She’s 18 now, and she has the right and responsibility.

Today, I, along with my husband and my daughter, C, will go to our county office building to vote early. Last spring, C turned 18. This past summer, she registered to vote. We have taught her it is not only a privilege, it is a right and a responsibility. And, as my parents did with each of their children, we’ve also told her she can not come home on election day until she has her “I voted” sticker. (Unless, of course, she goes to early voting with us.)

4 years ago, I went through the details in this email (below) with both of my daughters. I explained the proximity of this history. It was my grandmother who couldn’t vote at 18, their great-grandma. She was a trailblazer, for me, for them, for women everywhere, I explained. She helped give us the voice we have today. I reminded both girls to never lose sight of the sacrifices of the women that came so many years before them, and to never, ever waste an opportunity to have their voice heard.

I have not, nor will not, ask my daughter who she voted for or which way she marked her ballot on the initiatives. She’s a smart young woman and all I’ve asked is that she educate herself and vote her conscience. I know she feels both the weight of this responsibility and the excitement. Somewhere deep in my memory, I remember feeling the same when I first went to the polls. (The flutter is still there today.) My C is 18 now, an adult by “legal standards”, yet still so much my little girl. However, today, I see her only as a woman making her voice heard by exercising a right fought for and won by women just like her feisty great-grandmother.

(I first offer a very humble disclaimer: I did not write nor put this together with the photos. This came to me via an email during the last presidential election. I was moved by it then, and am even more so moved today and I am grateful to its author, whoever he or she may be.)

This is the story  ……
of our Mothers and Grandmothers who  lived only 90 years ago.

The women were innocent and  defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for  picketing the White House, carrying signs asking  for the vote.

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

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.’

(Lucy  Burns)

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.

(Dora  Lewis)
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.

(Alice Paul)

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?

(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the  prison garb she wore while serving a 60 day  sentence.)

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.

(Miss Edith Ainge,  of Jamestown, New York  )

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.

(Berthe Arnold, CSU  graduate)

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 . I wish all history,  social studies and government teachers would  include the movie in their curriculum I want it  shown on Bunco/Bingo 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.

(Conferring over  ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S.  Constitution at  National Woman’s Party  headquarters, Jackson Place , Washington , D.C.
Left to right: Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby  Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer,  Alice Paul,  Florence Boeckel,  Mabel Vernon (standing,  right))

It is jarring to watch  Woodrow Wilson (A Progressive Democrat) 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.’

(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn.     Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison  for carrying banner, ‘Governments  derive their just powers from the consent of the  governed.’ )

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 party – remember to vote.

9 thoughts on “She’s 18 now, and she has the right and responsibility.”

  1. I saw Iron Jawed Angels many years ago, and never let its message leave me. The image of Alice Paul being force fed raw eggs still makes me nauseous. It’s still hard to comprehend that this took place in the 20th century.


    1. I haven’t seen it yet, Lisha, but I really want to. Putting it on the list now, and I agree, so hard to comprehend that this took place in the 20th century; harder to comprehend some of the stuff that still takes place today.


  2. My mother-in-law used to make fun of me when I was a 20 year old girl, deeply proud of my right to vote. I made a rule to never discuss politics with her again. She was a bit of a “hippy” and even that doesn’t seem to explain her belief that voting didn’t matter. I was shocked a few months ago to hear she had registered to vote and planned on doing so for the first time in her life. 17 years later, I guess she finally knows I was right, of course she’d never admit to that! 🙂


  3. This gave me chills. They made a movie about this–don’t remember the name, but Hilary Swank was Lucy — oh I just looked it up–Iron Jawed Angels. Very good movie! I give thanks for our sisters who fought so valiantly to make our lives better! xo


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