Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why we need International Women's Day

As Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (and so many before them) have chronicled, women across the world face rape, slavery, poverty, and discrimination. Clearly, we need to work for women's equality and freedom across the world.

And right here in the U.S., it hasn't even been 100 years since women finally earned the right to vote. Suffragette Alice Paul and the National Women's Party were the first people to picket in front of the White House, and then Lucy and Paul Burns led a series of protests in Washington. President Wilson ignored the protests as long as he could, until June 1917, when the suffragettes unfurled a banner stating "We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement." Another banner on August 14, 1917, referred to "Kaiser Wilson" and compared the plight of the German people with that of American women. Wilson responded by ordering that the women be arrested and jailed.

Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months in prison and began a hunger strike, but after a few days prison authorities began to force feed her. Finally, in 1918, Wilson reversed his position and advocated women's suffrage as a "war measure." In 1919, the Senate approved the federal woman suffrage amendment (written by Susan B. Anthony) by 56 to 25 after four hours of debate. In a show of how the political tables have turned, 82% of the votes in favor came from Republicans and 54% from Democrats! Finally, women earned the right to vote in 1920--just 82 years ago.

Check out this great Bad Romance parody video depicting the fight for women's suffrage in the United States:

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