when we have a woman running for President, but it was not that long ago that women were not even allowed to cast a vote.

Everyone knows the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who fought for the 19th Amendment and women’s rights to vote. There were also many others, though, who fought for those rights and are not as well known.

We asked Katie S.,who is a senior at Long Beach Poly High School and a political activist, to write a bit about a woman we may not know. Here’s the story of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, a journalist and activist from Kentucky.

 

On January 6, 1920, Kentucky was one of only four Southern states to ratify the nineteenth amendment. One of the key women behind that decision was Madeline McDowell Breckinridge. She was born May 20, 1872 in Woodlake, Kentucky. Breckinridge committed her entire life to helping the oppressed, whether that be fighting for playgrounds for kindergarteners,advocating against child labor, creating a community for tuberculosis victims (a disease which she faced herself), or her most known accomplishment, being an outspoken advocate for a woman’s right to vote.

Her successful performance wasn’t effortless. She was in a leading position at multiple organizations- the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, and the National Woman Suffrage Association just to name a few. She became the first woman to bring together a joint session of the Kentucky legislature in an unsuccessful attempt to advocate for women’s suffrage. In addition to all this, she faced a grueling travel schedule speaking around the South to bring attention to women’s suffrage when many were focused on World War I.

Many have noted that Breckinridge’s work for the ratification of the 19th amendment in Kentucky was crucial, and after her passing on Thanksgiving of 1920, both men and women saw Breckinridge as a valid and important political voice and role model.

How you can do it, too

It is important not to forget the sacrifices of women like Madeline; girls need to stay politically involved and remember the sacrifices others made. It’s essential that we don’t forget the work all suffragettes put in to give women the vote that seems so simple to us now. Politics directly impacts the rights we have, and by being informed and speaking up about politics, girls can make a difference in their communities and beyond.

Even if you are not yet old enough to vote, you still have a voice and can still create change. Here’s how you can get involved in politics in your community:

  • Find your Representative: Write, call, email to let your Representative know of any issues you’d like to change.
  • Get involved in your own school government. Small change in your own community can lead to bigger change.
  • Volunteer for a campaign. If there’s a candidate or measure that you feel strongly about, you can volunteer for the campaign. This can include a lot of different jobs like calling voters, going door-to-door with a team, or just putting together mailers. Contact the local campaign office and ask how you can help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Seaman is a senior at Long Beach Poly High School in the PACE program. She loves politics, and has traveled to Iowa and Nevada to volunteer for Hillary Clinton. For fun, she likes watching Rupaul’s Drag Race and eating new types of food.

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Katie met Madeleine Albright, first woman Secretary of State, while volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s campaign

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