"Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity"
That was a psychiatrist's assessment of suffragist Alice Paul in 1917. Alice had been targeted by Woodrow Wilson and his friends who wanted the psychiatrist to declare her insane; if she were institutionalized, she'd be unable to fight (picket the White House, go on hunger strikes) for a woman's right to vote.
Much to President Wilson's chagrin, the psychiatrist did not declare the lady gaga.
This weekend my colleague and friend Deb Amlen sent me a wonderful email, similar to this one I'd seen a while ago. I was happy to be reminded of the 90th anniversary of a woman's right to vote, observed last Wednesday -- August 18.
But I feel ashamed -- the anniversary came and went, and I hadn't thought to make a puzzle commemorating this amazing event. What was I doing on the night of this anniversary? Celebrating Cousin Rick's birthday downtown, wildly dancing to a Lady Gaga play list . . . and taking my right to vote totally for granted.
I should know better. When my parents emigrated to the States, they took voting very seriously; voting hadn't been an option in their part of the world. And so, whenever I saw mom and dad leave the house dressed in their "Sunday Best" on a Tuesday -- I knew it was Election Day.
Puzzle-wise, the women's suffrage movement has fine representation in the form of short names -- CATT, MOTT, CADY, GAGE, PAUL, BURNS. They're nice puzzle fill words. Sturdy and utilitarian. Okay, okay . . . short fill words aren't very sexy. But these women put it all on the line. They're important.
CATT: Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters
MOTT: Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and regarded as the first "feminist"
CADY: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, principal author of the "Declaration of Sentiments"
GAGE: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Native American activist and editor of The National Citizen
PAUL: Alice Paul, original author of the proposed ERA to the Constitution in 1923
BURNS: Lucy Burns, editor of The Suffragist
These extraordinary women will pop up from time to time in crosswords (and more often from now on, if I can help it); they'll help you solve puzzles. And even if you've never solved a puzzle in your life, and never intend to (in other words, you're a normal, well-adjusted person) -- please remember these women.
Finally . . . in the 1880's, every edition of Matilda Joslyn Gage's The National Citizen was published with this adage: "The pen is mightier than the sword."
Inside feminist joke or . . . what?
Normal people (folks who think crosswords are stupid) might miss the inside joke. But puzzle folks familiar with partials will see a direct connection between Matilda Gage's suffragist humor and Lady Gaga.