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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Will you be a part of history?

For regular readers of this blog, you are aware that I generally write about "fluff and stuff". My cousin recently sent me a copy of an article that explains why women should take the time to be registered and vote. It touched me greatly. What is most amazing is that this all occured less than 90 years ago.
The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and with 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 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 November 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 will run the movie periodically before releasing it on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum.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. The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."Please 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. -Connie Schultz, The Plain Dealer, 1801 Superior Ave.,Cleveland, OH 44114, August 2004
History is being made. Please be a part of it. Register and vote.

19 comments :

Jorgelina said...

It is very interesting.
I like the history of my country and other countries.
A greeting

Ms. Wis. said...

Great post! Alice Paul is one of my heroines along with Jeannette Rankin. This year (July) was the 160th anniversary of the meeting in Seneca Fall, NY where women first began to formally advocate for the right to vote.

Bella Casa said...

What a great reminder!

I have a MySpace page with lots of young women as my friends (nieces and daughters of friends, etc)...and I am pounding out the "Get out and vote" message.

I doubt many of them realize the history of women and voting...frankly I don't know that much about it and I am 40 years old!

Great post!

Bella

Carrie said...

Thank you for this impressive reminder...

Snippety Gibbet said...

I live just a couple of miles from where the "Occoquan Workhouse" was.
What a horrific bit of history you posted about. Why some people don't take their writes more seriously, I have no clue. I hope that your post will open some eyes.

Charli and me said...

Great post! I have written about this very thing on my blog several times. Women didn't get the right to vote until 1920. That is amazing when you think about it. Our grandmother's and mother's fought hard to give us the freedoms we have today. To me we owe it to all of them to vote. We also need to respect women like Senator Clinton and Govenor Palin, who are out there trying to make things better for us and our daughters. Some women do not even get get equally pay in 2008. Thank you for your post.

Pink Slippers said...

Hi..I just got the email from my husbands Aunt and I honestly had no idea the brutal things that took place. I thought it was just about picketing. Wow..what a stroy that should be told more. Wendy

The Berry's Patch said...

Yes, great post! I'm always sad when I hear someone say they don't vote. What our ancestors went through for us is heartbreaking. Because of them I cast my vote proudly at each election. :-)

Shimmy Mom said...

What a beautiful post. I am going to send my readers here this week. Thank you for the wonderful reminder!
*hugs*

MERRIANNE said...

AMEN sista!

Let's ROCK the VOTE!!!!


i love this post!!!!!

Liz said...

I would like to see this movie. I have gotten the e-mail that is being sent around and I have to admit it is a stark reminder.

GOOD POST!

~Liz~

A Hint of Home said...

That was so enlightening! Very interesting.

Lorrie said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm from Canada and we, too are approaching a national election. It is our privilege and responsibility to vote. We women need to thank those who went before us and struggled so that we can vote today.

Lorrie

Mimi Sue said...

We should never take our right to vote for granted. Thanks for the reminder. Mimi

the paris apartment said...

We take so much for granted. Your post reminds us that it came at a terrible price. You're keeping their story alive, thank you for that.

Virginia Harris said...

Thanks for remembering the suffragettes!

Thanks to the suffragettes, women have voices and choices! Just like men.

Isn't it wonderful! Can you imagine not being able to vote?

But few people know ALL that the suffragettes had to go through to get the vote for women, and what life was REALLY like for women before they did.

Now you can subscribe FREE to an e-mail series that goes behind the scenes in the lives of eight of the world's most famous women, including Alice Paul, to reveal the shocking and sometimes heartbreaking truth!

Thrilling, dramatic, sequential short story e-mail episodes have readers raving about "The Privilege of Voting."

Find out how two beautiful and powerful suffragettes, two presidential mistresses, First Lady Edith Wilson, First Daughter Alice Roosevelt, Author Edith Wharton and Dancer Isadora Duncan set the stage for women to FINALLY win the vote.

Read this free e-mail series on your coffeebreaks and fall in love with these amazing women!

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Her Shabbiness said...

Thank you for the refresher course in the history of women voters. Can I be honest and say I had no idea of the brutality they endured?? I knew they weren't well received, but as far as the weeks of torture, not a clue.
Great post. As a woman the point was taken! ;)

Kim said...

The tv series "Cold Case" did an episode about the murder of a suffragette. It wasn't a true story, but it did offer a small glimpse into the trials of the movement.

Also, fyi, I just got the "Iron Jawed Angels" disc from Netflix. So, it is out there if you want to look.

Rue said...

Hi Laura :)

I was actually in that movie as an extra and they wanted to give me a regular part later, but I got pneumonia the first day. They treated us almost as badly as the women in real life, sans the worms in the food. It made me realize that acting wasn't for me though. Oh and I always vote :)

rue