Category Archives: women

Friends Sans Kids (Childfree vs. Childless)


I’m writing from a place of pretty intense emotion, so forgive me in advance when when some things don’t make sense. I have two major points to make: The subtlety of semantics, and the relationship between people with kids and people without.

First let me hit on the word choices: People who choose not to have kids refer to themselves as childfree, however other people (usually those with kids or those who want kids) refer to those people as childless. It’s pretty interesting, when you really stop to think about it, how we choose certain words and phrases and how much power is actually behind them. Someone who uses childfree feels that their life is complete without kids, and in fact, kids might be a burden in their life. But then the person who tells them that they’re childless, is projecting their own beliefs that life is somehow incomplete without kids involved. Until #1 came along, I was childless. My best friend, however, was childfree. And she remains that way to this day.

When we were 29 (no, I am not telling you how many years ago that was), she had to fight her doctor into tying her tubes. The doctor (a woman) gave her all kinds of push-back about how she might change her mind, she’s still young, et cetera. T knew what she wanted, and her then-husband did too (their split had nothing to do with kids, for the record), and she even faced the doctor down with the fact that a tubal ligation is reversible, although she hadn’t actually looked into it because she had no intention of reversing it. The doctor kept throwing out the term childless. T actually had to change doctors and was finally able to get the procedure when she was 30. Why do so many people have a hard time accepting that some women truly do not want kids?

So, that’s that. Childfree and childless, while on the surface mean the same thing, are actually very different. Be careful how you use them.

 

Now… during all my childbearing years, T and I were always thick as thieves. I always had time for her, and she always – ALWAYS – had time for me. When I hear women with children bitching that their ‘childless’ friends have ditched them, how they never invite them to do anything, I always wonder if it’s really the other way around. You’ve all seen the pictures that go around facebook, about how ‘My idea of fun is no longer leaving the bar at 2am, dancing all night, etc, now it’s pillow forts in the living room, snuggling at 9pm with a cartoon’ or some other holier-than-thou thing. You know what? Yeah, it’s true, there were a few years where I really wasn’t able to do much of anything other unless it involved my kids, but there comes a point when all you want to do is have a night for you, and the people that you have always depended on to remind you exactly who you are.

So when T would invite me out to catch a new band, I would leave the kids with my husband and go out. I might not have been able to stay until closing time with her, but I was able to get some face time with her. When she would organize girls night out, I was there – and for those, I sometimes made it a point to stay out late. Let hubster do the heavy lifting. Now, I know there are single mothers out there, but you know what, there are babysitters. Not all of them are expensive. If you have cousins, nieces, nephews, etc, particularly if you babysat them back in the day, put them to work. Make it a point to get to know the younger people in your neighborhood. Be a little nosy and figure out who doesn’t go out a lot, because those are the kids who are going to be available when you need them. Expose your children to them so they’re not strangers.  Befriend them early, let them know your situation, they’ll be willing to sit for less than the “going rate” if they’re not total douchebags. I’ve done it for free on occasion. If your baby sitting money cuts into your night out money, big whoop. Meet at a friend’s first and pre-game, if you’re worried about being able to afford drinking money. If your friends are truly your friends, they’ll understand that you don’t want to bar-hop, that you just want to go to one bar because that’s all you can afford.

On the flip side, a third friend, R, never accepted any invitation to do anything that began after 7 pm. Not even to go to a movie. A movie? You can’t leave your child at home for two, maybe three hours max to come and sit on your ass with us in a theater?  Every time she wanted to get together, it was always with kids in mind. She’s say, hey let’s take the kids to this place on Saturday, maybe T can bring her nieces. Yes, T adores her twin nieces, but why should she have to procure some kids to be allowed to hang out? Oh, and T always felt like this was a dig at her worthiness. You are only allowed to join us if you have kids with you, you can’t come by yourself. Sort of the opposite of an adult-only party.

The thing is, maybe your childfree friends aren’t ditching you, maybe they’re just tired of always being turned down. What’s that line about insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? (Which isn’t the actual definition, but whatever) T stopped inviting R to anything, eventually, and then R always got pissed off that “her childless friends never ask her to do anything anymore.”

