As background research for my second novel, I have just re-read The Story of the Woman’s Party by Inez Haynes Irwin. The book is a first-hand account of the woman suffrage movement in the U.S., from 1913-1920, written by one who served on the National Woman’s Party advisory council. Irwin was an activist in the movement, as well as a writer,editor, and reporter, who lived with her husband in Europe for a time, while covering World War I.
If you are a lover of history, especially the history of women and empowerment, you can download The Story of the Woman’s Party from the link below and read the book in its entirety.
In the first chapter, Irwin describes Alice Paul as the architect, leader, political strategist, and mastermind behind the campaign to pass a federal amendment to the Constitution to grant suffrage to all women. When asked when she had been converted to suffrage, Paul, a Quaker by faith, said that she had believed in it all of her life. Alice Paul’s father is said to have commented, “When there is anything hard and disagreeable to be done, I bank on Alice.”
A graduate of Swarthmore College in 1905, she went on to University of Pennsylvania to earn an MA, in 1906, and a Ph.D in 1907. She studied sociology and economics at University of London and University of Birmingham, during which time she joined the Pankhurst movement for suffrage in the UK, working in the slums of London and attending the parliamentary protests, which resulted in her arrest, imprisonment, and participation in hunger strikes. She returned to the U.S. in 1912, determined to bring suffrage to the women of America. In December of that same year, she moved to Washington D.C., as chairman of the Congressional Committee, the political arm of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
Irwin sums up Paul’s contribution to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, as follows:
In the next eight years, this young woman was to bring into existence a new political Party of fifty thousand members. She was to raise over three-quarters of a million dollars. She was to establish a Headquarters in Washington that became the focus of the liberal forces of the country. She was to gather into her organization hundreds of devoted workers; some without pay and others with less pay than they could command at other work or with other organizations. She was to introduce into Suffrage agitation in the United States a policy which, though not new in the political arena, was new to Suffrage — the policy of holding the Party in power responsible. She was to institute a Suffrage campaign so swift, so intensive, so compelling — and at the same time so varied, interesting, and picturesque — that again and again it pushed the war-news out of the preferred position on the front pages of the newspapers of the United States. She was to see her party blaze a purple, white, and gold trail from the east to the west of the United States; and from the north to the south. She was to see the Susan B. Anthony Amendment pass first in the House and then the Senate. She was to see thirty-seven States ratify the Amendment in less than a year-and-a half thereafter. She was to see the President of the United States move from a position of what seemed definite opposition to the Suffrage cause to an open espousal of it; move slowly at first but with a progress which gradually accelerated until he, himself, obtained the last senatorial vote necessary to pass the Amendment.
Alice Paul organized a massive parade on the eve of the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, to kick off the campaign for the passage of a federal amendment to the Constitution to grant women the right to vote. The event was a spectacle that is said to have upstaged the inauguration itself. For a full description, see my former blog entitled Don’t Ever Underestimate the Power of a Woman. Don’t miss the link to the amazing pictorial album that Atlantic Monthly published in 2013, celebrating the hundred-year anniversary of the parade.
The Congressional Committee sent deputations to President Wilson to bring his attention to the urgency of woman suffrage. The president appeared not to be informed of the movement at first, but after multiple delegations visited him and asked for his support, he said that as party leader, he could not act on his personal beliefs, but could support the amendment only if the party endorsed it.
The committee then began automobile tours to collect suffrage petitions from all over the country. They convened in Hyattsville, Maryland on July 13, and motored in an elaborately orchestrated parade to Washington, where they presented the petitions to Congress.
From their work that year, the Congressional Committee determined a need for a fund raising arm targeted exclusively at passing a federal amendment, as the state associations were engaged in their own campaigns supporting state suffrage amendments. The Congressional Union was formed with the approval of NAWSA. The Washington headquarters on F Street would become a place for members to gather and work, when they came to the city on suffrage matters.
The Congressional Union resigned from NAWSA due to a 5% tax in dues on its budget. They offered to become an associate body but NAWSA refused. Consequently, the Congressional Union became an independent organization. The two organizations were generally supportive of one another, with some difference of opinion over the need for a federal amendment vs. state-by-state adoption.
