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Why Women Need to Vote

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

These women were innocent and defenseless, congregating peacefully and quietly outside the While House, exercising their rights under the Constitution to gather.

They were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the right to vote for their leaders.   They were arrested and jailed 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 convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

This is Lucy Burns.  She was chained to the bars of her prison cell with her hands above her head.  She was left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

ZThis is Dora Lewis.  She was hurled into a dark cell and smashed her head against an iron bed that knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack herself.  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.

This is Alice Paul, one of the leaders and organizers of the picket.  When she embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured raw eggs into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

And yet women today have a myriad of reasons why they don't or won't exercise their right to vote. 

This is Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.  Suffragists at the prison camp wrote of  forced labor alongside other prisoners, poor diet, rancid food, hunger strikes, forced feedings to combat hunger strikes, beatings, loss of privileges, and contemptuous treatment from the guards. The women continued their fight despite their circumstances and presented a written demand for treatment as political prisoners, becoming the first U.S. citizens to do so.

This is Helena Hill Weed from Norwalk, Connecticut while serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner that read, "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

She  was a graduate of Vassar College and Montana School of Mines. She was a geologist, a daughter of a member of Congress, and a vice-president of the Daughters of the American Republic (DAR). She was a prominent member of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the NWP. She was one of the first pickets arrested, July 4, 1917.

Rent the DVD 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.  In the movie, 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.'

Finally, aware of the growing support for the suffrage movement, President Wilson announced his support for a women’s suffrage amendment toward the end of 1917. Passage of it, however, did not come for another three years.

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, right))

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.

If you have not registered to vote, do it out of honor for the women who so recently fought for your right to be heard. Do it out of respect for yourself. And VOTE NOVEMBER 2nd. Vote because it is amazing to imagine the outcome of the election if all 50 million women who DIDN'T vote last time decided not to ignore the most precious right we have as citizens.