Target the Date

Well, well, well. Take a day off to garden and move, and you can miss a lot. FISA. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Judicial Watch’s ethics complaint against Obama. Rush Limbaugh predicting that Hillary will still be the nominee. I’ve lost my place in the stream of time, it seems, and it would take too long to catch up. And you can get all of that somewhere else, can’t you? That’s not why you come here. Here we talk in terms of depth, not breadth. Here we remember history, which is worth remembering as it tumbles down around us.

Today, I’m going to try to inspire you. Movement is so very important to getting things done. I hope the story I’m going to tell you today will inspire you to move, as it is a story of moving, and a moving story to boot. I wrote it for the dKos community back in March to celebrate Women’s History Month, and I cried as I wrote it and I cry every time I read it. Well, you can judge for yourself if it’s worth crying over. (I’ve edited it somewhat.)

It’s coming. The 88th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment will occur during the Convention. Target the date.

The 19th Amendment

The final push for elective franchise for women is one of the most riveting tales in American history. As Harriot Stanton Blatch said after the Amendment was ratified:

All honor to women, the first disenfranchised class in history who unaided by any political party, won enfranchisement by its own effort alone, and achieved the victory without the shedding of a drop of human blood.

A different kind of 50 State Strategy

For the first 15 years of the 20th century, female suffragists had been working on a 50-state strategy of their own. The idea was to campaign for suffrage using new Western states, many of which granted women the right to vote in state elections, as examples to build a consensus, state by state, to allow women to vote. Once all fifty states allowed women to vote, surely the national government would have to concede the national vote as well, they reasoned. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, as well as their allies and cohorts, thought that plan would take too long, and the only way to effectively accomplish the rest of the goals of the women’s movement was to achieve full, national, and immediate suffrage rights for women.

Radicalized in England under the influence of Emmeline Pankhurst, Alice Paul returned to the United States in 1910 to join the fight for women’s equality. Six years later, frustrated by American Suffragist’s 50-state strategy, Paul, with her friend Lucy Burns, formed the National Women’s Party. There they began to employ some of the more radical tactics they had learned in England. They staged parades, mass meetings, and hunger watches, among other, sometimes even criminal, undertakings. The parades are what most people remember, and the image that made its way into the history books.

Silent Sentinals

At the same time, Paul and her allies began to heavily criticize Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party for paying lip service to an Amendment he and they would not take up. The following year, shortly after Wilson was sworn in, Paul began to stage protests outside the White House. The participants called themselves “Silent Sentinels for Liberty” and held up signs demanding the vote for women. They protested every day, except Sunday, for more than two years, even after Wilson voiced support for the amendment.

Silent Sentials for Liberty at the White House

That same year, the United States joined the fight in World War I. Once war was declared, public physical attacks on the Sentinels began to occur. The women refused to relent against the argument that we were at war, and should wait some more. A series of arrests ensued over the next few months, and each time women chose jail time over paying fines. Alice Paul was arrested in October of 1917, and sentenced to seven months for obstructing sidewalk traffic. She, along with many other Silent Sentinels, were sent to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. There Paul began the hunger strike that nearly cost her her life, but which ultimately helped give us the right to vote.

Alarmed at the state of her health, prison officials began to force feed Paul and several other Sentinels who were striking. Sometimes they used a tube to force liquid into their stomachs. Sometimes they forced maggot infested oatmeal or soup into their mouths, then held them closed. This was all while they were strapped down. My eyes well up with tears even writing about it. But what happened next makes Blatch’s quote at the top of this diary partially untrue. While it’s not often discussed, blood did indeed spill.

Night of Terror

On November 15, 1917, the Warden of Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered 40 of his guards on what is now known as the Night of Terror.

The women were innocent and defenseless. By the end of the night, they were also barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs went on a rampage with their warden’s blessing against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” They beat Lucy Burn, 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 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. (Why Women Vote )

The details of the Night of Terror were the last straw. Public outrage and opposition had been building as news leaked that there were hunger strikes and forced feedings, but everything boiled to a head after the Night of Terror. Everyone, from ordinary folks to politicians in Washington, began to talk about the women and their plight. Demands issued from many quarters that they be released, which they finally were, on November 27th and 28th of 1917, many after nearly half a year in prison.

