I’ll admit, I’ve been a political junkie since my grandmother bought our first (small, black and white) television so we could watch the Democratic and Republication conventions. I lay, sprawled on the floor of what was then our summer home in Maine (now my full-time home,) fascinated, and with permission to stay up VERY late.
After that I began collecting political memorabilia — buttons, bumper stickers, tee shirts, jewelry, convention tickets, and (from the 19th century) tokens, ads, women’s suffrage pins and postcards … tickets to Johnson’s impeachment … and so many more.
As soon as I was old enough to have my own checking account (with deposits from my after-school job sorting books at my local library) I bid on political items in catalog auctions (predecessors of today’s on-line auctions) and begged my father, who was a numismatist, and my grandmother, whose antique doll and toy business included 19th century valentines and 20th century paper dolls, to take me with them to paper shows. (Later in my life I was an antique print dealer and became even more familiar with paper shows. My protagonist Maggie Summer attends one in my Shadows on the Ivy.)
My grandmother took me to Washington, D.C. during a junior high school winter vacation and we got tickets to the Senate visitors’ gallery. I’ll never forget hearing both Senators Bartlett and Gruening, the first senators from Alaska, speak on the floor. I dreamed of being a senator myself some day.
Of course, I also wanted to be a writer. In college I had a hard time choosing between majoring in English or in political science — but drama fit better into my schedule, so I majored in English and drama, and read the political science books on my own. In graduate school I majored in American Civilization – Intellectual History – and was able to fill in some empty spaces in my knowledge. I still collected political memorabilia.
When I lived in Greenwich Village I registered to vote for the first time — for George McGovern in the primary. I’ve rarely, if ever, skipped an election since. I’ve campaigned in some elections, from being a member of the Village Independent Democrats back in my NYC days, to making telephone calls during the 2008 election.
And since Maine is one of the few states still using paper ballots, both my husband Bob and I, in different elections, counted ballots in our small town. I did that in the last presidential election, and then headed home to watch CNN.
I no longer have my political collection. I sold it several years ago. But I’m still a campaign addict.
I’ll vote this morning. My daughter Liz, who’s staying with me now, sent her absentee ballot to Philadelphia last week. My sister Nancy and her husband, who live in North Carolina, voted early.
And, you? No matter who you’ll be voting for: this is the time for our voices to be heard. No excuses. After all — it’s Election Day.
Thanks for these sentiments, Lea. That is a proud history.
Voted early two weeks ago and this morning did a voter protection shift in Gorham (which is a cadre of lawyers who staff polling places to help make sure people who want to vote get to vote.) Turnout was strong, always a good thing.
Righto! Among my cherished possessions are two William Jennings Bryan campaign buttons as well as a McGovern/Eagleton one.
Voted 2 weeks ago. Record early voting in Texas. Thanks for this article, Lea Wait.
Out of curiosity, I dug into the bottom of my “button” bowl. I have campaign buttons for Kennedy and Johnson, LBJ for the USA, Humphrey Muskie, McCarthy, Longley for Governor (Think about it!) and, for some unknown reason, maybe just as a collectable, Nixon’s the One! And no, I wasn’t old enough to vote in those first three elections!
Great post, and great voting history. My first vote was for McGovern, too–presidential election, not primary. I turned eighteen in late October and registered immediately. Haven’t missed an election since, and I’ve been volunteering more and more hours for the past ten years. I’ll be heading out to a watch-the-results party with fellow volunteers shortly.
I’m a poll worker here in Ohio. Day starts before 6am and ends after 8pm. Turn out was higher than even the last presidential election. I wish we could continue that enthusiasm for each election. All of them are important! I’ve been an activist since my teen days before I could vote. Registered at 18 and haven’t missed a vote yet. My favorite pin is one that simply says…Dissent is Patriotic. I’ve had it since the Regan years.