Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nana and Other Great Women

I’ve been thinking about Nana a lot. She loved Rosh Hashanah and she took Yom Kippur so seriously. She gave up everything she had, left her family to come to America. I know she missed them terribly and I know she struggled here but she was a proud American citizen.

I just learned that Nana tried to register to vote and was intimidated and ridiculed by the workers at the Board of Elections. They made fun of her broken English; her combination Yiddish/Russian/English and her appearance. Nana had very bad circulation problems and wore heavy stockings to ease the pain and to hide the veins she was so ashamed of. Being so small the stockings always drooped and gathered.

I never thought to ask her why she didn’t vote. I wish I had been older when that happened, I would have had a thing or two to say at the Board of Elections.

Nana hated talking about politics but loved talking about America. I remember when JFK first became prominent. Many of the other ladies would talk about how good looking he was. Nana talked about how “ready to fight” he seemed. She loved Rose Kennedy and would always include Rose and “all the children” in her prayers.

You better not criticize America to Nana! You would get the evil eye. If she liked you, and she loved me, she would say “so go fix it” and she’d insist “everything is possible in America”.

Nana is and always will be the single most forceful woman, person, I have known. I miss her and I always feel her with me. One of the most wonderful moments of my life was when Nana told me I was just like her, an “old soul” who “carried the generations with me in my heart”. And so it breaks my heart that a woman would right now, today, be the single most hateful aspect of this historic election. How she dishonors all the incredible women who came before her.

I’m going to share with you an e-mail I received. It was sent to me and to hundreds of others. I researched the information. You can learn about its origins HERE. Apparently someone read Connie Schultz's words and then saw the HBO movie and put this e-mail together.


This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

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

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

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.'

From NanaAndCo

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.
From NanaAndCo

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 worms.
From NanaAndCo

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.

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?

From NanaAndCo

From NanaAndCo

From NanaAndCo


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

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.

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.
From NanaAndCo

Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman's Party headquarters.
L-R Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, and 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.
From NanaAndCo

Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk,Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying a banner that said - "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

History is being made.

The e-mail ended there.

Sarah Palin has given me one more reason to vote. I KNOW if she had been around in 1920 she would have been the one who turned the others in.

Nana would never say anything bad about “an American official” but I know she would want me to “go and fix it”. If you still need one more reason to vote!! Then do it for Nana and for all the truly patriotic women who sacrificed for us.


DivaJood said...

I have tagged you, my dear.

Real Live Lesbian said...

I love your Nana and her spirit! What a great legacy you have!

You are right. Thanks for the reminder. I wonder if we would fight as hard?

Great post! I really want to watch that movie!

Anndi said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful person with us.

I've seen that movie, it was wonderful.

Oh.. my Chicklet does a really funny impersonation of Caribou Barbie Sarah Palin. She's been watching the news with me and has made up her mind about the McCain/Palin ticket... out of the mouth of babes.

Shalom my friend.

Dana said...

Great post as well as a great reminder of those who have fought so hard to insure we continue to have the rights we do!

Jeni said...

I've read that piece about the women of the Suffrage movement several times before but it never loses the impact with each subsequent reading -a very powerful piece -and one every woman should definitely read, think long and hard about it too, and then, follow through and exercise that right these ladies fought so long and hard to acquire for us! Tremendous post, Dianne! As always, right on target!

Jackie said...

Spot on - thank you for the reminder.

Every national election I wonder whether this will be the year when I just don't vote (and our next one will be no exception, now that all 3 main parties seem to have morphed into 1). And even though it would be a considered action, not just an "I can't be arsed to find the time" thing, what stops me is remembering those who fought, at such cost, for me to have the privilege. As well as the suffragettes, you only need to look at pictures of huge queues of people voting in South Africa after the end of apartheid, for the first time, to realise that voting is a precious privilege.

Raven said...

Nana would be proud of you. Thanks for sharing that email. It is stunning that even though it's such recent history, we don't really learn or know much about the history of how we got the vote (or at least it was never a big part of any history course I took).

I find Sarah Palin to be such a disgrace to my gender and my species. It is beyond my understand how a woman who has so little to offer in her own right, who operates by telling lies and stirring up hate and then smiling as people shout "kill him," can be seen by anyone as a role model. It is interesting to me how those who are the most uber Christian in this society seem to me to act in ways antithetical to anything that Jesus would do or approve of. What kind of moral compass is guided by hate and lies?

meno said...

