The Fillies are happy to have Mr. Peter Leavell. He’s a western author with a love of history. Women’s voting rights greatly interests him. This is his first time to visit and we hope you make him welcome. He’s giving away a book so leave a comment.
My novels feature feisty women who change the world. Why? They’ve made our world a better place using methods that seem, to our Internet savvy minds, impossible. Take this snapshot of history loosely based on Colorado’s suffrage movement.
Pretend you’re a woman who wants to vote, but you live in the American frontier about 1910. And you, being feisty, aren’t about to let another day go by without making some progress toward this obvious (not to the men who are in charge) form of equality. You have no social media. No support. Nothing but your wits and a world that frowns on women making a stand for what’s right.
Where to start? Few care about women voting. Your husband is your mouthpiece, and his vote is your vote. With a male dominated society, you’re in for a battle.
My recommendation is to start a society. So you write a pamphlet with a list of rules and aims. You have a recognizable mission and direction. If people join, you can pool resources. It’s best to find a partner. Do you have a sister or a best friend? Working together on this is vital. There’s a lot of work to do.
She agrees. You both knock on friends’ doors and chat. Only half agree to attend a meeting you plan on Thursday. When Thursday arrives, you’re nervous, but explain your hope to garner support for women’s suffrage. Because you’ve educated yourself, you know the senate must approve items on the ballot. It comes down to getting enough people to sign a petition so you can have your say before the legislature. All twelve women who attend the meeting join the society.
For next month’s meeting, you take out an ad in the paper. The editor won’t run the story, so you use your own money. You go door to door during the day while husbands are working. The wives seem receptive.
When meeting starts, too many people cram into the barn. You take initiative and move to the park. As you speak, they hang on your every word. They clap and cheer and are eager to help. Your next step is to gather signatures.
Eighty women go door to door, and while many turn you away, those in the society don’t lose hope. In just a few weeks, you have thousands of signatures. You’re tired, but you march straight to the senate headquarters and slap down the pages you’ve collected.
Senators listen respectfully months later, then quickly vote not to entertain the amendment.
You leave with broken heart. Except you receive word they held another vote. They will allow women to vote in school elections. The victory is so thrilling that women flock to your society. The next suffrage meeting is attended by so many women, the newspaper reports the event.
Susan B. Anthony notices, and sends a telegram that says if you can provide a small stipend, she will come speak. You cannot sleep that night. The thrill of the moment is too much to take in.
Spurred by the speech, the women and few men work harder. The measure makes the ballot. The vote fails.
Many leave the society, and you’re discouraged, but your sister wonders why you couldn’t start your own magazine? You do, and the first edition sells 2,500 copies. You find open meetings less popular than reading about the movement at home.
You keep writing. Halfhearted support turns to firm dedication, and for years, you keep looking at the world through women’s rights. You’ve showed staying power, and other clubs join your society, such as Ladies Aid and Monday Literary Club.
One of your society members is voted onto the school board.
Ten years later, you have enough votes to make the state senate put the vote on the ballot.
You’ve been doing this for ten years. You know what to do. Meetings grow again, leaflets are passed out, house-to-house canvasses get the word out.
And you win. You’ve done it. You step into the voters booth, and it’s not just the ballot in front of you that gives you a thrill. Your voice has been heard. And the voice of thousands of your gender will be heard.
Why do I make my female protagonists feisty? Because the world needs to hear their stories.
Now I’d like to hear yours. What does having the right to vote mean to you? Leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of WEST FOR THE BLACK HILLS!