The Inheritance of Voice

On occasion, we at The OpEd Project like to sprinkle our readers with some inspiration dust. And when this story billowed our way – we couldn’t resist! Our Social Media Junior Fellow, Claudia Garcia-Rojas, interviewed the 24 year-old Feministing Editor, Chloe Angyal. Chloe came through our core program in 2009 while still a student at Princeton, and published an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor shortly after. She was The OpEd Project’s first intern, and now, three years later, she has joined our leadership team, as an OpEd Project mentor-editor, and one of the leaders of The OpEd Project’s year-long Public Voices fellowship at Texas Women’s University. The interview focused on her recent article, which she co-authored with her 98 year-old grandmother, Belle Littenberg:Why American women’s votes matter more than ever in this election.” Read below to hear what inspired this collaboration, and what moved them to talk about the urgent need for more women voters.

CGR: Chloe, you co-authored an article with your 98 year-old grandmother. What inspired the collaboration?

CA: Amazement at how much American history my grandmother has lived through. My grandmother was born in May of 1914 — a few months before the break of the first World War. She lived through the influenza epidemic after that, through the depression era, through World War two, the baby boom era, the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the gay liberation movement. The number of protests the she has lived through is completely mind boggling.

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Chloe Angyal with her grandmother, Belle Littenberg.

When Belle was born, telephones were a new single luxury that were just taking root in the wealthiest of homes in America. The computer had not yet been invented. We actually revised edits of this piece by email. I emailed her my first draft and we talked over our cell phone to go over edits.

CGR: That’s amazing!

CA: I think about how few, especially young American women, tend to vote in presidential elections. We have gone from a place of women not having the right to vote to women taking that vote for granted. This is a turning point in American history. In women’s history. I think 2012 is a crucial moment with women’s rights are up for debate and up for a vote. It has never been more important to stand up.

The vote is not at stake. Suffrage is not at stake. But things like contraception and abortion that we have taken for granted, that we have the privilege of taking for granted thanks to the work of women of my mother’s generation, are now up for debate. It is important that we show up and that we are willing to defend those rights.

CGR: Would you say that the life your grandmother has led has had a prominent impact on your current political views?

CA: Yes. My grandmother, Belle, was a single mother who raised two incredible feminists. My mother went on to raise two more. Only one of us makes a living out of being a vocal feminist. That doesn’t mean that the others don’t feel strongly about these issues as well. I often talk about my grandmother when I am talking about using the ‘F’ word [feminism]. There are a lot of reasons why women don’t use it. The reason that I use that word is that it makes me feel connected to my personal history of my mother who is a second wave feminist, and to my grandmother. She got a college education when it was not the common for women to do that, and who worked to make sure that both her daughters could do that. She got her Masters degree when she was 60!

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“Why American Women’s Votes Matter More Than Ever In This Election” – a snapshot from Chloe Angyal’s and Belle Littenberg’s article published in The Guardian.

CGR: What kind of impact do you think you have had on your grandmother?

CA: I don’t think that Belle – a 98 year-old – would have had an opportunity to talk gender-politics with a young person – me – a 24 year-old.

CGR: This is a gem of an article. From my perspective, not only is this an article that you got to co-author with your grandmother, Belle, it is also a family treasure you get to archive and hold unto for those future feminists in your family. Tell me how you view this article?

CA: I am so proud to share a byline with Belle. I am so proud to have a grandmother who is incredibly patient, and incredibly kind. If you have the chance to live to the age of 98 and be filled with kindness and generosity, especially after having lived through so many hardships. It is difficult to get to the end of the century and still be kind, and generous, and patient. And willing to try a new thing at 98 is pretty amazing. Belle has never written an op-ed. She’s never been published in her life!

I am proud to be part of a three generation line of feminists who do feminism in their professional lives but also in their personal lives.

CGR: You are inheriting this legacy of a life from her, and and the same time, she is inheriting this inspiration to become a public thought-leader, to share her voice, from you.

CA: One of the great things about The OpEd Project is that it inspires you. It gets you to the point where you feel capable of [writing and becoming a public thought-leader] yourself, and sharing that knowledge with other people and bringing them along with you. At 24, I am proud that I can teach my grandmother something that she does not know because at 98 she pretty much knows everything.

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