Such a fierce fight for something so basic. What is it about humans that makes some of us so afraid of change?

Great reminder, thanks.

Sparkling Red said...

The same principle applies to women in Canada. Our election is on October 14. I knew I would be out of town that day, so I made arrangements to vote at an advance poll. It's too important to miss.

Daryl said...

I suspect your Nana knows what a wonderful woman you grew to be ... and I am sure you are still very much like her .. how proud she would be/is at how you are working to 'fix it' ... I know I am

Get Those Who Need Help (elderly, young mothers with kids) to the Polls!
We CAN do it!


CG said...

I always vote for this very reason. I can't understand why so many people moan about the government and yet when you ask who they voted for they say "Oh i couldn't be bothered to go to the poll!"

Akelamalu said...

This is a wonderful post Dianne. My own grandmother was fervent about women using their vote. She used to travel the neighbourhood on polling day knocking on doors insisting that women went and used their vote. A lot of women suffered so we could vote it would be sacriledge not to use it.

Bond said...

Nana was a very intellegent woman...that is without a doubt.

My grandfather was similar. Loved this country, his adopted home. Fought for it in the war. Would go to every funeral of every soldier if he could.

he instilled in me a love for the USA.

The movie and that email are so very powerful...

I am certainly going to help "go and fix it"

Sylvia K said...

Outstanding! What an incredible post and story! I want to reference it in my next post. Women everywhere should read this and those who say they're not voting, I hope will be shamed by what these women endured so that we could have the right! Thank you, Dianne! And thank you for your visits to my blog, your comments are always appreciated!

Dianne said...

jood - I will try not to disappoint this time. I started the last post you tagged me on - the politcal one - and then got sidetracked by well - politics lol

RLL - I wonder too if we would fight like that - I'd like to think so. I feel you and me and many of the woman commenting right now would but ...
I think you can see the movie online. check out the HBO site. I saw it. It was well done.

anndi - shalom to you as well. and tell Chicklet she is a mensch :)

dana - thanks! It amazes me how many young(er) women don't know or care about all that came before them.

jeni - when I first got the e-mail I thought it was familar. and when I realized Connie Schultz had written most of it I knew it was too good not to share.
thanks my friend. Peace and Happy Day After Birthday :)

jackie - I have been meaning to ask you if you ever catch the monolgues of fellow Scot Craig Ferguson. He is all over youtube as well as on late show
forgive me but I sometimes act as though all Scots know each other LOL
Craig is a new American citizen and has delivered some very genuine monologues about democracy and what America means to those not born here. My Nana would have loved him :)

Dianne said...

raven - I do believe she "sees" me or "feels" me - I sure feel her!
Greta Van Sustern said that Palin is "just beginning" - even if they lose (please!!) Palin will be back. Greta said Palin is "a political force to be reckoned with for a long time to come"
that alone makes me want to watch every single thing she does. Crazy hateful bitch is exactly what brings down a country.

meno - I've been thinking a lot about fear in light of Obama's candadicy. Ignorance feeds fear. Laziness feeds ignorance. So I guess we have to keep getting the word out.

sparkling - a friend in Toronto tells me she is very concerned about a candidate that is close to Bush. we get very little news here about Canada unless we look for it.
Brava for voting early :)

daryl - Yes We Can !!!! :)
I hope my leg is better by 11/4 - I usually drive many of my VFW buddies.

cg - I have lost any tolerance I had left for people who don't vote. It is just plain ridiculous.

akelamalu - perhaps our Nanas are hanging out together in the next place :)
wouldn't that be wonderful? I'm sure they're talking about us.

bond - thank you. Nana would pinch your cheek and tell you what a mensch you are.

slyvia - you're welcome! and thank you. I always learn something or feel something new at your place - I am so glad I found you. I think bobbie (talk about great women) brought us together :)

Mrs. C said...

But Sarah Palin is a liberal!!!

