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Voting is women’s work

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 1:48pm

After I wrote an Unorganized Territory column recalling the fight to allow 18-year-olds to vote, my son Ben asked an interesting question. He asked why I hadn’t gone into more detail about the struggle women went through to gain the right to vote. The question surprised me for several reasons.

This photo from the National Archives shows the women that fought for the right to vote. I hope we all carry on their work by casting our ballots on November 4.

First, I have to admit I was pleased to know that he had read my column. I don’t get a lot of feedback from my immediate family on my weekly compositions. They generally take a quick look to make sure I didn’t talk about them and move on. So it was nice to know that he had taken a few minutes to read and think about what I had to say.

I also have to admit that I was a little surprised that he had remembered what he had learned in history class about women’s voting rights. Neither of my boys liked school much, so I’m surprised any history was retained. Good job, Mrs. Brandt—some of your hard work stuck!

And I was pleasantly surprised that he cared about the issue at all. I was outnumbered in our house when my boys were growing up—we even had a male dog—so there wasn’t a lot of talk around the kitchen table about women’s suffrage. Dinner conversations often focused on BMX bikes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, wrestling, football or some other macho topic.

I did insist that there was no such thing as “women’s work” like doing dishes, making beds or cooking. They learned to do all those things—even if they would have their wives believe differently now. But I don’t recall ever having a conversation about the struggle women faced in the 1800 -1900s.

I think perhaps the reason women’s rights are now more interesting is because Ben is now the father of a daughter. Becoming a parent makes a person grow up a bit. I remember marveling at the change from the rowdy teenager who wrecked his pickup truck within three days of getting his driver’s license to the concerned dad who was freaked out by the traffic speeding past his house. When traffic was detoured down his street during construction of the new Gunflint Trail, the former speed demon took a can of spray paint and wrote in big orange letters in the middle of the road, “Slow Down!”

So, just as being a parent makes you worry about things you never before thought to worry about, being a dad to a daughter brings its own concerns. I’ve overheard amazing conversations between both of my boys and their daughters. My younger son is definitely outnumbered in his house by his wife and three girls!

I have heard debates over ear piercing and nail polish and whether Barbie is a good role model. I’ve heard discussion of which Disney Princess is the prettiest, kindest or strongest. I’ve heard lots of silly threats about what will happen to future boyfriends.

And happily, I’ve seen that my granddaughters are being raised to be strong-willed, independent women who will follow in the footsteps of those pioneering women who fought to have a say in the governing of our country. Women like Susan B. Anthony, perhaps the most well known suffragist. Working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the American Equal Rights Association, which fought for equal rights for both women and African Americans. The women published their own newspaper in 1868—The Revolution—which focused on women’s rights.

I hope my granddaughters learn about Anthony, who in 1872, was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York. She was tried and convicted in a widely publicized trial which only served to gain sympathy for the women’s movement, although it was many years later before women gained the right to vote.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton were finally able to get Congress to consider an amendment giving women that right. But it took many more years to pass the 19th Amendment and many more women led the way, facing isolation, hostility and downright torture. Women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who were imprisoned for picketing outside the White House during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, silently calling for equal rights. The women endured inhumane treatment in prison and persevered. Lucy Burns was the first woman to address Congress in 1914 in another attempt to see the 19th Amendment passed.

There were many others who fought loudly—or quietly—like Jane Addams, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, who supported the women’s suffrage movement while working to find solutions to society’s ills. Addams is considered to be the founder of the modern day field of social work. There was Nina Allender, an artist—and cartoonist— who put her talents to work to campaign for women’s suffrage with her pen. Others fought for the abolition of slavery and women’s rights through music, such as Julia Ward Howe who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Unfortunately Susan B. Anthony did not live long enough to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. She knew though, that the amendment would pass. When she died in March 1906, women had achieved suffrage in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. The tide was turning and it was apparent the fire she had ignited would not burn out.

Thanks Ben for the reminder of the powerful women who shaped our nation. I’ll remember them when I fill out my ballot—and I’ll look forward to the day when my granddaughters are also able to make their voices heard.


Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”

Clare Boothe Luce

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Where are We in October?