In January of 1918, Woodrow Wilson announced his support of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, and Congress voted on it soon thereafter, failing the 2/3 majority test by two votes. American women campaigned vigorously that election year to unseat anti-suffragist incumbents, and were successful. The amendment passed the following year, 1919, by a landslide, and began to make its way around the country to be ratified.

War of the Roses

By the summer of 1920, 35 states had ratified the 19th Amendment, and 36 were needed for it to become an official part of our founding document. It came down to Tennessee, and a War of Roses during the dog days of summer. Both pro- and anti-suffrage factions from across America made their way to Nashville to duke it out over votes in the Tennessee legislature. Members of the opposing factions and politicians wore yellow roses to show their support for suffrage, and red roses to show their opposition to suffrage.

On August 18th, amidst a sea of red and yellow roses, the roll call for votes went out, and came back 2 votes shy. Another roll call was made, and this time, Rep. Banks Turner crossed the line to the suffrage side. One vote shy. A third, and final roll call was made, and this time, a young man by the name of Harry Burn, wearing a red rose, crossed over to the suffragists side. Pandemonium ensued.

With his “yea,” Burn had delivered universal suffrage to all American women. The outraged opponents to the bill began chasing Representative Burn around the room. In order to escape the angry mob, Burn climbed out one of the third-floor windows of the Capitol. Making his way along a ledge, he was able to save himself by hiding in the Capitol attic.

When he was later questioned as to why he had voted for it, despite wearing a red rose, he explained that what people saw was the red rose on his jacket, but they didn’t see that in the pocket behind it was a telegraph from his mother in East Tennessee. It read:

Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt [Carrie Chapman Catt] put the ‘rat’ in ratification. Signed, Your Mother.
~Febb Ensminger Burn


The 19th Amendment was certified as law by Wilson’s Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby on August 26, 1920. Bainbridge Colby was a founding member of the United States Progressive Party.

The young women of today—free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation —should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price… the debt that each generation owes to the past, it must pay to the future.
~ Abigail Scott Dunaway


23 comments on “Target the Date

  1. ladyhawkke says:

    Today is the last day to pay down Hillary’s debt according to the DNC. If anyone got an e-mail regarding the special edition t-shirt from Hillary Clinton for $50, please buy it as it specifically goes to pay down her debt. It is not on her website. If someone has the link, please post it. Time is running out.

  2. annabellep says:

    Tomorrow we will go even further back in time, to the origin of this movement, The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention of 1848.

  3. annabellep says:

    Thanks ladyhawke, for that reminder!

  4. apishapa says:

    I recently watched a movie called “Iron Fisted Angels” (I think) with Hillart Swank on HBO about women’s sufferage. It was a real eye opener. I had no idea what these women went through. THis movie should be required viewing every March (women’s suffrage month) at our schools, so that American children understand how difficult it has been to drag this country to equality, and we still are not there.

    There are no heroes like these women now that I can see. We are giving away what so many fought for. Our civil liberties are being thrown in the trash as we just watch.

  5. alipuma says:

    Excellent post Annabelle !!!

    I shed many tears for all these rights that were hard fought for by our mothers and grandmothers and are thrown away relentlessly by my peers and for what?

    I wish I knew which words would get people who don’t get it to just wake up !! These words that you write are so elequently put and I hope that those who are sleepwalking do get to read them.

  6. Shelee Whitaker says:

    This is the link you ask for ladyhawwke, got it in my inbox today!

  7. Shelee Whitaker says:

    I have never been here before , I guess I just “happen” to be at the right place at the write time! Funny how things work……..

    Annabellep, what a tear jerking post! I have taken for granted so many times in my life that I am a woman that has rights, very humbling!

    Everyday I excercise those rights, whether is be writting letters to the DNC, signing petitions, donating time and money teaching my Husband(17 years older than myself) and 3 boys how to treat and respect women and everything in between! I am so greatful to those Women who sacrificed self for the greater good of ALL Goddesses!

