It’s become a tradition of mine each November. Ah like clockwork, after wishing I owned the DVD to “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” and eating too many Halloween treats, it’s time to put in another entertainment delight of mine, the movie “Iron Jawed Angels.”
It’s my personal fav right around Election Day, one of my most favorite of days of the year.
Don’t worry. This is not a political advertisement. Nor an endorsement. While I have distinct political leanings, officially I am registered to vote with no party affiliation. It’s been that way since I registered to vote, taking the cue from my dad. And while I find campaigns long and slightly obnoxious, I find actual voting empowering, inspiring and even fun.
OK, some of the fun may be gone with the new voting machines, because frankly, I liked the big, bulky machines with the curtain and the huge lever. I liked the sound of the “ding” when you opened the curtain and the machine magically recorded your vote.
I can’t quite explain why I love to vote. In a way, it’s like trying to explain why I love to run — it’s something that connects me to myself. What do I really want for the next year? What do I feel is true to me? It’s as much a self-examination of my own dreams, hopes and aspirations as it is in evaluating candidates.
But even more importantly for me, Election Day is a day to fulfill a promise to women who paved the way for me to be able to step into that voting booth in the first place.
While you may be familiar with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, there is a good chance you haven’t heard of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. The former pair kick started the suffrage movement in the mid 1800s, but died without ever receiving the right to vote. Paul and Burns, the subject of the movie “Iron Jaw Angels” were young activists who split with the traditional women’s suffrage movement, took to protesting in front of the White House and through somewhat “militant” action helped force along the issue of giving women the right to vote at the federal level.
We take for granted that women have the right to vote. We read about the suffrage movement in high school social studies class and move on to learn about the failure of the League of Nations. But to understand the actual suffering of the suffrage movement is another thing. Take for instance the case of more than 200 women, including Paul and Burns, being arrested on charges of obstructing traffic and sentenced to 60 days in a labor prison where they were beaten and force fed. Those women received presidential pardons and their jailing was ruled unconstitutional. But women bore other indignities on the way to polling place.
All so that in 2010, I could have the opportunity to cast a vote in an election.
How could I not take that opportunity? How could I not use my voice in the easiest, most basic way in a democracy?
I’m reminded of a line from the television show, “The West Wing” — Decisions are made by the people who show up.
I’m also reminded of a line from “Iron Jawed Angels” — In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity.