Rock the vote.

I am hard-core when it comes to a few things. I hate pickles and mustard. I fantasize about rear-ending cars with anti-choice bumperstickers. And I am constantly annoyed with e-mail forwards.

Yes, I am great fun at parties.

However, I received an e-mail forward that is timely, eye-opening, and TRUE.

Yeah, I know – I didn’t know they existed, either. I’m still waiting for all the bad luck that’s supposed to come my way since I have broken every chain letter I’ve ever received.

I checked it out on and even our dear Library of Congress. And even though I don’t want to believe it, I can’t deny it. And I’m humbled by it.

This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women. Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized.

And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

In this day and age, it doesn’t take much courage to leave the house an hour early or take a different bus so you can vote. Get an absentee ballot and vote now. Make sure your elderly neighbors have a way to get to the polls. Don’t let the weather or a sick kid or a stupid work deadline get in your way.

Plan now. This is a priority. This is a privilege.

And now I’ll step off my soapbox and tomorrow we’ll return to our regularly-scheduled drivel. Next: I dish on the world’s best sandwich!

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