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Right to Vote & Civil Disobedience

  • Category: WORLD
  • Published on Sunday, 12 October 2008 20:00
  • Written by Michelle Gonzalez
  • Hits: 6959

Today, I just got an amazing email forwarded by Hillary Adams about Why Women Should Vote.

The author is "Clancy" and she borrows from the Records of the National Woman's Party at the Libary of Congress. In her email she tells more about the abuses these women of protest went through even though they were seeking equal opportunities.

The right to vote for women was not only hard earned, but one that clearly must be honored as our systems still try to disenfranchise each American with economic distraction, call back to 'family values' and role models that seek to keep women from creating our own positive change. During this mythic election year, the struggle women had to gain the right to vote further underscores that disparities and inequalities in our nation are something we have to be more outspoken about and not take "no" for an answer.

women_of_protest.jpgThe story of our foremothers who spoke out about the right to vote was a struggle, they were jailed, beaten, and threatened with being labeled "mentally ill" all for wanting to evolve women’s role and humanity. Of course these women were also seen as "militant" and "forceful" somehow being outspoken makes you a less of a woman because we aren't docile? This "civil disobedience" or "angry" women brought the issue to the forefront.  Although this story of "Women of Protest" does call them the militant arm of the National Woman's Party, I see them as the original suffragettes and "civil disobedient" or an action to "Get Angry" (see Amy Kalafa of " Two Angry Moms" post )as a way to say "enough."

Sarah Palin is a reminder of the illusion the "call for the past" can be. She represents a misguided but real force in our country, mostly because there is still a longing in our hearts for women to "go back" and be just the nurturers or simple "family" value purveyors if we are in fact "outspoken". This nostalgia for "simpler" times is a harbinger of regressive values, and a slippery slope, that denigrates the women who came before us to evolve our opportunities and human rights to determine our futures. So read on about our history, and realize that women are still having to fight for equal pay, health care for all, and public policies that give us more freedom and flexibility for our future. See the film by HBO, Iron Jawed Angels: and realize that we must stand up for women, in our country and throughout the world, to stop being treated like second-class human beings...so I am so glad we can vote, and realize it isn't a token exercise but a right to be outspoken! For more information about getting "Angry" see Amy Kalafa, Two Angry Moms (yes, angry moms!) and RI Women's Fund for more on the disparities American women and girls are still experiencing. 

Here is the email about Why Women Should Vote and do comment below.


"This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote. womenpicketting.jpg

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(1879 -1966) chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air"

 "dora_lewis.jpgThey 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 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. 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. History is being made."

Thank you again "Clancy" for sending this out and reminding us to vote and mostly be outspoken!

Photo Credits: Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party , Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C 

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Right to Vote & Civil Disobedience

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Right to Vote & Civil Disobedience

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