It would be hard to imagine the vote being more precious than it is today. Of course, the very term, “the vote,” we all know means the national vote. Americans are uplifted or dashed on the rocks every four years with their choices validated. All are casting about in an effort to be counted, to burst through invisibility, to be enfranchised.
Who treasures the vote more, we ask the unanswerable. What is the criteria of such a trophy. Standing in line seems to be one of the most revered demonstrations. Crossing the bridge in Selma, encircling the White House for months, marching, picketing, protesting. Sitting at the counter, lying on the ground, petitioning. But most of all, the ultimate sacrifice is death.
The lady on the white horse. Who is the lady on the white horse? Where did her story end? Inez Milholland died November 25, 1916. She is our St Joan. In 1913, leading 10,000 suffragists to the White House astride Grey Dawn she rode into danger so that women could vote. Known as the “beautiful suffragist, she gave herself over to the National Woman’s Party and to the cause. She could have been noted as the most educated, the most articulate, the most “Modern Woman,” but her value on the speaking trail was demonstrating that women who value the vote can be beautiful too. While on tour, speaking two or three times a day for months, she fell from the podium at Los Angeles Blanchard Hall, was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital and never left. She died 30 days later.
The provenance of the women’s vote, from 1845 to August 26, 1920 began with Quaker women meeting with the Iroquois and ended with a mother’s admonition to her son Harry, “Be a good boy.” Harry Burn delivered that last single whisper that collectively handed women their success. It can be no surprise that it was at the urging of a mother, of a woman whose admonition piled on to Abigail Adams’ rebuke to John, “remember the women.”
In the last decade of American suffrage, leading the charge for the vote was the militant, Alice Paul. She never regarded it as the goal, merely a “stone in the mosaic.” She cautioned that women would not use the vote for their own advancement. They would vote as their husbands or fathers told them, or possibly not at all. It explains her lifelong focus on a constitutional amendment, the ERA, to universally protect all Americans.
This week, we remain in the procession of women who have yet to ascend to full power, to wholly realize what America would look like with a woman at the helm. You can be sure that Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Inez Milholland dreamed of it too.
submitted by Zoe Nicholson