How Women Got To Vote
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
November 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?
What would those women think of the way we
use -- or don't use -- our right to vote? All of us take it for granted now. The right to vote, should become valuable to us "all over again."
We are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and maybe a little shock therapy is in order. Everyone should watch HBO's movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged. HBO will run the movie periodically before releasing it on video and DVD.
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."
Women need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women.