Thursday, July 22, 2010

Women Can Be Dangerous


I've learned long ago to distrust and ignore mass e-mail strings. They're usually just crazy right wing propaganda. But my neighbor Cynthia sent me one yesterday that is anything but crazy or right-wing or propaganda. Coincidentally, it comes right in the middle of a limited run Los Angeles performance by an old friend, actress and writer Amy Simon. The new play is She's History-- The Most Dangerous Woman In America... Then And Now and asks the question, "Why do we know more about Paris Hilton than Abigail Adams?" The e-mail chain, however, was about a new-to-HBO movie, Iron Jawed Angels, about the women's suffrage movement. Here's the trailer; give it a look:

The woman who started the e-mail chain described it as "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." We all need to be reminded-- which is why I love Mike Lux's book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, so much. Better than anyone else has, Mike contrasts-- historically-- the progressive worldview with the conservative worldview from the conservative rejection of the Declaration of independence to the conservative rejection of the Bill of Rights to the conservative rejection of universal suffrage, to the conservative rejection of unions, child labor laws, public education, national parks, regulations for businesses, minimum wage, healthcare, Social Security... if you're reading DWT you probably know all this already... and of course, to the conservative rejection of enfranchising women.

It always amazes me how quickly we forget how "our" group-- whether "we" are Irish, Italian, Asian or Jewish immigrants or Blacks or women or people with handicaps or poor people or workers-- forgets how "we" had to fight for our legitimate aspirations against conservatives who, by nature, always oppose change. I mean, that's what defines a conservative-- they are against change. They want to pull up the ladder and kick any under them in the mouth. I want to go back and quote the woman who sent out the e-mail about the movie again:
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."

Just below it is this picture of Helena Hill Weed from Norwalk, Connecticut serving a 3 day sentence in a Washington, D.C. prison for carrying a banner that read, "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." There were pictures of other women arrested, jailed, beaten. "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 cell mate, 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."

Something tells me none of this is going to be in the new history books being written for what's left of the American school system by a roomful of Texas crackpots and religious fanatics. And that makes movies like this and plays like Amy Simon's all the more crucial. On her blog, Amy has pages of Fabulous Female Facts. I had never heard of Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) until I read about her there.
A lucky educated Quaker teacher who wanted to share the gift of schooling, dear Prudence opened a private school for girls; The Canterbury Female Boarding School in 1831, in Connecticut. It was a gutsy move. Historically, education was denied to females, as they were considered intellectually inferior with tiny brains (and an oversized pelvis-- there were actual drawings by medical doctors!) and belonged in their “domestic sphere." The school had a great reputation and enjoyed success-- until dear Prudence admitted twenty-year old Sarah Harris, an African American girl who wanted to become a teacher. Well! The town of Canterbury went ballistic, with many white parents withdrawing their daughters and basically closed the school down. Undaunted, dear Prudence re-opened but this time just for “young ladies and little misses of color." She had the support of many nationally prominent abolitionists, including famed William Lloyd Garrison and the entire Anti-Slavery Society, but that did not stop the citizens of Connecticut from showering the school with mud, eggs and stones, and ultimately passing “The Black Law” prohibiting black students from attending school in their fair state. Poor Prudence was attacked by a mob, arrested twice and even had her home partially destroyed. Who could blame her for leaving town?  She moved with her hubby to Illinois where she continued advocating for women’s rights. The state of Connecticut tried to make it up to her by sending her $400 a year until her death in 1890. Today you can visit the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark, observe Prudence Crandall Day and in 1995 she was declared Connecticut’s State Heroine.

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At 2:42 PM, Blogger sscoop4 said...

Wonderful Article on the Tenacity&Persistence of Women&how they've played such a dramatic role in the Evolution of America from a Patriarchy to a Matriarchy&how much it's shaped America&the World!Thank you my Friend!

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Dean Austin said...

"Iron Jawed Angels" is a great movie, but hardly new. It came out in 2004.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Thanks Dean. I guess what I was reading is that it's new to HBO and to DVD.

At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Bill Mahr said...

Letting women vote has led to nothing but degradation. The next thing you know they will expect equal pay and control over their own bodies. they need to stay at home and cook and clean. Republicans don't get any sex except in men's rest rooms and with pages and prostitutes. This is because republicans are ugly and stupid so you can see why they hate women. Carl Rove is the best looking one although Ails and Murdock are a close second.

I kid the Republicans.


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