Jailed for Freedom
Part 3 out of 8
guilty of any offence, not even of infringing a police
regulation. We know full well that we stand here because the
President of the United States refuses to give liberty to
American women. We believe, your Honor, that the wrong persons
are before the bar in this Court . . . ."
"I object, your Honor, to this woman making such a statement here
in Court," says the District Attorney.
"We believe the President is the guilty one and that we are
"Your Honor, I object," shouts the Government's attorney.
The prisoner continues calmly: "There are votes enough and there
is time enough to pass the national suffrage amendment through
Congress at this session. More than 200 votes in the House and
more than 50 in the Senate are pledged to this amendment. The
President puts his power behind all measures in which he takes a
genuine interest. If he will say one
frank word advocating this measure it will pass as a piece of war
Mrs. Florence Bayard Hilles speaks in her own defense: "For
generations the men of my family have given their services to
their country. For myself, my training from childhood has been
with a father who believed in democracy and who belonged to the
Democratic Party. By inheritance and connection I am a Democrat,
and to a Democratic President I went with my appeal . . . . What
a spectacle it must be to the thinking people of this country to
see us urged to go to war for democracy in a foreign land, and to
see women thrown into prison who plead for that same cause at
"I stand here to affirm my innocence of the charge against me.
This court has not proven that I obstructed traffic. My presence
at the White House gate was under the constitutional right of
petitioning the government for freedom or for any other cause.
During the months of January, February, March, April and May
picketing was legal. In June it suddenly becomes illegal . . . .
"My services as an American woman are being conscripted by order
of the President of the United States to help win the world war
for democracy . . . . `for the right of those who submit to
authority to have a voice in their own government.' I shall
continue to plead for the political liberty of American women-and
especially do I plead to the President, since he is the one
person who . . . can end the struggles of American women to take
their proper places in a true democracy."
There is continuous objection from the prosecutor, eager advice
from the judge, "you had better keep to the charge of obstructing
traffic" But round on round of applause comes from the intent
audience, whenever a defiant note is struck by the prisoners, and
in spite of the sharp rapping of the gavel confusion reigns. And
how utterly puny the "charge" is! If it were true that the
prisoners actually obstructed the traffic,
how grotesque that would be. The importance of their demand, the
purity of their reasoning, the nobility and gentle quality of the
prisoners at the bar; all conspire to make the charge against
them, and the attorney who makes it, and the judge who hears it,
petty and ridiculous.
But justice must proceed.
Mrs. Gilson Gardner of Washington, D. C., a member of the
Executive Committee of the National Woman's party, and the wife
of Gilson Gardner, a well-known Liberal and journalist, speaks:
"It is impossible for me to believe that we were arrested
because we were obstructing traffic or blocking the public high-
"We have been carrying on activities of a distinctly political
nature, and these political activities have seemingly disturbed
certain powerful influences. Arrests followed. I submit that
these arrests are purely political and that the charge of an
unlawful assemblage and of obstructing traffic is a political
subterfuge. Even should I be sent to jail which, I could not,
your Honor, anticipate, I would be in jail, not because I
obstructed traffic, but because I have offended politically,
because I have demanded of this government freedom for women."
It was my task to sum up for the defense. The judge sat bored
through my statement. "We know and I believe the Court knows
also," I said, "that President Wilson and his Administration are
responsible for our being here to-day. It is a fact that they
gave the orders which caused our arrest and appearance before
"We know and you know, that the District Commissioners are
appointed by the President, that the present commissioners were
appointed by President Wilson. We know that you, your Honor, were
appointed to the bench by President Wilson, and that the district
attorney who prosecutes us was appointed by the President. These
various officers would not dare bring us
here under these false charges without the policy having been
decided upon by the responsible leaders.
"What is our real crime? What have these distinguished and
liberty-loving women done to bring them before this court of
justice? Why, your Honor, their crime is that they peacefully
petitioned the President of the United States for liberty. What
must be the shame of our nation before the world when it becomes
known that here we throw women into jail who love liberty and
attempt to peacefully petition the President for it? These women
are nearly all descended from revolutionary ancestors or from
some of the greatest libertarian statesmen this country has
produced. What would these men say now if they could see that
passion for liberty which was in their own hearts rewarded in the
twentieth century with foul and filthy imprisonment!
"We say to you, this outrageous policy of stupid and brutal
punishment will not dampen the ardor of the women. Where sixteen
of us face your judgment to-day there will be sixty tomorrow, so
great will be the indignation of our colleagues in this fight."
The trial came to an end after a tense two days. The packed
court-room fat in a terrible silence awaiting the judge's answer.
There were distinguished men present at the trial-men who also
fight for their ideals. There was Frederic C. Howe, then
Commissioner of Immigration of the Port of New York, Frank P.
Walsh, International labor leader, Dudley Field Malone, then
Collector of the Port of New York, Amos Pinchot, liberal leader,
John A. H. Hopkins, then liberal-progressive leader in New Jersey
who had turned his organization to the support of the President
and become a member of the President's Campaign Committee, now
chairman of the Committee of Fortyeight and whose beautiful wife
was among the prisoners, Allen McCurdy, secretary of the
Committee of Forty-eight and many
others. One and all came forward to protest to us during the
adjournment. "This is monstrous." . . . "Never have I seen
evidence so disregarded." . . . "This is a tragic farce" . . .
"He will never dare sentence you."
It was reported to us that the judge used the interim to
telephone to the District building, where the District
Commissioners sit. He returned to pronounce, "Sixty days in the
workhouse in default of a twenty-five dollar fine."
The shock was swift and certain to all the spectators. We would
not of course pay the unjust fine imposed, for we were not guilty
of any offense.
The judge attempted persuasion. "You had better decide to pay
your fines," he ventured. And "you will not find jail a pleasant
place to be." It was clear that neither he nor his confreres had
imagined women would accept with equanimity so drastic a
sentence. It was now their time to be shocked. Here were
"ladies"-that was perfectly clear-"ladies" of unusual
distinction. Surely they would not face the humiliation of a
workhouse sentence which involved not only imprisonment but penal
servitude! The Administration was wrong again.
"We protest against this unjust sentence and conviction," we
said, "but we prefer the workhouse to the payment of a fine
imposed for an offense of which we are not guilty." We filed into
the "pen," to join the other prisoners, and wait for the "black
maria" to carry us to prison.
We are all taken to the District Jail, where we are put through
the regular catechism: "Were you ever in prison before?-Age-
birthplace-father-mother-religion and what not?" We are then
locked up,-two to a cell. What will happen next?
The sleek jailer, whose attempt to be cordial provokes a certain
distrust, comes to our corridor to "turn us over" to our next
keeper-the warden of Occoquan. We learn that the
workhouse is not situated in the District of Columbia but in
Other locked wagons with tiny windows up near the driver now take
us, side by side with drunks and disorderlies, prostitutes and
thieves, to the Pennsylvania Station. Here we embark for the
unknown terrors of the workhouse, filing through crowds at the
station, driven on by our "keeper," who resembles Simon Legree,
with his long stick and his pushing and shoving to hurry us
along. The crowd is quick to realize that we are prisoners,
because of our associates. Friends try to bid us a last farewell
and slip us a sweet or fruit, as we are rushed through the iron
station gates to the train.
Warden Whittaker is our keeper, thin and old, with a cruel mouth,
brutal eyes and a sinister birthmark on his temple. He guards
very anxiously his "dangerous criminals" lest they
try to leap out of the train to freedom! We chat a little and
attempt to relax from the strain that we have endured since
Saturday. It is now late in the afternoon of Tuesday.
The dusk is gathering. It is almost totally dark when we alight
at a tiny station in what seems to us a wilderness. It is a
deserted country. Even the gayest member of the party, I am sure,
was struck with a little terror here.
More locked wagons, blacker than the dusk, awaited us. The prison
van jolted and bumped along the rocky and hilly
road. A cluster of lights twinkled beyond the last hill, and we
knew that we were coming to our temporary summer residence. I can
still see the long thin line of black poplars against the
smoldering afterglow. I did not know then what tragic things they
We entered a well-lighted office. A few guards of ugly demeanor
stood about. Warden Whittaker consulted with the hard-faced
matron, Mrs. Herndon, who began the prison routine. Names were
called, and each prisoner stepped to the
desk to get her number, to give up all jewelry, money, handbags,
letters, eye-glasses, traveling bags containing toilet
necessities, in fact everything except the clothes on her body.
From there we were herded into the long bare dining room where we
sat dumbly down to a bowl of dirty sour soup. I say dumbly-for
now began the rule of silence. Prisoners are punished for
speaking to one another at table. They cannot even whisper, much
less smile or laugh. They must be conscious always of their
"guilt." Every possible thing is done to make the inmates feel
that they are and must continue to be antisocial creatures.
