With great ceremony, my mother threw her iron away one afternoon in June 1972. After 20 years of night classes and four children, she had proudly graduated from college that morning.

To be honest, the appliance had not been fired up for years, since being a snappy dresser was never high on Mom’s list of priorities. And the iron was a hated symbol of the domestic drudgery to which she did not want to relegate her life, nor that of her female descendants.

But it looks like the 2004 elections may allow women across the U.S. to set up their ironing boards for a more pressing calling. As a mobile writing surface, an ironing board is a great tool for woman-to-woman voter registration at grocery stores, flea markets, and community colleges, says Kate Snyder, of Women’s Voices, a project of Voices for Working Families.

Women’s Voices has the ambitious goal of changing the face of the American electorate. Reaching out to women is a well-thought-out strategic plan, not just part of a laundry list of voter registration activities. The plan is based on scientific polling data compiled by the project’s organizers.

Fifty million voting age women didn’t vote in 2000. Among that number, unmarried women – single, divorced, or never married – are of special concern. Thirty-eight million of them are either not registered or did not vote. If they voted in the same proportion as married women, there would be 6 million more voters out there, most of them progressive. When they do register, 37 percent of unmarried women register as independents.

Unmarried women make up the bulk of single heads of households and face the greatest economic insecurity. Women are the majority of minimum wage workers. Their concerns are issues like quality education and universal health care.

Although they tend to be involved and active in their communities, these women stay out of the electoral process because “their issues are not addressed and they have a hard time seeing themselves in the images projected of the candidates and their families,” says Snyder.

Women’s Voices is conducting monthly neighborhood “bring your children to walk” days on the first Saturday of every month in targeted neighborhoods in cities across the nation, from Florida to Montana. Including the kids in the door-to-door canvassing has the added bonus of starting the next generation as activists for social and economic justice, says Snyder.

The Chicago chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women enthusiastically signed on to the Women’s Voices program. They will gather at the UNITE union hall May 8 for the chapter’s first monthly walk.

“As we register women voters, we will be identifying the issues of greatest concern, be it health care, jobs or the war,” said chapter President Katie Jordan. The new voters will receive regular communications over the summer from Women’s Voices on issues like education and health care.

In Miami, Fla., Women’s Voices will be partnering with MoveOn.org to target one precinct in Hialeah. The targeted precinct has a historically low voter turnout and a high percentage of single women, according to Angie Giacoman, women’s program coordinator for Florida.

For more information on Women’s Voices contact Snyder at (202) 974-8320 or check out www.voicesforworkingfamilies.org.

And if you’re wondering about the perfect Mother’s Day gift this year – a state-of-the-art ironing board is on every political activist’s must-have list.

The author can be reached at rwood@pww.org.

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