This is a guest article by Dan McNeil.
Every Movement Has Its Crazies…
Women had it tough in the 19th and early 20th century. Especially that whole child-birth thing, which wreaked havoc on a woman’s body.
In the old west, a woman typically lost one tooth per child. So by the time age 30 came around, she could look 60.
Maybe that’s why nobody smiles in the old timey photos.
City women had it bad, too. A husband with a factory job in New York City meant living in a crappy high-rise walkup, stuck in the apartment all day with sick or screaming kids. Naturally, any sane woman would turn the kids out to play as soon as they were old enough.
Fortunately, city streets were pretty safe back then. Kids even learned good work ethics and life lessons by joining popular neighborhood civic organizations like the Boy Scouts.
Ironically, in spite of all the old black and white footage you’ve seen of women marching in parades waving a suffragette banner, getting the vote wasn’t that big a deal to women.
In fact, the suffragette movement didn’t catch on till it allied itself with these guys.
In the early years of the suffragette movement, a movement leader would come to town, rent a small meeting room at the local hotel, and pass out flyers to get people to come hear a speech.
But few did. Often just four or five women, a couple of beta males, and a bored newspaper man.
Meanwhile however, down the hall in the big meeting rooms, raucous angry women could often be heard singing songs and stomping feet, practically tearing the paper off the walls.
These were the prohibitionists and they were the real deal. Meet Carry Nation.
Carry Nation, whose husband died an alcoholic, shouldered a beer barrel-sized grudge. After discussing things with God, she took to standing outside bars, singing hymns to patrons, and greeting bartenders with comments like, “Hello there, destroyer of men’s souls.”
Getting nowhere because snappy repartee like that always goes best with a cocktail, she decided to raise the ante. One evening she channeled her inner Atilla the Hun, walked into a bar with a couple of rocks, smashed a fifteen hundred dollar mirror, then broke everything in the bar she could get a hold of.
After she was released from jail, her bar-room rampages only escalated. She became more violent and more public, now smashing things with what would become her trademark, a hatchet.
In no time, Carry and her little hatchet were as famous as Kim Kardashian and her giant boobs. She even mailed out a monthly newsletter called—what else?——The Smasher’s Mail.
In no time, other smashing groups of angry choppy women were formed, such as the “Flying Squad Of Jesus”, a group of fifty women who terrorized bar owners and patrons along the Oklahoma-Kansas border.
All this violence–just to free themselves from the oppressive yoke of “the man”.
Sorry, but now I have to stand up for my gender.
Men had it tough too. Most worked hard six days a week. And sure, after work on Saturdays, many hit the bars. And sure, some few dolts arrived home drunk, broke, and beat their wives.
But most men didn’t live for guzzling beer. And they certainly didn’t abandon their wives and kids in the evening to march in silly parades carrying silly signs…
Beer-guzzling men aside, the women’s rights movement in America, though a bit rough at the edges with the likes of Carry Nation and the Flying Squad of Jesus, was actually quite tame compared to its counterpart in Britain.
The British establishment fought women’s suffrage hard, which resulted in screaming riots and rock-throwing melees involving many thousands of angry women and millions in property damage. Scores of suffragettes ended up doing jail time.
One passionate suffragette in particular, who endured considerable abuse in prison at the hands of her jailers, decided a slightly more militant approach to the problem was necessary.
Meet the elegant and demure Emily Davison.
Arrested nine times for unlady-like behavior—storming parliament and throwing firebombs— in jail she did what many of her sister suffragettes did to garner public sympathy. She staged a hunger strike.
Determined to prevent her from becoming a martyr while in their charge, the authorities pushed a rubber tube down her throat and force fed her—forty-nine times.
After several years of fighting for the cause, Emily was broke, in bad health, unemployable, and still desperate to make a difference. So she hatched a plan to seize the attention of the nation at the biggest media event of the year.
The Royal Derby was an annual horse race attended by hundreds of thousands, including the King and Queen of England, and every form of media extant in the year 1913.
The reason for what happened next is unclear even now, over a hundred years later. Did Emily intend to do what she did? Or was it an unintentional tragedy?
Decide for yourself. Click on the arrow below and watch the 25 second video. Incidentally, no animals or people were harmed in the filming of this event.
Click on the arrow below for a sad and quite poignant video of Emily’s life (7 minutes and excellent). No doubt she was a prickly character, and like all fanatics, not much fun to be around. But you had to give her credit.
She gave it everything she had, literally.
Shortly thereafter with the commencement of WWI, the British women’s movement went quiet as an act of patriotism. Finally, however, British women over 21 finally got the vote in 1928.
The USA wouldn’t enter the war for almost four years, so our women’s movement, hand in hand with the temperance movement would fight on. In January of 1919, the 18th amendment to the constitution passed and prohibition was the law of the land.
A year and a half later, August of 1920, the 19th amendment passed, and American women finally had the vote.