Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Voting Reminder

In honor of our day to vote, I thought I'd post a little history of women's right to vote. It's a story of our mothers and grandmothers who lived less than 100 years ago, and though some may have seen this particular information in the past, I think it's an excellent reminder of how we need not take advantage of our rights, and honor those who paved the way in the past.

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.
Lucy Burns
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 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 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. 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. (see http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/prisoners.pdf)
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
HBO put out a movie Iron Jawed Angels and it shows a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. It's shameful, but sometimes the reminder is needed.
Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown, New York
All these years later, voter registration is still so important. But the actual act of voting had become less personal, more rote. Frankly, voting often feels more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it is inconvenient.
Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate
What would those women think of the way we use, or don't use, our right to vote? All of us take it for  granted now, not just younger women, but all of us. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the HBO movie in their curriculum. It could be 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)
I'm sure it would be 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 would be 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.'
Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk, Connecticut, serving a three-day sentence in a D.C. prison for carrying a banner that read: "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
History is being made!

I'll be riding my bicycle to the polling place today to make my voice heard, and I hope you'll do the same.

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