Saturday, October 23, 2004

Calling all women

I received the following in an email from a fellow journaling friend and wanted to share it here because it stirred such strong emotions. However, I wondered if it really was true. So, I did a little research and I am able to report that it is indeed true. Sadly so. Apparently, the original article was written by Connie Schultz and appeared in a Cleveland, Ohio newpaper, The Plain Dealer.

A short history lesson on the privilege of voting...

The women were innocent and defenseless. 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 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 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 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. I want it shown on Bunko 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."

I have seen many comments around J-Land by women saying that they really don't pay much attention to politics. I've heard women lament that they don't vote because their vote doesn't really matter anyhow. Obviously, it does matter and it does count. Women were willing to dedicate their lives and even die for your right to vote. Don't let them down. Show them that their pain wasn't suffered in vain. It makes the term Suffragist much more resounding. Don't you think?

26 comments:

coy1234787 said...

Great Entry Robbie, did you get to see the HBO movie?
                            *** Coy ***

donah42 said...

I vote, and we make a fuss about voting so that when Maggie grows up she will know how important it is. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, right? Thanks for posting this.
Maybe they should have a "Take Your Daughter to the Polls" thing:)

sistercdr said...

Robbie, this rocks.  When Iron Jawed Angels aired earlier this year on HBO, I wrote an entry on it, http://journals.aol.com/sistercdr/Sortingthepieces/entries/527. (Sorry about the self-promotion, but it does tie in.)  It's a powerful movie, and we need to be reminded how recently and how hard gained, our right of citizenship really is.  I can never forget that though I'm the thirteenth generation of women in my family who's been American, I'm only the third who's had the right to vote.

cheryllb972 said...

Robbie, I just had to tell you I voted for the first time in 55 yrs and it felt terrific. There was no lines and those new machines make it so easy. You just touch the screen. When I saw in the newspaper it was at the place where I used to go for dances in the 60's,I knew I had to go. What a experience!

cheryll

hope5555 said...

I posted this piece in my journal a couple of months ago. This is definitely a timely point in history to remind everyone, especially women - your vote really does matter.

redhdka said...

Great entry! I will vote. I always vote. And if every single women votes we will decide this election!

freeepeace said...

Right on Robbie.  Great entry.  I get high on voting. Then I'm brought to my knees.

indigosunmoon said...

I just loved that Movie Iron Jawed Angels.
Gave me a whole new perspective on
womens rights!  
Kerry 2004!!!
Connie

babyshark28 said...

great entry, the tube down the throat almost made me vomit!  And the rest made me want to cringe under my seat....

I will say, I am still not that much into politics, and that is by choice because I cannot stand to listen to half truths, and words artfully crafted to entice hope in issues that may never come to pass.  But, I will vote. I get enough information here in j-land, in conversations of people around me, and I watched a little of the debates, and listened to a few polished journalists viewpoints on this presidential race.
I am ready to vote....I just need to find my purple envelope to send it in....

dymphna103 said...

You know you are right Robbie.  I personally am ready for a female President and Vice President.  john

st0rmwhispers said...

I've always taken my vote seriously because my whole family does.....and way back when my great grandmother was marching too.  

This is a wonderful public service that you and Sistercd are doing.  I am going to send a link to everyone I know.  

bhpcr said...

Wow..pretty graphic. I am guilty..of not voting sometimes, but in these days of absentee voting there's really no excuse. Mine was, I wanted to sit down and ponder all those chioces..hated leaving any blank. I always feel rushed in a booth..with people waiting..

ryanagi said...

I don't pay much attention to politics...but I do vote. I learn just enough about the candidates to feed my instincts and I vote with my gut. It's worked well for me all these years.

slowmotionlife said...

Every vote counts.  I think at one time I might have seen a preview for this film on HBO.  Sounds like a good one to watch, and timely too.  I don't think there's ever been an election year [since I've been old enough to start voting] more important than this one, where my count voted more.  It's amazing to me that we look at other countries, such as pre-war Iraq, where women aren't allowed to have a voice and we see them as barbaric.  But we had the same kind of mentality here in America!!  Women only won the right to vote in 1920!  And so many women still don't vote today.  Sad stuff.  Great entry, Robbie.  Very inspiring!  :)

ckays1967 said...

Robbie......
    I have faithfully voted in every election since I turned 18.  I paid attention in American Government and look upon it as a privledge too.
I guess it is easy to forget what took place to earn me the right....

Great entry.

txsguinan said...

Darlin', I couldn't agree more.  It saddens me when I hear young women declare indifference to the issues and rights that our foremothers fought so bravely for, especially in light of the complete disregard for women practiced in both the countries in which we are fighting (Iraq and Afghanistan) as well as in those with whom we are allied (Saudi Arabia).  I am proud to call myself a feminist, and have always voted as such.

Great entry!  :)

mlraminiak said...

This is fascinating, Robbie.  And horrible and angering and empowering.  Of course, I was planning to vote anyway.  Now I just wish I could vote twice, to make up for the years I didn't vote (the Reagan years...)  Lisa  :-]

plieck30 said...

And may I add women don't let a man talk you into voting his way. Vote the way you see it, its your vote. Paula

judithheartsong said...

Absolutely vote!!!!

childebrand1968 said...

I am so happy to find someone researching history!  I did an entry, though it was short.  I have always viewed voting as an obligation, too.  Our ancestors did fight for us to have, so use it!  I'm imprinting my daughter's mind now, because she is black, and will be a woman...she has double the reason to make it a necessity in her life.  Cheers to you for igniting the spark!

Cat

realitycheckmco said...

Those women fought that fight so that their daughters could feel as if they were part of this nation as equally as any man. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't vote. We have the opportunity to change the world this time.. How I hope those procrastinators out there will see that and take action!
M

candace636 said...

Great entry! I don't think our vote has ever been as important as it is this year....at least in my voting life time. Thank God for sisters.
It reminds me of a bumper sticker I have seen lately " Well Behaved Women Don't Make History". It's our right....we have to do it for those who worked to give it to us.
Candace

chellebelle1977 said...

Calling all women we need to vote :)
Chelle
PS Im voting are you???????

screaminremo303 said...

What a great POV. If women demonstrated that level of courage in today's society, there would already be a woman in the White House.

readmereadyou said...

We women must get out and vote or we have nothing to complain about. 61% of American women can change the election.  Thanks for posting this information.
Angela

jcgeorgiapeach said...

Yes, it does give it new meaning.  Horrifying what women went through to vote.  It's not something to take lightly.  ~Peachy