My fellow parents: Your friends without kids can only take being turned down so many times before they just stop bothering. But pay attention: They attend every single birthday party you throw for your kids. They might spoil your kids as if they were their own. They celebrate every milestone with you. They’re there when you want a night out. Your childfree friend’s idea of fun isn’t sitting around with an Elmo party hat on watching a bunch of short humans pin the tail on everything but the donkey, but she does it because YOU asked her to be there. She does it because it’s what YOU want. But you’re the one who passes the subtle message that your life is more important than hers when you can’t be bothered to take part in anything she’s interested in. Compromising and doing things like meeting for dinner or lunch are one thing, because that’s something both parties have a mutual interest in. But when you are only inviting her to things that involve your kids (and then getting upset at the times she declines) and then declining all of her invites that involve just being yourself, an adult who is still her own person and not just a mother, the relationship becomes one-sided.

So like I said, yes, there were a couple years when I did fall a bit off the grid. #1 and #2 were born way too close together and I got a bit overwhelmed. I turned down pretty much everything T asked me to do, mostly because every moment the girls weren’t in my sight, I promptly fell asleep. We did a lot of lunches with babies in tow, we did a lot of hanging around her apartment for an hour at a time (many of which I’m guilty of being half-asleep though), but we tried. It wasn’t until #2 was nearly three years old that I realized T’s invites were coming less and less. I did get angry at first, but then I thought about it, and I realized there would be no point to her asking. It’s like when you have a Tupperware party or something along those lines. You know who to invite and who not to waste your breath on.

Once the girls were old enough to be less of a drain on my mental health, I was able to re-establish a lot of the fun times that T and I had enjoyed over the years. As I said, I’d suck it up and get dressed up for the club, even if I had to call it a night less than two hours in. But that was more about being a responsible adult than anything else. I knew I’d have to be up at 7am, so I knew I had to get to bed by midnight. It didn’t matter that I had to be up at 7 because of the kids. I’d made similar decisions years back when I had to get up for work early.

Why would I begrudge her idea of fun. She gets to do whatever the hell she wants because she can. And if she wants me to be a part of it, then I’m going to do what I can to be there. I know she absolutely hates the whole gift-opening part of kids’ birthday parties, all the kids screaming about what they got and how cool it is, or some other kid yelling about how much he wants it too (at least she’s stopped conveniently getting a phone call right when it starts, for which she has to go outside) but she’s there with the giant garbage bag grabbing the wrapping paper, because she knows how much I hate cleaning that shit up.  She manages a band, whose music she knows I don’t particularly like, but I still go to their showcases and important events because I know how much it means to her.

I’m probably rambling, but I just saw a rant on facebook from a parent friend pissed at her single, childfree friend over this. This parent friend is also one of those moms who’s entire facebook page is all her kids. Honestly, it’s so much about the kids that one of them could probably take the account over as their own when they get older and no one would notice. This woman clearly has no idea how much she’s lost herself in her kids. When you become a mother, motherhood should enhance your womanhood, not replace it. You’re still an individual, with you own interests, your own desires. Your idea of fun isn’t really a Dora marathon; it’s simply seeing your child happy. But your child isn’t going to be happy if you’re not happy, and I don’t see how you can be happy if you don’t have some semblance of a life of your own.

Maybe that makes me sound like a sanctimommy, but at least this sanctimommy has friends that aren’t my kids. And my facebook page has pictures of me.


Election Day


In honor of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and all the women that would not be silent, that would not sit there and look pretty, that paved the way for all the women who came after them and before us…
get your ass out there and make your voice heard.

image


Compare & Contrast



Obama: What Have You Done For Me Lately?


So we all know there are things Obama hasn’t done. Even as a supporter I can say that. I will throw a lot of it on Congress, stonewalling him at as many turns as they could, but I will also say that he came into office with a lot of great plans, but didn’t have a clue to implement them once he got there.

