Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Exercising Our Right to Vote

My sister and I could not be two more different people. It's really hard for me to believe that we grew up in the same house (and for my first 14 years, in the same room!).

But every now and then she surprises me. One time was when she switched churches so I could be my niece Emily's godmother. The priest from the first church said that the world was divided into sheep and goats and that, as a goat (non-Catholic), I was not a good choice for a godparent.

This time, my surprise arrived in an email. I get a lot of forwarded emails from my sister. There are the urban myths, the tear-jerker stories about children dying, and the "celebrate national women's month" or some other such contrived holiday emails. So, when I opened the message copied below (written by someone else with my editorial comments in italics), I expected more of the same. I was wrong.
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. The women who made it so 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 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.

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 car-pool 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.

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. (Lazy Julie note: I had no idea what the heck Bunco night was all about so I looked it up. If, like me, you are not familiar with "parlor" games, check out this site.) 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.'

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. (Lazy Julie note: If you want to help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, I urge you to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden on November 4. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, both John McCain and Sarah Palin oppose EMBRYONIC stem cell research.)


  1. BRAVO! I get SO mad at women who tell me they don't vote. I have no respect for any of their reasons or excuses, or for them.

    Thank you so much for sharing this reminder and for eloquently expressing my feelings when I couldn't articulate them.

  2. A very important message and reminder. Sometimes I look at the way the kids I teach act and wonder why they have no sense of history. I guess I just have to try to share it with them.

    BTW, love the new blog set up.

  3. Your "comments in italics" told an untruth. You stated that "John McCain and Sarah Palin oppose stem cell research". You then site a web site. Did you read that web sites comments? John McCain and his choice for V.P. DO NOT oppose stem cell research. They just don't agree with the type of research YOU want so you tell untruths.

  4. This is in response to Anonymous (why are negative comments never attributed to a person by name, I wonder? I can hear criticism even when I know where it's coming from, you know. I can actually hear it BETTER when I know where it's coming from.)

    I reread the Pew report and John McCain's statement about stem cell research in its entirety and I stand by my original statement. As you can read at http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=BCBA48B1-DFA7-4A5D-9FC7-0D8DF5B415BF Senator McCain clearly states: "Federal oversight that will come with approving this bill will allow us to ensure that this research does not expand into ethically objectionable ground in balancing the promise on the foreseeable horizon of stem cell research with the protection of human life." As the pro-choice mother of two loved and wanted children, I do not recognize discarded embryos (either from fertility clinics or abortions) as human life needing the federal government's protection. If the women who produced the eggs that created the embryos choose not to continue their pregnancies until the embryos develop into fetuses and then are born as children, that is their choice. Actual, living, breathing, viable human beings who are paralyzed, have MS, Parkinson's Disease, and other illnesses that might be cured through stem cell research, do, in fact, DESERVE to have all the available resources directed at their health and well being. I wonder...if twice as many men as women got MS, would the search for a cure be a bit more agressive?
    You don't have to agree with me. I do not expect that all my blog readers share my political views. I'm just sharing mine.
    Lazy J

  5. Why do you get so angry with anyone who doesn't agree with you and share your crazy, warped outlook on life and your liberal views. What a bunch of sheep you have following you, just the way you like it I bet.

  6. This quote can be found on John McCain's site at http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/95b18512-d5b6-456e-90a2-12028d71df58.htm
    "As president, John McCain will strongly support funding for promising research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research and other types of scientific study that do not involve the use of human embryos.
    You still did not disprove that John McCain supports stem cell research. As stated earlier he supports the research, just not the way you want it done.

  7. I am also not shocked that in your response to my comment about the PEW report you then add a link to a completly different web site after saying that you reread the Pew report and "stand by my original statement". Your staement is false! For any of your readers I encourage them to go to the Pew Report and read that John McCain supports amniotic stem cell research as well as adult stem cell research. What he doesn't support is embrionic stem cell research. My question is why do you not tell the whole truth? I could understand if you stated that YOU feel that embrionic research is a critical part of the scientific process but you don't say that all you do is try to sway people into your way of thinking by not providing all the information. In other words misleading your readers.

  8. This whole blog is misleading her readers. She writes what she wants whether it's true, fabricated, embellished or just plain crap!!

  9. Wait a minute, wait a minute! I thought we were GOATS ;-)
    [I'd rather be a goat anyway; MY goats are wonderful docile pets]

  10. WOW! You never know what's going to get people's goats. Or is it sheep? Anyway, Anonymous (or Anonymouses if there are more than one): Please feel free to remove my blog from your bookmark list. This blog is not a news source. It is ONE WOMAN'S JOURNEY THROUGH MS AND LIFE. I'm the one woman so it has to my opinion, doesn't it? I thought of you when I read this definition of blog today:

    A blog is a website, maintained by an individual or group, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic.

    Interested in blogging? You can create your own free blog using services like blogger or wordpress.

    Perhaps you should follow the advice listed in the last paragraph, Anonymous and start your own blog. You will be in very good company.

    Peace, love, and gratitude,
    Lazy J

  11. Mr. Anonymous, you crack me up.

    "A bunch of sheep."

    People who are - God forbid - thinking? Who actually take a critical view of what the candidates are saying? Who don't just follow along after 8 years of flat-out failure?

    Almost laughable, if it weren't so ignorant.

    Wake the hell up.

  12. I love bunco, too. Check out my website for bunco score sheets. It has lots of free stuff and party ideas. Suggestions for improvement welcome.:) Thanks!