This piece was originally published in Lone Conservative on November 20, 2020. 

The right to vote is not only every American’s civic duty but our opportunity to make our voices heard. This year being the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification is a reminder that not long ago women’s voices were being stifled and silenced. This historic moment allowed the United States to progress into a country that fulfills the promises of its foundation; to be the land of the free. The ability to vote and engage in political discourse should be celebrated and not taken for granted.

The beauty of the United States is that the power resides in the people, not the government. American citizens decide who they want to lead them and what ideologies they want their country to emulate. However, this beauty is inhibited if not all citizens can participate in their system. Giving women the right to vote would not only be granting them their human rights, but it would also include them in political discourse and invigorate political debate.

At the Seneca Falls Convention, the suffragists wrote in the Declaration of Sentiments: “that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These women showed that the United States was founded to be a country of prosperity and freedom regardless of your gender. In their writings, these women reinforced the principles this country was built upon and exemplified how women are vital in political discussions. Without women having the right to vote there was a lack of representation that hurt the country as a whole. Fighters for the 19th Amendment knew that women are autonomous beings who possess the intellect needed to cast their vote. Armed with truth, the suffragists fought so that future generations of women would have the ability to vote. Because of the sacrifices they made, our country became one of the first nations to be at the forefront of women’s equality.

If we wish to uphold and honor the hard work that those before us did, we must not only use our right to vote, but do so responsibly. By being educated voters and voting for those who uphold the sanctity of the Constitution we are holding our leaders accountable. As young women in America, we can now educate ourselves and vote for the candidates who represent us and the nation’s best interests.

Our responsibility to those who came before us does not end there. Not only should we vote responsibly but we should also remember to respect the integrity of our system and those who may vote differently. It appears to become a more prevalent trend in our culture to “cancel” those who believe differently than us. As a young conservative woman, I believe in voting for candidates who prioritize limiting the power of government. I believe that being conservative is empowering for all people, but especially young women. It is saying that I believe in myself to know what is best for me, not the government. It is saying that I will take personal responsibility for my own actions and work to create the life I want for myself and I will not be reliant on the government.

However, there is often the stereotype that women are only conservative because they lack intelligence or because their husbands or boyfriends dictate their beliefs. Instead of respecting the intellectual diversity of women, we have shamed them with attacks of “internalized misogyny.” If we shame women for having differing viewpoints, we are letting history repeat itself and women’s voices are once again stifled. It does a great disservice to the legacy of the suffragists if we shame women for expressing their opinions. Instead, women from all political ideologies should be encouraged to express their opinion both inside and outside the voting booth. Women must remain politically active so that the “women’s vote” is intellectually diverse.

Social media polarizes us across party lines and can make navigating the political field challenging. Yet I know that I am blessed to have these opportunities because so many women years ago fought so that I could. Celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment and women’s ability to engage in political discourse is a reminder that we must not take these rights for granted.

Instead, I honor their fight by engaging in political discourse and walking into the voting booth with the confidence in my right to do so.

Franchetta Groves is a sophomore at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Groves is on the marketing team for the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) chapter at Catholic University. NeW is part of a growing conservative movement on college campuses. This essay was submitted as part of the 2020 NeW Essay Contest.