Suffragists not snowflakes - courage not faintness of heart makes history.

by DR. ROBIN MCFEE August 29, 2017

"The best protection any woman can have... is courage"

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I wonder, as we approach the 97th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, if August 26th even holds significance anymore. How many women who voted, and who didn't vote, in the most recent presidential elections, appreciate the enormous sacrifices made to gain them a right that took generations of hard working people to achieve? And sacrifices were aplenty!

When we think of the movement granting voting rights to women Seneca Falls and the marches on Washington come to mind. However, if we look closer at our history, the sentiment for more equal treatment predates these events. Abigail Adams in a letter she wrote on 31 March 1776 encouraged her husband John and their contemporaries in the Continental Congress not to forget the nations women. In the letter she wrote " the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

It would take almost 150 years for her request to start taking shape, first in the form of the 19th Amendment. The vote was one of many hurdles women had to overcome. Property rights, university admission, job opportunities all would have to take their course through sustained efforts of visionary, courageous women and men. More than that, it took role models in every field, courageous pioneers who often had to overcome hardships to exemplify women had the capacity for great achievement. Consider Maria Mitchell - America's first woman astronomer of letters, who, atop a bank building on Nantucket was also the first woman to identify a new comet. Oh and this was before the Civil War! Indeed we have come a long way baby, and I am certain she would be both pleased at the progress women have made across performance cultures, and sorely disappointed at the trend towards snowflakism.

Dolly Madison did not need therapy when the Brits attacked. Neither did Abigail Adams. Somehow, if I could bring back from the grave all the remarkable role models I have named, they would go to campuses and demand women embrace challenge, allow discourse across the political and conversational spectrum, encouraging students to forge paths based upon what can be built, not what can be destroyed.

I am quite certain Anna Strong of Washington's spy ring, would take the snowflakes by the hand and ask them what do they fear in words that makes them cower or need therapy, or drives them to bully, physically intimidate and shout down their fellow students, especially their sister students, merely because of ideology. Where is the learning in that? Where is the concept of the great debate, a la Adams and Jefferson, or the Federalist debates, or Lincoln and Douglas?

August 26th is the anniversary of a hard-fought right many people - men and women - squander every local, state, and federal election cycle in the United States. Less than 7 out of 10 voted in the recent presidential elections. Local voter turnout is embarrassingly small in my county, and likely yours as well. Yet I wonder how many of our fellow citizens appreciate what most people across the planet cannot do - vote in free elections, or even have the opportunity to run for office. Moreover, I wonder what Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and similarly courageous women of conscience would think about contemporary society 2017. I wonder what my great, great, give or take a great, great aunt who also was a suffragist would say about the generations that followed.

The lyrics "you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone" hold true, today, and every day. Little by little, our rights are being eroded, and we are letting it happen without much pushback. Free speech - the bedrock of our entire national enterprise since 1776 - remains continually threatened in academia, on the airwaves, in the streets, in social media. Freedom of speech is one of the tools women used to obtain the vote. If the conventional and popular narrative in 1918, 1919, and 1920 had prevailed without dissenting voices, as is the trend today, where would women be? Freedom of speech cannot be free unless it is allowed to offend, and it is through the offenses that we might just learn something. Don't take it from me, take it from a Founding Father....Thomas Jefferson. who shared with me just the other day in Philadelphia that "truth does not fear discussion."

While "Iron Jawed Angels" was a Hollywood interpretation of the suffrage movement, much of the film nonetheless was based upon factual events. Quite frankly it was not always pleasant to watch - but that was the point of course to remind generations long removed from the 1910's and 1920's, that great achievements come from courage, suffering, and sacrifice. Force-feeding, and institutionalizing women who were the most vocal in the suffrage movement did occur.

It takes sacrifice to make change. It takes effort to make a difference. Yet our children are being denied the opportunity to learn about their history - the good, the bad, the harsh and the happy. How are they to appreciate what often is taken for granted, as if it has always been this way? Instead of lively, open debate, our college students are infantilized, and treated like snowflakes, manipulated for purposes not to the benefit of education. Topics that offend or make uncomfortable or are against the popular ‘norm' of academia are silenced and vilified, instead of discussed and perhaps even profited by.

In the current mob mentality of destroying history, we might well remember the exhortations of Santayana; by ignoring our past, we have few reminders of our brightest eras and capacity for darkest hours.

Our adolescents have a great capacity for good, for volunteerism; fostering their being a snowflake did not, cannot, and will not make the United States a better place. Snowflakes can, however, be rescued from the toxic indoctrination and insecurity their professors have imposed upon them. Snowflakes can be inspired to use their education for the greater good. It is not like there aren't good role models....

Suffrage and women's rights leaders like Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, sacrificers and pioneers of all generations such as Dolly and Abigail, Sophia Ripley, Margaret Fuller, the Rosie the Riveters, the WACs and WAVEs and WASPs, the 99's, Maria Mitchells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mildred McAfee, Elizabeth Blackwell and so many other unsung heroines we are only now discovering. These women, and countless men who supported their efforts helped make the near miracle called the United States the greatest nation in the world. America remains a place where people come for education, medicine, inspiration, innovation, opportunity, even asylum because we are more than just another member country of the United Nations. In essence, these folks come because we are a near miracle, flaws and all. Our nation was created by men and women of voice and courage who saw what could and must be created, not what by whim or mob mentality can be destroyed.

As an aside, I am pretty sure the Founding Mothers would be pleased with women run enterprises like FSM that allow discourse for the spectrum of voices. There need to be more women driven media outlets.

Name me one snowflake who is not a relative who has accomplished something that benefits others history will recognize in 50 years. Yet you can name people who history has and will recognize. For the greater good we must all strive to be one of those who history will smile upon as making a difference. There is much more work to be done. Who will do it? One thing is certain - the spirit of suffragists not snowflakes will build a better America. After all, courage not faintness of heart makes history.

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Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is a physician, and clinical toxicologist. As medical director of Threat Science - and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press    


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