We taste our soup and crust of bread. We try so hard to eat it
for we are tired and hungry, but no one of us is able to get it
down. We leave the table hungry and slightly nauseated.
Another long march in silence through various channels into a
large dormitory and through a double line of cots ! Then we
stand, weary to the point of fainting, waiting the next ordeal.
This seemed to be the juncture at which we lost all that is left
us of contact with the outside world,-our clothes.
An assistant matron, attended by negress prisoners, relieves us
of our clothes. Each prisoner is obliged to strip naked without
even the protection of a sheet, and proceed across what seems
endless space, to a shower bath. A large tin bucket stands on the
floor and in this is a minute piece of dirty soap, which is
offered to us and rejected. We dare not risk the soap used by so
many prisoners. Naked, we return from the bath to receive our
allotment of coarse, hideous prison clothes, the outer garments
of which consist of a bulky mother-hubbard wrapper, of bluish
gray ticking and a heavy apron of the same dismal stuff. It takes
a dominant personality indeed to survive these clothes. The thick
unbleached muslin undergarments are of designs never to be
forgotten! And the thick stockings and forlorn shoes! What
torture to put on shoes that are alike for each foot and made to
fit just anybody who may happen along.
Why are we being ordered to dress? It is long past the bed-time
Our suspense is brief. All dressed in cloth of "guilt" we are led
into what we later learn is the "recreation" room. Lined up
against its wall, we might any other time have bantered about the
possibility of being shot, but we are in no mood to jest. The
door finally opens and in strides Warden Whittaker with a
stranger beside him.
He reviews his latest criminal recruits, engaging the stranger
meanwhile in whispered conversation. There are short, uncertain
laughs. There are nods of the head and more whispers.
"Well, ladies, I hope you are all comfortable. Now make
yourselves at home here. I think you will find it healthy here.
You'll weigh more when you go out than when you came in. You will
be allowed to write one letter a month-to your family. Of course
we open and read all letters coming in and going out. To-morrow
you will be assigned your work. I hope you will sleep well. Good
We did not answer. We looked at each other.
News leaked through in the morning that the stranger had been a
newspaper reporter. The papers next morning were full of the
"comfort" and "luxury" of our surroundings. The "delicious" food
sounded most reassuring to the nation. In fact no word of the
truth was allowed to appear.
The correspondent could not know that we went back to our cots to
try to sleep side by side with negro prostitutes. Not that we
shrank from these women on account of their color, but how
terrible to know that, the institution had gone out of its way to
bring these prisoners from their own wing to the white wing in an
attempt to humiliate us. There was plenty of room in the negro
wing. But prison must be made so unbearable that no more women
would face it. That was the policy attempted here.
We tried very hard to sleep and forget our hunger and weariness.
But all the night through our dusky comrades padded by to the
lavatory, and in the streak of bright light which shot across the
center of the room, startled heads could be seen bobbing up in
the direction of a demented woman in the end cot. Her weird
mutterings made us fearful. There was no sleep in this strange
Our thoughts turn to the outside world. Will the women care? Will
enough women believe that through such humiliation all may win
freedom? Will they believe that through our imprisonment their
slavery will be lifted the sooner? Less philosophically, will the
government be moved by public protest? Will such protest come?
The next morning brought us a visitor from suffrage headquarters.
The institution hoped that the visitor would use her persuasion
to make us pay our fines and leave and so she was admitted. We
learned the cheering news, that immediately after sentence had
been pronounced by the Court, Dudley Field Malone had gone direct
to the White House to protest to the President. His protest was
delivered with heat. The President said that he was "shocked" at
the sixty day sentence, that he did not know it had been done,
and made other evasions. Mr. Malone's report of his interview
with the President is given in full in a subsequent chapter.
Following Mr. Malone, Mr. J. A. H. Hopkins went to the White
House. "How would you like to have your wife sleep in a dirty
workhouse next to prostitutes?" was his direct talk to the
President. Again the President was "shocked." No wonder! Mr. and
Mrs. Hopkins had been the President's dinner guests not very long
before, celebrating his return to power. They had supported him
politically and financially in New Jersey. Now Mrs. Hopkins had
been arrested at his gate and thrown into prison.
In reporting the interview, Mr. Hopkins said:
"The President asked me for suggestions as to what might be done,
and I replied that in view of the seriousness of the present
situation the only solution lay in immediate passage of the Susan
B. Anthony amendment."
Gilson Gardner also went to the White House to leave his hot
protest. And there were others.
Telegrams poured in from all over the country. The press printed
headlines which could not but arouse the sympathy of thousands.
Even people who did not approve of picketing the White House
said, "After all, what these women have done is certainly not
`bad' enough to merit such drastic punishment"
And women protested. From coast to coast there poured in at our
headquarters copies of telegrams sent to Administration leaders.
Of course not all women by any means had approved this method of
agitation. But the government's action had done more than we had
been able to do for them. It had made them feel sex-conscious.
Women were being unjustly treated. Regardless of their feelings
about this particular procedure, they stood up and objected.
For the first time, I believe, our form of agitation began to
seem a little more respectable than the Administration's handling
of it. But the Administration did not know this fact yet.
"Everybody in line for the work-room!"
We were thankful to leave our inedible breakfast. We were unable
to drink the greasy black coffee. The pain in the tops of our
heads was acute.
"What you all down here for?" asked a young negress, barely out
of her teens, as she casually fingered her sewing material.
"Why, I held a purple, white and gold banner at the gates of the
"You don' say so! What de odders do?"
"Same thing. We all held banners at the White House gates asking
President Wilson to give us the vote."
"An' yo' all got sixty days fo' dat?"
"Yes. You see the President thought it would be a good idea to
send us to the workhouse for asking for the vote. You know women
want to vote and have wanted to for a long time in our country"
"O-Yass'm, I know. I seen yo' parades, an' meetin's, an'
everythin'. I know whah yo' all live, right near the White House.
You's alright. I hopes yo' git it, fo' women certainly do need
protextion against men like Judge Mullowny. He has us allatime
picked up an' sen' down here.
"They sen' yo' down here once, an' then yo' come out without a
cent, and try to look fo' a job, an' befo' yo' can fin' one a cop
walks up an' asks yo' whah yo' live, an' ef yo' haven't got a
place yet, becaus' yo' ain' got a cent to ren' one with, he says,
`Come with me, I'll fin' yo' a home,' an' hustles yo' off to the
p'lice station an' down heah again, an' you're called a 4vag'
(vagrant). What chance has we niggahs got, I ask ya? I hopes yo'
all gits a vote an' fixes up somethings for women!"
"You see that young girl over there?" said another prisoner, who
in spite of an unfortunate life had kept a remnant of her early
beauty. I nodded.
"Well, Judge Mullowny gave her thirty days for her first offense,
and when he sentenced her, she cried out desperately, `Don't send
me down there, Judge! If you do, I'll kill myself!' What do you
think he said to that? `I'll give you six months in which to
change your mind!"'
I reflected. The judge that broke this pale-faced, silent girl
was the appointee of the President. It was the task of such a man
to sentence American women to the workhouse for demanding
Conversing with the "regulars" was forbidden by the
wardress, but we managed, from time to time, to talk to our
fellow prisoners with stealthiness.
"We knew somethin' was goin' to happen," said one negro girl,
"because Monday the close we had on wer' took off us an' we were
giv' these old patched ones. We wuz told they wanted to take
`stock,’ but we heard they wuz bein' washed fo' you-all
The unpleasantness at wearing the formless garments of these
unfortunates made us all wince. But the government's calculation
aroused our hot indignation. We were not convicted until Tuesday
and our prison garments were ready Monday!
"You must not speak against the President," said the servile
wardress, when she discovered we were telling our story to the
inmates. "You know you will be thrashed if you say anything more
about the President; and don't forget you're on Government
property and may be arrested for treason if it happens again."
We doubted the seriousness of this threat of thrashing until one
of the girls confided to us that such outrages happened often. We
afterward obtained proof of these brutalities.
"Old Whittaker beat up that girl over there just last week and
put her in the `booby' house on bread and water for five days."
"What did she do?" I asked.
"Oh, she an' another girl got to scrapping in the blackberry
patch and she didn't pick enough berries. .”
"All put up your work, girls, and get in line." This from the
wardress, who sped up the work in the sewing room. It was lunch
time, and though we were all hungry we dreaded going to the
silence and the food in that gray dining room with the vile
odors. We were counted again as we filed out, carrying our heavy
chairs with us as is the workhouse custom.
See affidavit of Mrs. Bovee, page 144.
"Do they do this all the time?" I asked. It seemed as though
needless energy was being spent counting and recounting our
"Wouldn't do anybody any good to try to get away from here," said
one of the white girls. "Too many bloodhounds!"
"Bloodhounds!" I asked in amazement, for after all these women
were not criminals but merely misdemeanants.
