Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Please VOTE!

"Give Mother the Vote" circa 1916

Most of this post is a forwarded email I received a few months ago. But, the picture above is a family photo. It is a "Give Mother the Vote" photo, where my grandmother and great aunt are in the car for a parade. My grandmother is about 3 in the photo, third from the left. Her sister, my great aunt Betty, (Elizabeth) about 10, is the third little girl standing in the car from the right. I don't know this for a fact, but the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (merged into the National Woman's Party in 1917) went cross country that year to every state urging people to vote for candidates that would be sympathetic to the suffragist movement. It was an election year - it makes me think this car might have been in a parade connected to their national campaign. But, I don't know this for sure.

I think it's important to remember we knew people who were there when women were still fighting for the right to vote, and we should, men and women alike of all political affiliations, one week from today, exercise that right, no matter what. I felt this forward was so interesting, and I feel, no matter your political views, it is important we exercise our right in this democracy and cast our ballot. So, I'm reprinting this woman's words here on my blog today.

Now, on to the forwarded message, written by someone else, with some photos and links added by me.


This is the story of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They lived less than 100 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."

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 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 during wartime 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, (and here) 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?

Picketing in front of the White House

Some of this story is depicted in HBO's docudrama, "Iron Jawed Angels". It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that we could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have our say.

act of voting can become less personal, more rote. Frankly, voting can often more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it is inconvenient.

One woman who say the movie with me, with a background in women's history,
said she was angry 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."

A banner that elicited huge response from the wartime authorities.

HBO has 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.

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.


  1. Wonderful post and I voted yesterday. Voting always makes me take pride in our country.

  2. I voted early this year...so that nothing will stop me from voting. Having been born in an era with not many hardships, it always interests me to read about the history of this great country. It is hard to believe that so many injustices existed for women and minorities only 50 years ago. It is so important to keep the younger generations informed about the past so that it is not repeated.


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