Go ask Alice (Paul)

Women’s rights anniversary gets Meg Whitman’s detractors marching

Deborah Burger is a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association.
Marchers will meet at Thursday, August 26, at 3 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center and head to the Capitol for a 4 p.m. rally on its west steps. Many will attend in period attire. For more info about commemorating the anniversary of Congress enacting the 19th Amendement, see www.calnurses.org.

Sacramento Convention Center

1400 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 920-8655

It’s hard to imagine now, but for more than half of our nation’s history, women were denied the most symbolic of all democratic rights: the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, Congress finally enacted the 19th Amendment for women’s suffrage, an anniversary nurses and women and men from across California will come to Sacramento to honor this Thursday, August 26 (see column note).

Like other major reforms, Congress did not hand this over outright. For more than 70 years, women marched, went to jail, and often endured deplorable abuse and harassment.

It’s a history that is apparently lost on some today, such as former eBay CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman, who thinks she is entitled to be governor because of her wealth and rank, even after failing to vote for much of her adult life and ignoring the civil responsibility women struggled so hard to fulfill. “I was not as engaged in the political process as I should have been. I was doing lots of other things,” said Whitman in a March interview captured on YouTube.

Tell that to Alice Paul, who was sentenced to seven months in prison in 1917 for picketing outside the White House. Paul was put in the psychopathic ward, deprived of sleep and finally went on a 22-day hunger strike, after which doctors force-fed her, roughly shoving a tube down her nose and throat.

Or tell that to the 33 suffragists who were beaten, choked and battered in an infamous Night of Terror at Virginia’s Occoquan Workhouse in 1917.

Nurses were a common sight in the suffrage movement, typically linking the right to vote to other social reforms, including public-health programs, social services for the underprivileged, trade-union rights and peace. For the early nurse pioneers and many suffrage leaders as well, women’s votes and women’s values were inextricably linked.

It is these core values that are also at the heart of the nurses’ high-profile dispute with Whitman, who has declared war on registered nurses and the California Nurses Association after our “Queen Meg” parody of her pretension, her efforts to buy the governor’s office with unprecedented spending, her bullying of critics and the values she represents with pledges to:

• Cut 40,000 state jobs, creating new hardships for thousands of California families, just as she sent 40 percent of company jobs overseas as eBay CEO.

• Freeze regulatory protections her fellow CEO executives abhor, likely to include workplace-safety standards, clean-air and water rules, and other consumer-safety measures, just as she wants to suspend the new law to reduce greenhouse gases and the impact of climate change.

• Expand tax breaks for corporations and multimillionaires while pushing even deeper cuts in critical safety-net programs that will punish the most vulnerable Californians.

We’ll celebrate the legacy of the suffragists and protest Whitman who dishonors it. Join us.