"Oh, yes. Just a little while ago, three men tried to get away
and they turned bloodhounds after them and shot them dead-and
they weren't bad men either."
When our untasted supper was over that night we were ordered into
the square, bare-walled "recreation" room, where we and the other
prisoners sat, and sat, and sat, our chairs against the walls, a
dreary sight indeed, waiting for the fortyfive minutes before
bedtime to pass. The sight of two negro girl prisoners combing
out each other's lice and dressing their kinky hair in such a way
as to discourage permanently a return of the vermin did not
produce in us exactly a feeling of "recreation." But we tried to
sing. The negroes joined in, too, and soon outsang us, with their
plaintive melodies and hymns. Then back to our cells and another
attempt to sleep.
A new ordeal the next morning! Another of the numberless
"pedigrees" is to be taken. One by one we were called to the
"Were your father or mother ever insane?"
"Are you a confirmed drunkard, chronic or moderate drinker?"
"Do you smoke or chew or use tobacco in any form?"
"Married or single?"
"How many children?"
"What religion do you profess?"
"What religion do you profess?" in a higher pitched voice.
I did not clearly comprehend. "Do you mean `Am I a Catholic or a
Protestant?' I am a Christian."
But it was of no avail. She wrote down, "None."
I protested. "That is not accurate. I insist that I am a
Christian, or at least I try to be one."
"You must learn to be polite," she retorted almost fiercely, and
I returned to the sewing room.
For the hundredth time we asked to be given our toothbrushes,
combs, handkerchiefs and our own soap. The third day of
imprisonment without any of these essentials found us depressed
and worried over our unsanitary condition. We plead also for
toilet paper. It was senseless to deny these necessities. It is
enough to imprison people. Why seek to degrade them utterly?
The third afternoon we were mysteriously summoned into the
presence of Superintendent Whittaker. He seemed warm and cordial.
We were ordered drawn up in a semi-circle.
"Ladies, there is a rumor that you may be pardoned," he began.
"By whom?" asked one.
"For what?" asked another. "We are innocent women. There is
nothing to pardon us for."
"I have come to ask you what you would do if the President
"We would refuse to accept it," came the ready response from
"I shall leave you for a while to consider this. Mind! I have not
yet received information of a pardon, but I have been asked to
ascertain your attitude."
Our consultation was brief. We were of one mind. We
were unanimous in wishing to reject a pardon for a crime which we
had never committed. We said so with some spirit when Mr.
Whittaker returned for our decision.
"You have no choice. You are obliged to accept a pardon."
That settled it, and we waited. That the protest on the outside
had been strong enough to precipitate action from the government
was the subject of our conversation. Evidently it had not been
strong enough to force action on the suffrage amendment, but it
was forcing action, and that was important.
Mr. Whittaker returned triumphant.
"Ladies, you are pardoned by the President. You are free to go as
soon as you have taken off your prison clothes and put on your
It was sad to leave the other prisoners behind. Especially
pathetic were the girls who helped us with our clothes. They
whispered such eager appeals in our ears, telling us of their
drastic sentences for trifling offenses and of the cruel
punishments. It was hard to resist digressing into some effort at
prison reform. That way lay our instincts. Our reason told us
that we must first change the status of women.
As we were leaving the workhouse to return to Washington we had
an unexpected revelation of the attitude of officialdom toward
our campaign. Addressing Miss Lucy Burns, who had arrived to
assist us in getting on our way, Superintendent Whittaker, in an
almost unbelievable rage, said, "Now that you women are going
away, I have something to say and I want to say it to you. The
next lot of women who come here won't be treated with the same
consideration that these women were." I will show later on how he
made good this terrible threat.
Receiving a Presidential pardon through the Attorney General had
its amusing aspect. My comrades shared this amusement when I told
them the following incident.
On the day after our arrest, I was having tea at the Chevy
Chase Country Club in Washington. Quite casually a gentleman
introduced me to Mr. Gregory, the Attorney General.
"I see you were mixed up with the suffragettes yesterday," was
the Attorney General's first remark to the gentleman. And before
the latter could explain that he had settled accounts quietly but
efficiently with a hoodlum who was attempting to trip the women
up on their march, the chief law officer of the United States
contributed this important suggestion: "You know what I'd do if I
was those policemen. I'd just take a hose out with me and when
the women came out with their banners, why I'd just squirt the
hose on 'em . . . ."
"But Mr. Gregory . . ."
"Yes, sir! If you can just make what a woman does look
ridiculous, you can sure kill it . . . ."
"But, Mr. Attorney General, what right would the police have to
assault these or any other women?" the gentleman managed finally
"Hup-hup-"denoting great surprise, came from the Attorney
General, as he looked to me for reassurance.
His expectant look vanished when I said, "Mr. Gregory, did it
ever occur to you that it might make the government
look ridiculous instead of the women?"
You can imagine bow the easy manner of one who is sure of his
audience melted from his face.
"This is one of the women arrested yesterday," continued the
gentleman, while the Attorney General smothered a "Well, I'll be
. . ."
"I am out on bail," I said. " To-morrow we go to jail. It is all
prearranged, you understand. The trial is merely a matter of
The highest law officer of the land fled gurgling. s
The day following our release Mrs. J. A. H. Hopkins carried a
picket banner to the gates of the White House to test
the validity of the pardon. Her banner read, "We do not ask
pardon for ourselves but justice for all American women." A
curious crowd, as large as had collected on those days when the
police arrested women for "obstructing traffic," stood watching
the lone picket. The President passed through the gates and
saluted. The police did not interfere.
Daily picketing was resumed and no arrests followed for the
It was now August, three months since the Senate Suffrage
Committee authorized its chairman, Mr. Jones, to report the
measure to the Senate for action. Mr. Jones said, however, that
he was too busy to make a report; .that he wanted to make a
particularly brilliant one, one that would "be a contribution to
the cause"; that he did not approve of picketing, but that he
would report the measure "in a reasonable time." So much for the
situation in the Senate!
From the House we gathered some interesting evidence. We reminded
Mr. Webb, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that out of a
total membership of twenty-one men on his committee, twelve were
Democrats, two-thirds of whom were opposed to the measure; we
reminded him that the Republicans on the committee were for
action. Mr. Webb wrote in answer:
"The Democratic caucus passed a resolution that only war
emergency measures would be considered during this extra session,
and that the President might designate from time to time special
legislation which he regarded as war legislation, and such would
be acted on by the House. The President, not having designated
woman suffrage and national prohibition so far as war measures,
the judiciary committee up to this time has not felt warranted
under the caucus rule, in reporting either of these measures. If
the President should request either or both of them as war
measures, then I think the Committee would attempt to take some
action on them promptly. So you see after all it is important to
your cause to make the
President see that woman suffrage comes within the rules laid
Here was a frank admission of the assumption upon which women had
gone to jail-that the President was responsible for action on the
Now that we were again allowed to picket the White House, the
Republicans seized the opportunity legitimately to embarrass
their opponents by precipitating a bitter debate.
Senator Cummins of Iowa, Republican member of the Suffrage
Committee, moved, as had Mr. Mann in the House at an earlier
date, to discharge the Suffrage Committee for failing to make the
report authorized by the entire Committee. Mr. Cummins said,
among other things:
". . . I look upon the resolution as definitely and certainly a
war measure. There is nothing that this country could do which
would strengthen it more than to give the disfranchised women . .
. the opportunity to vote . . . .
"Last week . . . I went to the Chairman of the Committee and told
him that . . . we had finished the hearings, reached a conclusion
and that it was our bounden duty to make the report to the Senate
. . . . I asked him if he would not call a meeting of the
Committee. He said that it would be impossible, that he had some
other engagements which would prevent a meeting of the
Senator Cummins explained that he finally got the promise of the
Chairman that a meeting of the Committee would be called on a
given date. When it was not called he made his motion.
Chairman Jones made some feeble remarks and some evasive excuses
which meant nothing, and which only further aroused Republican
friends of the measure on the Committee.
Senator Gronna of North Dakota, Republican, interrupted
Italics are mine.
him with the direct question, "I ask the chairman of this
committee why this joint resolution has not been reported? The
Senator, who is chairman of the committee, I suppose, knows as
well as I do that the people of the entire country are anxious to
have this joint resolution submitted and to be given an
opportunity to vote upon it.
Senator Johnson of California, Republican, proposed that Chairman
Jones consent to call the Committee together to consider
reporting out the bill, which Senator Jones flatly refused to do.
Senator Jones of Washington, another Republican member of the
"I agree with the Senator from Iowa that this is a war measure
and ought to be considered as such at this time. I do not see how
we can very consistently talk democracy while disfranchising the
better half of our citizenship-1 may not approve of the action of
the women picketing the White House, but neither do I approve of
what I consider the lawless action toward these women in
connection with the picketing . . . ."