She thinks women should be able to vote AND drive. And get this: she WORKS. At a JOB. While she's married with young kids. She's even outspoken and opinionated. (oh, my)

BTW I had a Nana as well. She was a world traveller and a college graduate. She could tell you which cards you played and in what order during a game that took place YEARS ago. She got annoyed if you did not speak properly, even going so far as to insist that you use antiquated phrases such as, "It is I" during casual conversation. Nana was a bit shocking, though. She thought marijuana should be legal, even though she was a good Republican.

:O (see the look of shock on my face?)

I miss my Nana, too.

Mrs. C said...

PS May I steal a pic of your Nana and post a linky to your blog on mine? I think my readers would disagree for the most part on politics, but this is such a good post I want to share!

Hope you're feeling well. When is that cast gone again??

Dianne said...

Mrs C - I wish you could see the look on MY face right now LOL
Sarah the liberal - oh me oh my
Your Nana sounds wonderful!! If history serves me correctly I think the Republican party of Nana's day was far different than the party of recent history and certainly different than whatever Bush wants to call himself.

I would be honored if you took Nana's picture - she is beautiful and loves to get out ;)

And other than my feelings about Palin I don't think this post is political - it is historical and (I hope) respectful to those who came before us.

I don't even think the Palin comments (only 2) are political - I think of them as human

that's another of my pet peeves - age is not valued the way it should be. that's why I won't join in the McCain age jokes. Nana was dead on target til she died in her 90s. Her mind was always open and her heart was too.

anyway - your readers will be greeted with love and respect if they should drop by.

Shalom Mrs. C :)

Ivanhoe said...

You go girl! I would have loved to meet Nana. After all, I'm an immigrant just as she was.
BTW: You seem to have some trades of hers ;o)
I would not miss elections for anything. I'm so proud to be able to do presidential election for a first time :o)

Jackie said...

I haven't come across Craig Ferguson but I will go look, on your recommendation :)

(By the way, I'm not a Scot - I just live there and love it. I'm English actually. Don't worry though this is not a major faux pas at all. A major faux pas would be to call a Scot English - probably similar to calling a Canadian American, but 100x worse ;) ).

Betty said...

Great post. Your "old soul" comment reminded me that I once saw Dustin Hoffman on the Tonight Show, and he was holding out his hands and showing Johnny how wrinkled they were, even thought at that time he was a young man. He said someone told him that his wrinkles meant that he was an "old soul".

bobbie said...

How wonderful that you had a Nana to inspire you.

I had never heard these stories of the women. I guess someone forgot to put them into our history books, just as they forgot so many other details of the history of our country. Thank you, Dianne

RiverPoet said...

Yes, I got this message, too, from my brother (though surely he knows by now how seriously I take my civic duty). My two grandmothers fought with each other, across my mother's hospital bed when she was in labor with her first child; one grandmother didn't believe women should have the right to vote, the other was a progressive women's rights advocate. Guess which one I take after?

Amazingly enough, of the people to whom I forwarded the "Why Women Should Vote" email, only the Republicans among them seemed a little miffed at me for sending it. Explain that, would you?

Peace - D

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a WONDERFUL Post, Dianne. I know this film---Hilary Swank, I believe----And I take my vote very seriously. Especially this time around. Women must do whatever it takes to go to the polls. Men too, of course, but women even more because of how hard fought our vote was and that a woman like Sarah Palin might do everything she can to destroy Roe V Wade, among other things...!

I love reading about your Nana....I had a Maamaw....! She came to this country when she was 13---Alone, in Steerage, and it took 30 days back then. She too, LOVED America with a passion!
My dear friend who just died in May, Hanna, loved this country too, in a way that was fierce....! She took her citizenship very seriously because she knew first hand, as my Grandma did too, how hard fought our Freedom's were....!

I am going to add a link to my post, Dianne, encouraging people to come here and read this.
And, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this!

Jeff B said...

I'll admit to being ignorant to the shameful treatment of these brave women.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me though. Look at what happened in Guantanamo Bay a few years ago. have we learned nothing about the treatment of people?

Great post and thank you for sharing.

Ramblings of a Villas Girl said...

Nana was a very wise woman and you take after her.

I've never heard of the stories of those brave women.

Thank you for sharing this. This should inspire many women to vote and not feel as if it is a chore, but a honored and proud of this privilege that those brave women allowed for us. Lisa

tt said...

