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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why Women should vote ....

Today I had the privilege to vote in our nations general election - yes sadly it is still a privilege to vote. Not all nations have that choice, nor do all women. Not only is today an opportunity for us to have our say about who will lead our country - for me it is a humbling day as I reflect on the women before me - who I will never meet - who fought hard, sacrificed a lot so that I could walk in and place my tick on a piece of paper today. My primary reason for voting wasn't because I felt passionately about our country - I voted out of respect and gratitude to the women before me. How wrong it would feel to treat the privilege so lightly - to be apathetic - and not to pay our respects to what they have achieved for us fellow women.

I took my children with me today - and I explained that not everyone could do what we were doing today - and I went on to explain to my 7 year old daughter about the suffragettes - it moved me to tears. My children proudly wore the "I've voted today" stickers and told everyone we met that we had voted. They now understand that how lucky they will be when they turn 18 and can actually vote for themselves.
It saddens me that we still have people in our country that don't vote - that aren't on the Electoral role - that don't appreciate how lucky we are to be able to do this. I don't expect people to be passionate about politics - or to like politicians - but I think that we should all vote as a sign of gratitude - much like we get up early for the Dawn Parade on Anzac Day to remember the men who fought for our country ...
It is with enormous gratitude I thank the brave suffragettes world wide ...

My Aunt sent me this email last month as a reminder .... (if we ever needed one)
A Message for all women
This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote. (this is American history not NZ)

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

(Lucy Burns)
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 Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Le wis)

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.

(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?

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.

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 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, 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 courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote. History is being made.


Melissa Muirhead said...

Great post Sophia and you are so right. I was thinking that today too when I went to vote and was saying to my lovely husband that even if I didn't believe in or even like any of the political parties, I will always vote because I appreciate what Kate Sheppard and all those other women (and men) fought for - for me to have the right to express my view and vote. Hadn't heard of that movie but will look out for it.

Sophia Elise said...

Hey Melissa - that's awesome to hear that you feel the same :-) I just wish that everyone did.

It's fantastic that our children won't have to expereince the injustices that happened back then regarding voting - but so important that they know about them - so that they can appreciate what they have and to ensure that history never repeats itself.

Chavah Kinloch said...

Absolutely! We've also had discussions with our childen about this. I love when there's a great teahing moment right in front of us.
On a side note... you've been tagged! Just click back on my blog for the intructions, have fun.:)