Later this year, the United States will mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote. To celebrate this historical moment, I thought to share the importance of the event with my daughter. But explaining how long and how hard women fought for the right to vote to a 10-year-old girl is a little challenging. How am I to introduce her to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton without her rolling her eyes and losing interest?
So, I thought I would first consider what women’s voting rights means to me before I share it with my daughter. I was born in Iran and spent my early years living in the capital of Tehran. I spent my school years in the US. I attended law school in the US; I practice law in the US; I became a mother in the US. However, my first introduction to voting and women’s rights came from hearing my mom and aunt talking about voting in Iran in 1979.
Iranian women were granted the right to vote in 1963, but their rights have been restricted since the Islamic Revolution. In late March of 1979, there was a referendum on creating an Islamic Republic. This single issue was determined by either casting a vote with a red card for no or a green card for yes. There was no registration; no voting booth for privacy; no way to maintain voting security; and certainly no anonymity for the voter's vote when she is using colored ballot card in front of the ballot box. Because of the lack of privacy, security, and anonymity, citizens were frightened to be seen voting against theocracy. They were risking verbal and possible physical attacks from the election monitors who were pro-Islamic. Even with the potential of retribution, my mother and aunt, two Iranian women in their 40s, exercised their right to vote for the first time in their lives, and voted against a regime change in their country.
With that memory, I set to explain to my daughter what other women around the world face -- how they are not permitted to voice their concerns. I explained how lucky she is to have the freedom to vote as millions of people, women especially, who do not have such rights to freely vote for what they want.
I’m thankful to my mother for having the courage to exercise her right to vote in the presence of potential harm, and to my dad who supported her choice. I am thankful that my daughter, Klara, never knew how she and her brother could have been subject to such restricted rights of Iran.
I tell her that if she truly cares about her world, then she has to go out there and vote. Every election, I take my children to my local polling station so they can watch me vote and to get “I voted” stickers! I want my children by my side as I exercise my right to vote. Growing up in a country where women don’t have equal rights motivates me to make sure my daughter never takes her civil liberties for granted.
Editor’s Note: The 19th Amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” To learn more about the Amendment and centennial commemorations, please visit http://www.2020centennial.org/learn. 107 years ago, on March 3, 1913, the “Woman Suffrage Procession” took place in Washington, D.C., giving the suffrage movement a new wave of inspiration and purpose.
Mikhak Ghorban practices family and immigration law at Ashtari & Ghorban, LLP and is the 2019–2020 cochair of the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Membership Committee.