On Saturday the public is invited to hear a voice from the past, as women’s rights activist Alice Paul speaks about her work 100 years ago to secure the right to vote and the 19th Amendment.
Alice Paul is one of many women who spent decades working toward securing this right. There were those who wrote letters, those who protested and, as we’re reminded by the website A Mighty Girl (amightygirl.com), women who were beaten and tortured for standing up for the right to vote in America.
“Together with her friend and colleague Lucy Burns, Paul was determined to reignite the fight for a constitutional amendment granting women’s suffrage,” the A Mighty Girl staff posted on Aug. 20. “Their first major event, a suffrage parade held the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, received national attention when spectators in the largely male crowd attacked the marchers. Although over 100 women had to be hospitalized for injuries, the women refused to give up and completed the march. Historians credit the 1913 parade for inspiring a new wave of interest in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, especially among a new generation of activists.”
The book “Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote,” is one of many volumes in print about suffrage and the fight for women’s rights.
The right for half of our population to have a voice in democracy was won by years of activism, and not just for women’s rights. Preceding the 19th Amendment was a textile mill strike in Lawrence, Mass., in 1912. After a law cut mill workers' hours from 56 hours a week to 54, the workers learned their pay had also been reduced. The resulting strike is known as the Bread and Roses strike, referring to banners the workers carried that read, “We want bread, and roses, too.”
That slogan, according to Wikipedia, was a line in a speech given by American women’s suffrage activist Helen Todd (or, also according to Wikipedia, Rose Schneiderman gets the credit), which inspired a poem by James Oppenheim published in The American Magazine in 1911:
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
This Saturday, Aug. 29, first-person performer Irene Nielsen will take on the role of Alice Paul. This interactive program starts at 7 p.m. at the band shell in the Barton County Courthouse Square. The public is encouraged to bring lawn chairs to practice social distancing, and wear a mask. This program is sponsored by the Great Bend Public Library and the League of Women Voters of Great Bend.