When it became clear that the President and Congress were dragging their heels, the Congressional Union began to focus on a policy referred to as Holding the Party in Power Responsible. The Congressional Union channeled it’s efforts that year into implementing this policy, which Alice Paul outlined to the advisory committee of the Congressional Union, at their planning meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, August 29-30, 1914.
From the very beginning of our work in Washington, we have followed one consistent policy from which we have not departed a single moment. We began our work with the coming in of the present Congress and immediately went to the Party which was in control of the situation and asked it to act. We determined to get the Amendment through the Sixty-third Congress, or to make it very clear who had kept it from going through. Now, as has been shown, the Democrats have been in control of all branches of the Government and they are therefore responsible for the non-passage of our measure.
The point is first, who is our enemy and then, how shall that enemy be attacked? We are all, I think, agreed that it is the Democratic Party which is responsible for the blocking of the Suffrage Amendment. Again and again that Party has gone on record through the action of its leaders, its caucus and its committees so that an impregnable case has been built up against it. We now lay before you a plan to meet the present situation.
We propose going into the nine Suffrage States and appealing to the women to use their votes to secure the franchise for the women of the rest of the country. All of these years we have worked primarily in the States. Now the time has come, we believe, when we can really go into national politics and use the nearly four million votes that we have to win the vote for the rest of us. Now that we have four million voters, we need no longer continue to make our appeal simply to the men. The struggle in England has gotten down to a physical fight. Here our fight is simply a political one. The question is whether we are good enough politicians to take four million votes and organize them and use them so as to win the vote for the women who are still disfranchised.
We want to attempt to organize the women’s vote. Our plan is to go out to these nine States and there appeal to all the women voters to withdraw their support from the Democrats nationally until the Democratic Party nationally ceases to block Suffrage. We would issue an appeal signed by influential women of the East addressed to the women voters as a whole asking them to use their vote this one time in the national election against the Democratic Party throughout the whole nine States. Every one of these States, with one exception, is a doubtful State. Going back over a period of fourteen years, each State, except Utah, has supported first one Party and then another. Here are nine States which politicians are thinking about and in these nine States we have this great power. If we ask those women in the nine Suffrage States as a group to withhold their support from this Party as a group which is opposing us, it will mean that votes will be turned. Suppose the Party saw votes falling away all over the country because of their action on the Trust question — they would change their attitude on Trust legislation. If they see them falling away because of their attitude on Suffrage they will change their attitude on Suffrage. When we have once affected the result in a national election no Party will trifle with Suffrage any longer.
We, of course, are a little body to undertake this but we have to begin. We have not very much money; there are not many of us to go out against the great Democratic Party. Perhaps this time we won’t be able to do so very much, though I know we can do a great deal, but if the Party leaders see that some votes have been turned they will know that we have at least realized this power that we possess and they will know that by 1916 we will have it organized. The mere announcement of the fact that Suffragists of the East have gone out to the West with this appeal will be enough to make every man in Congress sit up and take notice.
This last week one Congressman from a Suffrage State came to us and asked us if we would write just one letter to say what he had done in Congress to help us. He said that one letter might determine the election in his district. This week the man who is running for the Senatorial election in another Suffrage State came to us and asked us to go out and help him in his State — asked us simply to announce that he had been our friend. Now if our help is valued to this extent, our opposition will be feared in like degree.
Our plan is this: To send at least two women to each of those nine States. We would put one woman at the center who would attend to the organizing, the publicity and the distribution of literature. We would have literature printed showing what the Democratic Party has done with regard to Suffrage in the Sixty-third Congress. We would have leaflets printed from the Eastern women appealing to the Western women for help, and we would have leaflets issued showing how much the enfranchised woman herself needs the Federal Amendment because most important matters are becoming national in their organization and can only be dealt with by national legislation. We could reach every home in every one of those nine States with our literature, without very great expense. One good woman at the center could make this message, this appeal from Eastern women, known to the whole State. The other worker would attend to the speaking and in six weeks could easily cover all the large towns of the State.
This is the plan that we are considering, and that we are hoping to put through. We would be very much interested to hear what you think about it and want, of course, to have your co-operation in carrying it through.
