Mar 102004
 
Authors: Elizabeth Kerrigan

It was a cool day in November of 1948 in Danville, Ill., where,

nearly three years after World War II, the evidence of a changed

nation in a mending process hung heavy in the air and even heavier

on people’s faces.

Patricia Lane’s young passionate heart beat fast with

excitement. She walked through the old, familiar doors of her local

elementary school, quickly noticing that there was no line to wait

in.

Walking anxiously into her individual booth, her youthful,

vibrant hands confidently grabbed a pencil and checked the box that

suited her beliefs. Lane was embarking on her first experience as a

voter, one that she would boldly repeat again and again.

This November, Lane’s much older and weathered hands will make

her vote with the punch of a button instead of scratching a dull

pencil on paper. Although time has changed-technology from manual

to electronic-and is now embedded on Lane’s face in her wise, old

eyes, there are just some things that never change.

One of those things is Lane’s passion for politics.

Lane, 74, is considered by her fellow residents as the most

passionate and opinionated woman at The Residence at Oakridge,

assisted living facility. She proudly admits to having voted in

every Presidential election since 1948, which was only 28 years

after women originally received the right to vote.

Lane, who retired from her profession as psychiatric mental

health nurse in 1997 as the oldest person on her staff, is shocked

at how much the views of women in politics have shifted from the

time when she cast her first vote in 1948.

“Many young women today don’t seem to realize how much they need

to be involved,” Lane said. “They couldn’t understand why I was

always stressing the fact, but it was because I knew what it was

like when women weren’t supposed to go to college or play

sports.”

Born and raised in Illinois, Lane was always very active in

local politics, even though, she said, it was during a time when

strong women participants were rare.

“I’m very liberal for an old gal. I remember being happy when

women got the right to choose for abortions,” Lane said. “I also

made myself active … about 40-some years ago I helped a woman to

run for City Council in Illinois. She was not elected, but the next

year we managed to get her appointed to the school board.”

Throughout Lane’s career as a psychiatric mental health nurse

she surprised colleagues with her strong political involvement,

especially when she helped to make it possible for patients in the

hospital to cast their vote, too.

“I set up a polling event at the hospital and I made sure to

keep a list of who was eligible each year,” Lane said.

Lane attributes her strong feelings toward women in politics to

her mother, who strongly believed in exercising her right to vote.

Lane said that her mother made sure that voting was not an issue

taken lightly within the Lane household.

“I grew up with my mother as an election judge so I was

accustomed to being around politics,” Lane said. “It was still a

big deal for women to vote in the late 1940s and for me it was like

a right of passage. As I think back now and appreciate the time

more, it makes me realize that my grandmother was part of a

generation that did not get to vote.”

As another generation of avid women voters, Francis Owens, wife

to Governor Bill Owens and mother of CSU student, Monica Owens,

said she agreed with Lane on the issue that women must make their

voices heard on election day.

“We need to encourage women to stay current on issues,” Owens

said. “So many issues involve women, if they are home owners,

interested in education or raising children. If we don’t vote we

are giving up a right that we have earned.”

While Owens said that we must work harder to increase women’s

participation in the polls, she was also extremely optimistic about

how far women have come.

“All we have to do is look at the Fortune 500 companies,” Owens

said. “We have a lot more women CEOs today. Women are gaining a lot

of ground in the corporate and political world.”

Today, the U.S. has 62 women in Congress, 14 women in the Senate

and six women governors.

Ann Little, professor of history at CSU said that we would not

have come this far without the Women’s Rights Movement that started

in 1848.

July of 1948 marked the date of the first Women’s Rights

Convention, which would eventually lead to a nationwide movement

that is still striving today for complete equality.

“During the first convention they met in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and

it’s important to remember that it was both women and men that

articulated that women are equally important,” Little said. “It is

also important to remember that the women’s movement did not start

with suffrage, it is a 156-year-old movement.”

Little said that the first truly significant law that was passed

was in 1948 with the Married Women’s Property Act.

“For the first time, women were able to keep their own wages and

own their own property,” Little said. “It was the first major step

in including women into the promises of the Declaration of

Independence and the Constitution.”

Like Little, Lane said it’s hard for students to imagine a world

where women did not sit beside men in classes or compete with men

for internships and careers. It is hard to believe that in today’s

society, which is closer to equality than ever before, the women’s

movement has been going on for more than 150 years.

“Today’s generation of younger people are beneficiaries of the

women’s movement because any children raised in the 1970s, ’80s and

’90s are much more accepting,” Little said.

Lane feels that women are critical to politics and younger

generations must realize the power they possess.

“Women bring an attitude of cooperation and responsibility, so

do men, it’s just that women often bring a different perspective,”

Lane said.

Monica Owens agrees with Lane. She is dedicated to voting in

every presidential election starting with her first, this

November.

“This will be my first time voting in a presidential election

and I feel that it’s important for all women to vote,” said Monica

Owens, junior psychology major. “We have been given the chance to

have a voice in politics, it is now our duty to make that voice

heard.”

Monica Owens’ first presidential vote will be cast on the same

day this November as Lane’s seventh presidential vote, marking the

84th year that women of all generations have been able to make

their voice heard.

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