Why Women Should Vote (and All Men Too)October 14, 2010
A Tribute to U.S. Suffragists
‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’
U. S. Declaration of Independence
[The following is from an e-mail sent to AFWW in October of 2010 with a request at the end of the posting that the name of the sender be deleted before passing it along. AFWW is not the originator, but would appreciate knowing who is in order to thank them.
We are grateful for this reminder of progressive women’s struggle for equality and the heroines willing to work and even suffer to achieve it. The old photographs are superb! And we are grateful for the reminder of WHY all of us, men and women, should vote.]
We have forgotten how this country got to such a great status, when only we have to look to the past for the answer.
THE FINAL LINE OF THIS INSPIRATIONAL BIT
OF HISTORY IS THE “KEY!”
‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’
This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.
Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the
right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed
nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking
for the vote.
And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.
Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing
went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of
‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above
her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her
head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate,
Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.
Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging,
beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917,
when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his
guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because
they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right
to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their
food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike,
they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured
liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks
until word was smuggled out to the press.
So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because-
-why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work?
Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?
Mrs. Pauline Adams wears the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s
movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle
these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling
booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the
actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote.
Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege.
Sometimes it was inconvenient.
My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history,
saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk
about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought
kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said.
‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use,
my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just
younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The
right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’
HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history,
social studies and government teachers would include the movie in
their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere
else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing,
but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think
a little shock therapy is in order.
(Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at [National Woman's Party] headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington , D.C. . L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right))
It is jarring in the film to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’
Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.
We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so
hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.
(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner)