Exercising Democracy

I voted today. As always, it felt important and solemn. Not least because the polling station I belong to is housed in a building from the 1700s. Outside, a couple of musicians dressed like the songwriter Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795) and his muse, performed time typical songs, playing cittern and mouth harp. I felt very fortunate to be able to vote in this beautiful environment.

Outside Kristinehovs Malmgård, Stockholm.

Not all the 6 264 polling stations in Sweden are as beautiful as this one, though the act of voting remains just as meaningful wherever you vote and whatever the outcome. Voting is essential when living in a democracy. In Sweden we take pride in having a high number of voters. In the last election, four years ago, 87,2 % voted.

When I walked up to the polling station, I thought about that – how voting in Sweden is facilitated in all kinds of ways in order to get as many as possible to vote. Early voting opened on the 24th of August, enabling voting in libraries, city halls or schools all over the country. For Swedes living abroad, postal voting opened as early as 28th of July. Swedish embassies and consulates all over the world offer voting possibilities – everything to lower the threshold to execute one’s democratic duty. In 2018 more than a third of all voters used the opportunity of early voting.

As a woman, I am also very happy to have this possibility. Something that was not an option for my great grandmothers Olga and Dagny until 1921. They grew up in a society where only men were allowed to vote – and not even all the men as there were different restrictions regarding income, military duty and so on.

Reading letters from Dagny and Olga, I seldom see anything political. They are very focused on their mission to spread Christian beliefs in China and the practicalities and challenges of being abroad. Living in China, they probably felt very far away from Swedish politics which must have added to the feeling that politics was not something for them.

My great grandfather Robert, on the other hand, was very interested in politics and had newspapers from Sweden sent to him in China. Of course, he could never be really up to date with the issues discussed in Sweden, as the newspapers took such a long time to arrive, but he was also very interested in Chinese politics, and some of his letters describe what was happening in China in detail. He writes about the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the hatred towards missionaries and Christian Chinese and what political realities had to be dealt with depending on which missionary station he was working at. If the missionaries could manage to get protection from the local mandarin, they could feel pretty safe but otherwise it could be very perilous.

Both my great grandmothers came back to Sweden after their time in China was over. Most likely they would have used their voting rights at least from then on. Unfortunately, both my great grandfathers never got to spend their old age in Sweden, as they both died on the field in China. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to discuss politics with them and if they were for or against women’s right to vote. At least I know they shared the responsibilities at the mission stations with their wives, and their wives were strong women, who were missionaries in their own right. Perhaps further research into the many handwritten letters will give me a better idea.

For now, I am just very happy to have been able to exercise my right to vote – a right Swedish women fought so hard to obtain a hundred years ago.

Read more about the fight for women’s voting rights here:  Persistence – the key to change – Thérèse Amnéus (wordpress.com)

13 thoughts on “Exercising Democracy

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  1. Yes, I am especially happy about the generosity and inclusion regarding voting rights here. Though Sweden was very late giving voting rights to women, today, we have voting rights for every Swedish citizen over 18 years of age, and it’s really easy to exercise that right. Not only with early voting, but election day is always on a Sunday, when most people don’t work – so nobody has to take time off work to vote. And all you need to bring wirh you is your identity card. It will be interesting to see how many voted this time!

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    1. True – perhaps it’s better not to know everything 😉. And most likely, they were just as affected by the society and time they lived in as are we.
      I do want to read more of their letters, but it takes a lot of patience to get through them as the handwriting is not always very clear. When I have some time to really concentrate on them, I think I can get used to their writing and read quicker. It’s a big project, for sure 😄

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    1. I just felt I had the old theme for so long, and wanted something a bit ”cleaner” – the other one had some flowers that also felt too ”summery” (summer is very short in Sweden 😉 ) I’m trying this one for now but I might look into other themes as well. What are your thoughts on choosing a theme – did you choose yours for a particular reason?

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  2. I thought the flowers in your old theme were very nice. 🙂 But a neutral background makes sense, too. Your new header image is fantastic. Did you have it before?

    I didn’t spend a lot of time picking out a theme. I tried another one first, for a couple of weeks, but the images weren’t displaying properly on the homepage, so I switched to ‘Baskerville 2’ (same as yours). I haven’t changed it in more than five years, except to add or move widgets. By the way, it was created by a Swedish guy named Anders Norén. You can see other themes he created on his website.

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  3. Haha, I didn’t notice we had the same theme! Perhaps you have modified it more? I do like how the images are displayed – my old theme cut them off in a strange way. As I have a very simple blog, it’s nice with a clean theme and thanks for the link to the Swedish (!) creator 😄 Perhaps it’s the Swedish style that attracted me…
    The header is a photo I took of documents and photos while researching. Before, I had a trail through the woods at Karklö, where my great grandmother grew up. That was not at all obvious though, so I changed to the present one. I’m happy with how it turned out – as it’s such a restricted size that you can use.
    Thanks for noticing the changes, Brad – and for liking my old theme as well! 😍

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  4. What a lovely post honoring the right to vote. I frequently feel emotional when I cast my vote. I don’t take it for granted. It’s a privilege to have a say in the future of my country. Unfortunately, that isn’t as widespread a sentiment in the US as it is in Sweden. And our polling stations are nearly so beautiful or entertaining. Thanks for sharing a bit about your great-grandmothers. What a fascinating history.

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    1. Thank you! It truly is a great honor to vote – and to live in a democracy. I must say this polling station is something else – mostly people vote in gym halls, schools or such. I am just really lucky to live close to this beautiful old house.

      It would be very interesting to know more about how people feel about the right to vote in the US.

      You have much bigger election campaigns than we do and it seems big rallies are common as well – something that could perhaps be a way of engaging people. Here, politicians do visit different locations around the country, but they don’t draw such big crowds. Usually they make some speech in the town square… But we’re a very small country in comparison, of course.

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      1. I think there’s a strange sense here that voting doesn’t make a difference, so why bother. Then people don’t vote and complain that nothing changes. Lol. It’s mind-boggling. There’s a lot of money in politics here, which hurts democracy. I’d like more fairness… and given the choice, I’d vote for it!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. And still, when the votes are in, it’s very clear they do count! Yes, it’s very hard to understand – not very logical. I understand what you are saying about more fairness. Also, about having choices. Even with so many parties like we have here, many people express difficulty in finding the “right fit” for them. This year it seems the number of people who voted sunk pretty much. I haven’t seen the final result yet, but it’s down about 6 percent. That also says something…

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