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:09am



Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Last month’s photo of Highway 61 as it crosses the Onion River—viewed from above at the Ray Berglund State Wayside—was recognized by a number of readers. We did not receive any incorrect guesses this month. Drawn from the correct entries was Mike Nelson of Tofte.

Congratulations to Mike, he wins a one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the October photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $30 value). Good luck!

Return answer by mail, e-mail or fax to:

Cook County News-Herald

PO Box 757

Grand Marais MN 55604

Fax: 218-387-9500

Answer to the October WHERE ARE WE? must be received by November 10, 2014.


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Long pants and big wigs

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 10:58am

School has started so that means Girl Scouts are meeting again. That means things are a little more hectic in Unorganized Territory

Being a Girl Scout leader is very rewarding. It was fun over the summer to see “my” Girl Scouts at various events. And it was delightful to welcome them back to our first meeting, to receive hug after hug from happy young ladies.

But it’s also a challenge getting back in the swing of weekly meetings, monthly leader meetings and planning activities for the various badges the girls need to earn.

At first just remembering the name of our region—Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines (GSMWLP)—was tough. Until the other leaders let me in on the secret mnemonic—Girl Scouts Must Wear Long Pants! It is so silly I’ll never forget it.

I do however, sometimes forget that we are supposed to have an activity for those very energetic young ladies on Thursday afternoons. More than once I’ve ended up frantically googling “Girl Scout activities” just hours before a meeting.

Being a leader forces me to be more organized. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum for Girl Scouts. There are suggested activities for the assorted awards, but much of it is left to the leaders’ discretion.

For example, our fourth-grade Scouts are working on the Flower badge. The leader handbook gives some basic ideas—meet with a botanist, go on a field trip to identify wild flowers, or learn about how flowers are used in the perfume industry or healing arts.

Our fifth-grade Girl Scouts are working their way through the “Agents of Change” journey. It’s an empowering process that teaches the girls that one person can make a difference in the world and also teaches them the importance of working together. At the end of their journey they must work together on some sort of community service project. My co-leader/daughter-in-law Michele and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

But there are no step-by-step directions for these things. Which is sometimes difficult, especially with the additional challenge of leading both fourth- and fifth-grade girls.

Michele is the leader for the fifth-graders and I’m her co-leader. I’m the leader for the fourth-graders and Michele is my co-leader. With different badges for the different ages, we try to plan ahead because it of course makes meetings go much smoother but sometimes we just can’t. Hence the googling of Girl Scout activities.

At a recent leader meeting, all of us burst out laughing when we heard that the instruction manual for new leaders states that a leader can expect to spend about four hours a month on Girl Scout duties. How do these super leaders get it all done in just four hours? How organized are these women, we wondered?

However, constant time crunch aside, being a Girl Scout leader is an awesome experience. The loose curriculum can be exasperating but it also gives us the flexibility to come up with interesting ways to fulfill badge requirements.

One of the fun things Girl Scout leaders get to do is take part in parades with the girls!

We’ve had some great adventures. While working on our Brownie “Water Journey” badges, we visited the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries building at Devil Track Lake, a field trip the girls loved. We also visited the Grand Marais Public Utilities wastewater treatment plant—something the girls did not enjoy as much.

While working on our Artist badge, we painted, painted and painted on all sorts of surfaces. We had a great afternoon with Hovland artist David Hahn. We created chalk art on the pavement and we hiked to the Grand Marais Art Colony to see the plein air exhibit.

As leaders we get to see “our” girls growing up before our eyes. To earn their Citizenship and Patriotism badges, we talked a lot about the history of our country and our flag. We wrote cards and sent them—along with Girl Scout cookies—to folks in the military with Cook County ties. And when each troop was in third grade, they took on the task of conducting the flag ceremony at Girl Scout events.

We’ve also had some hilarious moments. While preparing for Girl Scout Investiture, the ceremony that rededicates us all to the Girl Scout mission at the beginning of the year, Michele and I lectured the girls a bit about proper behavior at this event. Officials from Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines would be at the meeting, Michele told the girls. She cautioned them that they needed to behave in front of the “bigwigs” from Duluth.

