Friday, October 24, 2008

Why Women Should Vote

I wish I could say that I wrote this, but I didn't! I did though, feel the need to share this little piece of history. Sometimes we forget just how far we've really come, and how truly lucky we are!

***Why Women Should Vote***

This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they 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 for air.

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?

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.'

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.


Sue said...

That's incredible. I'd never heard that story before. Can you imagine the guts of those women? Unbelievable.

Country Comes To Town said...

I saw the movie during the original release back in 2004 or maybe it was another version. It's a great story. My grandmother would have been about 30 years old back in 1920. She was ahead of her time, educated, a teacher and a school principal. I would love to hear her tell about her first voting experience and what it meant to her. Unfortunately, she's not around anymore but it had to have been an exciting time for women.

Angie ^i^ said...

Sue ~ I hadn't heard the story before either. I can't even imagine what it took for those ladies to buck the system! As strong as I believe myself to be, I doubt I could even hold a candle to just one of those women!

Jim ~ I MUST see the movie now! Watching it (especially since it's been stated that it's "graphic") will be difficult (even without the scars of my personal past), but I crave knowledge.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could ask those who are long gone about their life, and their experiences. I'm writing a book because of that very reason. We often know what the shells of our ancestors look like, but we've no clue who they truly were. My book will be read only by future generations.. it's my life, as told through my words. The blogs I write, that you read, are placed in the book. Each entry, a short story of an event, a day, an experience or simply a thought. I'd like them to know me, not just my shell.

OweMe1Cannoli said...

Sometimes it's a bit shameful to think that it took us so long to figure out that we truly are all made of the same stuff. Arranged differently, perhaps, but ... essentially and certainly inellectually, the same. To put it into perspective for myself, I often think of one of my most important role models - a hero if you will - Marie Curie. In her day, about the only other peer who could remotely keep up with her was her husband, Pierre. Had they lived here, she couldn't vote. She sure had no problem bringing us into the atomic age! There are zillions of other examples. Grace Hopper, when she was young, must have wondered why her mom couldn't vote.

Word verification: "equirer"
Usage: "The National Equirer is a huge gossip paper - in color- whose sales top even the mini-WD-40 cans and Bic lighters at checkout stands."

Angie ^i^ said...

I love how described how we're all made! If everyone were blind we'd truly all be the same!

The following question is being asked because I wonder back in 1920 when women were initially given the right to vote, if the men'folk treated them differently.. and how it applies to someone like me today.

I was born in the hills of West Virginia. Daddy always encouraged me to be a lady, and to carry myself as one. So I guess I'm a bit conflicted. I've been on my own, raising my two children for the last 15 years. I've had to be Mother, and Father. If something was going to get done, I did it. This of course makes me quite independent, and strong. Yet I still like the differences between a man and a woman. I still want to be treated as a lady.. having my door opened and the likes. So in this age of women being so dominate, is it wrong for me to want a man who will still be what I grew up knowing a man to be (and allow me to be the only woman I know how to be)?

Jinxie said...

Excellent Angie! I remember reading about this a while back. It all started when my mom started talking not having birth control pills until 1960's. After that conversation it made me think about a ton of other things which lead to the vote.
Anyway its a great piece and I'm glad you shared it with us.

I was raised more like a tomboy, then became more lady like. LOL
I know manual labor (use to load trucks for a living)but I so appreciate being a woman and have the doors opened for me. Solie loves to treat me like a lady and I let him do it.

Word: Weakend

If we didn't have women voting, that's the state we would be in, weakend.

Angie ^i^ said...

It's nice to hear Martha that it's still "socially acceptable" for a woman to be a lady!

Sue said...

Such interesting stories. I love hearing about everybody's life and background.