Born before women could vote, 100-year-old is excited to see a woman on the ballot

Eleanor Gantman
Eleanor Gantman turned 100 in May 2016. She was born four years before American women got the right to vote. "This is the first time I've ever voted for a woman for president, because I never thought that it would ever happen," she said.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Eleanor Gantman was born in Hopkins, Minn., in 1916.

Woodrow Wilson was president. World War I was raging. Antibiotics hadn't been discovered yet.

And women couldn't vote.

The 19th Amendment wasn't added to the Constitution until Aug. 26, 1920, when Eleanor was four years old.

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Growing up, she doesn't remember her mother ever voting. Her mother emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania when she was 13.

She married and started a family, but after her husband — Gantman's father — was killed in a car accident, she went to work, raising Gantman and her two sisters while supervising a kosher deli on Selby Avenue in St. Paul.

"She was busy raising three daughters. She did not vote," Gantman said.

But the first year Gantman herself was eligible, she registered and filled out a ballot. She's voted in every election since, she says.

Eleanor Gantman's engagement ring.
Eleanor Gantman, 100, still wears her engagement ring every day, 77 years after her husband Joe gave it to her. She now lives at the Sholom senior living center in St. Louis Park.
Evan Frost | MPR News

She cast her first vote for president in 1940, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was facing down Wendell L. Willkie. This fall, she filled out her absentee ballot with a vote for Hillary Clinton. It was her 20th time voting for president, and the history was not lost on her.

"This is the first time I've ever voted for a woman for president, because I never thought that it would ever happen — as much as I never thought I'd live to be 100," she said.

Gantman now lives in Sholom Home, a senior living community in St. Louis Park. She has outlived her sisters and husband, but gets regular visits from her children, grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

She stays up-to-date on politics by watching CNN, but she said that at certain times this election, she has just had to change the channel.

"I'm just a nervous wreck at what's going on with the TV, with the voting and the — oh my," she said.

"I try to study each nominee beforehand, and if I feel that they're capable, then I vote for them, whether it's a man or a woman — it doesn't matter to me."

Gantman said she's excited to see a woman running for president, even if it took a long time to get on the ballot.

"I love it. I love it. I love the thought that she feels capable," she said. "And I love the thought that she wants to be president ... I think in later years, there will be other women who are capable, and there's no reason why they can't run for president."

"What's the difference? She wears pants the same as the men do. She wears a pantsuit, and the men wear a pantsuit," Gantman said. "Why should there be any doubt?"