Industry → Vote

The threat of riotous mobs and the punishment of eternal damnation was enough to keep the nobility in check for a while, but with the onset of the industrial age, a more refined method to keep leaders accountable was demanded. Eventually, simply reading about the workings of the government no longer satisfied most people; the industrial age saw increasing demand for every single voice to be heard. Vast lines of communication, booming production, and instant gratification fueled the demand for more representation, and the idea of everyone getting at least a vote came into being to unite the population and ease pressure. Yet even after the medieval smoke and mud cleared, the use of the vote reemerged only after many groups of people shed a lot of blood and tears struggling for their rights – and the fight for numerous others is still not over.

Soon after slavery was abolished in the US and African Americans were enfranchised, a significant number of blacks were elected to state and national office. But this was way too much for southern whites. Realizing they couldn’t lynch every voter, they developed a restrictive system of poll taxes and citizenship tests to prevent many people of color from voting, as well as at-large voting structures that prevented minorities from electing those who reflected their interests.

We have done our level best. We have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate every last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.
– Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, Senator from North Carolina

Originally, voting did not involve universal suffrage as we know it. Although most aboriginal peoples have revered the opinion and counsel of women – often giving them veto powers[i] – voting in more modern societies was restricted to men until 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to bring full voting rights to women. Women first cast formal votes in Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden and the United States in the early 1900s. China, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan and others joined in the middle of the 20th century, and Switzerland held out until 1971. Kuwait, liberated from the ambitions of Saddam Hussein, apparently doesn’t feel like providing this liberty for its own people and in 1999 reaffirmed that Kuwaiti women still could not vote.[ii] The US invasion of Afghanistan restored a woman’s right to vote there, but recently the Afghani president urged men to allow their wives to go to the polls …by reminding them that they could take advantage of this by telling the women how to vote![iii]

Even under these massive pressures, the democratic spirit continues to surface, and that is just what is happening worldwide today, as it has throughout history. In the face of the bloody massacre in More recently, elections in Iraq and Ukraine brought voters out in massive numbers despite threats of violence and possible loss of life. In addition, a significant and growing portion of the world – a large number of European nations, as well as Jordan, Morocco, India and Tanzania – now reserve a percentage of parliamentary seats for women. Rwanda is the world leader in parliamentary gender parity, with 49 per cent of seats held by women.[iv] (Of course, this wasn’t the result of a peaceful grassroots movement, but rather due to the fact that so many of their men did such a thorough job of killing each other.)




[iv] Learning Partnership, “Political Participation.”

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