Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This is the story of our Mothers & 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 in to 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 terrible  vermin.  (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 s parsely 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  poling 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 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, knitting night, quilting  night, (girls night), and any where 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 Place 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  Al ice 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.
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