Jailed for Freedom
Part 5 out of 8
into a kind of stupor. It was nearly noon and I had had no food
offered me since the sandwiches our friends brought us in the
courtroom at noon the day before.
The doctor came and examined my heart. Then he examined my lame
foot. It had a long blue bruise above the ankle, where they had
knocked me as they took me across the night
before. He asked me what caused' the bruise. I said, "Those
fiends when they dragged me to the cell last night." It was
paining me. He asked if I wanted liniment and I said only hot
water. They brought that, and I noticed they did not lock the
door. A negro trusty was there. I fell back again into the same
The next day they brought me some toast and a plate of food, the
first I had been offered in over 36 hours. I just looked at the
food and motioned it away. It made me sick . . . . I was released
on the sixth day and passed the dispensary as I came out. There
were a group of my friends, Mrs. Brannan and Mrs. Morey and many
others. They had on coarse striped dresses and big, grotesque,
heavy shoes. I burst into tears as they led me away.
(Signed) MARY I. NOLAN.
November 21, 1917,
The day following their commitment to Occoquan Mr. O'Brien, of
counsel, was directed to see the women, to ascertain their
condition. Friends and relatives were alarmed, as not a line of
news had been allowed to penetrate to the world. Mr. O'Brien was
denied admission and forced to come back to Washington without
any report whatsoever.
The next day Mr. O'Brien again attempted to see his clients, as
did also the mother of Miss Matilda Young, the youngest prisoner
in Mr. Whittaker's care, and Miss Katherine Morey, who went
asking to see her mother. Miss Morey was held under armed guard
half a mile from the prison. Admission was denied to all of them.
The terrible anxiety at Headquarters was not relieved the third
day by a report brought from the workhouse by one of the marines
stationed at Quantico Station, Virginia, who had been summoned to
the workhouse on the night the women arrived. He brought news
that unknown tortures were going on. Mr. O'Brien immediately
forced his way through by a court order, and brought back to
Headquarters the astounding news
of the campaign of terrorism which had started the moment the
prisoners had arrived, and which was being continued at that
moment. Miss Lucy Burns, who had assumed responsibility for the
welfare of the women, had managed to secrete small scraps of
paper and a tiny pencil, and jot down briefly the day by day
events at the workhouse.
This week of brutality, which rivaled old Russia, if it did not
outstrip it, was almost the blackest page in the Administration's
cruel fight against women.
Here are some of the scraps of Miss Burn's day-by-day log,
smuggled out of the workhouse. Miss Burns is so gifted a writer
that I feel apologetic for using these scraps in their raw form,
but I know she will forgive me.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14. Demanded to see Superintendent Whittaker.
Request refused. Mrs. Herndon, the matron, said we would have to
wait up all night. One of the men guards said he would "put us in
sardine box and put mustard on us." Superintendent Whittaker came
at 9 p. m. He refused to hear our demand for political rights.
Seized by guards from behind, flung off my feet, and shot out of
the room. All of us were seized by men guards and dragged to
cells in men's part. Dorothy Day was roughly used-back twisted.
Mrs. Mary A. Nolan ('73-year-old picket from Jacksonville,
Florida) flung into cell. Mrs. Lawrence Lewis shot past my cell.
I slept with Dorothy Day in a single bed. I was handcuffed all
night and manacled to the bars part of the time for asking the
others how they were, and was threatened with a straitjacket and
a buckle gag.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16 . . . . Asked for Whittaker, who came. He
seized Julia Emory by the back of her neck and threw her into the
room very brutally. She is a little girl. I asked for counsel to
learn the status of the case. I was told to "shut up," and was
again threatened with a straitjacket and a buckle gag. Later I
was taken to put on prison clothes, refused and resisted
strenuously. I was then put in a room where delirium tremens
patients are kept.
