Tuesday, August 12, 2008


This election year is a pivotal one. We can choose to vote or not vote, however one vote can make a difference. Votes can send messages loud and clear. Speaking out can send messages loud and clear. Today I received an email and in the body of the email was a profound message,
and one I had put on the back burner of my mind. In the 1970's I worked to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. Only 38 ratified states were and are needed. It fell short by 3 votes and there are 15 states sitting on their hands. Why is the ERA needed? It gives women full benefits and not lip service. The woman who wrote the Equal Rights Amendment is no longer on this plane. However, her work does live on. Her name is Alice Paul. Please read the following about this great woman and the women who worked with her 81 years ago.

A History Lesson For Us All ....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 with 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 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, I'm too busy?
Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's 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 will run the movie periodically before releasing it 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 Bunko 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 pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so ha rd for by these very courageous women."

I recommend "Iron Jawed Angels", starring Hilary Swank, available through most libraries and the Ken Burns film "Not For Ourselves Alone: the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony", also available through a library. These films really tell us how important it is for all women to vote. Please exercise your hard won right.

There are 15 unratified states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia. If you live in these states or know people who do, please
bombard them with information and urge them to vote only for those who are pro-ERA. We only need 3 - yes, 3 more states to ratify the E.R.A.
For more information:

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