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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suffrage owes its success to the West

Jan Polek The Spokesman-Review

I cringe whenever I hear that “women were given the right to vote” under the 19th Amendment of the Constitution.

The vote was not “given.” Women won the right to vote, and it was a long battle – 72 years, in fact.

Beginning in 1848, when suffrage was first proposed, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and others were tireless in their travels and efforts promoting women’s rights, especially in the West.

I think it is fair to say that without the support of the legislatures in Western states, the 19th amendment would not have been possible.

Suffrage is an exciting story of ingenious methods – all of them nonviolent. Alice Paul led women in picketing the White House, the first time that picketing of any sort was noted in the United States. In 1918, President Wilson endorsed suffrage, and we still wonder if it was because of the sight of women chained to the White House fence.

Finally, in June 1918, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which actually had been introduced every year since 1878, but never managed to get support from the 36 states needed to ratify it.

So women continued their work at the state level. Washington state ratified the amendment on March 20, 1920. The last state to ratify was Tennessee, where a young legislator voted – because his mother insisted – for suffrage. That one vote was all that was needed to add the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920 – 85 years ago this month!

Women voted for the first time that November. You may know women who voted in that election. It is hard to believe that Eleanor Roosevelt did not have the right to vote until then.

Spokane women invite you to celebrate voting: On Friday, Aug. 26th, the Spokane Women’s Coalition will host the Equality Day Potluck Picnic at 5 p.m. in Comstock Park. Music, door prizes and a formal proclamation are planned. Everyone is welcome!

Oprah meets Faulkner: Oprah stunned many literary critics when she announced her latest Book Club selection: “A Summer of Faulkner.”

It would include “As I Lay Dying,” for June; “The Sound and the Fury,” for July; and, fittingly, “Light in August,” for August.

J. M. Tyree in The Nation, (August 1, 2005) called the novels “uncompromising modern art whose distinguishing features were stream of consciousness, the juxtaposition of rarified language and Southern dialect, and multiple narrative perspectives.”

Oprah seems to be saying to her followers that these books are difficult, but you can do this, I will help you, and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t.

Among Oprah’s helpers are noted scholar Robert Hamblin, who is perfect for this role.

Oprah’s Book Club seems to be a thorn in the side of so-called experts who forget that she is a serious reader and has faith that a great many readers are “hungry for something more substantial than the usual fare of celebrity and ephemeral sensation.”

I just talked to my dear friend, Hilda Hill, who lived in New Albany, Miss. (Faulkner’s birthplace), and she and others are inviting Oprah to visit Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s homestead. If that does happen, I will be looking for traveling companions.

And the poetic note for today is one dear to my heart

(published many years ago)

Jenny Relates the Death of the First Grade Rat

The rat is dead,

no doubt about it.

Jenny says it shook lots

under the scraps of paper,

Wiggled its tail,

and got yellow in the eyes.

Frank, her brother,

demands more details.

My wife and I pick up our coffee

and move – as one – from the table.

-Dr. Fran Polek

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