On the seventh day, when Miss Lucy Burns and Mrs. Lawrence Lewis
were so weak that Mr. Whittaker feared their death, they were
forcibly fed and taken immediately to the jail in Washington. Of
the experience Mrs. Lewis wrote:-
I was seized and laid on my back, where five people held me, a
young colored woman leaping upon my knees, which seemed to break
under the weight. Dr. Gannon then forced the tube through my lips
and down my throat, I gasping and suffocating with the agony of
it. I didn't know where to breathe from and everything turned
black when the fluid began pouring in. I was moaning and making
the most awful sounds quite against my will, for I did not wish
to disturb my friends in the next room. Finally the tube was
withdrawn. I lay motionless. After a while I was dressed and
carried in a chair to a waiting automobile, laid on the back seat
and driven into Washington to the jail hospital. Previous to the
feeding I had been forcibly examined by Dr. Gannon, I protesting
that I wished a woman physician.
Of this experience, Miss Burns wrote on tiny scraps of paper:
WEDNESDAY, 12 m. Yesterday afternoon at about four or five, Mrs.
Lewis and I were asked to go to the operating room. Went there
and found our clothes. Told we were to go to Washington. No
reason as usual. When we were dressed, Dr. Gannon appeared, and
said he wished to examine us. Both refused. Were dragged through
halls by force, our clothing partly removed by force, and we were
examined, heart tested, blood pressure and pulse taken. Of course
such data was of no value after such a struggle. Dr. Gannon told
me then I must be fed. Was stretched on bed, two doctors, matron,
four colored prisoners present, Whittaker in hall. I was held
down by five people at legs, arms, and head. I refused to open
mouth. Gannon pushed tube up left nostril. I turned and twisted
my head all I could, but he managed to push it up. It hurts nose
and throat very much and makes nose bleed freely. Tube drawn out
covered with blood. Operation leaves one very sick. Food dumped
directly into stomach feels like a ball
of lead. Left nostril, throat and muscles of neck very sore all
night. After this I was brought into the hospital in an
ambulance. Mrs. Lewis and I placed in same room. Slept hardly at
all. This morning Dr. Ladd appeared with his tube. Mrs. Lewis and
I said we would not be forcibly fed. Said he would call in men
guards and force us to submit. Went away and we were not fed at
all this morning. We hear them outside now cracking eggs.
With Miss Burns and Mrs. Lewis, who were regarded as leaders in
the hunger strike protest, removed to the district jail, Mr.
Whittaker and his staff at Occoquan began a systematic attempt to
break down the morale of the hunger strikers. Each one was called
to the mat and interrogated.
"Will you work?"-"Will you put on prison clothes?" "Will you
eat?"-"Will you stop picketing?"-"Will you go without paying your
fine and promise never to picket again?"
How baffled he must have been! The answer was definite and final.
Their resistance was superb.
"One of the few warning incidents during the gray days of our
imprisonment was the unexpected sympathy and understanding of one
of the government doctors," wrote Miss Betty Gram of Portland,
"’This is the most magnificent sacrifice I have ever seen made
for a principle [he said I never believed that American women
would care so much about freedom. I have seen women in Russia
undergo extreme suffering for their ideals, but unless I had seen
this with my own eyes I never would have believed it. My sister
hunger struck in Russia, where she was imprisoned for refusing to
reveal the whereabouts of two of her friends indicted for a
government offense. She was fed after three days. You girls are
on your ninth day of hunger strike and your condition is
critical. It is a great pity that such women should be subjected
to this treatment. I hope that you will carry your point and
force the hand of the government soon'."
The mother of Matilda Young, the youngest picket, anxiously
appealed to Mr. Tumulty, Secretary to President Wilson, and a
family friend, to be allowed to see the President and ask for a
special order to visit her daughter. Failing to secure this, she
went daily to Mr. Tumulty's office asking if he himself would not
intercede for her. Mr. Tumulty assured her that her daughter was
in safe hands, that she need give herself no alarm, the stories
of the inhuman treatment at Occoquan were false, and that she
must not believe them. Finally Mrs. Young pleaded to be allowed
to send additional warm clothing to her daughter, whom she knew
to be too lightly clad for the vigorous temperature of November.
