Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead

Why Women Must Vote

This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.


Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.


The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.


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 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.


(Dora Lewis)  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 terrible vermin.


(Alice Paul)  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. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/prisoners.pdf

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?


(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a sixty-day sentence.) 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.


(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown, New York) 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 inconvenient.


(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

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 released the movie 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 Bunco 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.


Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman’s Party  headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington, D.C. L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing, right)

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.’  Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.


(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk, Conn.) Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner, ‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

History is being made.

Submitted by Katherine Winans


  1. Hi Nancy,

    WOW. I had no idea they were treated so ugly just because they challenged the government for the right to vote.

    I’m amazed, and frankly stunned at how they were treated. I remember watching Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews bach in the late 60’s or 70’s how the mother of the children Mary Poppins came to care for took such a casual approach to their cause; as though it was just another day with the ladies. Maybe it was different in England. It’s terrible that in America the women were treated worse than a common criminal, and this was during the time in history when women , for the most part, were treated with respect. And they call those “The Good Ol’ Days”

    I never took my right to vote causally. From the time I turned 21 and registered to vote, I voted every year of my adult life. And after what those brave and daring ladies went through, I can’t imagine why more women do not take advangate of their right to vote.

    Although, quite honestly, many of the women today have no idea who or what they are voting for, and maybe it’s best that they do stay away from the polling booths and chauffeur their little darlings all around town.
    Actually, there are a lot of stupid, misinformed, and misguided men, as well, who don’t know who or what they are voting for, and they’d do more good to stay away from voting. Talk about equal opportunity.

    I’m saving this article. I didn’t have time to read it through.

    Thanks, Nancy, for pointing out this bid of interesting history.

  2. This is great!
    It would have been better if the pictures were displayed.

  3. I get so angry with my daughter because she refused to vote in any election until her husband was running for local office. I kept telling her I didn’t care how she voted, she just needed to VOTE! I remember how important it was to my mother, and hope that someday my daughter and granddaughter will realize just how important voting is to them and to the country as a whole.

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