Why women MUST vote…a little reminder

From: Brenda
Subject: Fwd: FW: Suffragettes
Date: August 6, 2008 1:25:12 PM CDT

Sis sent me this appalling bit of American history…

As old as I am, I do not recall learning this! How nice that we are able to “forget” the past; how unfortunate that this history is not taught so convincingly that we are not able to forget the past…..

This is the story of our Grandmothers, and Great-grandmothers, as they lived only 90 years ago. It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

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. The women were innocent and defenseless. 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 Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, 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.

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?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new 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. It is jarring 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.

History is being made.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Why women MUST vote…a little reminder

  1. lynn1775

    It’s not just history, it’s right now.
    This past weekend I attended a wedding, daughter of a friend. The wedding was held in the family’s evangelical/fundamentalist church. After the vows were said, the pastor gently reminded the bride that she is a second-class citizen. That “the man is the head of the household” and she is to be a good wife and be subservient to the man. This is in 2008 (!!) and in Pennsylvania, not Arkansas.
    The scary part is that most of these evangelical-type churches–Baptist, Brethren, Mennonite (around here) and the non-denominational churches– sincerely believe this. Because the Bible says so.
    Notice you will never see a female pastor in any of these churches (the Catholic church is a story for another day). Some churches (such as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) dictate that no woman shall ever be in a position of authority over a man in the church heirarchy. And it’s the members of these churches that are the social-conservative base of the Republican Party.
    I’ve always considered it incredibly illogical that most “pro-life” types are also opposed to birth control, the one surefire way to prevent abortion! Then I realized that giving women the power to control their childbearing also gives them a step towards independence from men–exactly what these churches find offensive. Look closely at most “social conservative” viewpoints to see they are thinly disguised positions designed to keep women “in their place”.
    These folks scare the willies out of me because they really want to see us barefoot, pregnant and three steps behind. And they are the base of the Republican Party!! John McCain wants people to think he’s a easygoing, kind of moderate guy (who actually wants to avoid these social issues). But if you look at his voting record in the Senate, he’s voted with “the base” every single time.
    Don’t forget that the “real” Republicans don’t give a rat’s fart about things like abortion and gay marriage. They have one issue only–money. But they’ve suckered in all the folks who do care about those things, and that’s why we’ve had 8 years of the worst President in history.

  2. Well said…I also never understood how they could be against abortion but for capitol punishment. I guess they only care about you when you’re still in the womb-after that you’re on your own. Also what about helping out single moms? (Daycare, healthcare, education etc.) Anything like that that might be for the family in a real way they’re against but they also claim they are the “family values” people…yeh right.

  3. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  4. Hi. This came to me in an email today with some great pictures and I thought I’d blog about it… but when I try to save the pics, they save as bitmaps and not jpgs, so I’m poking around the internet thinking it might be out there, and your blog is the first on the list of results! I’ll probably say something about this within a day or two. I’ll link over here… glad you posted about it!

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