That being said, what has he done? Well,  I’ll tell you (some things on this list might not be laws exactly, but they demonstrate the direction society is going):

  • Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers
  • Significantly increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act
  • The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009: a $789 billion economic stimulus plan
  • Created more private sector jobs in 2010 than during entire previous administration
  • Provided $12.2 Billion in new funding for Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
  • Voluntary disclosure of White House visitors for the first time in US history
  • Appointed first Latina to the US Supreme Court
  • Promoted social responsibility through creation of serve.gov, a national database of volunteer opportunities
  • Reversed ‘global gag rule’, allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions
  • Signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco
  • Signed New START Treaty – nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia
  • First president to endorse same-sex marriage equality
  • Extended Benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
  • Appointed more openly gay officials than any other president in US history
  • Provided travel expenses to families of fallen soldiers to be present when their deceased arrives at Dover AFB
  • Reversed the policy of barring media coverage during the return of fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base
  • Launched recovery.gov to track spending from the Recovery Act, providing transparency and allowing the public to report fraud, waste, or abuse
  • Provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America’s Veterans
  • Signed the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, which provides health care to 11 million kids — 4 million of whom were previously uninsured
  • Health Care Reform Bill, preventing insurance companies from denying insurance because of a pre-existing condition
  • Health Care Reform Bill, allowing children to remain covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26
  • Issued executive order to repeal Bush era restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research
  • Signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis
  • Developed stimulus package, which includes approx. $18 billion for nondefense scientific research and development
  • Signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop fraud and wasteful spending in the defense procurement and contracting system
  • Issued executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay
  • Ended CIA program of ‘enhanced interrogation methods‘ by requiring that the Army field manual be used as the guide for terrorism interrogations
  • Established Credit Card Bill of Rights, preventing credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases on customers
  • Tax cuts for up to 3.5 million small businesses to help pay for employee health care coverage
  • Tax credits for up to 29 million individuals to help pay for health insurance
  • Require health insurance plans to disclose how much of the premium actually goes to patient care
  • Cut prescription drug cost for medicare recipients by 50%
  • Expansion of Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level
  • Added 4.6 billion USD to the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals
  • Lifted restrictions granting Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island
  • Eliminated subsidies to private lender middlemen of student loans and protect student borrowers
  • Significantly expanded Pell grants, which help low-income students pay for college
  • Increased funding for national parks and forests by 10%
  • Expanded hate crime law in the US to include sexual orientation through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
  • Provided stimulus funding to boost private sector spaceflight programs
  • Appointed nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
  • Signed financial reform law establishing a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans
  • Signed financial reform law requiring lenders to verify applicants’ credit history, income, and employment status
  • Signed financial reform law prohibiting banks from engaging in proprietary trading (trading the bank’s own money to turn a profit, often in conflict with their customers’ interests)
  • Signed financial reform law allowing shareholders of publicly traded companies to vote on executive pay

So… you know, it’s not like he was sitting around twiddling his thumbs all these years. Just in case you were wondering. The big one, of course, is the location and elimination of Osama Bin Laden, but I’ll let the servicemen keep that one.


Iron-Jawed Angels: The Final Stand


Last of three
(Part One, Part Two)

Alice Paul

Alice Paul celebrates suffrage victory, 1920
Courtesy Library of Congress

The first arrests were made on June 22, 1917. Lucy Burns and Katharine Morey were the first two women to be arrested. They sat at the station house for hours before the police came up with the charge of obstructing traffic, but there were dismissed and never brought to trial. This continued for a few more days before the Administration realized this tactic was not actually frightening the women. Now the offenders would be brought to trial. On June 26, the women were brought to trial and sentenced to pay a fine, which they refused, on the grounds that the fine would be an admission of guilt and they were guilty of nothing. They were then sentenced to prison. Katharine Morey, Annie Arneil, Mabel Vernon, Lavinia Dock, Maud Jamison, and Virginia Arnold were the first prisoners for suffrage in the United States.

These women and all other women who were arrested were sentenced to three days in District Jail. They served their time. Upon further arrests, they were sent to Occoquan Workhouse in neighboring Virginia for terms of thirty or sixty days. This still did not deter the women from standing in their picket line. As one woman was arrested, another one simply took her place in line. When she, too, was arrested, another woman fell into her place, and so on, until the entire horde of women was taken into custody.