  8. annabellep says:

    There are no heroes like these women now that I can see.

    So very true. But think of this way: Here we are faced with the opportunity be those kinds of heroes. Are we up to the challenge?

  9. Shelee Whitaker says:

    I meant “right” not “write” sorry for the type o. My brain works fast then my fingers ,thank god for that, huh?LOL

  10. Shelee Whitaker says:

    Anyway, please note the link above to help Hillary pay down her debt! I did click on it to make sure it works and yaaaaaaaaaah, It does! For anyone out there that would like to help her please, do so.

  11. annabellep says:


    I know whatcha mean. I type faster than I think sometimes, and I fumble with my fingers a lot because I still hunt and peck (four finger style).

    That said, in light of the deadline, I’ve decided to donate everything I raise via my Paypal link today and tomorrow to Hillary’s campaign. I’ve already given $40.16 of my personal money this pay period, but can’t afford to give more because we live pay check to pay check, and we’re in the process of moving. But I can raise money that I can then give to her, I suppose.

  12. Shelee Whitaker says:

    I wasn’t directing it at you in any way, I was just letting your readers know. I know Layhawwke asked for it. I completely know understand what you mean about the money thing, from pay check to pay check! Personally it will be hard for me to donate to her at this time as funds are low. I have donated close to $700.00 of personal money to Hillary over the course of about 5 months. I really at this time can spare no more. I have four Children still at home and three grandchildren and school starts next month. So please my no means was I soliciting you. Really it was meant for those that are intersted and can afford it at this time.

  13. Shelee Whitaker says:

    there is that dang type-o again “by” not my

  14. annabellep says:


    No worries. I just want to do my part to help, actually, and had just gotten back from donating another $20.08 I couldn’t afford, and thought, why not? I didn’t start this blog to make money, and I was only raising funds for Denver anyway. I can go back to doing that next week. Does that make sense?

    And land sakes, woman, you’ve got your hands full! Good luck, dear. You’re not alone.

  15. a teacher says:

    I thought I knew something about history, but your post showed I have more to learn. A heart wrenching post. Such women are real heroes with foresight about what they needed to achieve. Another lesson we are learning from this election cycle-women have fought forever for equality and still the fight goes on. What is it? Why can’t power be shared?

  16. a teacher says:

    Go to Heidi Li’s Potpourri for up to date info on retiring Hillary’s debt-the last two postings for Wednesday and Thursday. Also, she has an interesting commentary regarding the DNC’s financial issues.

  17. Tony Kondaks says:

    Do pledged Obama delegates have the obligation to switch votes at the convention if they feel that he no longer represents the sentiments of those that elected him?

    The DNC rules not only allow it, they encourage it:

  18. CognitiveDissonance says:

    Great post, Annabelle! It brought tears to my eyes, as I had never heard the story about the women in prison. Of course our schools don’t teach this herstory. We’re forced to dig it up for ourselves. What heroes they were. If those women were still living today, I predict they would be PUMA’s, marching right along with us.

  19. Pat Johnson says:

    Bullseye again, annabelle! Love your posts as they not only enlighten but educate at the same time.

    Women are the givers of life and so much more. Keep strong, PUMA’s.

  20. annabellep says:

    CD and Pat, thanks. Most people don’t know about the prison or the War of Roses, CD, so you’re not alone. Can you imagine what 30 years of focus on this kind of material every March in the public schools might have wrought this election season? I am still mourning for this stolen opportunity.

  21. Ghazala Khan says:

    Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.


    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator

  22. annabellep says:


    You’ve got mail! 🙂

  23. […] Ultimately, Woodhull’s candidacy helped solidify a rift that had already developed in the Suffragist movement, largely between those who were seeking a broader platform for women’s rights, including divorce rights, and those who held a more conservative view of pursuing rights for women. The conservative faction eventually developed as the more powerful arm, and evolved into the group pursuing that other kind of 50-state strategy we discussed a few days ago with the 19th Amendment. […]

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