Mr. Tumulty assured her that the women were properly clothed, and
refused to permit the clothing to be sent. The subsequent stories
of the women showed what agonies they had endured, because they
were inadequately clad, from the dampness of the cells into which
they were thrown.
Mrs. John Winters Brannan was among the women who endured the
"night of terror." Mrs. Brannan is the daughter of Charles A.
Dana, founder of the New York Sun and that great American patriot
of liberty who was a trusted associate -and counselor of Abraham
Lincoln. Mrs. Brannan, life-long suffragist, is an aristocrat of
intellect and feeling, who has always allied herself with
libertarian movements. This was her second term of imprisonment.
She wrote a comprehensive affidavit of her experience. After
narrating the events which led up to the attack, she continues:
Superintendent Whittaker . . . then shouted out in a loud tone of
voice, "Seize these women, take them off, that one, that one;
take her off." The guards rushed forward and an almost
indescribable scene of violent confusion ensued. I . . . saw one
of the guards seize her [Lucy Burns] by the arms, twist or force
them back of her, and one or two other guards seize her by the
shoulders, shaking her violently . . . .
I then . . took up my heavy sealskin coat, which was lying by,
and put it on, in order to prepare myself if attacked . . . . I
was trembling at the time and was stunned with terror at the
situation as it had developed, and said to the superintendent, "I
will give my name under protest," and started to walk towards the
desk whereon lay the books. The superintendent shouted to me,
"Oh, no, you won't; don't talk about protest; I won't have any of
I . . . saw the guards seizing the different women of the party
with the utmost violence, the furniture being overturned and the
room a scene of the utmost disturbance. I saw Miss Lincoln lying
on the floor, with every appearance of having just been thrown
down by the two guards who were standing over her in a menacing
attitude. Seeing the general disturbance, I gave up all idea of
giving my name at the desk, and instinctively joined my
companions, to go with them and share whatever was in store for
them. The whole group of women were thrown, dragged or herded out
of the office on to the porch, down the steps to the ground, and
forced to cross the road . . . to the Administration Building.
During all of this time, . . . Superintendent Whittaker was . . .
directing the whole attack. . . .
. . .All of us were thrown into different cells in the men's
prison, I being put in one with four other women, the cell
containing a narrow bed and one chair, which was immediately
removed . . . .
During the time that we were being forced into the cells
the guards kept up an uproar, shouting, banging the iron
doors, clanging bars, making a terrifying noise.
I and one of my companions were lying down on the narrow bed, on
which were a blanket and one pillow. The door of the cell was
opened and a mattress and a blanket being thrown in, the door was
violently banged to . . . . My other . . . companions arranged
the mattress on the floor and lay down, covering themselves with
. . . I looked across the corridor and saw Miss Lincoln, . and
asked her whether she was all right, being anxious to know
whether she had been hurt by the treatment in the office
building. . . Instantly Superintendent Whittaker rushed forward,
shouting at me, "Stop that; not another word from your
mouth, or I will handcuff you, gag you and put you in a
straitjacket. . .
I wish to state again that the cells into which we were put were
situated in the men's prison. There was no privacy for the women,
and if any of us wished to undress we would be subject to the
view or observation of the guards who remained in the corridor
and who could at any moment look at us . . . . Furthermore, the
water closets were in full view of the corridor where
Superintendent Whittaker and the guards were moving about. The
flushing of these closets could only be done from the corridor,
and we were forced to ask the guards to do this for us,-the men
who had shortly before attacked us . . . .
None of the matrons or women attendants appeared at any time that
night. No water was brought to us for washing, no food was
offered to us . . . .
I was exhausted by what I had seen and been through, and spent
the night in absolute terror of further attack and of what might
still be in store for us. I thought of the young girls who were
with us and feared for their safety. The guards
acted brutal in the extreme, incited to their brutal conduct
towards us, . . , by the superintendent. I thought of the offense
with which we had been charged,-merely that of obstructing
traffic,-and felt that the treatment that we had received was out
of all proportion to the offense with which we were charged, and
that the superintendent, the matron and guards would not have
dared to act towards us as they had acted unless they relied upon
the support of higher authorities. It seemed to me that
everything had been done from the time we reached the workhouse
to terrorize us, and my fear lest the extreme of outrage would be
worked upon the young girls of our party became intense.
