The Squeaky Wheel

February 22, 2005

Right now at work I'm doing a bunch of visual research on American Suffragettes --the women who rallied, protested, marched, and spoke out for their right to vote. Such a simple, obvious thing, you'd think. Certainly something I've taken for granted, this right that has been unquestioned in my lifetime.

But this was no mom-and-apple-pie issue. It was voted down in the Senate, it was fought against by women who said it would lead to all sorts of immoral corruption (like communism), it took years and thousands of women to accomplish. New Jersey actually repealed women's right to vote in 1807, after it'd been granted in 1790. The Supreme Court repeatedly struck down the right in various decisions.

17111 (Suffragist Lucy Burns in Jail).jpg

Some women were jailed for protesting, and then force-fed when they went on hunger strikes. When they finally passed the 19th Constitutional amendment in 1920, more than 70 years had passed since the first women's rights convention was held.

More than 130 years since New Jersey had first consented to give women the right to vote.

My point? Lord, it takes a long time. How frustrating it must have been to be a woman at that time, to look around at all of the numbskull men who were afraid, were bigots, were set in their ways, and who alone held the power to grant them their rights.

Much as some of us feel today.

It took a long time to reverse the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Gentleman's Agreement. It may take decades to reverse the regression of the current administration. So pick your battles now, because we've got a long fight ahead.

For more information:
The Center for Constitutional Rights
Amnesty International's Guantanamo page
Hyphen Donation Page