Saturday, September 11, 2010

Women 90 Years Ago - A Bite of History

I never knew the details of the things that happened to women as they fought to have their voices heard.
This is not common knowledge, but it should be......
'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.' 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.')


OrbsCorbs said...

Only 90 years ago. I grew up with women who voted and worked outside jobs, so I guess I've taken it for granted, too. It's embarrassing to realize that it took that long for women to get the right to vote.

Why Not? said...

Very well written, and it too saddens me to see people taking something so important for granted. I sent in my absentee ballot and try to get my voice heard, but I think a lot of the problem is that so many politicians are so out of touch with what the everyday person. We are all so disenfranchised with the whole thing.

The reason I became a Swede now is because elections are coming up here in a week, I wanted to make sure that I could vote here too..

It's amazing what those women went through. I cannot imagine going through that sort of torture. I really hope at some point people will realize the importance of voting and keeping the democratic process alive.

kkdither said...

Thank you so much for posting this! Everyone should know the past and how hard women fought to be recognized as equals. We should never take voting and our rights for granted!

On the flip side of that, though... Now we get to do it all... We may have won some battles, but roles need further definition.

Unfortunately, scientists and doctors are looking at an increase in (potential) stress related illness in women.

Women are doing more by working outside the home, while still ingrained into society, is the notion that women should continue to accomplish all that is required in the "homemaking" and child rearing departments. Lots of women report (or hide) feelings of inadequacy and also suffer more from depression, anxiety, anorexia, etc. because so much is expected of them.

On a humorous note... I guess I can say I am **highly** courageous, not totally insane??? :)

Anonymous said...

Fine piece SER. It truly was an era when courage was lying just under the petticoat.

drewzepmeister said...

Great post SER! America certainly has taken great strides concerning women rights in the past century! What shocks me in other parts of the world, women have little or no rights at all. This seems to be the case in the Middle Eastern countries under Islamic rule.

Beejay said...

And this is why I vote!!!! My Mom (who would be 96) instilled in me the necessity of casting a vote, not to take for granted this privilege....she was very active in the role of women in high school sports back in the late 20's. Intramural sports that is. Women's High School Basketball Teams!!! Go, Mom....

Anonymous said...

My grandmother told me the story of how when she could vote for the first time my grandfather was trying to tell her who to vote for. Surprised she didn't hit him with the cast iron skillet. They were married 53 years and he never once again told her who to vote for.

SER said...

I have to admit it, when I was in school history SUCKED, I hated it. But then they wanted you to know what year the war of 1912 really was...who gives a F%&K, what is that going to do for me in the future?

But nowadays, I find this type of history extremely interesting!

SER said...

OH boy...War of 1812 not 1912

Yaaaaa, what a pickup line, “Hi, Did you know the War of 1812 was actually fought in 1814, or Ponce A Da Leon never found the ‘Fountain of Youth’?

Wow, when are they going to legalize marihuana?

Beejay said...

SER, I loved history....that and literature....what happened to us.....
We forget it all and then have to learn it all over again. LOL...This was a great blog, SER!