Young women on what it means to be voting for the first time in 2020, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was made law.
This article is part of She Resisted, an interactive experience celebrating the pioneering strategies of the women’s suffrage movement.
To me, voting means power.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, American Experience took portraits of young women who in 2020 are casting ballots for the first time. We asked each woman what voting means to her. In their responses we see a fulfillment of the promise of the franchise as a means for an informed electorate to act on its values and hopes.
Anna Zhang, 18
"Voting means having a voice. I am grateful that I have the ability to vote for representatives whose views align with my own. People always say “every vote counts,” but I genuinely believe in that statement. No matter how small, I know that my vote makes a difference, and I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to cast my ballot in November."
Antonina Carton, 17
“Voting is a way to participate in your community. It allows you to express either agreement or disagreement for bills and resolutions that will affect your life. A true democracy creates a place where every person's voice is heard, regardless of their background or identity. And in such a place, people care about what goes on in their government, and the government reflects that care back into the community.”
Kai Ra Samuels-Jackson, 18
“Voting means that I have a responsibility to use my right as an eligible voter to cast my vote with consideration for not only issues that affect me, but my peers as well. I vote in favor of equality for all, the defunding of police, LGBTQ+ rights, decreasing the wage gap, protecting the environment, food equity, and many more issues I am passionate about. I believe voting is an act that I, as a Black woman, must do to support my community and help create a better future for all.”
Anya Doherty, 18
“Voting allows me to voice my opinions, make an impact on how our nation is shaped and contribute to our democracy. Today, more than ever, as I stand as an ally in the fight for racial justice, I feel inspired by the resilient women who fought a hundred years ago for women’s suffrage. In the United States today, African Americans are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of white Americans, and in Massachusetts it is illegal for an incarcerated citizen to vote. I am eager to utilize my vote in the upcoming election with the intention of contributing to the cause of making a difference in the lives of those who fall victim to systematic oppression. I am eternally grateful to the brave and unwavering heroes who gifted me with the chance to vote in today’s America.”
Anna Fabian, 18
"Casting a vote is essential to continuing the fight for equality for all people in America. Voting is an opportunity to create progress and change through elected leaders. I have a responsibility to vote because when I exercise my right to vote I am protecting this right for the next generation."
Ashley Wentworth, 17
“Voting is doing something to see the change I want to see. It means making a difference and having a voice in the world. Being able to vote means I should be aware of what's going on and educate myself, and once I decide what I believe in I can go and vote for people who share those beliefs. I'm so grateful for the women who fought 100 years ago to get these rights.”
Maria Zarriello, 17
Emily Wagner, 18
“Voting means the ability to exercise my rights as a free woman in the United States. Being able to vote means that I have an opportunity to have a say in government, something that will directly affect me, my friends and my family. Passing up the opportunity to vote would be a disservice to women all around the world who are fighting for women’s suffrage in their own communities.”
Nora Haggerty, 18
“Voting is having the ability to positively influence the way we live our lives and make the changes that we wish to see in this country. As an immigrant, I view voting as my obligation because I know that people in other countries, including the country I was born in, do not have this privilege. As a woman, I see my vote as an act of civic virtue representing the years of struggle that gave all women the right to vote. Every individual in this country is impacted by some piece of legislation at a personal level, and voting is one of the most important ways to make sure your voice is heard.”
Julia Paiewonsky, 19
“Voting means power. To put the law in the hands of the people is a powerful thing. I am passionate about voting because I want to make positive changes in this world. Everyone deserves to have access to that power.”
Madison Osborne Despres, 18
Chloé Ho, 18
“Voting means to have a choice in choosing what I believe in. I can’t imagine all the obstacles and hardships the suffragists had to go through to achieve this freedom that would forever change the world. It’s crazy to think how my vote could make a difference in something as small as fixing the roads or in a life-changing moment like the presidential election. Voting is my civic duty and a privilege that I am truly grateful for.”
Lucy Marshall, 17
"Being able to vote means having the ability to voice my opinions. As a woman of color I am incredibly proud and grateful to have the opportunity to vote, especially because many before me hadn’t. Being able to vote is also part of a shift that high schoolers go through in order to become part of society by sharing their political opinions for the first time. I am so excited to see how my generation changes the country for the better."