Tuesday, March 14, 2006

'We Women of America Tell You That America Is Not a Democracy'

The Winter '06 Edition of The Gander, the newsletter of The Wild Geese organization, offers a pair of extraordinary articles about two women who suffered much in pursuit of woman's suffrage in the United States. (Editor's Note: The Connecticut-based, nonprofit Wild Geese, whose website is found at TheWildGeese.org, and GAR Media's webzine, TheWildGeese.com, have no connection, other than one of mutual support. We at TheWildGeese.com are often asked about that.)

The Gander article narrates the inspiring stories of Connecticut native
Catherine M. Flanagan and New Yorker Lucy Burns, both children of Irish immigrants. The two were instrumental in gaining ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which granted full voting rights to women. Their stories are harrowing at times, and their treatment shocking, even for those of us who who thought we understood how flawed American democracy has been.

The suffragettes picketed in the summer and fall of 1917, increasingly frustrated with the failure of their more than 50-year-old struggle, and they suffered immensely for their resolve. With America engaged in war in Europe since that April, the suffragettes picketing the White House were verbally abused and physically assaulted, accused of aiding America's enemies.

In June 1917, according to The Gander's stirring account, Burns and fellow suffragette Dora Lewis "greeted the Russian ambassador at the White House gates with a 10-foot-long banner declaring "We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy." The Gander account continues:

Two days later, Burns was charged with obstructing the sidewalk, the first of several arrests that summer. Released from jail on Nov. 4, she rejected a plea from her sister to return home to Brooklyn. "I do not feel that I can take the rest you advise," she said. "Conditions here are so terrible that I cannot resist going back to jail to help out those still confined."

"Burns was arrested again on Nov. 12, and sent back to the Occoquan workhouse where she was brutally force-fed after beginning a hunger strike. On what became known as the "Night of Terror," Nov. 15, she was singled out for especially rough treatment as a leader of the hunger strike. She was beaten and, when returned to her cell, had her wrists handcuffed above her head to the cell door."

The Winter issue of The Gander can be downloaded from TheWildGeese.org web site. We commend these articles to you, as they provide a visceral understanding that our liberties are built on the courage and sacrifices of brave and selfless men and women.

Related Resources:

* Mary Harris Jones: One Tough 'Mother', 3-Part Series from WGT

* National Women's History Project

* The Wild Geese, Inc.

*Profile of Lucy Burns
from American Memory: The Library of Congress

*Woman's Suffrage
, from Wikipedia.com

1 comment:

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