As a result of their campaign, the Congressional Union accomplished its goal of establishing a Constitutional amendment for woman suffrage as a permanent issue in the states where women could vote. Large numbers of women in suffrage states registered and voted for the first time. They voted for forty-five members of Congress. The Democratic Party ran forty-three candidates, all of which the Congressional Union opposed. Only twenty of the forty-three were elected.
January 12, the Susan B. Anthony resolution was debated in the U.S. House and voted upon and defeated the same day. President Wilson had made no mention of suffrage in his closing address to Congress on December 8, 1914; although he had recommended additional independence to the men of the Philippines. When confronted by a delegate from the Congressional Union, he stated his belief that suffrage must come state by state.
Alice Paul felt it was now time to construct a nation-wide organization which would focus solely upon the suffrage demand for a federal amendment. At a meeting of the Advisory Council in New York City on Wednesday, March 31, she outlined the plans for the coming year:
We want to organize in every State in the Union. We will begin this by holding in each State a Convention on the same lines as this Conference, at which we will explain our purposes, our plans, and our ideals. At each of these Conferences, the members will select a State Chairman, who will appoint a Chairman of each of the Congressional constituencies in her State. Each Convention will also adopt a plan of State organization, suited to the needs of their locality. Each Convention too will send Representatives to a culminating Convention of women voters, to be held at San Francisco during the course of the Panama-Pacific Exposition, on September 14th, 15th, and l6th. At this first Convention of women voters to be held on their own territory in behalf of the National Suffrage Amendment, delegates will be appointed to go to Washington, D.C., the week Congress opens, to lay before their Representatives and the leaders of the majority Party in Congress, the demand of women voters for the national enfranchisement of women. During the opening week in Congress, too, the pageant on the life of Susan B. Anthony, along the lines which Hazel Mackaye has just outlined to you, will be given. We want to make Woman Suffrage the dominant political issue from the moment Congress reconvenes. We want to have Congress open in the midst of a veritable Suffrage cyclone.
Inez Irwin concludes her account of this monumental effort on the part of the Congressional Union:
And so Alice Paul’s stupendous pageant whose stage was the entire United States — opened. The petition which the envoys were to carry across the country to Washington was, even when it left California, the largest ever signed in one place. It was 18,338 feet long, and contained 500,000 names. Very soon after the envoys started, President Wilson made his first declaration for Suffrage. He also went to New Jersey and voted for it.
The Congressional Union moved headquarters from F Street to the Cameron House at 21 Madison Street, which was situated just across Lafayette Square from the White House. It was frequently referred to as the “Little White House.”
In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee assigned the suffrage amendment to a subcommittee on January 8, which committee voted to report out on January 15. It was sent back to the sub committee to hold until December 14, almost a year away.
Alice Paul conceived a plan to organize an independent party around the suffrage issue and to convince the major parties that it would be politically dangerous not to place suffrage on the party platform in the 1916 national election. She shared her strategy at a conference, held at the Little White House April 8 and 9, 1916, and composed of national officers, state officers, and members of the Advisory Council of the Congressional Union from the unenfranchised States.
This is the third time we have called together the members of our Advisory Council and our state and national officers to lay before them a new project. The first time was at Newport when we proposed a campaign against all Democratic candidates for Congress in the Suffrage States. The second time was a year ago in New York when we proposed to convert the Congressional Union into a national organization with branches in the different States. Today we want to lay another plan before you for your consideration — that is the organization of a political Party of women voters who can go into this next election if it is necessary to go into it as an independent Party.
I think we are all agreed on certain essential points. First–from what source our opposition comes. We are agreed that it comes from the Administration. We do not have to prove that. Second — we are agreed as to where our power lies — that is in the Suffrage States. Third — we are agreed as to the political situation. We know that the two Parties are about equal, that both want to win. We know that the Suffrage States are doubtful States and that every one of those States is wanted by the political Parties. We know that many of the elections will be close. The State of Nevada was won by only forty votes in the last Senatorial election. In Utah it was a week before the campaign was decided. In Colorado, the same. Going back over a period of twenty years it would have been necessary to have changed only nine per cent of the total vote cast in the presidential elections in order to have thrown the election to the other Party. This gives, us a position of wonderful power, a position that we have never held before and that we cannot hope to hold again for at least four years, and which we may not hold then.
