This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great 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.’
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars over 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.
(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.)
(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York )
(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)
Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman’s Party headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington , D.C.. L-R: Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon–standing
(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn.)
Helena served a three day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner that read Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The film Iron Jawed Angels is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that we could pull the curtain at the polling booth.
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.
We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Remember to Vote on November 2nd.
Consider the fact that women in some other countries will go to vote even when they fear for their lives. Or consider that women in some countries can still not vote. They still do not have any say in decisions that affect their way of life.
Let us not take for granted our hard won right to vote.
What are your thoughts about women’s rights and about voting?
Have you ever spoken to your mom, grandmothers or great-grandmothers about their thoughts on what it meant or means to them to vote?
** The majority of the text and all the photographs come from an email I received several years ago. I received it this year too as it is still circulating around the internet. I do not know who the original writer is so I cannot give credit to that person.