"I do not want to think the chairman does not desire to call the
committee together because of some influence outside of Congress
as some have suggested . . . ."
At this point Senator Hollis of New Hampshire, Democrat, arose to
"There is a small but very active group of women suffragists who
have acted in such a way that some who are ardently in favor of
woman suffrage believe that their action should not be encouraged
by making a favorable report at this time."
Senator Johnson protested at this point, but Senator Hollis
"To discharge the committee would focus the attention of the
country upon the action and would give undue weight to what has
been done by the active group of woman suffragists."
I think that any student of psychology will acknowledge that our
picketing had stimulated action in Congress, and that what was
now needed was some still more provocative action from us.
Imprisoning women had met with considerable public disapproval,
and attendant political embarrassment to the Administration. That
the presidential pardon would end this embarrassment was
doubtless the hope of the Administration. The pickets, however,
returned to their posts in steadily increasing numbers. Their
presence at the gates was desired by the Administration no more
now than it had been before the arrests and imprisonments. But
they had found no way to rid themselves of the pickets. And as
another month of picketing drew to an end the Administration
ventured to try other ways to stop it and with it the consequent
embarrassment. Their methods became physically more brutal and
politically more stupid. Their conduct became lawless in the
Meanwhile the President had drafted the young men of America in
their millions to die on foreign soil for foreign democracy. He
had issued a special appeal to women to give their work, their
treasure and their sons to this enterprise. At the same time his
now gigantic figure stood obstinately across the path to our main
objective. It was our daily task to keep vividly in his mind that
objective. It was our responsibility to compel decisive action
Using the return of Envoy Root from his mission to Russia
as another dramatic opportunity to speak to the President we took
to the picket line these mottoes:
TO ENVOY ROOT
YOU SAY THAT AMERICA MUST THROW ITS MANHOOD TO THE SUPPORT OF
THIS NATION IS NOT FREE. TWENTY MILLION WOMEN ARE DENIED BY THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES THE RIGHT TO REPRESENTATION IN
THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT.
TELL THE PRESIDENT THAT HE CANNOT FIGHT AGAINST LIBERTY AT HOME
WHILE HE TELLS US TO FIGHT FOR LIBERTY ABROAD.
TELL HIM TO MAKE AMERICA SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY BEFORE HE ASKS THE
MOTHERS OF AMERICA TO THROW THEIR SONS TO THE SUPPORT OF
DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE.
ASK HIM HOW HE CAN REFUSE LIBERTY TO AMERICAN CITIZENS WHEN HE IS
FORCING MILLIONS OF AMERICAN BOYS OUT OF THEIR COUNTRY TO DIE FOR
At no time during the entire picketing was the traffic on
Pennsylvania Avenue so completely obstructed as it was for the
two hours during which this banner made its appearance on the
line. Police captains who three weeks before were testifying that
the police could not manage the crowds, placidly looked on while
these new crowds increased.
We did not regard Mr. Wilson as our President. We felt that he
had neither political nor moral claim to our allegiance. War had
been made without our consent. The war would be finished and very
likely a bad peace would be written without our consent. Our
fight was becoming increasingly difficult-I
might almost say desperate. Here we were, a band of women
fighting with banners, in the midst of a world armed to the
teeth. And so it was not very difficult to understand how high
spirited women grew more resentful, unwilling to be a party to
the President's hypocrisy, the hypocrisy so eager to sacrifice
life without stint to the vague hope of liberty abroad, while
refusing to assist in the peaceful legislative steps which would
lead to self-government in our own country. As a matter of fact
the President's constant oratory on freedom and democracy moved
them to scorn. They were stung into a protest so militant as to
shock not only the President but the public. We inscribed on our
banner what countless American women` had long thought in their
The truth was not pleasant but it had to be told. We submitted to
the world, through the picket line, this question:
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN HOW YOU SYMPATHIZED WITH THE POOR GERMANS
BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT SELF GOVERNED?
20,000,000 AMERICAN WOMEN ARE NOT SELF-GOVERNED.
TAKE THE BEAM OUT OF YOUR OWN EYE.
We did not expect public sympathy at this point. We knew that not
even the members of Congress who had occasionally in debate, but
more frequently in their cloak rooms, and often to us privately,
called the President "autocrat"-"Kaiser"-"Ruler"-"King"-"Czar"-
would approve our telling the truth publicly.
Nor was it to be expected that eager young boys, all agog to
fight Germans, would be averse to attacking women in the
meantime. They were out to fight and such was the public hysteria
that it did not exactly matter whom they fought.
And so those excited boys of the Army and Navy attacked the women
and the banner. The banner was destroyed. Another was brought up
to take its place. This one met the same fate. Meanwhile a crowd
was assembling in front of the White House either to watch or to
assist in the attacks. At the very moment when one banner was
being snatched away and destroyed, President and Mrs. Wilson
passed through the gates on their way to a military review at
Fort Myer. The President saw American women being attacked, while
the police refused them protection.
Not a move was made by the police to control the growing crowd.
Such inaction is always a signal for more violence on the part of
rowdies. As the throng moved to and fro between the White House
and our Headquarters immediately opposite, so many banners were
destroyed that finally Miss Lucy Burns, Miss Virginia Arnold and
Miss Elizabeth Stuyvesant took those remaining to the second and
third floor balconies of our building and hung them out. At this
point there was not a picket left on the street. The crowd was
clearly obstructing the traffic, but no attempt was made to move
them back or to protect the women, some of whom were attacked by
sailors on their own doorsteps. The two police officers present
watched without interference while three sailors brought a ladder
from the Belasco Theater in the same block, leaned it against the
side of the Cameron House, the Headquarters, climbed up to the
second floor balcony, mounted the iron railing and tore down all
banners and the American flag. One sailor administered a severe
blow in the face with his clenched fist upon Miss Georgina
Sturgis of Washington.
"Why did you do that?" she demanded.
The man halted for a brief instant in obvious amazement and said,
"I don't know." And with a violent wrench he tore the banner from
her hands and ran down the ladder.
The narrow balcony was the scene of intense excitement.
But for Miss Burns' superb strength she would have been dragged
over the railing of the balcony to be plunged to the ground. The
mob watched with fascination while she swayed to and fro in her
wrestle with two young sailors. And still no attempt by the
police to quell the riot!
The climax came when in the late afternoon a bullet was fired
through one of the heavy glass windows of the second floor,
embedding itself in the ceiling. The bullet grazed past the head
of Mrs. Ella Morton Dean of Montana. Captain Flather of the 1st
Precinct, with two detectives, later examined the holes and
declared they had been made by a 38 caliber revolver, but no
attempt was ever made to find the man who had drawn the revolver.
Meanwhile eggs and tomatoes were hurled at our fresh banners
flying from the flag poles on the building.
Finally police reserves were summoned and in less than five
minutes the crowd was pushed back and the street cleared.
Thinking now that they could rely on the protection of the
police, the women started with their banners for the White House.
But the police looked on while all the banners were destroyed, a
few paces from Headquarters. More banners ,went out,-purple,
white and gold ones. They, too, were destroyed before they
reached the White House.
This entire spectacle was enacted on August 14, within a stone's
throw of the White House.
Miss Paul summed up the situation when she said:
"The situation now existing in Washington exists because
President Wilson permits it. Orders were first handed down to the
police to arrest suffragists. The clamor over their imprisonments
made this position untenable. The police were then ordered to
protect suffragists. They were then ordered to attack
suffragists. They have now been ordered to encourage
irresponsible crowds to attack suffragists. No police head would
dare so to besmirch his record without orders from his
responsible chief. The responsible chief in the National Capital
is the President of the United States."
Shortly after the incident of the "Kaiser banner" I was speaking
in Louisville, Kentucky. The auditorium was packed and
overflowing with men and women who had come to hear the story of
Up to this time we had very few members in Kentucky and
had anticipated in this Southern State, part of President
Wilson ,'s stronghold, that our Committee would meet with no
enthusiasm and possibly with warm hostility.
I had related briefly the incidents leading up to the picketing
and the Government's suppressions. I was rather cautiously
approaching the subject of the "Kaiser banner," feeling timid and
hesitant, wondering how this vast audience of Southerners would
take it. Slowly I read the inscription on the famous banner,
"Kaiser Wilson, have you forgotten how you sympathized with the
poor Germans because they were not self-governed? Twenty million
American women are not self-governed. Take the beam out of your
I hardly reached the last word, still wondering what the,
intensely silent audience would do, when a terrific outburst of
applause mingled with shouts of "Good! Good! He is, he is!" came
to my amazed ears. As the applause died down there was almost
universal good-natured laughter. Instead of the painstaking and
eloquent explanation which I was prepared to offer, I had only to
join in their laughter.