We have been working for two years to effect an organization in the Suffrage States and have finally completed such an organization. Our last branch was formed about ten days ago in the State of Washington. We now have to demonstrate to the Administration, to the majority Party in Congress, that the organization in the Suffrage States does exist and that it is a power to be feared. There are many months still remaining, probably, before Congress will adjourn. If in these months we can build up so strong an organization there that it really will be dangerous to oppose It, and if we can show Congress that we have such an organization, then we will have the matter in our hands.
We have sent a request to our branches in the East to select one or more representative women who will go out to the West and make a personal appeal to the women voters to stand by us even more loyally than they have before — to form a stronger organization than has ever before existed.Today we must consider what concrete plan we shall ask these envoys who go out to the West to propose to the voting women.
I do not think it will do very much good to go through the voting States and simply strengthen our Suffrage organizations. That will not be enough to terrify the men in Congress. Suffrage organizations, unfortunately, have come to stand for feebleness of action and supineness of spirit. What I want to propose is that when we go to these women voters we ask them to begin to organize an independent political Party that will be ready for the elections in November. They may not have to go into these elections. If they prepare diligently enough for the elections they won’t have to go into them. The threat will be enough.
We want to propose to you that we ask the women voters to come together in Chicago at the time that the Progressives and Republicans meet there in June, to decide how they will use these four million votes that women have, in the next election. Now, if women who are Republicans simply help the Republican Party, and if women who are Democrats help the Democratic Party, women’s votes will not count for much. But if the political Parties see before them a group of independent women voters who are standing together to use their vote to promote Suffrage, it will make Suffrage an issue — the women voters at once become a group which counts; whose votes are wanted.
The Parties will inevitably have to go to the women voters if the latter stand aloof and do not go to the existing political Parties. The political Parties will have to offer them the thing which will win their votes. To count in an election you do not have to be the biggest Party; you have to be simply an independent Party that will stand for one object and that cannot be diverted from that object. Four years ago there was launched a new Party, the Progressive Party. It really did, I suppose, decide the last Presidential election. We can be the same determining factor in this coming election. And if we can make Congress realize that we can be the determining factor, we won’t have to go into the election at all.
What I would like to propose, in short, is that we go to the women voters and ask them to hold a convention in Chicago the first week in June, and that we spend these next two months in preparation. We could not have a better opportunity for preparation than this trip of the envoys through every one of the Suffrage States, calling the women together to meet in Chicago, the place where the eyes of the whole country will be turned in June.
The members of the conference unanimously decided to send an appeal to all members in the Suffrage States to meet in Chicago on June 6 and 7, to form a Woman’s Party. Envoys to carry this appeal to the West were elected, and they departed Union Station on the Suffrage Special to deliver the message in person.
The launching of a Woman’s Party took place on July 6 at the Blackstone Theatre in Chicago, prior to the Conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. It was a mass convention of all members of the Congressional
Union to form a Woman’s Party, made up of enfranchised women of the eleven full Suffrage States, and of Illinois, where women could vote for President of the United States. There were two classes of delegates–members of the Union in the twelve suffrage states who were given the right to speak and vote in the convention; and members of the Union in the thirty-six unfree states, who were given the right to speak from the floor but not to vote.
Maud Younger, temporary Chairman of the Convention and keynote speaker said:
A new force marches on to the political field. For the first time in a Presidential election women are a factor to be reckoned with. Four years ago, women voted in six States —today in twelve, including Illinois. These States with their four million women constitute nearly one-fourth of the electoral college and more than one-third of the votes necessary to elect a President. With enough women organized in each State to hold the balance of power, the women’s votes may determine the Presidency of the United States. The Woman’s Party has no candidates and but one plank, the enfranchisement of the women of America through a Federal Amendment.
Wilson was re-elected under a party platform that endorsed suffrage, but on a state by state basis. It was evident to the leadership of the Congressional Union that, with four more years, the pressure was now off of the president to promote a federal suffrage amendment. Having exhausted every effort to convince him to act, they turned to a new strategy, that of picketing the White House. Alice Paul said: If a creditor stands before a man’s house all day long, demanding payment of his bill, the man must either remove the creditor or pay the bill. Inez Irwin describes the picket lines, which the Congressional Union referred to as the permanent delegation.
