Exercising Our Right

By Shae Hadden | Bio

With elections today in Canada and next month in the U.S., this is a good time to remind all the women we know to exercise their right to vote–a right which we’ve only had for less than a century.

In July 1917, a group of 33 women picketed outside the White House, asking for the right to vote. They were rounded up by 40 police wielding clubs, brought to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia and imprisoned for "obstructing sidewalk traffic". One of the women, Lucy Burns, had her hands chained to the cell bars above her head, and was left overnight bleeding and gasping for air. Dora Lewis was thrown into a cell and hit her head against an iron bedpost, knocking her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thinking she was dead, had a heart attack. Affidavits stated that the women were dragged, beaten, choked, slammed and kicked. 

These suffragists were imprisoned for weeks, and existed on water from an open pail and food infested with worms. When one leader, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tortured her for weeks by tying her to chair and force feeding raw eggs down her throat until she vomited. Other women joined the strike. President Woodrow Wilson tried to have Alice Paul declared insane, but the pyschiatrist said that she was strong and brave…but that didn’t make her crazy.

In January 1918, Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was needed urgently to aid the war measures and he urged Congress to pass legislation granting them the right to vote. Two years later, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was passed.

Voting is not an obligation. It is a privilege.

Exercise your vote–a right that these courageous women fought so hard for.

For history is being made…again.

© 2008 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.