We have come a long way in this country from our founding when we were being led by an exclusive group of white male landowners. There has been so much progress that accounts of how social conditions used to be can be quite jarring. In just my lifetime, we’ve gone from racism being an integral part of life in this country to an African-American president.
That includes women’s suffrage. I received one of those jarring reminders on this front recently in the following newsletter entry from Smithsonian magazine (August 27, 2016).
A Badge of Honor for Imprisoned Suffragists
These days, with a female candidate running for the nation’s highest office, it can be easy to forget how divided the nation once was over giving women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment went into effect 96 years ago this week, on August 26, 1920. But just three years earlier, activists endured taunts and physical violence as they stood outside the White House, holding signs that read, “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Their Liberty?”
Police made arrests, and 168 of these women, including protester Alice Paul, were taken to jail, where they were threatened with confinement in an insane asylum. When they tried to go on hunger strikes, they were painfully force-fed. The National Women’s Party later awarded these protesters silver “Jailed for Freedom” pins, designed by the political cartoonist Nina E. Allendar. Paul’s pin is now in the National Museum of American History. Resembling a prison door, with a heart-shaped padlock, it’s a reminder of just how much effort went into granting women a role in the democratic process.
So if you ever see a pin like this, cherish it. It means an awful lot to democracy.