The first picket line appeared on January 10, 1917; the last, over a year and a half later. Between those dates, except when Congress was not in session, more than a thousand women held lettered banners, accompanied by the purple, white, and gold tri-colors, at the White House gates, or in front of the Capitol. They picketed every day of the week, except Sunday; in all kinds of weather, in rain and in sleet, in hail, and in snow. All varieties of women picketed : all races and religions; all cliques and classes; all professions and parties. Washington became accustomed to the dignified picture — the pickets moving with a solemn silence, always in a line that followed a crack in the pavement; always a banner’s length apart; taking their stand with a precision almost military; maintaining it with a modelessness almost statuesque.
Washington became accustomed also to the rainbow splash at the White House gates — “like trumpet calls,” somebody described the banners. Artists often spoke of the beauty of their massed color. In the daytime, those banners gilded by the sunlight were doubly brilliant, but at twilight the effect was transcendent. Everywhere the big, white lights — set in the parks on such low standards that they seemed strange, luminous blossoms, springing from the masses of emerald green shrubbery — filled the dusk with bluish-white splendor, and, made doubly colorful by this light, the long purple, white, and gold ribbon stood out against a background beautiful and appropriate; a mosaic on the gray of the White House pavement; the pen-and-ink blackness of the White House iron work; the bare, brown crisscross of the White House trees, and the chaste colonial simplicity of the White House itself.
March 2, 1917, the Woman’s Party and the Congressional Union combined into one organization, The National Woman’s Party.
April 7, the U.S. declared war on Germany. At this point the Woman’s Party received criticism for its refusal to combine the party goals with the war effort. Alice Paul argued that when women had been asked during the Civil War to abandon suffrage to work for the freeing of slaves and the preservation of the union, they had done so. The war had been won, and when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1870, it enfranchised only black men and had not included women. Women had waited patiently for over forty years to take their place as enfranchised citizens. They could no longer be deterred. Paul encouraged women to work for the war effort individually, but refused to allow the focus of the Woman’s party to stray from its sole purpose, which was to work for passage of a federal suffrage amendment.
The eyes of the world were turned on the White House, as diplomats came from every country to visit the President. The suffragists carried the President’s own words from his War Message of April 2 on their banners to make their case: WE SHALL FIGHT FOR THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE ALWAYS HELD NEAREST TO THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY: FOR THE RIGHT OF THOSE WHO SUBMIT TO AUTHORITY TO HAVE A VOICE IN THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS.
On June 20, President Wilson received the mission from the Russian Republic, which had recently granted suffrage to women. They were confronted at the White House gates with a large banner reading: PRESIDENT WILSON AND ENVOY SMOOT ARE DECEIVING RUSSIA. THEY SAY ” WE ARE A DEMOCRACY. HELP US WIN THE WAR SO THAT DEMOCRACIES MAY SURVIVE.”WE WOMEN OF AMERICA TELL YOU THAT AMERICA IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. TWENTY MILLION WOMEN ARE DENIED THE RIGHT TO VOTE. PRESIDENT WILSON IS THE CHIEF OPPONENT OF THEIR NATIONAL ENFRANCHISEMENT. HELP US MAKE THIS NATION REALLY FREE. TELL OUR GOVERNMENT THAT IT MUST LIBERATE ITS PEOPLE BEFORE IT CAN CLAIM FREE RUSSIA AS AN ALLY.
Some passersby took offense at the banners and began to seize them and tear them up. After this demonstration, the District of Columbia Chief of Police contacted Alice Paul and told her that any further pickets would result in arrest. Paul told him that if the pickets had been legal in January, they were legal in June, and that the picketing would go on.
On June 23, after five months of peaceful demonstrations, with no interference from the police, the first of the arrests began. The Woman’s Party followed the same picketing strategy throughout the period of public harassment and police arrests. Whenever a picketer was arrested, the team at Headquarters would send another volunteer to replace her; whenever a banner was taken or destroyed, another was sent out to replace it. In the early stages, the picketers were arrested and released. Later, they were made to stand trial, in which case they were given the option of paying a small fine or going to jail. In every instance, the women refused to pay the fine and chose the jail sentence.
