Suffragette reminds us how long women waited

Christabel Pankhurst, of suffragette fame, entering her car outside the New Alliance Club, Cavendish Square, London, on Feb. 18, 1936, for Buckingham Palace, to be invested by the King, unseen, with the insignia of Dame of the Order of the British Empire, for Public and Social Services.

Over dinner on a cruise ship nearing Cape Horn years ago, I listened in amazement as a British businessman ridiculed the British women’s suffrage movement, in front of his English wife.

It was the first time I had heard the name of Emmeline Pankhurst mentioned derisively by a 21st century male of any nationality.

My understanding of Mrs. Pankhurst and the movement she inspired was enriched considerably last Saturday when my wife and I saw the movie Suffragette. It tells the story of the British woman’s suffrage movement through the perspective of a laundry worker who is jailed for her activities and also loses her son.

The most dramatic element in the Pankhurst story is when a movement woman in 1913 threw herself in front of the racehorse owned by King George V at Epsom Downs. I had seen a photo of this calamity. In the movie, the contemporary newsreel of the sufragette’s funeral is shown in grainy black and white.

Sufragette is a reminder of what women went through to get the vote. At the close, there is a listing of when other countries gave women suffrage. France didn’t come until 1947. Switzerland not until 1973.

Western states gave women the right to vote well ahead of ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. An assortment is as follows: 1869, Territory of Wyoming; 1870, Utah Territory; 1910, Washington; 1912, Oregon.

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Tonight my wife and I will likely toast each other, because we are both veterans. She was an Army nurse and I was a Marine. We joke that it’s good we didn’t know each other then, because she was in the officer corps and I was in the enlisted ranks.

I was in Vietnam, and she saw what became of men who returned from the war. When she visits with young women who are considering nursing, she often says that it gave her a number of opportunities to do everything from obstetrics to administration to hospice. Her service in the desert of Fort Polk, Louisiana, was one of her more colorful adventures.

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November is an important month in the Columbia-Pacific region, because this week in 1805 is when Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery arrived here. This was their perilous time at Dismal Nitch, across the river from Astoria.

On Saturday, a few of us will mark our cult observance of Dismal Nitch Day. Led by the historian Jim Sayce, we will climb to a viewpoint where William Clark wrote that he looked downriver.

—S.A.F.

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