Pinky Pie

The 19th Amendment, Stupided to Conquer & Me

Posted on: August 27, 2010

From the movie, "Iron Jawed Angels"

I’d like to apologize to Alice Paul and the other suffragists (don’t call them the demeaning, suffragettes) that made it possible for the likes of me to vote.

I apologize because they fought so hard for that right for women passed 90 years ago and because we too often have squandered that opportunity.

These brave women were patronized and put their lives on the line. They stood out in front of the White House from dawn to dusk in all weather holding signs asking President Woodrow Wilson how long women had to wait for equal rights. They were beaten in front of the White House and thrown in jail where they were force-fed during hunger strikes and otherwise tortured. All of the hundreds of arrests were later found to be unconstitutional.

The amendment only came after President Woodrow Wilson was shamed into changing his mind when word of the maltreatment of women in jail came out. The women standing in front of the White House with signs urging democracy for women, the same democracy that the United States was fighting for in Europe during World War I, also embarrassed him.

It was only after the war that the amendment was passed, thanks in part to the elderly mother of one Tennessee senator who sent her son a telegram urging his vote for the amendment.

I learned and was reminded of all that during a 90th anniversary celebration Thursday night sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the La Crosse County Historical Society, Holmen Historical Society, Onalaska Historical Society, American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters, and National Organization of Women (NOW). Included in that celebration, besides cake, was a screening of the movie, Iron-Jawed Angels, which depicted the struggle of these courageous women to get women the right to vote.

After her friend died on the campaign trail for the amendment, Paul went home to the family farm. Her mother told her she must continue, saying, “You touch the plow. You finish the row.”

Paul went back to Washington to work further and was not only thrown in jail, but was later sent for a psychiatric evaluation. She was found not mentally ill despite the government’s effort to have her confined for life in a mental hospital. The movie noted that women’s courage is often called insanity.

Of that experience in the prison hospital, she wrote her friend, “At night, in the early morning, all through the day there were cries and shrieks and moans from the patients. It was terrifying. One particularly melancholy moan used to keep up hour after hour with the regularity of a heartbeat. I said to myself, ‘Now I have to endure this. I have got to live through this somehow. I pretend these moans are the noise of an elevated train, beginning faintly in the distance and getting louder as it comes nearer.’ Such childish devices were helpful to me.”

I apologize for:

  • Women (and men) who fail to exercise the right to vote.
  • Those who don’t pay attention to the issues.
  • Those who forget about the principles on which this country was built (including fairness and freedom of religion).
  • Those who misuse the elections with deceit or misuse their offices once in, believing ethics do not apply to them but to the other guys.
  • Those who use hate to win elections.

What I find most offensive is the cynicism in the advertisements, which rely on half-truths, outright lies, and scare tactics. I’ve already noted how upsetting I find the anti-Muslim attitudes in this country and the use of those emotions by politicians.

We have a dumbing down in this country and an influx of millions and even billions of dollars to conquer elections. Instead of politicians stooping to conquer, they are stupiding us so they can conquer.

Last night, after I saw the movie, I stopped briefly to my friend’s house to see her night-blooming cereus, which blooms and closes once in a season at night, a reason it is also called the queen of the night.

I felt sad about the short life of that bud, which to me looked a little like the flower in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

(To see the queen of the night, you can watch this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbzi8XydHQc)

But I love the idea of the queen of the night – although the queen of Thursday night was Alice Paul. It is because of her leadership (along with gutsy and determined women who preceded her and joined her) that this amendment was passed: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

It seems so simple. Why did it take so long?

Even more important, why have we let our elections be stolen from us by big dollars, apathy and because we fall for those who stupid us to conquer.

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