Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Your Vote – The Power of We (Blog Action Day 2012)

This year, in the United States we are going through a vicious process, that of choosing one candidate over another for political office. Many people are so put-off by the mechanics of the process that they opt out of the choosing altogether. Others are just too busy to vote, beset by the needs of family, job, car pool, church, social activities, etc. in spite of the ease with which one can ask for and receive an absentee ballot.

You need only live in a country where people have no meaningful vote to quickly learn the value of your vote. Your vote may be just one, but in a democracy, where just one vote can turn an election – your vote counts. Together, with other voters of your persuasion, your vote counts.

There has never been a country where women have the vote and men don’t. Sadly, the opposite is true; there are still countries where women are not considered fully qualified to vote. Less than 100 years ago, our own country was one of them. Yes, it’s true, we didn’t get the vote until 1920. I reprint the following from a post I wrote several years ago, a post I have never forgotten, because it was so shocking to me when I read the price these women paid that I might freely vote today.

“The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often
mistaken for insanity.’”

We may have different preferences for who gets elected; that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the power of we – that we care enough about our country and its policies to exercise our right as citizens, to get out there and vote.

This is reblogged from July 17, 2008:

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.

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. The women 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

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.

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 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 very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic,
republican or independent party – remember to vote.

History is being made.

October 14, 2012 - Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues |


  1. These events happened at the Lorton Reformatory (another name for Occoquan Workhouse) in Northern Virginia. I grew up just across the river from it. At that time it was a prison for medium security offenders from Washington DC. I never knew these other events took place there until that HBO movie came out and my daughter told me about it. The facility was closed as a prison in 2002 and has since been repurposed as a center for arts education. I didn’t get a chance to check it out when I was there in May but I wondered if any of that history was displayed there. I thought it was really strange that it was never mentioned in our local history but I guess it was an embarassment and Virginia back then was notorious for revisionist history.

    Comment by momcatwa | October 14, 2012 | Reply

  2. LOL, I understand that there are a few in Virginia who STILL think women shouldn’t have the vote! Sorry, just joking, Momcat 🙂 This story impressed me; I had no idea the price they paid to fight for our rights. I think women need to be careful to protect these hard-won rights, including the right to manage our own money, the right to privacy when it comes to our own bodies, etc. Can you remember when doctors were forbidden – by law – to tell women about birth control?? Horrors!

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 14, 2012 | Reply

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