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//Gretchen’s group hit the pavement this summer to register female voters despite the pandemic. Photo provided by Gretchen. 

Activism has been a part of the American story since its founding.

The word alone invokes images of handmade signs, boisterous crowds and grand marches led by big names reflected in history books and living memorials.

Since 2011, a four-acre site in Washington, D.C. has housed a monument of Martin Luther King Jr. to honor a life lost fighting for civil rights. 

This year, New York City’s Central Park unveiled its first-ever 14-foot-tall statue featuring women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth.

And every day, millions of rainbow flags fly worldwide from front porches, designed by Gilbert Baker, a symbol of pride in LGBTQ+ rights. 

Today, activism lines our streets, fills our television screens and makes up our social media feeds. But sometimes, it’s the quiet quests for a more robust democracy that can be the most personally empowering.  

One suburban Denver mom of two decided two years ago she’d no longer sit idly by. 

“I was driving in my car listening to National Public Radio when I became so deeply enraged,” said Gretchen. She declined to give her last name due to privacy concerns. 

It was supposed to be just another routine drive to pick up her preschoolers. Instead, her drive detoured with intense tears and inherent frustrations. 

“I had to pull the minivan over. I was crying and hitting my steering wheel,” Gretchen said. 

On Sept. 28, 2018, Gretchen was one of millions tuning in as members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee carried out an all-day hearing to question Christine Blasey Ford. Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her decades earlier at a high school house party. Her testimony included details about being ambushed, pinned down and attacked. When asked how sure she was that Kavanaugh was the attacker, Ford said, “One hundred percent.” Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations.

“Hearing the questioning of her and the tactics used during those hearings. I was just so angry,” Gretchen said. 

In a 50-48 vote, Kavanaugh secured his seat on the Supreme Court, despite the fallout, backlash and FBI investigation.

Gretchen’s way of reckoning with Kavanaugh’s confirmation led to a non-partisan grassroots effort to educate, energize and register female voters. 

“I decided right then and there that I was going to register 100 women in 100 days,” Gretchen said. “Women’s voices need to shape our policies and our candidates.” 

This past summer, Gretchen, surrounded by nine of her closest friends, camped outside public shopping centers, yoga studios and gas stations to carry out her mission to mobilize voters and build the political power of women. 

“We were pounding the pavement, making sure women in our community have a voice,” Gretchen said.

And that voice is critical as we inch closer to Nov. 3. Look no further than the presidential candidates’ words in the lead up to Election Day to secure the female vote.  

“I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure we, in fact, get every representation,” said Former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

President Donald Trump, by contrast, made a different plea to women at rallies in key swing states.

“Can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood,” Trump said. 

Gretchen believes women across the country will be the ultimate decision-makers in this election.

“If women come out in full force in this election, I have no doubt that we’ll shape the outcome,” Gretchen said. 

According to the Center for Women and Politics, women are already a decisive political force. The number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters in every presidential election since 1964. Women have cast almost ten million more votes than men in recent elections.

Lisa Christie of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado thinks the importance of the female vote goes well beyond the numbers. 

“When women vote, they often vote for policies, practices and candidates that prioritize women’s issues and create more equitable systems,” Christie said.

University of Colorado Denver Associate Professor of Political Science Michael J. Berry agrees and points to the current topics dominating the national debate and drawing a record number of women into the political process. 

“Many current salient issues are likely important to women voters such as health care, the COVID-19 pandemic and reproductive rights,” Berry said. “I would also expect that the intense political conflicts over recent Supreme Court nominations have spurred greater interest and participation among women,” Berry said.  

For Gretchen and her friends, this is just the beginning. 

“This country, our democracy, it’s really on the brink in a way it’s never been before, and I think that is what inspired me and others to do more than just vote but to become activists in small ways,” Gretchen said.

 

To register to vote or to host a future registration drive, please visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s website. You can register in-person to vote until election day. Online registration ends Oct. 26.