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The Suffering to Gain Suffrage
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We take women’s suffrage for granted as an obvious common sense right. But how do such ideas become obvious and common sense? At one point it was common sense that a woman’s sphere was respectfully separate from the political sphere of men. Merely wishing or saying things should be different isn’t enough, or we wouldn’t have the problems we have today: somebody has to make a difference at their own personal risk.

When an idea is raised to become a publicly recognized truth, certain activists must engage in consciousness raising, for ideas fight back against ideas, often in despicable ways towards the people who represent them. The “spiritual work,” of gaining a right, for instance, takes physical manifestation.


In the 1920s, these women were practicing their constitutionally sanctioned right to peacefully assemble.

Nevertheless, they were jailed for picketing the white house on the spurious charge that they were “obstructed the sidewalk.”

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To teach the women a lesson, the warden at Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia authorized what has become known as the “Night of Terror” on Nov. 15, 1917. The 33 women wrongly accused were treated as if they were terrorists.

Lucy Burns was beaten, chained to her cell’s bars with her hands over her head, and left all night choking for breath.


Dora Lewis was thrown into a dark cell where guards bashed her head open on an iron bed, knocking her unconscious. Alice Cosu, her cell mate, thought she was dead and herself had a heart attack.


Their food was maggoty slop. When Alice Paul initiated a hunger strike, guards tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat, and filled her with liquid until she vomited — and this went on for weeks. Woodrow Wilson and his colleagues also tried to badger a psychiatrist into declaring Alice Paul insane so that she could be conveniently and permanently institutionalized. The doctor refused saying that, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”


The innocent and respectful women, such as Mrs. Pauline Adams, pictured here, were treated worse than murderers.

Miss Edith Ainge, Jamestown New York.

Berthe Arnolde.

Here, the National Women’s Party meets at their headquarters to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Helene Hill Weed served a three day sentence for carrying the banner, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Because ideas don’t prove themselves, we need heroes and heroines to rise up and insist on what is right. Their courage before others determines the success of their ideas.



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