The Young Are At The Gates
The young are the gates indeed. With today’s inertia of demonstrations and protests, it might be helpful to look back at another time, one hundred years ago, to a different sort of movement. The women’s suffrage movement and read what one leader, by then an elderly woman, had to say about the reckless youth.
Lavinia Dock, “The Young Are At The Gates,” June 30, 1917
If any one says to me: “Why the picketing for Suffrage?” I should say in reply, “Why the fearless spirit of youth? Why does it exist and make itself manifest?” Is it not really that our whole social world would be likely to harden and toughen into a dreary mass of conventional negations and forbiddances–into hopeless layers of conformity and caste, did not the irrepressible energy and animation of youth, when joined to the clear-eyed sham-hating intelligence of the young, break up the dull masses and set a new pace for laggards to follow?
What is the potent spirit of youth? Is it not the spirit of revolt, of rebellion against senseless and useless and deadening things? Most of all, against injustice, which is of all stupid things the stupidest?
Surely, nothing but the creeping paralysis of mental old age can account for the phenomenon of American men, law-makers, officials, administrators, and guardians of the peace, who can see nothing in the intrepid young pickets with their banners, asking for bare justice…
Such thoughts come to one in looking over the field of the Suffrage campaign and watching the pickets at the White House and at the Capitol, where sit the men who complacently enjoy the rights they deny to the women at their gates. Surely, nothing but the creeping paralysis of mental old age can account for the phenomenon of American men, law-makers, officials, administrators, and guardians of the peace, who can see nothing in the intrepid young pickets with their banners, asking for bare justice but common obstructors of traffic, nagger’-nuisances that are to be abolished by passing stupid laws forbidding and repressing to add to the old junk-heap of laws which forbid and repress?
Can it be possible that any brain cells not totally crystallized could imagine that giving a stone instead of bread would answer conclusively the demand of the women who, because they are young, fearless, eager, and rebellious, are fighting and winning a cause for all women–even for those who are timid, conventional, and inert?
A fatal error–a losing fight. The old stiff minds must give way. The old selfish minds must go. Obstructive reactionaries must move on. The young are at the gates!
— Lavinia Dock
Lavinia Dock was born February 26, 1858 to a wealthy family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While she had no need to work due to her family wealth, when she was 26, she read an article in Century magazine about the Bellevue Hospital Nursing School in New York City and she decided to become a registered nurse.
Over the course of her career as a nurse, feminist, author, pioneer in nursing education and social activist, she was the assistant superintendent at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and wrote a four-volume history of nursing which was used for many years, as a nursing manual of drugs.
After her retirement from nursing, she began to actively campaign for women’s suffrage, being arrested many times, and helped to lead protests that ultimately led to the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.