My grandmothers told me they were thrilled when women were granted the right to vote.

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at

My mother’s mother said, “Women unable to vote made no sense to me. It is such a privilege, so important. I would never miss it.”

My father’s mother said, “I cried the first time I voted. We matter. You’ll see.”

I saw. The first time I voted was Nov. 7, 1972. My mother and I made a plan to vote together. It was a big deal. She changed from her brown sweater into a gold jacket, kicked off her white Tretorns worn for housework and slipped on new Pappagallo flats.

“This is special,” she said. “To vote is an honor.”

I had learned about the 19th Amendment, which was passed in 1920, in high school. We had studied how a voice is a vote, how a vote gives voice to choice, to what we believe, to what and whom we want. When I turned then-voting-age 21, I didn’t remember much about women’s suffrage. Maybe I didn’t care as a teenager. I did remember how women had organized, fought, marched, rallied against dominant male forces that insisted on keeping a very old status quo. I didn’t remember names of the brave, bright, resolute women who stepped up, who spoke up, to make the right change for generations of future women, to empower us.

It was a sign of something significant, something of pride, when my mother asked, “What will you wear?” So, to vote, to carry out this awesome freedom, we dressed up. I took off my blue jeans, pulled on a plaid skirt and we drove to vote. Curious, I wondered whether other voters or poll workers would notice or care about our outfits, but there was something about wearing them that celebrated how vital voting was.

Entering, I heard whispers, saw lines of people. With some I could see only their feet in the individual voting booths along the walls, most of their upper bodies hidden by a red, white and blue striped canvas, men in work boots or penny loafers, women in high heels or boat shoes. I, like my grandmother, teared up. I thought, “Not everyone in the world is allowed to do this.”

A gray-haired woman handed me a large piece of paper. I walked to the small cubicle, used one arm to swish back the flag-colored drape, placed the ballot on the short metal shelf. My hand shook as I held the black marker, making sure as I colored to mark inside the little circles. I stepped out of the booth and dropped my completed ballot into the oval slit on the top of a wooden ballot box. I looked to my mother and said, “That was so cool. We live here, in this country. We get to do this.”

And now, in 2020, I think, “We must do this.” Yes, voting is a privilege, a right, an honor, worthy of tears in gratitude for a democratic republic. It is also, I have come to know, a duty, a responsibility, an obligation. As post-teenagers, we must care.

Voting is our job if we want any part of decision-making, if we want any part of what happens here. I am grateful to the suffragettes, grateful to Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said, “Women belong in places where decisions are being made.”

We all belong. Please vote. Make a plan. It’s a big deal. Vote as you are, in mud-splashed khakis and layered T-shirts, slippers or a three-piece suit. It’s the voting that matters. Just do it.

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