The Silenced Voice
Stanton and Anthony went out of the country together after the failure to achieve the voting rights for women. The NAWSA fell apart shortly, seeing no point in continuing the struggle after being so harshly ridiculed by the members of the Congress. Whether they reluctantly denied us our rights is truly beside the point, although the evidence seems to confirm that there was some form of blackmail involved. We will never know now, will we? The women’s suffrage movement has suffered a blow from which it is almost impossible to recuperate. Where did it go wrong?
That seems like a fair question. In the last two decades of the 19th century, that was the most frequent topic in all social gatherings attended largely by women. As a former activist, there was hardly much to do anymore, therefore I have often graced them with my presence and soon felt sick from the hypocrisy, apathy and general lack of the sense of urgency. What were their pretty little heads thinking, I wondered. I’ve watched them stroll around in their daily dresses attempting to put on a brave smile, whilst the light in their eyes faded...and faded ever more. To get so close and get denied, that might be worse than not attempting to reach it at all, one might say. Not because it is not noble to strive for the rights you know are yours- it surely is, but rather because the defeat is that much more devastating when you are unable to walk the last couple of steps and when the sweetest dream is interrupted before its conclusion by the person on a train sitting next to you to inform you of the approaching station; station that is not even yours. How helpless would you feel, my friend? Just enough to continue your life all the while the regret takes you away from your suffering sisters of yesterday and gradually eats the core of your restless being. The question was not answered, and consequently, that is what has happened to us.
There were some rumors, oh, there always are. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has been drafting a document, apparently to be named ‘Declaration of Rights and Sentiments’ but the unnamed and peculiar disease of the soul has prevented her, women often mentioned the name: melancholia. Some of the men in power laughed for days when they heard of this. One reportedly said: ‘What in God’s name is that? A poor excuse, I tell you. That is precisely why women are, and rightly so, a weaker sex. Apart from my mother, she is an exception above all exceptions. A fine president she would be. Do not tell her of this’, then a long laughter followed. The other said: ‘Yes, this was my opinion as well. Always excuses, gentlemen. They are wasting our time! They do not wish to vote or dare I say, work at all, only to reap the benefits. Same old, same old’, and couple of others nodded. The third said: ‘I must agree with the general opinion. Again, except for my mother and my wife; both well-educated, accomplished women. But they must remain ladies above all’. Thus, the conversation stopped and was never seriously continued afterwards. We will never know if the said Stanton’s document would have changed a thing. I shall not take it as an excuse, not after what has been said. Therefore, I will tell you swiftly how these last few decades looked like and felt for me. One must save the precious time of others.
The turn of the century saw the need for more industrial workers, but the women refused to get involved in any sort of labor. They felt they would not be equally valued and would be exploited even worse than the children workers. Once bitten, twice shy; and rightfully so. With the World War I around the corner, the volunteering help that was indeed, greatly needed, attracted no desire of women to participate. They turned to their hobbies even more stubbornly, trying to revive the almost forgotten 19th century virtues of the so called ‘accomplished lady’. There was a rising number of women (some even mothers) who fled their families leaving everything behind to seek a new beginning overseas. Some took their children with them on exhausting journeys into the unknown. New Zealand, a British colony and the first one to give women the voting rights, was the most popular choice and was beginning to thrive economically after enabling women to enter the work force. I have thought about it on numerous occasions, I will not lie. Only one thing has stopped me. I sensed a change on the horizon.
But firstly, let me finish my tale. After the Great War ended a fraction of suffragettes appeared and those were the activists that could not accept their fate and they grew extremely violent. They sought help from different sources, even from some of the Italian mafia families (of whose deeds is still not much known) and formed their own secretive groups. Some of the more influential women organized a financial help for them, mainly to stop a new rising trend. Those were the women that refused to marry. Who would tolerate such scandalous behavior, they whispered. These women saw no benefit in being treated as their mothers were and have decided that the best action is, well, the absence of action. They swore to never leave their family homes and let me tell you frankly, many were not pleased with this. Additionally, the number of female suicides shot up. As the country prospered in the 1920s, there was hardly anyone in the mood to celebrate. Parties organized by many great men went almost unattended by women. A sorry sight it was and nothing to be remembered. As both male and female spirits went down, we all felt some change ought to come.
The society feels it stronger now with the new war at sight. I am not in my youth anymore, but I will be reborn on the day we succeed to bring our dreams to life. It will happen, I am certain, since there is no way anymore but forward. After all, we, the women, want to serve our nation with our minds, our working hands and our ready hearts. Most of us do not wish for the violence on the streets no more than to see our companions unhappy, but we are desperate for our voices to be heard. Silenced voices of the past, they cannot be neglected no more; for if we should keep strolling this way we are headed with all certainty in our empty places nothing shall remain but the dead, murderous silence.