Well...SFD!!! Blogger ate my comment!! How does that happen anyway??
Now I've forgotten what I said...but this post was very touching and enlightning. I know Nana is so very proud of you. I'm glad you had her in your life.

Again...great,great post!

fermicat said...

This woman will definitely vote!

Thanks for an inspiring post.

Jay said...

Really great post Dianne.

Nana's are always great. My Nana Creta is damn cool. And she turns 90 next weekend.

Rambling Woods said...

Your Nana would be proud of you ! I saw that movie and it I got sick to my stomach. I watched it with my daughter and everyone should watch it.

Dianne said...

ivanhoe - how exciting for this to be your first Presidential vote!!

jackie - I once called a Scot an Englishman!!! I'll never do that again. I just assumed you were born in Glasgow since you clearly have such affection for it. I hope you enjoy Craig :)

betty - Nana used to say that about hands as well. With me it was my face - I always looked older, much older than I was. I was getting into bars when I was 13!! Nana told me I'd "grow into my face" :)

bobbie - she was something else :)
I remember in JHS in 1967 they started a Women's History Class, after much resistance. They sure didn't cover this though.

Dianne said...

Riverpoet - "Amazingly enough, of the people to whom I forwarded the "Why Women Should Vote" email, only the Republicans among them seemed a little miffed at me for sending it. Explain that, would you?" - how funny, similar thing here!! It is not political, it is civic. They don't even freakin' read anymore they just assume attack. It's like back in school - the guilty kids were always the ones who thought they were being picked on lol

oldold lady of the hills - yes it was Hilary Swank and she did a fine job as usual. The boys next door say Maamaw :) I love the way it sounds!!
Nana came in steerage also and she was pregnant with her first child!! Unfortunately my Grandfather was pretty much a useless drunk so she took care of everything herself, even escaping!
thank you for the compliment of linking - I have so much regard for you and all your accomplishments so it means even more to me :)

jeff - the thing that got to me the most, even beyond the brutality, was trying to deem the women insane. It still happens today - a strong woman with strong opinions far more grief and ridicule than a man in the same situation. we still have far to go I guess - makes me a bit impatient but hey, maybe I'm crazy ;)

lisa - see if you can find the movie to rent - it is excellent! and thank you for comparing to me to Nana, that means everything to me.

tt - you're just too hot for blogger to handle ;)
thanks sweetie

fermicat - thank you!!

jay - thanks! how cool about Nana Creta's birthday!! If you take after her then she must be wicked wonderful :)

rambling - how cool to watch with your daughter :)

Debo Blue said...

My mouth is hanging open!

Thanks for sharing about your Nana and this enlightening email!

CrystalChick said...

BRAVO! A wonderful post that I will absolutely forward.
Your Nana was a wise woman and of course she is with you in spirit always.
Thanks for sharing this.
My future SIL had trouble with his voter registration before the primaries, I'll have to find out if he resolved that. And my BIL never votes, isn't even registered, but he told my hubby that he is registering this year so that he can vote for Obama!! If you knew my BIL, you'de know that in itself is just amazing.

Anonymous said...

Your Nana is a true American patriot. "Go fix it" she says. Let's. Vote to start the deconstruction of the devastation wrought by this present Administration over the last 8 years. Vote to disavow and discredit the willful ignorance espoused by Palin and McCain. "Go fix it," she says. Okay, Nana, I will..... vote.

Monogram Queen said...

I had read the horrific part before, and it still horrifies me! You are right about Sarah Palin I believe.

I would have loved your Nana too.

You would have loved my Great Grammie. She lived 1890-1988 and oh was an inspiration to our family and still is. I wish I could have spoken to her about so many things now that i'm older.

Dianne said...

debo - thank you so much!!

crystalchick - I have heard many stories like that of your BIL and it's inspiring. I did some voter registration work before I hurt my foot and so many older folks were getting ready to vote for the first time. I just truly hope they all come out.

spartacus - I love the way you write!! thank you for that lovely paragraph

monogram - It's wonderful to have such amazing women in our memories isn't it :)

Micky-T said...

Great history lesson. So many things we take for granted in this country.
Looking forward to sitting with my wife and enjoy the movie.

Smalltown RN said...

When I read your post I was thinking what powerful women the immigrant women mother was an immigrant bringing along with her 5 her and my father managed is beyond me....