On August 24, the most violent incident which occurred during the picketing took place. One of the women was carrying a banner with the words: KAISER WILSON, HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN YOUR SYMPATHY WITH THE POOR GERMANS BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT SELF-GOVERNING ?TWENTY MILLION AMERICAN WOMEN ARE NOT SELF-GOVERNING. TAKE THE BEAM OUT OF YOUR OWN EYE.
The following is Irwin’s account of this incident:
I do not remember when Elizabeth took this banner out, but I think she was on the four o’clock shift. For a half an hour people gathered about the banner. The crowd grew and grew. You felt there was something brewing in them, but what, you could not guess. Suddenly it came — a man dashed from the crowd and tore the banner down. Immediately, one after another, the other banners were torn down. As fast as this happened, the banner bearers went back to Headquarters; returned with tri-colors and reinforcements; took up their stations again. Finally the whole line of pickets, bannerless by this time, marched back to Headquarters.
The crowd, which was fast changing into a mob, followed us into Madison Place. As the pickets emerged again, the mob jumped them at the very doors of Cameron House, tore their banners away from them and destroyed them. By this time the mob, which had become a solid mass of people, choking the street and filling the park, had evolved a leader, a yeoman in uniform, who incited everybody about him to further work of destruction. Suddenly, as if by magic, a ladder appeared in their midst. A yeoman placed it against Cameron House, and accompanied by a little boy, he started up. He pulled down the tri-color of the Woman’s Party
which hung over the door. In the meantime, it was impossible for us to take any banners out. We locked the door, but two strange women, unknown to the Woman’s Party, came in. They opened a window on the second floor and were about to push the ladder, on which the sailor and the little boy still stood back into the
street when Ella Morton Dean drew them away.
At the other side of the house and at the same moment, another member of the crowd climbed up the balcony and pulled down the American flag which hung beside the tri-color. Immediately Virginia Arnold and Lucy Burns appeared on the balcony carrying, the one the Kaiser banner and the other the tri-color. The crowd began to throw eggs, tomatoes, and apples at them, but the two girls stood, Virginia Arnold white, Lucy Burns flushed, but — everybody who saw them comments on this — with a look of steady consecration, absolutely moveless, holding the tri-color which had never before been taken from its place over the door at Headquarters.
Suddenly a shot rang out from the crowd. A bullet went through a window of the second story, directly over the heads of two women who stood there — Ella Morton Dean and Georgiana Sturgess — and imbedded itself in the ceiling of the hall. The only man seen to have a revolver was a yeoman in uniform, who immediately ran up the street. By this time Elizabeth Stuyvesant had joined Lucy Burns and Virginia Arnold on the balcony; others also came. Three yeomen climbed up onto the balcony and wrested the tri-color banners from the girls. As one of these men climbed over the railing, he struck Georgiana Sturgess.
” Why did you do that ? ” she demanded, dumbfounded. The man paused a moment, apparently as amazed as she. ” I don’t know,” he answered; then he tore the banner out of her hands and descended the ladder. Lucy Bums, whose courage is physical as well as spiritual, held her banner until the last moment. It seemed as though she were going to be dragged over the railing of the balcony, but two of the yeomen managed to tear it from her hands before this occurred. New banners were brought to replace those that had disappeared.
While this was going on, Katherine Morey and I went out the back way of Headquarters, made our way to the White House gates, unfurled a Kaiser banner, and stood there for seventeen minutes unnoticed. There was a policeman standing beside each of us, but when the yeoman who had led the mob and who was apparently about to report for duty, tore at the banner, they did not interfere. We were dragged along the pavements, but the banner was finally destroyed.
By this time the crowd had thinned a little in front of Headquarters. The front door had been unlocked when we went back. Five different times, however, we and others, led always by Lucy Burns, made an effort to bear our banners to the White House gates again. Always, a little distance from Headquarters, we were beset by the mob and our banners destroyed.
About five o’clock, the police reserves appeared and cleared the street. Thereupon, every woman who had been on picket duty that day, bearing aloft the beautiful tri-color, went over to the White House gates, marched up and down the pavements three times. The police protected us until we started home. When,
however, our little procession crossed the street to the park, the crowd leaped upon us again, and again destroyed our banners. Madeline Watson was knocked down and kicked. Two men carried her into Headquarters.
