Sunday, July 8, 2012

Women of the World - Unite!

By Glenys O'Connell
There are really good topics for Roses blogs this month but once again I'm rambling off in another direction, this one close to my heart.
Here in Canada 2012 marks the 83rd Anniversary of the Day Women Became Persons.
To my daughters this sounds crazy. "But we've ALWAYS been people, Mom," is their response.
It seems that so many of us who benefit from the brave work of the women who went before us seem to know very little of that work.
Historically, the British North America Act of 1876 claimed that women were not 'persons' as far as the law was concerned relating to property rights ownership, voting, and other rights enjoyed by men.
For years after this, despite challenges from women seeking public office, the right to own property, etc., women were still considered chattels. In other words, we were pretty much owned by the men in our lives - for better or for worse!
It wasn't until 1929 that the British Privy Council - Canada was still a member of the British Empire as the Declaration that led to the Commonwealth wasn't signed until 1931 - announced that women here were, indeed, persons with all the rights that entailed.
And yet, while we've 'come a long way, baby', we're still hitting the glass ceiling at work, finding ourselves earning less than men for the same jobs, finding it harder to get credit, doing the lion's share of childcare and housework...the list goes on.
So, while my daughters will hopefully never have to work in the women's lib groups that I did back in the 70's, or be turned down for a job or promotion because 'you might get pregnant and leave', or not be allowed to take out their own mortgages or have control of their own money, we've still a way to go to true equality.
And we must always remember the brave women throughout the world who stood and took the kicks and blows, who went on hunger strike, risked their lives protesting, or even threw themselves under the King's horses. For women in some nations, the brutality and inequity continues to this day.
By now you're probably wondering what got me into such a tizzy that I wanted to write about this.
Well, someone sent me the little essay below. It's mostly about the terrible treatment of suffragettes in the United States, but it's a story that has been played out in many other nations and a  history none of us should forget. We must guard our freedoms. I don't know who wrote it, but it carried a notice to feel free to share:

 The 83rd Anniversary of  Women as “Persons”…
 It is the story of women who were ground-breakers.
These brave women from the early 1900s made all the difference
 in the lives we all live today. It was not until 1920 that women    won  the right to go to the polls and vote. The women were innocent and defenseless but when, in 1917, women picketed in front of the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote, they were jailed.
And by the end of the first night in jail, those women 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’.

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.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed
her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold.

Her cell mate, 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 colourless slop -- was infested with
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.
 All women who have ever voted, have ever owned property, have ever enjoyed equal rights need to remember that women's rights had to  be fought for in Canada as well.
 Do our daughters, sisters, cousins and nieces know the price that
 was paid  to earn equal rights for women here, in North America?
 2012 is the  83rd Anniversary of the “Persons Case” in Canada which, finally, declared women in Canada to be “Persons”!

 Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on, at least to all the
 women you know, so  that we may remember to celebrate the rights that were won for all by these heroines .

 Knowledge is Freedom: hide it and it withers; share it, and it blooms.

If you want to read more about Canada's 'Famous Five' here are some links:
  • Emily Murphy
  • Henrietta Muir Edwards
  • Nellie McClung
  • Louise McKinney
  • Irene Parlby

  • Glenys O'Connell writes romantic suspense with strong heroines who are willing to fight for the things they believe in - whether it's truth, justice, or true love! You can read some excerpts of her work here 


    Jannine Gallant said...

    Wow, what a horror story to get something we all should have had from the start... Hmmm, maybe people should have to take some sort of test to see if they know the meaning of civility before they can vote, instead of worrying about what sex they are.

    Maddy said...

    Well that's certainly food for thought.