As for your grandmother and the right to vote...yes it is not that long ago that we had little rights if any....and here we are today to busy to take time to do what is our make our voices heard...if not for ourselves but for our children and future generations....your grandmother like others before her faught for this right and how dare we not be thankful for their sacrifices.....I have seen a very similar movie to the one you mention...very very powerful...and yes it should become part of the ciriculum in schools....

I have always been a union activist..and trying to speak out for health care for all....I have had grievances and I stood strong because I felt so strongly that I didn't want what was happening to me to happen to another... so I stood times to my deteriment.

When I was attending a union history course about women in the union and the role they of the things that was brought out was the music...a song called
Bread and Roses you can see the lyrics here and hear the song It is about women fighting for the rights of all for a life for themselves and for their families.

Great post Dianne...

Dianne said...

mickey - I saw your comment somewhere, maybe Jay's, about fines for not voting. I responded how much I agree!! Australia does it and the fines are hefty. It is considered a civil responsibility.

smalltown rn - I knew you were a union person from many of your posts. My uncle was an organizer for the Longshoreman back in the 50s and 60s, he would take me to the docks, needless to say I learned a lot!! ;)
the song is lovely - especially the image of darkened kitchens as they go to march.
thank you

holly said...

i got my presidential ballot yesterday! i'm putting it in the post tomorrow!

i have NEVER been so motivated to vote. i was just going through the motions in the states. and when i lived in belfast i don't think i did vote. (i sheepishly admit i didn't think i could...)(i don't feel too guilty because my absentee ballot would have gone to wyoming, which votes republican anyway - my vote would have gotten lost after getting laughed at.)

Tammy said...

Bravo! Wonderful post!

susan said...

Yes, excellent post.

Reb said...

Excellent post! I saw that movie awhile ago and was very moved by it. Unfortunately my only living grandparent was Mom's, Mom and she lived in Toronto, so I only ever met her about four times in my life. I envy you knowing your Nana and it sounds like she was worth knowing.

Micky-T said...

I'd love to see it happen. Then when the vote was counted it would be literally......"the people have spoken"

the walking man said...

My Grandmother born in 1886, never missed an election of any sort. She taught my mother to vote and my mother taught me.

Hilary said...

Your Nana sure was someone special and no doubt you share genes.

Quiet Paths said...

I don't know why it seems to be human nature to forget where we've come from... thank you for a fantastic reminder.

Dianne said...

holly - as much as you try to foster a different rep you ARE a good girl ;)

tammy - thank you

susan - and thanks to you too. I see we were both tagged by the wonderful Jood. I'll be over to re-read (copy) your great answers ;)

reb - she was worth knowing! thank you. I spent a lot of time with her toward the end of her life - supposedly to care for her but I got far more out of it than she did.

mickey - exactly!! I like the way you think :)

mark - a wonderful legacy left to you by incredible women :)

hilary - thanks, I hope so, I think so :)

quiet paths - funny you say that - part of this post was going to be about forgetting and not honoring the past but it got too long and I didn't want the message to get muddled. Cleary we think alike :)

me ann my camera said...

You are so fortunate to have such a role model as your Nana to guide you. It is so inspiring to have someone to anchor your faith in and she sounds like she was such a wonderful caring, honorable person.
I am astounded to read of the treatment of the women that is described in the email. I did not know that women would have been treated so badly at that time. As a Canadian I will be going to the polls to vote for a new federal government on Monday. Your post is a worthy reminder for me to view this more seriously than I have been.

Dianne said...

ann - I hope your election has an outcome that is good for you and your country. I have a friend in Toronto and another in Montreal who tell me they feel there is not good choice for leadership.
thank you for such kind words re. Nana :)

Kelly said...

Dianne, This is a wonderful post and so important too! Let us never forget what our great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers fought for...Our right to vote! I am sure that your Nana is Very Proud of YOU too! It's easy to forget that we didn't always have this right and it only through their leadership and strength that we are able to cast our votes! I'm really glad you wrote this to remind us of the sacrifies that were made for us to have our right to vote! Great Post!!

Dianne said...

kelly - thank you!! comments like yours make me feel as though my little voice in the vastness that is the internet does make a difference.

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