Occoquan Workhouse was a prison of the poorest conditions. The prisoners were stripped of their clothes and personal belongings, given coarse, stiff uniforms, and were not allowed to speak to each other, or even smile. The food was deplorable, stale and sour bread, rotten soup with maggots and worms in it, and half-cooked vegetables. Mrs. Frederick Kendall of Hamburg, New York was put in a “punishment cell” under a charge of “impudence.” She was forced to wear the same clothing for eleven days, and she was even refused a nightdress or clean linen for her cot. Her toilet was an open pail, and she was denied water for toilet purposes. Her diet consisted of three thin slices of bread and three cups of water, which was carried to her in a paper cup that dripped so badly that the already small supply was half gone by the time it got to her cell. Other prisoners were often summoned by the guards to attack the suffragists. The condition of the prison was eventually leaked out, and even some friends and supporters of Wilson protested the way the Administration was handling the suffrage issue. The creation of the Suffrage Committee in the House was finally granted, but this did not satisfy the women.

Tired of the incessant pickets, the Administration ordered longer prison terms. Instead of a sixty-day term – approximately two months – they started to give out sentences of six or seven months. The women’s response?  More pickets and a protest from inside the prison. Lucy Burns started to organize her imprisoned allies, but officials sensed the plot and moved her to solitary confinement immediately. This only hastened the rebellion. The demand to be treated as political prisoners was written on a piece of paper that was passed through holes in the walls until a complete petition had been created and signed by all the prisoners. This document represented the first organized group action ever made in America to establish the status of political prisoners. The Commissioner’s response to this demand was to put everyone who signed it in solitary confinements, where they were denied some of their usual “privileges.”

On October 22, Alice Paul was arrested and sentenced to seven months at Occoquan. Officials decided to make an example out of the ringleader. The second Paul tried to organize a hunger strike she was taken away and force-fed. The report was that she was being fed in order to keep her alive, when in reality force-feeding has nothing to do with nutrition. A tube is forced up the nose and down the throat of the victim and liquid is poured into the stomach. It is a painful procedure that can cause illness, internal injuries, and even death. Most victims immediately regurgitate everything. In a final attempt to discredit her, Paul was held in psychiatric ward, where she wasn’t allowed to sleep and she was treated as if she were insane. The rest of the women were continually mistreated. In November, on a night that came to be known as the “Night of Terror,” the women were shoved into walls, choked, thrown down steps, and dragged around, sometimes by the hair. Lucy Burns was treated with especial cruelty. When she resisted being taken away, she was beaten. When she continued to call out to the women to find out if they were okay, she was threatened with a straitjacket. She was then handcuffed by her wrists to the top of a cell door. The women continued huger striking and were repeatedly subjected to force-feedings. One of the women wrote a graphic description of the ordeal of a force-feeding.

In the end, under intense pressure, President Wilson ordered the release of the prisoners. On November 23, a trial took place regarding the imprisonment of the suffragists. It was declared that they were illegally sent to Occoquan, that they were supposed to have been put in District Jail. The workhouse prisoners were then taken to District Jail to finish their sentences, where they persisted in hunger striking almost to the point of collapse. The Administration realized they could not afford to force-feed the women and risk the social consequences, nor could it let them starve to death and still risk those consequences. By this time one thing was perfectly clear: The discipline and endurance of the suffragists could not be broken. On November 27, 1917, the doors of the jail were opened and all the suffrage prisoners were unconditionally released.

The women went right back to work. Alice Paul designed a commemorative pin for all the women who had been in prison. It was a tiny silver replica of a cell door bound by a delicate chain and heart-shaped lock. On January 8, 1918, all 218 arrests were declared unconstitutional. Wilson became a warm advocate of suffrage, but until the amendment was added, the women would not stop the pickets or the protests.

In the House of Representatives, the Republican side declared that it would give more than a two-thirds majority vote for the amendment. The pressure was now put on the President to secure enough votes from the Democratic side. On January 10, 1918, the amendment passed by a 272 to 136 vote. It was exactly forty years from the first time the amendment was introduced into Congress and exactly one year from the appearance of the first picket banner. Attention was now focused on the Senate. Sixty-four out of ninety-six votes were necessary for passage. At the time the amendment passed in the House, women’s suffrage only had the support of fifty-three Senators. Seven months later, it had gained nine more – only two votes short – and the President would not guarantee that he would make an effort to secure them.