The look on our Girl Scouts’ faces was priceless. Big wigs? We could see the question in their eyes—why do the Duluth women have weird hair? Just how big are these wigs?

It took a little while to explain the odd phrase and get our meeting back on track. And I think perhaps our girls were a little disappointed when the GSMWLP representatives showed up at Investiture with ordinarylooking hair.

It makes me smile every time I think of it. Just one of the many rewards of being a Girl Scout leader.


Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.

Warren Bennis

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Old enough to vote*

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:06am

I am diligent about voting. I am a firm believer in the adage, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”

I have voted in every election since I was old enough to vote, even when it was inconvenient. For most of the years that I lived away from Minnesota with my soldier husband, I cast my vote by absentee ballot. From Washington State, Germany, Colorado and California, I went through the steps to apply for an absentee ballot and get it returned promptly.

Some of Cook County’s hard-working vote counters in the 2010 election.

But with every election, I imagined one day being able to go to the polls to cast my vote—the polls back “home” in Minnesota. I remember going with my mom when she voted at a town hall. My memory is sketchy, but I think she voted at what is now a house at the top of Fall River Road (County Road 13). I remember the U.S. flag hanging at the entrance. I remember neighbors visiting as they were coming and going.

I also remember controversy about voting when I was a teenager. It may seem unbelievable to the current generation, but when I was growing up, you had to be 21 years old to vote. There were a lot of changes in the turbulent ’60s and lowering the voting age to 18 was one of them.

I was a bit young to follow all the debate about letting 18-yearolds vote. Apparently the suggestion was first made before I was even born. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to endorse voting rights for 18-year-old citizens in his 1954 State of the Union Address.

It took quite awhile for the idea to take hold and there was a great deal of legal maneuvering as many states questioned the federal government’s right to lower the minimum voting age. States that refused to follow the federal government’s lead faced the need to have separate voting rolls and special ballots for voters between 18 and 20 years old for federal elections.

I don’t remember all this legal wrangling, but I do remember the young men facing the draft into military service—and the possibility of being sent off to fight in the Vietnam War—demanding the right to vote. I remember news stories on our old black and white TV about the horrors of the war. I remember watching footage of anti-war protests and amongst the protest signs there were some that read, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

In those times of trouble in our nation that message appeared to be something citizens could finally agree on. On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate voted 94-0 in favor of an amendment lowering the voting age. On March 23, 1971, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 401-19 in favor of the proposal.

Amazingly states followed suit. To add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fourths of the United States must ratify Congress’s action. I’m proud to note that Minnesota was among the first five states to agree. Ratification was completed on July 1, 1971 when enough states had taken action. On July 5, 1971, with President Richard Nixon as witness, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment became part of the Constitution.

I was 14 years old and more interested in clothes and nail polish and whether or not the Beatles would ever get back together than politics, but I still remember feeling jubilant that I would soon be able to vote.

The first presidential election in which I had a vote was in 1976. I was able to choose between the Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale or Gerald Ford/Bob Dole tickets. I won’t say who I voted for. But it was with great pride that I was able to vote in my first election. Even though it was an absentee ballot mailed back home to Minnesota.

I know it is unlikely that any 18-year-olds read Unorganized Territory. But if they do, I hope they take a minute to think of the struggle that went into establishing the right for them to vote.

Young women also owe a debt to the women suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote. Without the work of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams the 19th Amendment would never have come to pass.

But that’s another column. This week I’d just like to remind everyone in Unorganized Territory that voting is not something to take lightly.

So if you’re 18 and want to vote, take some time to go to the Cook County courthouse before the end of the day on Tuesday, October 14 to pre-register. You don’t have to pre-register, but it makes voting much easier.

When you pre-register your name gets added to the official roll of voters. In most of Cook County, that means you will receive a ballot in the mail. In the City of Grand Marais, it means when you go to the polling place, you’ll be on the list and will be able to enter the voting booth to cast your vote— quickly and easily. And hopefully, proudly.

Voters don’t decide issues, they decide who will decide issues.

George Will

* Apologies to any 18-year-olds for not getting this posted before the Oct. 14 pre-registration deadline. You can still vote! Contact your county’s auditor office for information.

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