Indigo Insights

Monday, October 11, 2004

This essay deserved more than one read, so I've been posting it at the beginning of each month until the November election. This will be the last post. Women Voters, please make time to exercise your hard-earned right on November 2.

My grandmother, "Mammy" to all who loved her, was one of the first women voters in the United States. She was married in 1898 and immediately became the property of her husband. Voting was the first right given to her as an American citizen. Within the seclusion and secrecy of the voting booth, she could make a decision without consulting her husband. She wasn't chattel in that booth, but a thinking being, choosing for herself. It's hard to believe that less than a hundred years ago in this country, American women were perceived and treated much as Arab women are today. When I was a child, young adult, and mother of my own children, I didn't understand why voting was such a big issue with Mammy. She never learned to drive, so every election day someone had to drive her to the polls to exercise her hard-earned right - basically her only freedom of choice. She lived to be 82 years old, but aches or pains, rain or shine, she made it to the polls every year to cast her vote, even if only a dog catcher was running. Voting was her only freedom and she exercised it to the utmost. I didn't get it then. I do now, after reading the story that Mammy lived.

Remembering How Women Got the Vote

The women were innocent and defenseless. 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 helpless women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic."

They beat Lucy Burn, 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.

There was a time when I knew these women well. I met them in college--not in my required American history courses, which barely mentioned them, but in women's history class. That's where I found the irrepressibly brave Alice Paul. Her large, brooding eyes seemed fixed on my own as she stared out from the page. Remember, she silently beckoned. Remember.

I thought I always would. I registered voters throughout college and law school, worked on congressional and presidential campaigns until I started writing for newspapers. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president, I took my 9-year-old son to meet her. "My knees are shaking," he whispered after shaking her hand. "I'm never going to wash this hand again."

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 even 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 will run the movie periodically before releasing it 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 Bunko 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."

[profuse thanks to Christina, Swansboro, NC]

1 Look in cookbook for cookie recipe.
2 Get cup of coffee.
3 Get cat off of cookbook.
4 Find that special recipe.
5 Get cat's nose out of coffee mug.
6 Go to fridge and get eggs.
7 Get dry ingredients from cupboard.
8 Break eggs in small bowl.
9 Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.
10 Answer the phone.
11 Cat ate eggs; get more from fridge.
12 Get cat out of flour bowl and dust cat off.
13 Get Band-Aids for scratches on hands.
14 Throw flour out and get more.
15 Preheat oven for cookies.
16 Glare at cat with desire to bake cat now.
17 Watch cat run for cover into bathroom.
18 Flour the counter to roll out cookie dough.
19 Run to bathroom to investigate loud crashing sound.
20 Cat has toilet paper all over floor and your personal bathroom things have been knocked over on top of the counter.
21 Yell at cat. Cat falls in toilet bowl.
22 Take cat out of toilet to dry cat off.
23 Get bandages to cover more scratches on arms and legs.
24 Clean up bathroom.
25 Run to kitchen to see what cat is doing now.
26 Get cat off floured counter in kitchen.
27 Try to pick cat hairs out of flour.
28 Step on cat's tail and get bitten in ankle.
29 Get coat, car keys, cat, and drive to store to buy cookies.
30 Squeeze cat through partially open window into a stranger's car at the store parking lot.
31 Eat most of the cookies on the way home.

[Thanks to Don, in the mountains of Virginia]

This was in the mailbox from Florida. Floridians are down, but obviously they're not out! Laughing in the face of adversity! GO FLORIDA!

Subject: You might be Floridian if...
+You exhibit a slight twitch when introduced to anyone with the first names of Charley, Frances, Ivan or Jeanne.
+Your freezer never has more than $20 worth of food in it any given time
+You're looking at paint swatches for the plywood on your windows, to accent the house color
+You think of your hall closet/safe room as "cozy"
+Your pool is more accurately described as "framed in" than "screened in"
+You no longer worry about relatives visiting during the summer months
+You now understand what that little "2% hurricane deductible" phrase really means
+Your Street has more than 3 "NO WAKE" signs posted
+You now own 5 large ice chests
+Your parrot can now say "hammered, pounded and hunker down"
+You recognize people in line at the free ice, gas and plywood locations
+You stop what you're doing and clap and wave when you see a convoy of power company trucks come down your street
+You're depressed when they don't stop
+You're thinking of getting your wife the hardhat with the ear protector and face shield for Christmas
+You now think the $6000 whole house generator seems reasonable
+You fight the urge to put on your winter coat and wool cap and parade around in front of your picture window, when you finally get power and your neighbor across the street, with the noisy generator, doesn't get electric
+You ask your sister up north to start saving the Sunday Real Estate classifieds
+You will never, ever, ever again say, "This one ain't coming."
+You go to fill your gas tank up for the 3rd Hurricane only to realize you've only driven 51 miles since the last one.
+You walk out to the pool area where you once had a full wet-bar, party area, lanai, pool cage, etc, and now the the wide open feeling and the 3 plastic chairs and a cooler for a table don't seem that bad.
+You learn to appreciate the upside.... why clean the house when all the ceilings still have to come down and be replaced?!

10. Decorating the house (boarding up windows)
9. Dragging out boxes that haven't been used since last season (camping gear, flashlights)
8. Last minute shopping in crowded stores
7. Regular TV shows pre-empted for "specials"
6. Family coming to stay with you
5. Family and friends from out-of-state calling
4. Buying food you don't normally buy ... and in large quantities
3. Days off from work
2. Candles

And the number one reason Hurricane Season is like Christmas ...

1. At some point you know you're going to have a tree in your house!

Received from my blogson at Greene Thoughts:

Just want you to know I have my first blog child. It also happens to be my real child. I guess this makes you a blog granny now.

To: Granny Indigo
From: Number One Grandson

You know, I was a little worried that Edwards might have been better prepared for the debate the other evening. You don't see VP Cheney speaking very often. With Edwards recent practice on the campaign trail, I thought Cheney might be in for it. Turns our he kicked Edwards' ass, in my opinion.

My favorite moment was when VP Cheney reminded Edwards that he was the head of the Senate, and during his term he had not met Sen."Gone" until that evening when they walked out on stage.

They talk about campaign reform. Why is it I have to pay my first term senator his salary even though he has one of the poorest attendance records in the senate? I do not think you should be able to run for office while serving your term. The President, of course, would be exempt. --JDM, #1GS

>^..^< A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
--Anonymous, but noteworthy

Have an awesome day,
and know that someone
who thinks you're great
has thought about you today!...