The Senate was about to recess, and there was no assurance from the Democrats whether suffrage would be considered before or after the recess. The National Woman’s Party decided on a national protest on August 6, the late Inez Milholland’s birthday, which gathered at the base of the LafayetteMonument. The women were arrested, and they demanded to have a charge made against them or be released. They were charged with “holding a meeting in public grounds” and “climbing on a statue.” They were sent to District Jail for ten days, fifteen if they climbed the statue. The place they were taken to was a building in the swamps of the District Jail grounds. It had been declared unfit for human use in 1909 and had stood empty ever since. Demanding to be treated as political prisoners, the women commenced hunger striking upon the refusal. Due to the strike and the telegrams of protest from all over the country, the Administration gave in and released the prisoners.

After a lengthy debate in the Senate, the Democrats found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They could not afford to refer the amendment back to the House Rules Committee, nor could they afford to go to a vote and have it fail. The October 1 vote failed by those two missing votes, and one voter instantly changed his vote, allowing him to move for reconsideration.

When the President refused to lend any assistance to the women, it became clear to them that he’d only move if under attack. They returned to the picket line, and decided on a perpetual fire. On New Year’s Day, 1919, they lit the fire with wood from a tree in IndependencePark, Philadelphia. They were, of course, arrested, but since no charge could be applied, they were released. Later, someone found an old statute that prohibits fires in a public place in the District of Columbia between sunset and sunrise, so the women were again arrested and charged. The Administration feared more hunger strikes so the judge pleaded with the women not to go to jail, offering probation if they promised to be good. They would make no such promise and started their hunger strike the moment they were taken away. So many women were arrested in the following days that the judge grew weary and started dismissing cases without trial.

President’s first appearance after his return from the Peace Conference in France was at Boston Common. When twenty-two women gathered with their banners, they were told they could not be there when the President passed by. They replied, however, that that was exactly where they had to be. Consequently, as the President drew near, the women were arrested, and the sight of it thrilled the Boston masses more than anything the President said. The women were charged with “loitering more than seven minutes.” It was an astonishing situation: Thousands of people loitered from curiosity the day the President arrived and went home afterwards. But twenty-two loitered for liberty, and were taken to the House of Detention. Telegrams of protest flooded from Boston to the White House.

Following more debates and disagreements in the Senate, the amendment still did not get passed. This led to more protests, more arrests, and more violent attacks against the women. Luckily for the suffragists, two new Democratic Senators had been elected who had no opinion either way about the amendment. It was up to the President to sway them, which he did.

Kentucky Governor Edwin P. Morrow signs ratification of the Anthony Amendment January 6, 1920
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Congress convened for a special session on May 19, 1919 for prompt passage of the amendment. On May 21 it passed by a vote of 304 to 89. The Democratic National Committee immediately passed a resolution calling on the states to hold special legislatures to ratify the amendment as soon as it was through Congress so that women could vote in the national election of 1920. Finally, on June 4, 1919, the declaration that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” that was first introduced in 1878 by Susan B. Anthony was submitted to the states for ratification. On June 10, 1919, Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the amendment. August 18, 1920, marked the day that the 19th Amendment was completely ratified, giving women the right to vote. A week later, on August 26, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law. In November, all women were allowed to vote in the United States national election for the first time.

This year, honor these woman. Be heard. On November 6, 2012, go to your polling place and utilize the right that these brave women (and even men) fought for, what they bled for, starved for, and earned – for me, and for you.

_______________________________________

_______________________________________


Gov. R and the Women


(That was a play on Dr. T and the Women that probably fell way short, but, you can’t blame me for trying.)

So, I know I’ve dropped the ball pretty hardcore during this debate season so far, and I can’t believe I’ve missed the boat so badly. I mean, the jokes write themselves, I should be all over this. Unfortunately… I just… My jaw just drops and I don’t have anything to say. But after tonight’s debate, and all the thinly veiled (and even not-so-subtle) digs at women that came from Romney’s way out-of-touch mouth left me full of all the ranting.