A few minutes later a telegram was brought to the platform
announcing further arrests. I read:
"Six more women sentenced to-day to 30 days in Occoquan
Instant cries of "Shame! Shame! It's an outrage!" Scores of men
and two women were on their feet calling for the passage of a
resolution denouncing the Administration's policy
of persecution. The motion of condemnation was put. It seemed as
if the entire audience seconded it. It went through instantly,
unanimously, and again with prolonged shouts and applause.
The meeting continued and I shall never forget that audience. It
lingered to a late hour, almost to midnight, asking questions,
making brief "testimonials" from the floor with almost
evangelical fervor. Improvised collection baskets were piled high
with bills. Women volunteered for picket duty and certain
imprisonment, and the following day a delegation left for
I cite this experience of mine because it was typical. Every one
who went through the country telling the story had similar
experiences at this time. Indignation was swift and hot. Our mass
meetings everywhere became meetings of protest during the entire
And resolutions of protest which always went immediately by wire
from such meetings to the President, his cabinet and to his
leaders in Congress, of course created increasing uneasiness in
On August 15th the pickets again attempted to take their posts on
On this day one lettered banner and fifty purple, white and gold
flags were destroyed by a mob led by sailors in uniform. Alice
Paul was knocked down three times by a sailor in uniform and
dragged the width of the White House sidewalk in his frenzied
attempt to tear off leer suffrage sash.
Miss Katharine Morey of Boston was also knocked to the pavement
by a sailor, who took her flag and then darted off into the
crowd. Miss Elizabeth Stuyvesant was struck by a soldier in
uniform and her blouse torn from her body. Miss Maud Jamison of
Virginia was knocked down and dragged along the sidewalk. Miss
Beulah Amidon of North Dakota was knocked down by a sailor.
In the midst of these riotous scenes, a well-known Washington
correspondent was emerging from the White House, after an
interview with the President. Dr. Cart' Grayson, the President's
physician, accompanying him to the door, advised:
"You had better go out the side entrance. Those damned women are
in the front."
In spite of this advice the correspondent made his exit through
the same gate by which he had entered, and just in time to ward
off an attack by a sailor on one of the frailest girls in the
The Administration, in its desperation, ordered the police to
lawlessness. On August 16th, fifty policemen led the mob in
attacking the women. Hands were bruised and arms twisted lit'
police officers and plainclothes men. Two civilians who tried to
rescue the women from the attacks of the police were arrested.
The police fell upon these young women with more brutality even
than the mobs they had before encouraged. Twenty-five lettered
banners and 123 Party flags were destroyed by mobs and police on
As the crowd grew more dense, the police temporarily retired from
the attack. When their activities had summoned a sufficiently
large and infuriated mob, they would rest.
And so the passions of the mob continued unchecked upon these
irrepressible women, and from day to day the Administration gave
Finding that riots and mob attacks had not terrorized the
pickets, the Administration decided again to arrest the women in
the hope of ending the agitation. Having lost public sympathy
through workhouse sentences, having won it back by pardoning the
women, the Administration felt it could afford to risk losing it
again, or rather felt that it had supplied itself with an
appropriate amount of stage-setting.
And so on the third day of the riotous attacks, when it was clear
that the pickets would persist, the Chief of Police called
at headquarters to announce to Miss Paul that "orders have been
changed and henceforth women carrying banners will be arrested"
Meanwhile the pickets heard officers shout to civilian friends as
they passed-"Come back at four o'clock."
Members of the daily mob announced at the noon hour in various
nearby restaurants that "the suffs will be arrested to-day at 4
Four o'clock is the hour the Government clerks begin to swarm
homewards. The choice of this hour by the police to arrest the
women would enable them to have a large crowd passing the White
House gates to lend color to the fiction that "pickets were
blocking the traffic."
Throughout the earlier part of the afternoon the silent sentinels
stood unmolested, carrying these mottoes:
ENGLAND AND RUSSIA ARE ENFRANCHISING WOMEN IN WAR-TIME.
HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOB LIBERTY?
THE GOVERNMENT ORDERS OUR BANNERS DESTROYED BECAUSE THEY TELL THE
At four o'clock the threatened arrests took place. The women
arrested were Miss Lavinia Dock of Pennsylvania, Miss Edna Dixon
of Washington, D. C., a young public school teacher; Miss Natalie
Gray of Colorado, Mrs. Win. Upton Watson and Miss Lucy Ewing of
Chicago, and Miss Catherine Flanagan of Connecticut.
Exactly forty minutes were allowed for the trial of these six
women. One police officer testified that they were "obstructing
None of the facts of the hideous and cruel manhandling by the
mobs and police officers was allowed to be brought out. Nothing
the women could say mattered. The judge pro-
nounced : "Thirty days in Occoquan workhouse in lieu of a $10.00
And so this little handful of women, practically all of them tiny
and frail of physique, began the cruel sentence of 30 days
in the workhouse, while their cowardly assailants were not even
reprimanded, nor were those who destroyed over a thousand
dollars' worth of banners apprehended.
The riots had attracted sufficient attention to cause some
anxiety in Administration circles. Protests against us and others
against the rioters pressed upon them. Congress was provoked into
a little activity; activity which reflected some doubt as to the
wisdom of arresting women without some warrant in law.
Two attempts were made, neither of which was successful, to give
the Administration more power and more law.
Senator Culberson of Texas, Democrat, offered a bill authorizing
President Wilson at any time to prohibit any person from
approaching or entering any place in short blanket authority
granting the President or his officials limitless power over the
actions of human beings. Realizing that this could be used to
prohibit picketing the White House we appeared before a committee
hearing on the bill and spoke against it. The committee did not
have the boldness to report such a bill.
Senator Myers of Montana, an influential member of the
Democratic majority, introduced into the Senate a few days later
a resolution making it illegal to picket the White House. The
shamelessness of admitting to the world that acts for which women
had been repeatedly sentenced to jail, and for which women were
at that moment lying in prison, were so legal as to make
necessary a special act of Congress against them, was appalling.
The Administration policy seemed to be "Let us put women in jail
first-let us enact a law to keep them there afterwards,"
This tilt between Senator Brandegee, of Connecticut, antisuffrage
Republican, and Senator Myers, suffrage Democrat, took place when
Mr. Myer's presented his bill:
MR. BRANDEGEE: . . . Was there any defect in the legal
proceedings by which these trouble makers were sentenced and put
in jail a few weeks ago?
MR. MYERS: None that I know of. I am not in a position to pass
upon that. I do not believe any was claimed . . . .
MR. BRANDEGEE: Inasmuch as the law was sufficient to land them in
jail . . . I fail to see why additional legislation is necessary
on the subject.
MR. MYERS: There seems to be a doubt in the mind of some whether
the present law is sufficient and I think it ought to be put
beyond doubt. I think . . . the laws are not stringent or severe
enough . . . .
MR. BRANDEGEE : They were stringent enough to land the
malefactors in jail . . . .
In spite of Senator Myers' impassioned appeal to his colleagues,
be was unable to command any support for his bill. I quote this
from his speech in the Senate August 18, 1917:
MR. MYERS: Mr. President, I wish to say a few words about the
bill I have just introduced. It is intended for the enactment of
better and more adequate legislation to prevent the infamous,
outrageous, scandalous, and, I think, almost treasonable actions
that have been going on around the White House for months past,
which President of the United States have been a gross insult to
the and to the people of the United States; I mean the so-called
picketing of the White House. . . These disgusting proceedings
have been going on for months, and if there is no adequate law to
stop them, I think there ought to be.
"I believe the President, in the generosity of his heart, erred
when he pardoned some of the women who have been conducting these
proceedings, after they had been sentenced to
60 days in the workhouse. I believe they deserved the sentence,
and they ought to have been compelled to serve it . . . .
"I for one am not satisfied longer to sit here idly day by day
and submit to having the President of the United States insulted
with impunity before the people of the country and before all the
world. It is a shame and reproach.
"I hope this bill . . . will receive careful consideration and
that it may be enacted into law and may be found an adequate
preventive and punishment for such conduct."
This bill, which died a well-deserved death, is so amusing as to
warrant reproduction. Although lamenting our comparison between
the President and the Kaiser, it will be seen that Senator Myers
brought forth a thoroughly Prussian document:
For the better protection and enforcement of peace and order and
the public welfare in the District of Columbia.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives o f the
United States o f America in Congress assembled, That when the
United States shall be engaged in war it shall be unlawful for
any person or persons to carry, hold, wave, exhibit, display, or
have in his or her possession in any public road, highway, alley,
street, thoroughfare, park, or other public place in the District
of Columbia, any banner, flag, streamer, sash, or other device
having thereon any words or language with reference to the
President or the Vice President of the United States, or any
words or language with reference to the Constitution of the
United States, or the right of suffrage, or right of citizenship,
or any words or language with reference to the duties of any
executive official or department of the United States, or with
reference to any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the
United States, or with reference to any law or proposed law of
the United States, calculated to bring the President of the
United States or the Government of the United States into
contempt, or which may tend to cause confusion, or excitement, or
obstruction of the streets or sidewalks thereof, or any passage
in any public place.
