How Do We Inspire Women to Register to Vote and Then Exercise That Right?

Editor’s Note: This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 New Hampshire Delegate Irene Herold.  Her project for Vision 2020 is highlighting the role and legacy of Granny D and her archival collections at Mason Library on the Keene State College Campus.

Organizing to make the coming election mean something[1]

How do we inspire women to register to vote and then exercise that right?  In 2003, when she was 93 years old, Doris “Granny D” Haddock understood that you do it one person at a time.  Granny D talked to working women and minorities and told them that their voice mattered.  She let them know she cared about what they had to say.  Then she did more than talk. 

Granny D staged events where she “took over” jobs so working women could register to vote.  This meant that she temporarily became a Weeki Wachee mermaid in Florida where the mermaids registered underwater using grease pencils on laminated registration forms, and at an Orlando water park Granny D fed alligators while the park worker registered.  She and her helpers canvassed shopping malls, teamed up with churches, and gave speeches. 

They shared strategies about how to make hearing their message more acceptable, such as saying they were bringing voter forms into the stores as a convenience to employees versus asking if employees wanted to register to vote, putting forms in shopping totes rather than on clipboards, visiting fast food restaurants between rushes because so many young people work there, and matching the message to the potential voter registrant.  This latter technique a volunteer perfected and called “apathy-matching” and involved inviting folks to do something that “as Americans, it’s important that we waste our time this way, don’t you agree?”[2]  It appealed greatly to the young and disaffected potential voter.

Call to action

Not everyone can do as Granny D and drive over 23,000 miles in all the swing states except Ohio, east of the Mississippi, encouraging voter participation and registration.  She did it with the help of some dedicated volunteers in a bus named Rosie that coughed smoke for most of the trip.  The bus was painted with Rosie the Riveter, the New Hampshire state motto “Live Free or Die,” a painting of the historic march of women for the vote with the banner “Working Women Vote.”

Granny D understood that while the total number of people she actually registered to vote was small, it was the encouragement to take part in the process, the publicity generated by her stunts of showing the incongruity of a 93 year old tiny woman feeding a roiling pit of alligators, and working with already active groups that could carry on the registration and support for voting after she rolled through that made her trip worthwhile.

So what can we do?  Let’s continue to make her trip worthwhile.  Join in the effort to register women to vote using Vision 2020’s campaign, She Rocks the Vote, created in partnership with Rock the Vote, one of our 50 national allies, as a simple way to get started. Use the power of social media and your individual ability to reach out to others, as Granny D once used the visual power of Rosie the bus and her personal charisma, to get the issue in front of people – your neighbors, the employees at your favorite stores, groups you belong to and where you participate.  Let individuals know that their voice matters and their vote counts.


[1] Haddock, D., and Burke, D. M.  (2012).  Granny D’s American Century.  Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, p.100.

[2] Ibid, p. 116.

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About equalityinsight

Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today! http://www2.drexelmed.edu/vision2020giftsonline/Individual.aspx
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3 Responses to How Do We Inspire Women to Register to Vote and Then Exercise That Right?

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