These were the two that I particularly enjoyed. I don’t have his exact words, but this is what I heard:

  • Unmarried sluts breed gangsters  (complete non sequitur from gun control to single parents)
  • Employers need to be more flexible because women need to get home and cook dinner (missing the point on equal pay for equal work)

The flexibility comment is so dangerous because it just sets the precedent to continue with the unequal pay that is so rampant in this country. It is an unwritten rule with many employers that women will take time off for maternity leave, to stay home and raise kids, drop down to part time for family responsibilities, etc. Because of this, they consider women’s productiveness to be less than a man’s and use this to pay them a lower wage. 
This is one of the many reason a common interview “trick” is to not wear a wedding/engagement ring to the interview. Single women are seen as more reliable because there is no expectation of needing familial time off.
Of course, that’s antiquated too, since obviously not all mothers are married. However, by vocalizing it tonight, Romney only reinforced the fact that this belief still exists.  Saying that employers need to be flexible with WOMEN’S schedules, not PARENTS’ schedules, it plays right into the reason that women oftern earn less money.

That’s really all I have for you. I’m just too… ugh.


Iron-Jawed Angels: Making Their Voices Heard


Second of Three (Part One here)

Women Suffragists on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, March 3, 1913

Women Suffragists on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, March 3, 1913
Courtesy US Library of Congress

The first big public appearance of the Congressional Union created such a spectacle that it drew the most attention out of anything going on in the capital. Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and their supporters took full advantage of the festive arrangements and publicity surrounding Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. On March 3, 1913, Paul planned a dramatic parade, coordinating over eight thousand college women, professional women, working women, and middle-class members of the NAWSA into marching suits, and giving them banners to carry. The procession was led by Inez Milholland, who became the face of suffrage. She rode confidently on a white horse, draped in flowing white robes, proudly carrying a golden banner that read, “Forward out of Darkness, Forward into Light,” which later became the official motto for the National Woman’s Party. Also in this precession, a banner that would come to be known as the Great Demand Banner was carried for the first time. It read:

The parade marched past the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol. At the time of this parade, women’s suffrage had gained respectability among middle- and upper-class women, and many politically and socially well-connected women were among the supporters. However, the general public and most male politicians – particularly those from the East and the South – did not support suffrage for women. The crowd of hundreds of thousands that watched the parade was predominantly male, and they jeered, taunted, and spat on the women as they marched by. Objects were thrown and women were harassed. When things got rough and the crowd converged upon the marching women, police did little to contain the rowdy masses or protect the women, remaining oblivious to the situation. The War Department called in the cavalry to restore order, fearing a riot. The event drew so much attention that when Wilson came into town, as he drove from the station to his hotel, he asked where all the people were and was informed that they were over on the Avenue, watching the Suffrage Parade. The parade and the events following kept the procession and suffrage in the public mind for some time. The entire event almost overshadowed the inauguration itself. Alice Paul had accomplished her goal; to make woman suffrage a major political issue.

Members of the Congressional Union held meetings with President Wilson in an effort to educate him on the topic of women’s suffrage, and they urged him to bring up the subject in his message to Congress. Wilson told the ladies that he has no say in the matter, and could not express his own personal views in a message to Congress. As the year progressed, the first issue of The Suffragist was printed on November 15, 191,, edited by well-known publicist Rheta Childe Dorr. Its purpose was to keep supporters of the Congressional Union up-to-date on events.

The Congressional Union, however, faced its demise.

Early in 1914, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) informed the Congressional Union that they could remain a part of the NAWSA only if they paid a 5% tax on all their earnings and a hundred dollar annual fee. It was an ultimatum created to mask the underlying problem: There had been a strain between NAWSA and the Congressional Union for some time, because the former opposed the use of force employed by the latter. Alice Paul had long since made the decision to become independent of the NAWSA, and it was in Chicago in 1916 that the most significant move was made. The Congressional Union was recognized as a powerful political force, as the male politicians begged for their support for their own political parties. The women had a different idea however, that is, to form a new party, a party with only one platform – the passage of a federal suffrage amendment. It was a party determined to withhold support from all existing parties until women were politically free.

The National Woman’s Party was born.