Sec. 2. That any person committing any foregoing described
offense shall, upon conviction thereof, for each offense be fined
not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned not less
than thirty days nor more than one year, or by both such fine and
Voices were raised in our behalf, also, and among them I note the
following letter written to Major Pullman by Gilson Gardner:
Mr. Raymond Pullman,
Chief of Police,
Washington, D. C.
My dear Pullman,-
I am writing as an old friend to urge you to get right in this
matter of arresting the suffrage pickets. Of course the only way
for you to get right is to resign. It has apparently
become impossible for you to stay in office and do your duty. The
alternative is obvious.
You must see, Pullman, that you cannot be right in what you have
done in this matter. You have given the pickets adequate
protection; but you have arrested them and had them sent to jail
and the workhouse; you have permitted the crowd to mob them, and
then you have had your officers do much the same thing by
forcibly taking their banners from them. In some of the actions
you must have been wrong. If it was right to give them protection
and let them stand at the White House for five months, both
before and after the war, it was not right to do what you did
You say that it was not right when you were "lenient" and gave
them protection. You cannot mean that. The rightness or wrongness
must be a matter of law, not of personal discretion, and for you
to attempt to substitute your discretion is to set up a little
autocracy m place of the settled laws of the land. This would
justify a charge of "Kaiserism" right here in our capital city.
The truth is, Pullman, you were right when you gave these women
protection. That is what the police are for. When
The distinguished journalist who went to Africa to meet
Theodore Roosevelt and accompanied him on his return journey to
there are riots they are supposed to quell them, not by quelling
the "proximate cause," but by quelling the rioters.
I know your police officers now quite well and know that they are
most happy when they are permitted to do their duty. They did not
like the dirty business of permitting a lot of sailors and street
rifraff to rough the girls. All that went against the grain, but
when you let them protect the pickets, as you did March third,
when a thousand women marched around and around the White House,
the officers were as contented as they were efficient.
Washington has a good police force and there has never been a
minute when they could not have scattered any group gathered at
the White House gates and given perfect protection to the women
You know why they did not do their duty.
In excusing what you have done, you say that the women carried
banners with "offensive" inscriptions on them. You refer to the
fact that they have addressed the President as "Kaiser Wilson."
As a matter of fact not an arrest you have made-and the arrests
now number more than sixty-has been for carrying one of those
"offensive" banners. The women were carrying merely the suffrage
colors or quotations from President Wilson's writings.
But, suppose the banners were offensive. Who made you censor of
banners? The law gives you no such power. Even when you go
through the farce of a police court trial the charge is
"obstructing traffic"; which shows conclusively that you are not
willing to go into court on the real issue.
No. As Chief of Police you have no more right to complain of the
sentiments of a banner than you have of the sentiments in an
editorial in the Washington Post, and you have no more right to
arrest the banner-bearer than you have to arrest the owner of the
Washington Post . . . . Congress refused to pass a press
censorship law. There are certain lingering traditions to the
effect that a people's liberties are closely bound up with the
right to talk things out and those who are enlightened know that
the only proper answer to words is words. When force is opposed
to words there is ground for the charge of "Kaiserism." . .
There was just one thing for you to have done, Pullman,
and that was to give full and adequate protection to these women,
no matter what banners they carried or what ideas their banners
expressed. If there is any law that can be invoked against the
wording of the banners it was the business of others in the
government to start the legal machinery which would abate them.
It was not lawful to abate them by mob violence, or by arrests.
And if those in authority over you were not willing that you thus
do your duty, it was up to you to resign.
After all it would not be such a terrible thing, Pullman, for you
to give up being Chief of Police, particularly when you are not
permitted to be chief of police, but must yield your judgment to
the district commissioners who have yielded their judgment to the
White House. Being Chief of Police under such circumstances can
hardly be worth while. You are a young man and the world is full
of places for young men with courage enough to save their self-
respect at the expense of their jobs. You did that once,-back in
the Ballinger-Pinchot days. Why not now?
Come out and help make the fight which must be made to recover
and protect the liberties which are being filched from us here at
home. There is a real fight looming up for real democracy. You
will not be alone. There are a lot of fine young men, vigorous
and patriotic, in and out of the Administration who are preparing
for this fight. Yours will not be the only resignation. But why
not be among the first? Don't wait. Let them have your
resignation. now and let me be the first to welcome and
(Signed) GILSON GARDNER.
Representative John Baer of North Dakota, having witnessed for
himself the riotous scenes, immediately introduced into the House
a resolution demanding an investigation of conditions in the
Capital which permitted mobs to attack women. This, too, went to
certain death. Between the members who did not dare denounce the
Administration and the others who did dare denounce the women, we
had to stand quite
See Appendix 3 for full text of resolution.
solidly on our own program, and do our best to keep them nervous
over the next step in the agitation.
The press throughout the entire country at this time protested
against mob violence and the severe sentences pronounced upon the
women who had attempted to hold their banners steadfast.
The Washington (D. C.) Herald, August 19, printed the following
There is an echo of the President's phrase about the "firm hand
of stern repression" in the arrest, conviction and jailing of the
six suffragists; a touch of ruthlessness in their incarceration
at Occoquan along with women of the street, pickpockets and other
flotsam and jetsam. Still, the suffragists are not looking for
sympathy, and it need not be wasted upon them.
The police have arrived at a policy, although no one knows
whether it will be sufficiently stable and consistent to last out
the week . . . . Washington is grateful that the disgraceful
period of rioting and mob violence in front of the White House is
at an end, and another crisis in the militant crusade to bring
the Susan B. Anthony amendment before Congress has been reached.
What is the next step? No one knows. Picketing doubtless will
continue, or an effort will be made to continue it; and
militancy, if the police continue to arrest, instead of giving
the women protection, will pass into a new phase. The suffragists
as well as the public at large are thankful that the police
department has finally determined to arrest the pickets, instead
of allowing them to be mobbed by hoodlums .
. . . The public eye will be on Occoquan for the next few weeks,
to find out how these women bear up under the Spartan treatment
that is in store for them. If they have deliberately sought
martyrdom, as some critics have been unkind enough to suggest,
they have it now. And if their campaign, in the opinion of
perhaps the great majority of the public, has been misguided,
admiration for their pluck will not be withheld.
The Boston Journal of August 20, 1917, said in an editorial
written by Herbert N. Pinkham, Jr.:
That higher authorities than the Washington police were
responsible for the amazing policy of rough house employed
against the suffrage pickets has been suspected from the very
beginning. Police power in Washington is sufficient to protect a
handful of women against a whole phalanx of excited or inspired
government clerks and uniformed hoodlums, if that power were
. . . In our nation's capital, women have been knocked down and
dragged through the streets by government employees-including
sailors in uniform. The police are strangely absent at such
moments, as a rule, and arrive only in time to arrest a few women
. . . .
Perhaps the inscriptions on the suffrage banners were not
tactful. It is sometimes awkward indeed to quote the President's
speeches after the speeches have "grown cold." Also a too
vigorous use of the word "democracy" is distasteful to some
government dignitaries, it seems. But right or wrong, the
suffragists at Washington are entitled to police protection, even
though in the minds of the Administration they are not entitled
to the ballot.
Perhaps, even in America, we must have a law forbidding people to
carry banners demanding what they consider their political
rights. Such a law would, of course, prohibit political parades
of all kinds, public mass meetings and other demonstrations of
one set of opinions against another set. Such a law has been
proposed by Senator Myers of Montana, the author of the latest
censorship and anti-free speech bill. It may be necessary to pass
the law, if it is also necessary that the public voice be stilled
and the nation become dumb and subservient.
But until there is such a law . . . people must be protected
while their actions remain within the law. If their opinions
differ from ours, we must refrain from smashing their faces, if a
certain number of people believe that they have the right to vote
we may either grant their claim or turn them sadly away, but we
may not roll them into the gutter; if they see fit to tell us our
professions of democracy are empty, we may smile sorrowfully and
murmur a prayer for their ignorance but we may not pelt them with
rotten eggs and fire a shot through the window of their dwelling;
if, denied a properly
dignified hearing, they insist upon walking through the streets
with printed words on a saucy banner, we may be amazed at their
zeal and pitiful of their bad taste, but even for the sake of
keeping their accusations out of sight of our foreign visitors
(whom we have trained to believe us perfect) we may not send them
to jail . . . .
All this suffrage shouting in Washington has as its single object
the attainment of President Wilson's material support for equal
suffrage . . . .
President Wilson's word would carry the question into Congress
. . .
Would there be any harm in letting Congress vote on a suffrage
resolution? That would end the disturbance and it would make our
shield of national justice somewhat brighter.
It looks like President Wilson's move.
