Remembering Society’s All Too Recent Ancestors (the Suffragettes)–Please Vote

My friend J.E. forwarded this email from her friend Kathy O., inviting me to share this with every woman I know.   This remembrance felt in kindred spirit with my honoring the Day of the Dead.

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.’

(Lucy  Burns)
They  beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars  above her head and left her hanging for the night,  bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora  Lewis)
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.

(Alice  Paul)
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 in the  prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day  sentence.)

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.

(Miss Edith Ainge, of  Jamestown , New York )
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.

(Berthe  Arnold, CSU graduate)
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 Pl  [ace] [ 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 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, ‘Governments derive their just powers  from the consent of the  governed.’)

History  is being made.

So,  refresh my memory again. Some women won’t vote this  year because – why, exactly?


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