Sunday, August 22, 2010

Voting Is Mightier Than The Sword

"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.

5 comments:

Deb Amlen said...

Brava, Liz, well said. And that Gage quote always gives me a giggle, too.

Happy anniversary!

Joe K. said...

There is still much work ahead, Liz. The Texas school board -- which influences textbook content throughout the nation -- is aiming to trivialize (among other things) the struggle for women's suffrage:

http://blogs.clarionledger.com/jmitchell/2010/05/21/texas-school-board-changes-history-textbooks/

In a recent PBS special, even one conservative woman on that Texas school board was chagrined at the wording that men agreed to allow women to vote ... as if no struggle had taken place at all. (It's ironic that she was in favor of the board's agenda when she thought they were only going after "godless liberals").

Joanne said...

Ah i totally missed this holiday of sorts as well. It's crazy the things that we forget and take for granted. Thanks for reminding us of this! I'll be sure to think of it from now on whenever Lady Gaga comes on the radio (which is every five minutes).

Joon said...

according to the alice paul bio, "August 26 is now celebrated as Women's Equality Day in the United States." (i'd no idea!) so you're not too late.

thanks for the thoughtful post and the excellent links!

Elizabeth said...

@Deb, and isn't it interesting that GAGE and GAGA are only one letter off?

@Joe, thank you! Agreed, that there's a lot of work ahead. Good men, like the psychiatrist in Alice Paul's case, continue to play an important role in women's rights issues. (Blogs have changed the landscape for everyone -- no need to wait for the Establishment Media to publish anyone's thoughts.)

@Joanne, I like hearing Lady Gaga on the radio every 5 minutes . . . that means less Taylor Swift (what's that about??)

@joon, I wish I were quick with the puzzle pen; theme gestation is longer for me . . . I'm shooting for the 100th anniversary in 2020. See you then!