The Day Thinking About Washing the Dishes Became Great Fun!!!

by Regina M. Edmonds
Audience at "Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire"
Audience at "Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire"

All in attendance at the November 7, 2013 performance of the one-woman show, Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire, enjoyed a spirited "rant" against giving women the right to vote. The play, written more than 100 years earlier in 1912 by Marie Jenney Howe, a strong advocate for a woman's right to vote, was performed to an enthusiastic audience in the packed Blue Room of the Student Center at Worcester State University. The play was brought to life and to us courtesy of The East Lynne Theater Company, a professional group dedicated to bringing forward the voices of those writing in both the near and distant past. The play's star performer, Michèle LaRue, a Midwesterner by birth, currently lives in New Jersey - just across the water from the bright lights of New York City's Broadway where she frequently performs. LaRue specializes in performances based on the writings of passionate women from the late 19th and early 20th centuries who addressed in their work the ongoing struggles for equality that women faced in those times. In addition to her inspired interpretation of the humorous parody of the arguments against women's suffrage highlighted in Someone Must Wash the Dishes, LaRue has also performed, among other classic works, the darker story based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman's powerful writing of The Yellow-Wallpaper which chronicles a woman's descent into insanity due to her confinement in a small room, under-going what was known as the "rest cure" for the "hysterical symptoms" she manifested after the birth of her first child.

LaRue's enjoyable performance of Someone Must Wash the Dishes, which was co-sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project and the Intergenerational Urban Institute of Worcester State University, highlighted the ways in which the arguments against women's suffrage were nearly impossible to counter because reasons in complete contradiction with one another were passionately put forward, often in the same breath, by men and sometimes women opposed to a woman's right to vote. In the play, LaRue's flighty and distracted character called these opposing arguments "couplets" and had everyone in stitches as she chronicled for the audience some of these contradictory couplets, such as "Women should not have the right to vote because they will simply follow whatever their husbands tell them to do, thus rendering their vote meaningless" coupled with, "Women should not have the right to vote because they will, simply out of spite, vote in the opposite way their husbands tell them to, thus cancelling out his vote and making both their votes meaningless." Hence if a woman followed her husband's ideas on voting or did not follow her husband's ideas, her vote would be useless in either case!!! Sub-sequent to the dramatic dimensions of the evening's performance, LaRue gave the audience a fascinating and detailed history of the period depicted in the play along with some background on the play's author, Marie Jenney Howe, and her work to further the cause of women's rights during her lifetime.

Another marvelous element of the night's activities was a spirited panel discussion entitled The Unfinished Business of Women's Rights which followed LaRue's performance and lecture. The outstanding speakers who comprised the panel were Lee Bona, President of the League of Women Voters of the Worcester Area; Parlee Jones, Shelter Advocate at Abby's House; and Chantel Bethea, President of Women in Action, Inc. and the current chair of the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women for Worcester. The panel was moderated by Heather-Lyn Haley, past president of the WWHP and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMASS Medical School. Heather-Lyn's thought-provoking questions sparked a very lively discussion both among the panelists and within many audience participants. There was so much energy in the room - generated both by the passion and insights of the panelists and also when Grace Ross, a frequent candidate for public office and a strong advocate for policies informed by a social justice perspective, spoke from the audience and when Kathleen Walker from Charlton, MA rallied all in the room, especially retirees, to re-engage in public policy debates and to advocate for more progressive political agendas everywhere.

Orchestrating such a successful event took the coordination of many different organizations and the dedication of a great group of women. The WWHP would like to especially thank Maureen Power and Fran Langille for making possible the event's co-sponsorship by the Intergenerational Urban Institute at Worcester State University, Dianne Bruce, current president of the WWHP, Heather-Lyn Haley, former president, and most particularly Louise Gleason for bringing Michèle LaRue to the attention of the WWHP Steering Committee and for handling more details than I can even imagine with respect to all aspects of bringing this fine actress to Worcester and in organizing a successful raffle at the event. And of course, our thanks always go out to Nancy Avila, Executive Assistant to the WWHP, who keeps us all on track with our many exciting initiatives, and to all members of the WWHP family who helped out at the event and/or showed their support by attending and participating. And one other piece of great news – the performance was not only a creative success but also a financial one!!!! What a great evening it was!!!!

Comments from the audience:

Terrific panel and discussion after the play tonight. thanks again to Parlee Jones, Chantel Berthea and Lee bona for their insight and passion. I'm continually amazed at the quality of audience participation at WWHP events. There's some real sharing across generations and a restless spirit in the air. We can accomplish so much working together! 

THANKS to all who brought Michele LaRue to WWHP last night. The enactment, explanations, panel, and audience comments raised lots of hopes for more - more community, more participation, more "Take Up the song." - Betty Hoskins

Published Date: 
February 13, 2014