The 19th Amendment and those “terrorists” and “traitors” who courageously battled for it & Iron Jawed Angels
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. 40 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.
The NWP’s militant tactics and steadfast lobbying, coupled with public support for imprisoned suffragists, forced President Woodrow Wilson to endorse a federal woman suffrage amendment in 1918.
Library of Congress
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?
“Night of Terror” (Women`s Suffrage/Woman`s Rights)
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie Iron Jawed Angels (end of article) 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 (see below). 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. Remember to vote.
Click on each picture to see it full-size.
Election Day 2010: Your Vote is Your Voice … Get Educated, Go Vote on November 2nd. Find all essential information HERE or click on the picture:
Iron Jawed Angels (In 12 parts, click on the next video in line in the bottom window, but if you do nothing, it will automatically advance on its own; it takes a few moments to load, refresh if it is taking too long.)
This Movie is a Must See for everyone, especially for young women of today! It will give you a glimpse into the enormous effort that became a movement known as “The First Wave Of Feminism” The American Suffrage Movement. Our Foremothers fought hard, never flinched, and never looked back. As a “Third Waver” this film, depicting some of my greatest heroines, fills me will overwhelming pride. 2004’s Iron Jawed Angels starring Hilary Swank (as Alice Paul) Frances O’Connor (as Lucy Burns) Lois Smith (as Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw) Vera Farmiga (as Ruza Wenclawska) Brooke Smith (as Mabel Vernon) Patrick Dempsey, Julia Ormond as (Inez Milholland) and Anjelica Huston (as Carrie Chapman Catt.)
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (the first is a pdf of the above history)
- Women’s Voting Rights History: From American Association of University Women of New York State
- Tactics and Techniques of the National Woman’s Party Suffrage Campaign: From Library of Congress