Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iron Jawed Angels

This is post 2 of 2 on strong women in history (that I never heard of) fighting for their rights.

Last week, my mom sent me a chain email that she received from somewhere.  I see no copyrights, so I'll re-post most of it.  It is about an American woman suffragete (sp?) Alice Paul and the effort to get women the vote in 1920.  Here are some excerpts of that email:
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

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.

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.

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.
More Information.

HBO has made a movie out of the story called Iron Jawed Angels.  It's available on Netflix now.  More from the email:
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.

It infuriates me that I am finding out about these things by chance and this late in life.  Girls need to learn about more women who did extraordinary things as part of their general history courses.

And that, my friends is the end of my feminist rant for today...back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, but I hope you learned something new too and have some food for thought.

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