While the crowd was milling its thickest before Headquarters, somebody said to a policeman standing there, ” Why don’t you arrest those men ? “
” Those are not our orders,” the policeman
Twenty-two lettered banners and fourteen tri-color flags were destroyed that day. During all the early evening, men were trying to climb over the back fence of the garden to get into Cameron House. None of us went to bed that night. We were afraid that something — we knew not what — might happen.
Judge Mullowny had initially ruled that the suffragists were obstructing traffic and that the banners had nothing to do with the case. Two months later, he determined that the banners were treasonable. The sentencing was inconsistent throughout the picket arrests, reflecting the frustration of the authorities in dealing with the suffragists. The sentences ranged from several days in prison to seven months in the county workhouse, with suspended sentences and pardons from the President occurring at random intervals. Over 150 women served time in Occoquan Workhouse,where the conditions were deplorable. The women demanded to be treated as political prisoners, and when that was denied, many went on hunger strikes and were force fed with tubes inserted into their throats.
While Alice Paul was in solitary confinement, she was visited by David Lawrence, a newspaper man with close ties to the Administration. Lawrence asked her what it would take to stop the pickets and if the suffragists would be satisfied if the amendment passed in the House in the current session, and in the Senate during the next session.
Paul told him that they would not be satisfied unless the amendment were passed by both houses in the current session. The reporter told her that the President would not mention suffrage in his address to Congress in December, and that the Prohibition amendment would likely pass, clearing the way for the suffrage amendment to be considered. He implied that it would be more difficult for the President to treat the suffragists as political prisoners than it would be to back the amendment; for if he granted that status to the suffragists, it would set a precedent for the multitude of war protesters who would also want to be treated as political prisoners.
On November 27 and 28, following the mysterious visit to Alice Paul, all of the suffragists were released from prison. The arrests were challenged by the suffragists and on March 4, 1918, the Appellate Court reversed the decision of the District Police Court, saying that all of the picketers had been illegally arrested, illegally convicted, and illegally imprisoned. The court ordered the cases dismissed and all costs to be paid by the Court of the District of Columbia.
True to David Lawrence’s prophesy, the President did not mention suffrage in his message to Congress; however, on January 9, 1918, the day the amendment was passed in the House, the President declared for the federal amendment.
In January, the Woman’s Party changed the locations of its headquarters from Madison Street, across the park, to Jackson Street.
With the passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in the House, the Woman’s Party threw its efforts behind passage in the Senate. On August 6, they began protesting the inaction of the Senate. The protests resulted in arrests and sentences to the Old District Workhouse, where they were denied status as political prisoners and began hunger strikes again.
On September 26, the suffrage amendment was introduced in the Senate.
September 30, the President requested that the amendment be passed as a war measure.
On October 1, the amendment was defeated in the Senate by two votes short of the required two-thirds majority.
Although the President had come out for the amendment, the Woman’s Party was convinced that his efforts were too little too late.
On November 11, World War I ended.
In December, the President left for the Paris Peace Conference.
The Woman’s Party adopted a new tactic to pressure for the passage of the amendment. Members would gather with copies of the president’s speeches and burn them in urns outside of the White House and other public buildings. More arrests took place and there were also counter-demonstrations. At one point, the suffragists burned the president in effigy.
In February and March, the Woman’s Party sponsored the “Prison Special,” which carried women who had served prison sentences for demonstrating, on a coast-to-coast tour. At every stop, the women would don their prison uniforms and speak on behalf of woman suffrage.
On President Wilson’s return from the peace conference, he landed in New York, where he gave an address at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 4. Suffragists demonstrated outside and were attacked by police, soldiers, and bystanders.
In May, the House again passed the suffrage amendment. In June, the Senate, which now had a Republican majority, passed the amendment by a vote of 66 to 30, two votes more than the required two-thirds.
Immediately upon the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alice Paul began planning a campaign for ratification in the states.
In June, the Republicans meeting in Chicago, rejected suffrage as a plank of their platform and the Woman’s Party picketed the convention. Members of the Woman’s Party attended the Democratic Convention in San Francisco, where ratification and a suffrage plank were included on their platform.
August 18, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment.
August 26, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment became law.
November 2, all women were eligible to vote for the first time in the presidential election.
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party turned their attention to eliminating other forms of gender discrimination. Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 and began working for its passage.