It is impossible for me to describe the terror of that night. . .
The affidavit then continues with the story of how Mrs. Brannan
was compelled the following morning to put on prison clothes, was
given a cup of skimmed milk and a slice of toast, and then taken
to the sewing room, where she was put to work sewing on the
underdrawers of the male prisoners.
I was half fainting all of that day and . . . requested
permission to lie down, feeling so ill . . . . I could not sleep,
having a sense of constant danger . . . . I was almost paralyzed
and in wretched physical condition.
On Friday afternoon Mrs. Herndon [matron]. . . led us
through some woods nearby, for about three-quarters of a mile,
seven of us being in the party. We were so exhausted and weary
that we were obliged to stop constantly to rest. On our way back
from the walk we heard the baying of hounds very near us in the
woods. The matron said, "You must hurry, the bloodhounds are
loose." One of the party, Miss Findeisen, asked whether they
would attack us, to which the matron replied, "That is just what
they would do," and hurried us along. The baying grew louder and
nearer at times and then more distant, as the dogs rushed back
and forth, and this went on until we reached the sewing room. The
effect of this upon our nerves can better be imagined than
described . . . .
Every conceivable lie was tried in an effort to force the women
to abandon their various form of resistance. They were told that
no efforts were being made from the outside to reach them, and
that their attorney had been called off the case. Each one was
told that she was the only one hunger striking. Each one was told
that all the others had put on prison clothes and were working.
Although they were separated from one another they suspected the
lies and remained strong in their resistance. After Mr. O'Brien's
one visit and the subsequent reports in the press he was
thereafter refused admission to the workhouse.
The judge had sentenced these women to the jail, but the District
Commissioners had ordered them committed to the workhouse. It was
evident that the Administration was anxious to keep this group
away from Alice Paul and her companions, as they counted on
handling the rebellion more easily in two groups than one.
Meanwhile the condition of the prisoners in the workhouse grew
steadily worse. It was imperative that we force the Ad-
ministration to take them out of the custody of Superintendent
Whittaker immediately. We decided to take the only course open-to
obtain a writ of habeas corpus. A hurried journey by counsel to
United States District Judge Waddill of Norfolk, Virginia,
brought the writ. It compelled the government to bring the
prisoners into court and show cause why they should not be
returned to the district jail. This conservative, Southern judge
said of the petition for the writ, "It is shocking and blood-
There followed a week more melodramatic than the most stirring
moving picture film. Although the writ had been applied for in
the greatest secrecy, a detective suddenly appeared to accompany
Mr. O'Brien from Washington to Norfolk, during his stay in
Norfolk, and back to Washington. Telephone wires at our
headquarters were tapped.
It was evident that the Administration was cognizant of every
move in this procedure before it was executed. No sooner was our
plan decided upon than friends of the Administration besought us
to abandon the habeas corpus proceedings. One member of the
Administration sent an emissary to our headquarters with the
"If you will only drop these proceedings, I can absolutely
guarantee you that the prisoners will be removed from the
workhouse to the jail in a week:"
"In a week? They may be dead by that time," we answered. "We
"But I tell you, you must not proceed."
"Why this mysterious week?" we asked. "Why not tomorrow? Why not
"I can only tell you that I have a positive guarantee of the
District Commissioners that the women will be removed," he said
in conclusion. We refused to grant his request.
There were three reasons why the authorities wished for a week's
time. They were afraid to move the women in their
weakened condition and before the end of the week they hoped to
increase their facilities for forcible feeding at the workhouse.
They also wished to conceal the treatment of the women, the
exposure of which would be inevitable in any court proceedings.
And lastly, the Administration was anxious to avoid opening up
the whole question of the legality of the very existence of the
workhouse in Virginia.
