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Striking back at an 'empire'

December 02, 2007

Re "The 'empire' tag," Opinion, Nov. 27

So "women got the vote largely thanks to World War I"? That would have been news to the generations of women who had been fighting to get the right to vote for almost a century by then. Certainly women's participation in the war effort managed to win hearts and minds. But in the United States, women's suffrage had successfully taken hold in 1869 in Wyoming. California's women won their right to vote in state elections in 1911. Attitudes and laws about women's right to vote were shifting before the conflict in Europe began.

Once the U.S. entered the war in 1917, suffragettes were told to cease campaigning for a constitutional amendment lest they look "unpatriotic." Many refused and picketed in front of the White House. For this, women were arrested and jailed, and some were force-fed. It was the embarrassing negative publicity about these arrests, combined with growing pro-suffrage sentiment and the looming 1920 general election, that shifted a reluctant Woodrow Wilson into the pro-suffrage camp.

Women did not "get" the right to vote. They fought for it. Thankfully, they won.

Eileen V. Wallis

Assistant Professor of History

Cal Poly Pomona

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Of course Jonah Goldberg is at peace with the notion of an American empire. It's easy to be at peace with something you know you won't be called on to defend -- other than rhetorically, while sitting on your keister and pecking away at a keyboard, that is.

Russell A. Burgos

Thousand Oaks

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Goldberg advises us to look to the Spanish-American War as a time when we really were an empire, but he doesn't mention that the lingering effects of that colonial land grab are still very much with us. We were in the Philippines for almost 100 years (finally exiting in 1992), and left only after anti-American riots.

But of more relevance regarding that same war, Cuba has been asking the U.S. to leave its colonial base at Guantanamo Bay for 50 years. Even the Bush administration admits that Cuba has sovereignty there, if only because it wants to keep the Guantanamo prisoners from the rights enjoyed in U.S. courts.

When Goldberg argues that "Anglo-American culture is uniquely well-suited toward globalism, military success, capitalism and liberty," much of the world would interpret that patently racist comment as nothing more than a 21st century version of "The wogs begin at Calais."

Jim Ryerson

Los Angeles

The writer is a documentary film producer specializing on Cuba, which he's visited more than 30 times.

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