Between these opposing currents of protest and support, the
Administration drifted helplessly. Unwilling to pass the
amendment, it continued to send women to prison.
On the afternoon of September 4th, President Wilson led his first
contingent of drafted "soldiers of freedom" down Pennsylvania
Avenue in gala parade, on the first lap of their journey to the
battlefields of France. On the same afternoon a slender line of
women-also "soldiers of freedom"-attempted to march in
As they attempted to take up their posts, two by two, in front of
the Reviewing Stand, opposite the White House, they were gathered
in and swept away by the police like common street criminals-
their golden banners scarcely flung to the breeze.
MR. PRESIDENT, HOW LONG MUST WOMEN BE DENIED A VOICE IN A
GOVERNMENT WHICH IS CONSCRIPTING THEIR SONS?
was the offensive question on the first banner carried by Miss
Eleanor Calnan of Massachusetts and Miss Edith Ainge of New York.
The Avenue was roped off on account of the parade. There was
hardly any one passing at the time; all traffic had been
temporarily suspended, so there was none to obstruct. But the
Administration's policy must go on. A few moments and Miss Lucy
Branham of Maryland and Mrs. Pauline Adams of Virginia marched
down the Avenue, their gay banners waving joyously in the autumn
sun, to fill up the gap of the two comrades who had been
arrested. They, too, were shoved into the police automobile,
their banners still high and appealing, silhouetted against the
sky as they were hurried to the police station.
The third pair of pickets managed to cross the Avenue, but were
arrested immediately they reached the curb. Still others
advanced. The crowd began to line the ropes and to watch eagerly
the line of women indomitably coming, two by two, into the face
of certain arrest. A fourth detachment was arrested in the middle
of the Avenue on the trolley tracks. But still they came.
A few days later more women were sent to the workhouse for
carrying to the picket line this question:
"President Wilson, what did you mean when you said: `We have seen
a good many singular things happen recently. We have been told
there is a deep disgrace resting upon the origin of this nation.
The nation originated in the sharpest sort of criticism of public
policy. We originated, to put it in the vernacular, in a kick,
and if it be unpatriotic to kick, why then the grown man is
unlike the child. We have forgotten the very principle of our
origin if we have forgotten how to object, how to resist, how to
agitate, how to pull down and build up, even to the extent of
revolutionary practices, if it be necessary to readjust matters.
I have forgotten my history, if that be not true history."'
The Administration had not yet abandoned hope of removing the
pickets. They persisted in their policy of arrests and longer
During all this time the suffrage prisoners were enduring the
miserable and petty tyranny of the government workhouse at
Occoquan. They were kept absolutely incommunicado. They were not
allowed to see even their nearest relatives, should any be within
reach, until they had been in the institution two weeks.
Each prisoner was allowed to write one outgoing letter a month,
which, after being read by the warden, could be sent or withheld
at his whim.
All incoming mail and telegrams were also censored by the
Superintendent and practically all of them denied the prisoners.
Superintendent Whittaker openly boasted of holding up the
suffragists' mail: "I am boss down here," he said to visitors who
asked to see the prisoners, or to send in a note. "I consider the
letters and telegrams these prisoners get are treasonable. They
cannot have them." He referred to messages commending the women
for choosing prison to silence, and bidding them stand steadfast
to their program.
Of course all this was done in the hope of intimidating not only
the prisoners, but also those who came wanting to see them.
It was the intention of the women to abide as far as possible by
the routine of the institution, disagreeable and unreasonable as
it was. They performed the tasks assigned to them. They ate the
prison food without protest. They wore the coarse prison clothes.
But at the end of the first week of detention
they became so weak from the shockingly bad food that they began
to wonder if they could endure such a system. The petty tyrannies
they could endure. But the inevitable result of a diet of sour
bread, half-cooked vegetables, rancid soup with worms in it, was
Finally the true condition of affairs trickled to the outside
world through the devious routes of prison messengers.
Senator J. Hamilton Lewis, of Illinois, Democratic whip in the
Senate, heard alarming reports of two of his constituents, Miss
Lucy Ewing, daughter of Judge Ewing, niece of Adlai Stevenson,
Vice-President in Cleveland's Administration, niece of James
Ewing, minister to Belgium in the same Administration, and Mrs.
William Upton Watson of Chicago. He made a hurried trip to the
workhouse to see them. The fastidious Senator was
shocked-shocked at the appearance of the prisoners, shocked at
the tale they told, shocked that "ladies" should be subjected to
such indignities. "In all my years of criminal practice," said
the Senator to Gilson Gardner, who had accompanied him to the
workhouse, "I have never seen prisoners so badly treated, either
before or after conviction." He is a gallant gentleman who would
be expected to be uncomfortable when he actually saw ladies
suffer. It was more than gallantry in this instance, however, for
he spoke in frank condemnation of the whole "shame and outrage"
of the thing.
It is possible that he reported to other Administration officials
what he had learned during his visit to the workhouse for very
soon afterwards it was announced that an investigation of
conditions in the workhouse would be held. That was, of course,
an admirable maneuver which the Administration could make. "Is
the President not a kind man? He pardoned some women. Now he
investigates the conditions under which others are imprisoned.
Even though they are lawless women, he wishes them well treated."
It would sound "noble" to thousands.
Immediately the District Commissioners announced this
investigation, Miss Lucy Burns, acting on behalf of the National
Woman's Party, sent a letter to Commissioner Brownlow. After
summing up the food situation Miss Burns wrote:
When our friends were sent to prison, they expected the food
would be extremely plain, but they also expected that
. . enough eatable food would be given them to maintain them in
their ordinary state of health. This has not been the case.
The testimony of one of the prisoners, Miss Lavinia Dock, a
trained nurse, is extremely valuable on the question of food
supplied at Occoquan. Miss Dock is Secretary of the American
Federation of Nurses. She has had a distinguished career in her
profession. She assisted in the work after the Johnstown flood
and during the yellow fever epidemic in Florida. During the
Spanish war she organized the Red Cross work with Clara Barton.
`I really thought,' said Miss Dock, when I last saw her, `that I
could eat everything, but here I have hard work choking down
enough food to keep the life in me.'
I am sure you will agree with me that these conditions should be
instantly remedied. When these and other prisoners were sentenced
to prison they were sentenced to detention and not to starvation
The hygienic conditions have been improved at Occoquan since a
group of suffragists were imprisoned there. But they are still
bad. The water they drink is kept in an open pail, from which it
is ladled into a drinking cup. The prisoners frequently dip the
drinking cup directly into the pail.
The same piece of soap is used for every prisoner. As the
prisoners in Occoquan are sometimes seriously afflicted with
disease, this practice is appallingly negligent.
Concerning the general conditions of the person, I am enclosing
with this letter, affidavit of Mrs. Virginia Bovee, an ex-officer
of the workhouse . . . . The prisoners for whom I am counsel are
aware that cruel practices go on at Occoquan. On one occasion
they heard Superintendent Whittaker kicking a woman in the next
room. They heard Whittaker's voice, the sound of blows, and the
I lay these facts before you with the knowledge that you will be
glad to have the fullest possible information given you
concerning the institution for whose administration you as
Commissioner of the District of Columbia are responsible.'
Very respectfully yours,
(Signed) LUCY BURNS.
Mrs. Bovee, a matron, was discharged from the workhouse because
she tried to be kind to the suffrage prisoners. She also gave
them warnings to guide them past the possible contamination of
hideous diseases. As soon as she was discharged from the
workhouse she went to the headquarters of the Woman's Party and
volunteered to make an affidavit. The affidavit of Mrs. Bovee
I was discharged yesterday as an officer of Occoquan workhouse.
For eight months I acted as night officer, with no complaint as
to my performance of my duties. Yesterday Superintendent
Whittaker told me I was discharged and gave me two hours in which
to get out. I demanded the charges from the matron, Mrs. Herndon,
and I was told that it was owing to something that Senator Lewis
I am well acquainted with the conditions at Occoquan. I have had
charge of all the suffragist prisoners who have been there. I
know that their mail has been withheld from them. Mrs. Herndon,
the matron, reads the mail, and often discussed it with us at the
officers' table. She said of a letter sent to one of the
suffragist pickets now in the workhouse, "They told her to keep
her eyes open and notice everything. She will never get that
letter," said Mrs. Herndon. ,Then she corrected herself, and
added, "Not until she goes away." Ordinarily the mail not given
the prisoners is destroyed. The mail for the suffragists is saved
for them until they are ready to go away. I have Seen three of
the women have one letter each, but that is all. The three were
Mrs. Watson, Miss Ewing, and I think Miss Flanagan.
