Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Why Women Should Vote

“Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

When I got this in the mail this morning, I had to smile. The woman who sent it to me is now in her 90’s. She was a mentor to me as a young woman, and she was a pistol. She taught me, over and over again, that women can do anything they put their mind to doing – that nothing can hold us back except ourselves. She’s a pistol. I want to be like her when I grow up. 🙂

It is always a shock to me to know that women in the United States have only had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. We take it for granted. We shouldn’t. We should make our vote a mighty force.

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

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. 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

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 cell mate, 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.

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.

July 17, 2008 - Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues


  1. As a liberal woman i was very proud to vote, but sitting in the depressingly plain and sparse classroom at the voting station, i looked around and all the women were covered up, all were discussing who to vote for and some were trying to convince us quiet ones to vote for the men they were pushing for… not a single woman brought up the females who were running…
    there are more female voters than women, and still… not a single woman was elected.. we should really work hard on educating our society but not from adult down… but from elementarty and work up.
    Many woman suffered to get the right of equality and to vote in europe, we should really learn from that. it dissapoints me honestly that one of the reasons that we cant make it is because us women are too cowardly or too wrapped up in religion to look at the bigger picture.. untill next elections then..

    Comment by jadedq8 | July 17, 2008 | Reply

  2. elementary
    (spelling mistakes)

    Comment by jadedq8 | July 17, 2008 | Reply

  3. First, please don’t worry about spelling, Jade. I care more about hearing what you think than I care about spelling or grammar or punctuation. Second, WOO HOO on you for voting. It matters. And us quiet ones have our own ways of getting what we want. 🙂 I totally agree with you – it starts with the children.

    That’s where the no smoking campaign started in the US and in Europe, and it’s only as these children have become adults that all the laws have passed restricting smoking in public places. It works. You have to start young, and be very very patient. Teachers are my heroes.

    I am seriously disappointed that more women in the US couldn’t support Hilary Clinton, but I think her assertiveness scares a lot of women – and men! – who think women should be more submissive. Lord have mercy. The woman is smarter than her husband, who in spite of his wandering ummm. . . err . . . um. . . proclivities . . . was about twice as smart as the current president. Oh well.

    Each of us – woman or man – needs to take our right to vote seriously, to educate ourselves on the issues, and to be informed voters.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 17, 2008 | Reply

  4. Oh,my! I had no idea. I grew up only a couple of miles from the Occoquan work house. It was a men’s minimum security prison and alcohol confinement/recovery center in my youth and our church softball team used to play there against the inmate teams. We knew the place had a history and that it used to be a workhouse but nothing about this. It was closed down several years ago but I was thru there last year and they are restoring it and making it a trendy artsy shopping complex. I wonder if they will put plaques and pictures up with this kind of historical info like I have seen them do with other old repurposed facilities.

    Comment by momcat | July 17, 2008 | Reply

  5. Holy Smokes! No kidding, Momcat? Isn’t this a wonderful world?

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 17, 2008 | Reply

  6. The Lorton Arts Foundation is transforming the former prison into the Workhouse Arts Center. It will pay tribute to these women suffragists in the musuem that will open in Phase II.

    Comment by artlover | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thank you, art lover, that is exactly the kind of information I like to highlight on HT&E.

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  8. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
    – Emma Goldman, Anarcho-feminist

    Comment by Anne | September 22, 2008 | Reply

  9. Thank you, Anne. Welcome.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  10. woman should vote simply because they are the majority of earth population ,they live longer , most of them don’t fight in wars there fore they survive more ,they drive slower, except Kuwaiti women ,so they escape decimation by transportation .They study harder and usually have higher degrees than men to the point where educated men have become a rare commodity now .

    So go ahead and Vote

    Comment by daggero | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  11. “Decimation by transportation” . . . Daggero, those are some of the saddest words in Kuwait.

    I am not at all sure I agree about educated Kuwaiti men becoming a rare commodity. I am sure there are plenty of the other kind, but there sure are a lot of well-educated Kuwaiti guys hanging out in the blogosphere, aren’t there? It has always seemed to me that there is a high level of education among both men and women in Kuwait, or at least among the Kuwaitis I meet and play with.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  12. […] are a woman and if you know anything about how hard it was for women to get the vote, please, vote. (If you don’t know anything about our fight to vote, click here.) Please be sure to read the comments, too, as the article was written the first year the Kuwaiti […]

    Pingback by Vote. Vote For Your Candidate, But Vote « Here There and Everywhere | November 2, 2010 | Reply

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