Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists

A few months ago I recommended the film "Iron Jawed Angels" about the group of suffragists who were still fighting for the vote in 1920 when the 19th Amendment finally passed.  Inspired by that film, and by how little I remembered about the suffrage movement, I borrowed this book from the library.  It has taken me a little while to get to it, but now that I've read it, I really learned so much. 

Sisters not only lists the historical facts surrounding several important suffragists, but it also explores their personal lives and the influence that had on their work.  The most interesting section for me was the chapter about Alice Paul, likely due to "Iron Jawed Angels."  I was flabbergasted by the descriptions of the treatment Paul and her compatriots endured.  The suffragists were frequently arrested for their protests and denied legal counsel. 

November 17th, 1917, was dubbed "The Night of Terror" when a large group of women were arrested and taken to a workhouse in Virginia.  The superintendent threatened his prisoners with his walking stick, threw them down stairs, dragged them by their hair, and threatened sexual assault and straitjackets.  One woman vomited all night from a concussion.  In protest, the women began a hunger strike and were force fed via tubes shoved up their noses and down their throats.  All this was less than 100 years ago here in our own country.  Can you believe such a thing?  And were these terrorists threatening to murder thousands of innocent people?  No, they were women who peacefully protested not being allowed a voice in their own government.  Scary, isn't it? 

In 1920, women were finally granted the right to vote.  And what difference did this new constituency make in the history of our country?  Suddenly the concerns of women gained a higher priority.  In 1921, an act was established providing federal funding for doctors and public health nurses offering preventive health care to pregnant women and new mothers.  In 1922, women were granted equal citizenship with men until which a woman marrying a foreign national lost her American citizenship while the same was not true for men marrying non-citizens.  And in 1924, a child-labor law was sent for ratification. 

When women are given power, political or otherwise, they help themselves, each other and their children.  Women can be very powerful, we just have to stand up and speak out.  Women have had the right to vote in this country for less than a century and our rights can be taken away if we don't make good use of them.  Are you registered to vote?  Are your sisters?  Mothers?  Daughters?  Friends?  Register to vote today and utilize the right for which so many women have fought.  We can make a difference in this world. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Firefly Lane

This past summer, while we were in France, my book club carried on without me.  Can you imagine?  I was hoping to be able to keep up, but the one English bookshop in Cannes was sorely lacking.  One of the books that I missed was Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  After reading Winter Garden, I couldn't wait to catch up with this one. 

The story is about two teenage girls who meet in 1974 and their lifelong friendship.  Together they survive high school, college, births and deaths, marriage and long distance moves.  My favorite line from the book:  One of the girls, speaking of her mother, says, "She thinks eighteen-year-old boys are dangerous.  She calls them penises with hands and feet.  Now tell me that isn't lame."  Actually, I thought it was rather brilliant, but how do you convince a sixteen-year-old girl of that?

Ah, Retrospect, how wise you are. 

I read this book very quickly- a couple of days at the beach was just what I needed.  It held my attention and I really enjoyed following along with their lives.  Friendship can be such a powerful thing.  And a friendship that has lasted your entire life?  That is truly special.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

The official book club selection for April was Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  First, can we start with the cover?  I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but I just love the front of this book.  If you look closely enough, you see it is two coats and two hats hanging on a stand, but it's just such a sweet photo. 

Major Pettigrew is an older gentleman and a widower.  His unlikely friendship with a local shop owner and widow, Jasmina Ali, turns into more than he had ever expected.  Jasmina is such a wonderful character.  I loved her quick-witted replies and strength.  When the Major's obnoxious son makes a comment about Mrs. Ali being the Major's "lady friend," Jasmina responds with "I refuse to be referred to by a term so oily with double entendre.  I prefer 'lover.'"  And who couldn't love her? 

This was a lovely book and I truly enjoyed it.  Of course, I'm beginning to discover that I am a bit of an anglophile.  I love all things British- the accents, the manner of speech, the propriety.  I love it all.