The Republican and Democratic National Conventions both included suffrage planks in their own platforms. Although not enough to satisfy the NWP, it was a step in the right direction. The Republican Party’s platform was vague and indefinite about national suffrage, while the Democratic Party specifically encouraged that the decision be left up to the individual states, not by Congress with a constitutional amendment. It was assumed that the President himself had written this plank, due to the fact that two years previous he had stated that he believed suffrage should be settled by the states when he cast his vote in a state referendum in his state of New Jersey. Wilson knew that a state amendment in New Jersey would fail, and therefore by casting his vote for it he could appease the women and still not bring suffrage any closer. Under the protection of the Democratic plank, Congress continued to block the idea of national suffrage.

Miss Mabel Vernon of Delaware was the first member of the NWP to commit a “militant” act. During a speech, Wilson spoke about his belief in liberty and justice. Frustrated, Vernon jumped to her feet and said, “Mr. President, if you sincerely desire to forward the interests of all the people, why do you oppose the national enfranchisement of women?” (Stevens, 50) The President brushed her off by saying that was something they would have to discuss later. Vernon repeated her question later and was removed from the meeting by police.

In August, 1916, some progress was made. Republican presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes spoke publicly in favor of a federal amendment. His view was that the amendment should be ratified and passed and then subject could be dropped from political discussion. Meanwhile, the NWP asked women voters to withhold their support of President Wilson during his reelection campaign, due to the Democratic denial of woman suffrage. The Democratic speakers were met with unexpected force as they toured the country, and they kept telling the women to be patient, that Wilson would be able to help them in his next term. Wilson himself had used almost the same words whenever Carrie Chapman Catt and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw of NAWSA spoke with him. The women were constantly told to be patient.

Tired of waiting, twelve women carrying suffrage banners of purple, white, and gold silently walked the distance between the National Woman’s Party Lafayette Park Headquarters to the iron White House Gates on January 10, 1917. They held two large banners:

1917 protest outside the White House, Washington DC

These women were the first people ever to protest at the White House. The NWP’s unique style of feminine militancy had begun. This militancy consisted of three stages. First came the displaying of defiant messages in peaceful picketing. Next was picketing using passive resistance in the face of mob attacks and the first arrests. Then came the hunger strike to obtain political prisoner and martyr status for the jailed picketers.

The peaceful picketing lasted from that first day in January until the United States entered World War I in April. The picketing idea was largely based on something Alice Paul often said, which was, “If a creditor stands before a man’s house all day long, demanding payment of his bill, the man must either remove the creditor or pay the bill.” (Ford, 125) Paul’s talent for pageantry was at its best on the picket line. In February, the Woman’s Party had special picket days; Women Voter’s Day, Patriot Day, state days, days for various professional women, and College Day. The banners held by the women were very clever and often quoted Wilson himself, like his war message of “We shall fight for the things which we have always held nearest our hearts – for Democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.”

Inez Milholland, the face of suffrage, gave her life in the struggle for equal rights.

She traveled to many states during the early days of the Congressional Union despite her ill health. Before collapsing at a meeting in Los Angeles, her last words were, “How long must women wait for liberty?” The banner that the picketers carried with them at all times on the line was, therefore, in tribute to her. Inauguration Day 1917 was nearly a repeat of the previous inauguration, with a thousand women marching. Vida Milholland, carrying a golden banner with her sister’s last words emblazoned across it, marched first in line, the Great Demand Banner following behind her. The women were met with locked gates at the White House, and stood there for hours in the pouring rain.

The NWP indirectly helped the NAWSA succeed: Legislators were so irritated by the militant stance of the NWP that they were happy to do favors for the lobbyists in the NAWSA who were so friendly and polite. NAWSA women were working for the war effort as well as woman suffrage, and distanced themselves from NWP actions and members. In April and May, progress for suffrage seemed to be made. The Susan B. Anthony amendment was introduced into the House and Senate, and on May 1, 1917, the President wrote that he approved of the formation of a House Woman Suffrage Committee. Catt feared that the NWP’s policies would prevent further positive Congressional action and wrote to Paul to ask her to withdraw the pickets before they endangered the establishment of the Committee. The NWP remained unmoved by the pleas and continued to picket. In June they were threatened with being arrested, and still they refused to leave. The White House Administration was forced to take action. Like Paul said, the man must either pay the bill or remove the creditor. The Administration chose not to pay the bill.

The Administration chose to remove the creditor.

 

(Part Three)


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