Philadelphia Poll Worker Supports Her Community, and Inspires Daughter to Do the Same
Cherie DeBrest cast her first ballot nearly 30 years ago and has voted in every election since.
She felt “duty-bound” to vote in honor of those before her who weren’t allowed. She credits her inspiration to early suffragettes, Black women like Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells, who fought for the right to vote in 1920, but never got the chance to vote themselves. She carries their legacy, along with so many others in the fight for civil rights, each time she goes into the voting booth.
But last year, she decided to take it a step further and started working at the polls in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.
Using StoryCorps Connect, she spoke with her 18-year-old daughter, Naima.
Top Photo: Cherie and Naima DeBrest following their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, PA on October 21, 2020. Courtesy of Naima DeBrest.
Originally aired October 30, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Pandemic Couldn’t Stop Her: A Lifelong Voter Finds Inspiration From Her Mother
Helen Merrill, age 91, prides herself on one simple fact: that in her lifetime, she’s never missed a single presidential election.
It’s a determination that she traces back to her mother, Blanche, a woman who raised twelve children in rural Iowa.
Blanche, like millions of others, had become seriously ill during the 1918 flu pandemic. She was also a supporter of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which was fighting for the right to vote.
By the 1920 election, Blanche had still not fully recovered, but the 19th Amendment had been passed and she was determined to exercise her newly given right.
Nearly one hundred years later, Helen came to StoryCorps with her granddaughter, Elizabeth, to remember how Blanche made it to the polls, and how her strength continues to inspire her to this day.
Top Photo: Helen Merrill and Elizabeth Hartley in 2017. Courtesy of Andrea Hartley.
Middle Photo: Ralph and Blanche Reeves in 1944. Courtesy of Andrea Hartley.
Bottom Photo: Helen Merrill celebrating Independence Day in July 2018. Courtesy of Andrea Hartley.
Originally aired October 16, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.