Women’s Suffrage was a long and difficult journey in the world. In many countries women fought and died to give other women the right to vote. There was violence, imprisonment, loss of families, ostracization and loss of life involved in this lengthy quest for equal rights. In America it’s the 19th Amendment that guarantees women the right to vote and recently, albeit disgustingly, the hashtag #repealthe19th was trending in the States. Voting rights give people access to their future by allowing them to participate in the political process of their country. If you don’t have the vote, your country is basically telling you that your voice doesn’t matter and you have no say in your future there. In countries where you DO have the right to vote, please, USE IT. That right is a gift from the people who did not have it, a legacy they pass onto the future to make this world better, more inclusive with an emphasis on equality.
Since the American election is so close, I thought it would be an apt time to do a Throwback Thursday about two prominent suffragettes; Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.
Lucy and Alice met in England when they were both arrested for their activism. They were both very involved in the fight for women’s rights, obviously not afraid to rock the boat and get punished for it, and they desperately wanted their voices heard. There are reports of the extreme members of this movement resorting to violence and vandalism, but in hindsight this seems very much to be a “kick the dog” situation where they have been abused for long enough that they bite back. It seems to me that these extreme ends of the spectrum were of a mind that if people would not listen freely they would be made to listen by whatever means were available to the women. Alice and Lucy experienced the more militant style of the fight for suffrage in England and brought that to America. Alice and Lucy were members of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association ( NAWSA) and went on to found the National Woman’s Party together. The NWP had no other focus except for women’s suffrage. With other suffragettes they put considerable pressure on President Woodrow Wilson for the status of women and their right to vote.
In 1913 they organized a parade including women from all around the country, number about eight thousand, but the situation eventually devolved into a near riot due to police inaction. The progress of this movement was derailed with WW1 happening, but they pushed on. In 1917 the women picketed the White House and were subsequently arrested for the crime of “obstructing traffic”. People were very surprised by these arrests as the women were well-educated, well-connected and peacefully protesting.
There are reports of severe mistreatment when the women were imprisoned; beatings, force feeding during hunger strikes, choking, solitary confinement and they were also provided with improper food and water.
The following year the President expressed support for suffrage, but it was not until 1920 that that the 19th Amendment was ratified. Thankfully both Alice and Lucy lived to see this day (and in fact lived until the 60’s/70’s), but many of the early fights for women’s rights never saw it come to fruition. By comparison, Canada was both ahead of the game and behind it, depending on the province. Women’s suffrage came into effect in 1916, firstly in Manitoba and lastly in 1940 in Quebec.
Alice and Lucy had the belief that women should have full access to education, employment opportunities, etc. which seems common sense now, but the power of women’s voting was feared back then, just as it appears to be feared now.
Use your vote this election day, don’t be a bystander when there is so much at stake, when that right was given to you because it was fought for by others.
Thanks for stopping by!