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
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
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
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,”
Monica Owens agrees with Lane. She is dedicated to voting in
every presidential election starting with her first, this
“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
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.