*A version of the following was sent to me a few weeks ago. This is about women fighting for the right to vote, but it could be the battle engaged by any group in the minority, including those who are Autistic fighting for the right to have a say in the policies that ultimately harm or help them. It is the same story, told over and over again. This post was inspired by Lydia Brown’s recent post, Protesting Autism Speaks on her blog Autistic Hoya where she recounts the response she received as she and others offered ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) flyers to Autism Speaks supporters and asked, “Would you like to hear from Autistic people?” only to be told “No” over and over again.
Less than 100 years ago women did not have the right to vote.
The 19th Amendment, ratified August 18, 1920, granted women the right to vote. Prior to that women marched and picketed as a way to bring attention to their cause. These tactics succeeded in raising awareness, but were often met with massive resistance and brutality.
On November 15, 1917, known as the “Night of Terror” when the prison warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they picketed the White House for the right to vote.
By the end of the night, many were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and with their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic”.
One of those women was Lucy Burns. They beat her, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging all night.
They threw Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, knocking her out. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thinking Lewis dead, suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking and kicking the women.
Alice Paul began a hunger strike so they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she threw up. She was tortured for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
Voting is our right. It isn’t always convenient, we have to take off early from work, find childcare to watch our kids, stand in long lines, but it is our right. A right our grandmothers and great grandmothers did not have. It’s easy to take for granted that which we have grown up believing is a given. But it wasn’t always our right, and while it is doubtful it could ever be taken away, there are many in this world who still do not have that right even today.
Lest we forget, rights we think are a given, can be taken away.
Go out and vote!
- Today’s the day! Let’s go vote! (caterpickles.com)
- The Mother Who Saved Suffrage: Passing the 19th Amendment (history.com)