Persons convicted in the District for acts committed in violation
of District law were transported to Virginia-alien territory-to
serve their terms. It was a moot point whether prisoners were so
treated with sufficient warrant in law. Eminent jurists held that
the District had no right to convict a person under its laws and
commit that person to confinement in another state. They
contended that sentence imposed upon a person for unlawful acts
in the District should be executed in the District.
Hundreds of persons who had been convicted in the District of
Columbia and who had served their sentences in Virginia had been
without money or influence enough to contest this doubtful
procedure in the courts. The Administration was alarmed.
We quickened our pace. A member of the Administration rushed his
attorney as courier to the women in the workhouse to implore them
not to consent to the habeas corpus proceedings. He was easily
admitted and tried to extort from one prisoner at a time a
promise to reject the plan. The women suspected his solicitude
and refused to make any promise whatsoever without first being
allowed to see their own attorney.
We began at once to serve the writ. Ordinarily this would be an
easy thing to do. But for us it developed into a very difficult
task. A deputy marshal must serve the writ. Counsel sought a
deputy. For miles around 'Washington, not one was to be found at
his home or lodgings. None could be reached by telephone.
Meanwhile Mr. Whittaker, had sped from the premises of
the workhouse to the District, where he kept himself discreetly
hidden for several days. When a deputy was found, six attempts
were made to serve the writ. All failed. Finally by a ruse, Mr.
Whittaker was caught at his home late at night. He was aroused to
a state of violent temper and made futile threats of reprisal
when he learned that he must produce the suffrage prisoners at
the Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on the day of November twenty-
Alice Paul in Prison
Great passions when they run through a whole population,
inevitably find a great spokesman. A people cannot remain dumb
which is moved by profound impulses of conviction; and when
spokesmen and leaders are found, effective concert of action
seems to follow as naturally. Men spring together for common
action under a common impulse which has taken hold upon their
very natures, and governments presently find that they have those
to reckon with who know not only what they want, but also the
most effective means of making governments uncomfortable until
they get it. Governments find themselves, in short, in the
presence of Agitation, of systematic movements of opinion, which
do not merely flare up in spasmodic flames and then die down
again, but burn with an accumulating ardor which can be checked
and extinguished only by removing the grievances, and abolishing
the unacceptable institutions which are its fuel. Casual
discontent can be allayed, but agitation fixed upon conviction
cannot be. To fight it is merely to augment its force. It burns
irrepressibly in every public assembly; quiet it there, and it
gathers head at street corners; drive it thence, and it smolders
in private dwellings, in social gatherings, in every covert of
talk, only to break forth more violently than ever because denied
vent and air. It must be reckoned with . . . .
Governments have been very resourceful in parrying agitation, in
diverting it, in seeming to yield to it, and then cheating it of
its objects, in tiring it out or evading it . . . . But the end,
whether it comes soon or late, is quite certain to be always the
“Constitutional Government in the United States."
Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D., LL.D.,
President of Princeton University.
The special session of the 65th Congress, known as the "War
Congress," adjourned in October, 1917, having passed every
measure recommended as a war measure by the President.
In addition, it found time to protect by law migratory birds, to
appropriate forty-seven million dollars for deepening rivers and
harbors, and to establish more federal judgeships. No honest
person would say that lack of time and pressure of
war legislation had prevented its consideration of the suffrage
measure. If one-hundredth part of the time consumed by its
members in spreading the wings of the overworked eagle, and in
uttering to bored ears "home-made" patriotic verse, had been
spent in considering the liberty of women, this important
legislation could have been dealt with. Week after week Congress
met only for three days, and then often merely for prayer and a
few hours of purposeless talking.
We had asked for liberty, and had got a suffrage committee
appointed in the House to consider the pros and cons of suffrage,
and a favorable report in the Senate from the Committee on Woman
Suffrage, nothing more.
On the very day and hour of the adjournment of the special
session of the War Congress, Alice Paul led eleven women to the
White House gates to protest against the Administration's
allowing its lawmakers to go home without action on the suffrage
Two days later Alice Paul and her colleagues were put on trial.
