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.
never have I imagined this outcome, not in million years. Yesterday I begun preparing carefully chosen groceries for the special procedure, in order to conserve them thoroughly for the winter months. Mother was in a jolly good mood sorting the vegetables one by one, her mind thriving under the pressure of these rehearsed, robotic repetitive tasks. The beauty was not in those actions but in her mind swirling to future feasts, family gatherings and friends visiting the house helping themselves to a salad after a meal. The future was upon us like a promised tide of memories to acquire, people to meet and tasks to fulfill. This morning it was brutally shuttered by the scared, intermittent speaker's voice. 'I cannot say anything to our nation but beware! Our best scientists have predicted this to happen, and they truly...have risen. Do not leave your houses! Arm yourselves! Stay safe, good people.'
He looked behind his shoulder and returned his head with a twitch in his eye. 'Always stay in a group! Always!' As he yelled the last words, the program abruptly stopped and TV screen became immediately filled with black and white dots; a phenomena humanity hasn't seen (I'm sure) since the 90's.
Can you imagine how we felt? What is to be expected, as the panic overtook each one of us in the living room, (we were all thinking the same, I presume) than that we shall all vanish swiftly on a random day, like the speaker from his program, leaving unrecognizable bloody dots mashed with the remains of our brains and torn pieces of cloth. Our nemesis will smash our heads and drink our brains up, then recklessly leave the unwanted remains on the pavement. They will not touch the winter stores laying on the shelves peacefully. The food we prepared for the day will be looked at, then coldly ignored along with everything I held dear in that house. Even you, dear diary.
If we are to vanish, I leave you as a testimonial of our last sane days, to stay here and be a torch of wisdom to whomever finds you and is still leading a battle we tried to win. If we, in fact, survive, you will remain an omen of this unexpected vicious turn of events no one quite thought would materialize in our ego-oriented world. Again, we have fallen in the trap of our own self-importance, as our ancestors did. No one is coming to save us; this is not a science fiction plot made to entertain our fancy; we are completely alone. Zombies have occupied the research centres in which we could actually construct a defense mechanism, and therefore have cut us out from any plausible and quick solution. The struggle will last and take every atom of strength and every thinking brain cell we've got. I hear a strong wind whirling around the house. Mother is looking at me with watered eyes. I've never seen her tremble like this. I am all she has now, and I've got to go to the basement to secure our doors.
Will write you tomorrow. I, for one, must believe so. Stay sane; if I fail to do so in the days to come, I will turn to you as my last bastion and beacon of light. You know I despise unnecessary, overly emotional outbursts. You can imagine how serious the situation truly and inescapably is. So long, and thank you.
As usual, Adelle was walking with a joyous air in her step down her street. It had been her street for 21 years already, but in the past couple of years it had changed dramatically. The municipality finally invested their preciously guarded money to fix the pavement, and to bring investors who will design new office building in the place of the ruinous houses. Those houses were there for her entire childhood, and she grew to accept that worn out, damaged look. As she moved towards the end of the street, she saw him. Leaning on the car parked on the right side of the pavement- their side.
"Well, hello miss, " he said with a grin that gave away his familiar contemptuous outlook on everyone around him. He greeted everyone on his daily routine of 'watching over' the neighborhood and waiting for his opportune moment. She never replied.
He hissed slightly trough his teeth, and pretending to be questioning the thought with a conscious effort, he raised his head upward, looking at the pale morning sky: "You know, you are a neighbor who never wanted to hang out with us, our gang. I was always wondering why that is". He piercingly looked at her seemingly expecting an answer. Why now, she thought, when he knew that she never replied to their overly friendly greetings. This morning he must've been in a tremendously satisfying mood since he had a nerve to walk up to her and get his face dangerously close to hers. "Will I, pretty please, get an answer this one time ?" She stood petrified for couple of perpetual seconds, her mind swirling with childhood traumas, many of which started in this neighborhood and because of them, specifically- because of him. The thoughts came in a tide, she was unable to stop them now. The mocking, the violence towards her schoolmates, bullying on daily bases after school, molesting her best friend's father for couple of bucks, shaking her father's car just to upset him and just because he could. He knew he could, we all knew he could and even the local police knew that (even though he would suffer an occasional beating, just to keep him civil; what an irony).
In an atypically deep voice she said: "You know what...I will answer you. No, really. You just wait for me in the courtyard around the corner". She said it calmly and assuredly, and he hadn't foreseen this obvious lack of fear in her first response to direct teasing.
He seemed confused but slightly content. "Alright, then. Huryyyy, " he grinned.
She turned away and begun to run so fast to her house (first one in the street), that when she got to the courtyard, she barely managed to catch her breath.
"So... "he started.
"O.k., just turn to Nery's shop, there's something I'd like to show you."
Memories flushed her again, this time more severely than ever. She heard the screams of that poor young soul (she never found out who she was) from this very yard. In the night the poor girl shrieked, yelled, cried out for help, in this courtyard surrounded with good, law-abiding neighbors. She yelled in vain while he raped her with that grin, she imagined, mercilessly. That demon from the street was never confronted until now.
"What am I looking at?" he said impatiently.
"You are not gonna look at anyone else, you freak!" she smiled coldly and stabbed him right in the neck, on the left side, where his skin was exposed significantly. The blade went in with all of the strength she had and he shockingly waved his arms around, trying to get the knife out. She foresaw this and took it out swiftly, and when he was trying to turn around and fell to his knees, bleeding like a pig on slaughter, she seized her chance to stab him again in the kidneys, and once more, and once more. For that girl, for the terror of the years and the normal childhood all of us will never get back.
As he tried to scream, she laughed triumphantly. Adelle knew that all of them locked in their houses will never get out an help him, thinking that he was just another of his own victims. Convenient as hell. She turned around on her heels, and proceeded to wash away the blood.