Bloody feet, sisters, have worn smooth the path by which you have come up hither. —Abby Kelly Foster, 1850.
Either women are to be killed, or women are to have the vote.–Emmeline Pankhurst, 1913
Regardless of the outcomes of today’s elections, I want to take a moment to reflect on and to thank all those both living and dead who worked so hard and took such risks to expand and protect the right to VOTE. [But here is also a gentle reminder that this is a work in progress given state voter ID laws and state laws that deny the right to felons even after time served.]
Here are my top two people to thank (please, please add your own!!!)
(1) Alice Paul (1885-1977)
In order to secure for women the right to vote, she engaged in a campaign of “militancy.” She organized and engaged in a silent picket of the White House for 18 months, beginning in January 1917. She was arrested and jailed in October 1917 for having the audacity to engage in “unpatriotic” protest during WWI–ironically as the US fought for democracy around the world. Once jailed, she went on a hunger strike, and her jailers force-fed her (a ghastly procedure akin to torture,) and when she was finally released, she rejoined the picket line. Once suffrage was secured in 1920, she authored the original draft of the Equal Rights Amendment.
But let’s also remember the unnamed others: the 1000s who picketed, the 500 who were arrested, the 168 who went to jail, and the many women and men who worked for 70 years in order to push forward the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Thank you all.
(2) Ida B Wells (1862-1931)
Both a journalist and an activist, she documented the abuses suffered by black people in the Jim Crow South after the passage of the Civil War Amendments: the 13th (end of slavery,) the 14th (equal protection,) and the 15th (voting rights secured for men only.) In particular, she exposed how lynchings were used to control the black population and to deny them their civil rights. She was also an active supporter of women’s suffrage and joined political marches even when some of the white women asked her not to because of her race. She challenged others to see a more expansive notion of equality.
But let’s also remember the men and women of every race who tried to use their right to vote and/or who tried to expand and protect the right to vote, and were threatened, hurt, and even killed for it.
Please add the name and story of who you wish to remember today, Election Day November 8, 2016.