Many times during previous trials I had heard the District
Attorney for the government shake his finger at Miss Paul and
say, "We'll get you yet . . . . Just wait; and when we do, we'll
give you a year!"
It was reported from very authentic sources that Attorney General
Gregory had, earlier in the agitation, seriously considered
arresting Miss Paul for the Administration, on the charge of
conspiracy to break the law. We were told this plan was abandoned
because, as one of the Attorney General's staff put it, "No jury
would convict her."
However, here she was in their hands, in the courtroom.
Proceedings opened with the customary formality. The eleven
prisoners sat silently at the bar, reading their morning papers,
or a book, or enjoying a moment of luxurious idleness, oblivious
of the comical movements of a perturbed court.
Nothing in the world so baffles the pompous dignity of a court as
non-resistant defendants. The judge cleared his throat and the
attendants made meaningless gestures.
"Will the prisoners stand up and be sworn?"
They will not.
"Will they question witnesses?"
They will not.
"Will they speak in their own behalf ?"
The slender, quiet-voiced Quaker girl arose from her seat. The
crowded courtroom pressed forward breathlessly. She said calmly
and with unconcern: "We do not wish to make any plea before this
court. We do not consider ourselves subject to this court, since
as an unenfranchised class we have nothing to do with the making
of the laws which have put us in this position."
What a disconcerting attitude to take! Miss Paul sat down as
quietly and unexpectedly as she had arisen. The judge moved
uneasily in his chair. The gentle way in which it was said was
disarming. Would the judge hold them in contempt? He had not time
to think. His part of the comedy he had expected to run smoothly,
and here was this defiant little woman calmly stating that we
were not subject to the court, and that we would therefore have
nothing to do with the proceedings. The murmurs had grown to a
babel of conversation. A sharp rap of the gavel restored order
and permitted Judge Mullowny to say: "Unfortunately, I am here to
support the laws that are made by Congress, and, of course, I am
bound by those laws; and you are bound by them as long as you
live in this country, notwithstanding the fact that you do not
recognize the law."
Everybody strained his ears for the sentence. The Administration
had threatened to "get" the leader. Would they dare?
"I shall suspend sentence for the time being," came solemnly from
Was it that they did not dare confine Miss Paul? Were they
beginning actually to perceive the real strength of the movement
and the protest that would be aroused if she were imprisoned?
Again we thought perhaps this marked the end of the jailing of
But though the pickets were released on suspended sentences,
there was no indication of any purpose on the part of the
Administration of acting on the amendment. Two groups, some of
those on suspended sentence, others first offenders, again
marched to the White House gates. The following motto:
THE TIME HAS COME TO CONQUER OR SUBMIT; FOR US THERE CAN BE BUT
ONE CHOICE-WE HAVE MADE IT.
a quotation from the President's second Liberty Loan appeal, was
carried by Miss Paul.
Dr. Caroline E. Spencer of Colorado carried:
RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD.
All were brought to trial again.
The trial of Miss Paul's group ran as follows:
MR. HART (Prosecuting Attorney for the Government):
Sergeant Lee, were you on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White
House Saturday afternoon?
SERGEANT LEE: I was.
MR. HART: At what time?
LEE: About 4:35 in the afternoon.
HART: Tell the court what you saw.
LEE: A little after half-past four, when the department clerks
were all going home out Pennsylvania Avenue, I saw four
suffragettes coming down Madison Place, cross the Avenue and
continue on Pennsylvania Avenue to the gate of the White
House, where they divided two on the right and two on the left
side of the gate.
HART: What did you do?
LEE: I made my way through the crowd that was surrounding them
and told the ladies they were violating the law by standing at
the gates, and wouldn't they please move on?
HART: Did they move on?
LEE: They did not; and they didn't answer either.
HART: What did you do then?
LEE: I placed them under arrest.
HART: What did you do then?
LEE: I asked the crowd to move on.
