Monday, October 25, 2010

"Courage in Women is Often Mistaken for Insanity"

My mother was born only a year after women won the right to vote. Women had been voting across our country for only 26 years when I was born.

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or marital status. Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right under the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the United Nations in 1979. During the beginning of the 20th century, as women's suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. Finally, despite President Woodrow Wilson's opposition, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the 19th Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.

Below is an article that was sent to me by a friend. I do not know where it originated. It can be disturbing to read, but if you are a woman or are related to women, you should read this. And remember it the next time you think it is too rainy, too cold or too inconvenient to go vote – or you think that your vote won’t make a difference. It does! (At the bottom of this article – thanks to Representative Mike Jacobs! – is a list of places in the north DeKalb area where you may vote early all of this week.)

“Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

This is the story of our Mothers, Grandmothers, and Great-Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

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

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.

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.

An interesting side note: Even though President Wilson opposed giving women the right to vote, his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, has been labeled “the Secret President” and “the first woman to run the government” for the role she played when her husband suffered prolonged and disabling illness after a stroke in October 1919. Some even refer to her as “the first female president of the United States. Mrs. Wilson, instead of the Vice President, took over many routine duties and details of government. She carefully screened all matters of state and decided which were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. Many believe that this led directly to the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which deals with succession to the Presidency and establishes procedures for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, as well as responding to Presidential disabilities.

Convenient Early Voting Starts TODAY, October 25th

*** PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTED (from an earlier e-mail) LOCATION OF


Early voting for the General Election is today, Monday, through Friday -- October 25 through October 29. The General Election is November 2, a week from tomorrow, but you can vote this week, Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., at any of the following locations that are relatively near our community:


Chamblee Civic Center
3540 Broad Street
Chamblee, GA 30341


DeKalb County Fire Headquarters
Training Conference Room
1950 West Exchange Place
Tucker, GA 30084

Downtown Decatur


Clark Harrison Center

330 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Room A

Decatur, GA 30030

The Chamblee Civic Center, which is between Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and the train tracks in the heart of the City of Chamblee, is a particularly convenient place to vote during the upcoming week, whenever it suits your schedule, without encountering a wait at your regular polling location on Election Day.

Please remember to bring photo identification with you when you vote.

Sample Ballot for the General Election

Need some help?

  • Here is DeKalb's countywide sample ballot for the upcoming General Election.
  • Or, go to the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page” website to retrieve a sample ballot specific to your polling location.
  • Finally, look at the League of Women Voters' unbiased Voter Guide based on a questionnaire sent to every candidate. Be sure to note who did not care enough about voters to even respond. If a candidate doesn’t care enough to respond when seeking your vote, you can bet that there will be even less inclination to respond once in office.
  • If you have questions about the constitutional amendments that always seem to make their way onto a ballot, go to Representative Mike Jacobs’ website for clear and understandable explanations.

Me? I’ve done all that. Now I am just going to print out my marked ballot for easy reference and go vote!

Inform yourself and Vote! It is your privilege … your hard-won right … and your obligation as a citizen.


Anonymous said...

No matter what one's opinion is of Ramona Tyson, isn't she DeKalb County's first ever female school superintendent?

That's a great accomplishment! What took so long!!

Anonymous said...

I also think she is courageous for taking on redistricting/consolidations. Maybe a little insane to try it?

Can one be courageous and a bit crazy?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great posting Sandy! We should share this piece of history with our children - daughters and sons alike. I can't believe that Redovian didn't respond to the AJC for their voters' guide. Then again, he's even told us that he doesn't respond to email and calls. So...

Anonymous said...

Well I am both strong and crazy, but that said--this was thought provoking for me. I was born in
1960, which means that the right to vote had been in place only 40 years. That seemed like a long time--but now that I am 50--not all that long.

Anonymous said...

Speaking on Courage in Women:

However, courts records show Okevia Wilson's teenage daughter witnessed Corey Wilson's attack. Corey Wilson was charged with two counts of simple battery and two counts of violating the state’s family violence act, all misdemeanors.

Okevia Wilson’s daughter called police after she awoke to the sounds of a fight, she told police.She came downstairs and saw Corey Wilson holding her mother in a headlock and kicking her, according to a police report.

The couple told police the dispute started over a ticket to a football game. It ended with Corey Wilson going to jail.

Corey Wilson was scheduled for trial a year later, but his wife signed an affidavit saying she did not want to prosecute. The solicitor's office dropped the charges, but a judge still ordered Corey Wilson to attend a domestic violence intervention program.

Anonymous said...

I believe I saw this movie. It was amazing to me because we don't discuss what happened to these women while they were in prison. It's not in the history books. At least not the ones I was given when I was in school. Courageous? Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

Should we even encourage everyone to vote? It is frustrating how many people will show up without any real knowledge just because you are suppose to vote!

Cerebration said...

Thanks for this very interesting post, Sandy. And thanks for sharing so many relevant and important links. I hope everyone checks out the League's Voter Guide at the AJC -

Georgia Voter Guide

It's a wonderful tool - you just enter your address and it lists all of the races in your district and allows you to pre-select and print out your candidates. They provide a side-by-side comparison of how candidates stand on the issues.

Sandy Spruill said...

Thanks, Cere!

I have already voted -- and when I did I thought of these women who sacrificed so much so that we, as women, would have the privilege, right and obligation to vote. The only way to adequately say "Thank you!" for their priceless gift is by being informed and by voting -- every time the polls are open.

BTW -- I am from a military family. My dad fought in World War II (in India, Pakistan and Burma) and was a career Air Force officer. My brother, also Air Force, piloted refuelers (tankers that refueled fighters in midair) off the coast of Vietnam. So, I also am very aware of the sacrifices made by our military worldwide as they protect our country and the priceless rights and freedoms we have as Americans -- including the privilege, right and obligation to vote. Again, the only way to adequately say "Thank you!" for their sacrifices is by being informed and by voting -- every time the polls are open.

Advance Voting continues through today Friday, October 29 until 7 PM tonight. I voted at the Chamblee Civic Center. It was fast and easy! Be sure to take a picture ID when you go to vote -- today or next Tuesday, November 2.

I am still concerned about the serious error in the League of Women Voters (LWV) Voter Guide in the AJC. For my address, they indicate that I am in DCSS BOE District 2 (incorrect; I am in BOE District 1) and that there is no race in District 2 (correct, unfortunately). The ballot is correct. I am just worried that, as a result of this ongoing LWV error, some people may go to the polls uninformed and unprepared to vote intelligently for District 1 BOE. Both the AJC and the LWV have been informed about this error, several times, but have done nothing to correct it. Interestingly, initially, the LWV Voter Guide was correct.

VOTE -- and turn out the DCSS BOE incumbents! They have no shame -- to be running for re-election after their clear malfeasance of duty.