This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.
Remember, it was not until 1920that 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 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 hisguards 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.
Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a 60 day sentence.
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s 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 theactual
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/Bingo 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 Place , Washington , D.C.
Left to right: 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.’
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?
- I’m so busy…I’ve got so much on my plate!
Read again what these women went through for you!
We can’t let all their suffering be for nothing.