Here’s what someone who was born before women had the right to vote thinks about this election

Shirley has lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and the moon landing.


Shirley Skinner has seen a lot.

Shirley, celebrating her 100th birthday.

Born in 1915 — five years before most women could legally vote in America — Shirley has lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and the moon landing.

In that time, she’s seen incredible progress in America. And today, Shirley is rooting for something she never thought she’d live to see: the first woman president of the United States.

Shirley aboard the RMS Mauretania, 1952

Shirley was only 5 years old when most women got the right the vote, but she remembers the reactions. “People would say that it was going to be terrible, that the country was going to go to the devil,” she says.

She’s right: One of the more popular arguments against allowing women to vote was, in the words of one anti-suffrage group, “80 percent of the women eligible to vote are married and can only double or annul their husbands’ votes.”

“… in some States more voting women than voting men will place the Government under petticoat rule.”

But Shirley also remembers her mother coyly telling critics of the 19th Amendment, “We’ll see.”

Shirley she set out to build her own life, on her own terms — but at that time, it didn’t come easily.

Shirley shopping for fruit, 1952

She remembers how hard it was for women to accomplish the simplest things: When she tried to get a mortgage on her own, the bank told her, “Well, that won’t do.” When she tried to buy a car, they asked her if it was for her husband. And when she went to buy a farm, the seller all but laughed in her face.

But attitudes like that only made Shirley work harder. Eventually, she got her own car — a Ford. “We were always Ford people,” she says proudly.

Shirley’s Ford

And though it raised eyebrows, Shirley even taught herself how to drive — a skill that would prove useful as the men in her hometown shipped off to fight in World War II.

While the war raged on, Shirley became a chauffeur on Long Island, joining the growing movement of women who got “war jobs” in order to keep the country moving.

And sure enough, Shirley got her farm, too.

Shirley and her mother on Shirley’s farm in upstate New York, 1939

The more she shrugged off people’s narrow attitudes about women, the easier it became to forge ahead. “I wasn’t stopping,” she says. “I kept going.”

In 1936, Shirley cast her first vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and she’s been voting the progressive ticket ever since. “I’ve always been a Democrat,” she says proudly.

And as for today’s Republicans?

“Well, some of the men aren’t very good,” Shirley says, with all the diplomacy she can muster.

For Shirley, who lived through the evolution of women’s rights in America, having a woman hold the highest office in this country is more than symbolic. It’s real, tangible evidence of how far women have come over the last century.

A revolutionary declaration from Hillary Clinton at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women.

Shirley is quick to point out that it’s not just about electing any woman.

She’s always thought highly of Hillary Clinton. “She was always doing something,” she says. She’s a fan of Hillary’s policies, too — particularly the ones that will affect seniors, like protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicaid.

Shirley is firmly committed to her plans to vote in this election. And in the meantime, she’s letting everyone know who she’s voting for and why — and working tirelessly to turn supporters out for Hillary Clinton.

Because if there’s one thing Shirley has learned over a lifetime of progress, it’s that there’s only one way to shatter a glass ceiling: with hard work, one crack at a time.

Shirley and her corgi, anxiously awaiting Election Day
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