The blankets now being used in the prison have been in use since
December without being washed or cleaned. Blankets are washed
once a year. Officers are warned not to touch any
of the bedding. The one officer who handles it is compelled by
the regulations to wear rubber gloves while she does so. The
sheets for the ordinary prisoners are not changed completely,
even when one is gone and another takes her bed. Instead the top
sheet is put on the bottom, and one fresh sheet is given them. I
was not there when these suffragists arrived, and I do not know
how their bedding was arranged. I doubt whether the authorities
would have dared to give them one soiled sheet.
The prisoners with disease are not always isolated, by any means.
In the colored dormitory there are two women in the advanced
stages of consumption. Women suffering from, syphilis, who have
open sores, are put in the hospital. But those whose sores are
temporarily healed are put in the same dormitory with the others.
There have been several such in my dormitory.
When the prisoners come they must undress and take a shower bath.
For this they take a piece of soap from a bucket in the store
room. When they are finished they throw the soap back in the
bucket. The suffragists are permitted three showers a week and
have only these pieces of soap which are common to all inmates.
There is no soap at all in wash rooms.
The beans, hominy, rice, cornmeal (which is exceedingly coarse,
like chicken feed) and cereal have all had worms in them.
Sometimes the worms float on top of the soup. Often they are
found in the cornbread. The first suffragists sent the worms to
Whittaker on a spoon. On the farm 'is a fine herd of Holsteins.
The cream is made into butter and sold to the tuberculosis
hospital in Washington. At the officers' table we have very good
milk. The prisoners do not have any butter or sugar, and no milk
except by order of the doctor.
Prisoners are punished by being put on bread or water, or by
being beaten. I know of one girl who has been kept seventeen days
on only water this month in the "booby house." The ,same was kept
nineteen days on water last year because she .beat Superintendent
Whittaker when he tried to beat her.
Superintendent Whittaker or his son are the only ones who beat
the girls. Officers are not allowed to lay a hand on them in
punishment. I know of one girl beaten until the blood had to be
scrubbed from her clothing and from the floor of the
"booby house." I have never actually seen a girl beaten, but I
have seen her afterwards and I have heard the cries and blows.
Dorothy Warfield was beaten and the suffragists heard the
(Signed) MRS. VIRGINIA BOVEE.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this day of disgust, 1917.
JOSEPH H. BATT, Notary Public.
While the Administration was planning an investigation of the
conditions in the workhouse, which made it difficult for women to
sustain health through a thirty day sentence, it was, through its
police court, sentencing more women to sixty day sentences, under
the same conditions. The Administration was giving some thought
to its plan of procedure, but not enough to master the simple
fact that women would not stop going to prison until something
had been done which promised passage of the amendment through
New forms of intimidation and hardship were offered by
Mrs. Frederick Kendall of Buffalo, New York, a frail and
highly sensitive woman, was put in a "punishment cell" on bread
and water, under a 'charge of "impudence." Mrs. Kendall says
that her impudence consisted of "protesting to the matron that
scrubbing floors on my hands and knees was too severe work for
me as I had been unable for days to eat the prison food. My
impudence further consisted in asking for lighter work."
Mrs. Kendall was refused the clean clothing she should have had
the day she was put in solitary confinement and was thus forced
to wear the same clothing eleven days. She was refused a
nightdress or clean linen for the cot. Her only toilet
accommodations was an open pail. For four days she was allowed no
water for toilet purposes., Her diet consisted of three thin
slices of bread and three cups of water, carried to her in a
paper cup which frequently leaked out half the meager supply
before it got to Mrs. Kendall's cell.
Representative and Mrs. Charles Bennet Smith, of Buffalo, friends
of Mrs. Kendall, created a considerable disturbance when they
learned of this cruel treatment, with the result that Mrs.
Kendall was finally given clean clothing and taken from her
confinement. When she walked from her cell to greet Mrs.
Genevieve Clark Thompson, daughter of Champ Clark, Speaker of the
House, and Miss Roberta Bradshaw, other friends, who, through the
Speaker's influence, had obtained special permission to see Mrs.
Kendall, she fell in a dead faint. It was such shocking facts as
these that the Commissioners and their investigating board were
vainly trying to keep from the country for the sake of the
reputation of the Administration.
For attempting to spear to Mrs. Kendall through her cell door, to
inquire as to her health, while in solitary, Miss Lucy Burns was
placed on a bread and water diet.
Miss Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the only woman member of
Congress, was moved by these and similar revelations to introduce
a resolution calling for a Congressional investigation of the
There were among the suffrage prisoners women of all shades of
The following letter by Miss Gvinter, the young Russian worker,
was smuggled out of the workhouse. This appeal to Meyer London
was rather pathetic, since not even he, the only Socialist member
in Congress, stood up to denounce the treatment of the pickets.
Comrade Meyer London:
I am eight years in this movement, three and a half years a
member of the Socialist Party, Branches 2 and 4 of the Bronx, and
I have been an active member of the Waist Makers' Union since
1910. I am from New York, but am now in Balti-
For text of Miss Rankin's resolution see Appendix 3.
more, where I got acquainted with the comrades who asked me to
picket the White House, and of course I expressed my willingness
to help the movement. I am now in the workhouse. I want to get
out and help in the work as I am more revolutionary than the
Woman's Party, yet conditions here are so bad that I feel I must
stay here and help women get their rights. We are enslaved here.
I am suffering very much from hunger and nearly blind from bad
nourishment. The food is chiefly soup, cereal with worms, bread
just baked and very heavy. Even this poor food, we do not get
enough. I do not eat meat. When I told the doctor that he said,
"You must eat, and if you don't like it here, you go and tell the
judge you won't picket any more, and then you can get out of
here." But I told him that I could not go against my principles
and my belief. He asked, "Do you believe you should break the
law?" I replied, "I have picketed whenever I had a chance for
eight years and have never broken the law. Picketing is legal."
Please come here as quickly as possible, as we need your help.
Will you give the information in this letter to the newspapers?
Please pardon this scrap of paper as I have nothing else to write
on. I would write to other comrades, to Hillquit or Paulsen, but
you are in the Congress and can do more.
Yours for the Cause,
(Signed) ANNA GVINTER.
OCCOQUAN WORKHOUSE, Friday, Sept. 21.
Miss Gvinter swore to an affidavit when she came out in which she
said in part:
. . . The days that we had to stand on scaffolds and ladders to
paint the dormitories, I was so weak from lack of food I was
dizzy and in constant danger of falling.
. . . When they told me to scrub the floors of the lavatories I
refused, because I have to work for my living and I could not
afford to get any of the awful diseases that women down there
I obeyed all the rules of the institution. The only times I
stopped working was because I was too sick to work.
(Signed) ANNA GVINTER.
Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence this 13th day of
(Signed) C. LARIMORE KEELEY,
Notary Public, D. C.
Half a hundred women was the government's toll for one month:-
.Continuous arrests kept the issue hot and kept people who cared
in constant protest. It is impossible to give space to the
countless beautiful messages which were sent to the women, or the
fervent protests which went to government officials. Among the
hundreds of thousands of protests was a valuable one by Dr.
Harvey Wiley, the celebrated food expert, in a letter to Dr.
George M. Kober, member of the Board in control of the jail and
workhouse, and a well-known sanitarium. Dr. Wiley wrote:
November 3, 1917.
Dear Dr. Kober:
I am personally acquainted with many of the women who have been
confined at Occoquan, and at the District jail, and have heard
from their own lips an account of the nutrition and sanitary
conditions prevailing at both places.
I, therefore, feel constrained to make known to you the
conditions, as they have been told to me, and as I believe them
actually to exist.
As I understand it, there is no purpose in penal servitude of
lowering the vitality of the prisoner, or in inviting disease.
Yet both of these conditions prevail both at Occoquan and at the
District jail. First of all, the food question. The diet
furnished the prisoners at Occoquan especially is of a character
to invit6 all kinds of infections that may prevail, and to lower
the vitality so that the resistance to disease is diminished. I
have fortunately come into possession of samples of the food
actually given to these women. I have kept samples of the milk
religiously for over two weeks to see if I could
detect the least particle of fat, and have been unable to
perceive any. The fat of milk is universally recognized by
dieticians as its most important nutritive character. I
understand that a dairy is kept on the farm at Occoquan, and yet
it is perfectly certain that no whole milk is served or ever has
been served to one of the so-called "picketers" in that jail. I
have not had enough of the sample to make a chemical analysis,
but being somewhat experienced in milk, I can truthfully say that
it seems to me to be watered skimmed milk. I also have a sample
of the pea soup served. The pea grains are coarsely broken, often
more than half of a pea, being served in one piece. They never
have been cooked, but are in a perfectly raw state, and found to
be inedible by the prisoners.
I have also samples of the corn bread which is most unattractive
and repellant to the eye and to the taste. All of these witnesses
say that the white bread apparently is of good quality, but the
diet in every case is the cause of constipation, except in the
case of pea soup, which brings on diarrhea and vomiting. As
nutrition is the very foundation of sanitation, I wish to call to
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