Mr. Hart then arose and summing up said: "Your Honor, these women
have said that they will picket again. I ask you to impose the
Such confused legal logic was indeed drole!
"You ladies seem to feel that we discriminate in making arrests
and in sentencing you," said the judge heavily. "The result is
that you force me to take the most drastic means in my power to
compel you to obey the law."
More legal confusion!
"Six months," said the judge to the first offenders, "and then
you will serve one month more," to the others.
Miss Paul's parting remark to the reporters who intercepted her
on her way from the courtroom to begin her seven months' sentence
"We are being imprisoned, not because we obstructed traffic, but
because we pointed out to the President the fact that he was
obstructing the cause of democracy at home, while Americans were
fighting for it abroad."
I am going to let Alice Paul tell her own story, as she related
it to me one day after her release:
It was late afternoon when we arrived at the jail. There we found
the suffragists who had preceded us, locked in cells.
The first thing I remember was the distress of the prisoners
about the lack of fresh air. Evening was approaching, every
window was closed tight. The air in which we would be obliged to
sleep was foul. There were about eighty negro and white prisoners
crowded together, tier upon tier, frequently two in a cell. I
went to a window and tried to open it. Instantly a group of men,
prison guards, appeared; picked me up bodily, threw me into a
cell and locked the door. Rose Winslow and the others were
treated in the same way.
Determined to preserve out health and that of the other
prisoners, we began a concerted fight for fresh air. The windows
were about twenty feet distant from the cells, and two sets of
iron bars intervened between us and the windows, but we
instituted an attack upon them as best we could. Our tin drinking
cups, the electric light bulbs, every available article of the
meagre supply in each cell, including my treasured copy of
Browning's poems which I had secretly taken in with me, was
thrown through the windows. By this simultaneous attack from
every cell, we succeeded in breaking one window before our supply
of tiny weapons was exhausted. The fresh October air came in like
an exhilarating gale. The broken window remained untouched
throughout the entire stay of this group and all later groups of
suffragists. Thus was won what the "regulars" in jail called the
first breath of air in their time.
The next day we organized ourselves into a little group for the
purpose of rebellion. We determined to make it impossible to keep
us in jail. We determined, moreover, that as long as we were
there we would keep up an unremitting fight for the rights of
One by one little points were conceded to quiet resistance. There
was the practice of sweeping the corridors in such a way that the
dust filled the cells. The prisoners would be choking to the
gasping point, as they sat, helpless, locked in the cells, while
a great cloud of dust enveloped them from tiers above and below.
As soon as our tin drinking cups, which were sacrificed in our
attack upon the windows, were restored to us, we instituted a
campaign against the dust. Tin cup after tin cup was filled and
its contents thrown out into the corridor
from every cell, so that the water began to trickle down from
tier to tier. The District Commissioners, the Board of Charities,
and other officials were summoned by the prison authorities.
Hurried consultations were held. Nameless officials passed by in
review and looked upon the dampened floor. Thereafter the
corridors were dampened and the sweeping into the cells ceased.
And so another reform was won.
There is absolutely no privacy allowed a prisoner in a cell. You
are suddenly peered at by curious strangers, who look in at you
all hours of the day and night, by officials, by attendants, by
interested philanthropic visitors, and by prison reformers, until
one's sense of privacy is so outraged that one rises in
rebellion. We set out to secure privacy, but we did not succeed,
for, to allow privacy in prison, is against all institutional
thought and habit. Our only available weapon was our blanket,
which was no sooner put in front of our bars than it was forcibly
taken down by Warden Zinkhan.
Our meals had consisted of a little almost raw salt pork, some
sort of liquid-I am not sure whether it was coffee or soup-bread
and occasionally molasses. How we cherished the bread and
molasses! We saved it from meal to meal so as to try to
distribute the nourishment over a longer period, as almost every
one was unable to eat the raw pork. Lucy Branham, who was more
valiant than the rest of us, called out from her cell, one day,
"Shut your eyes tight, close your mouth over the pork and swallow
it without chewing it. Then you can do it." This heroic practice
kept Miss Branham in fairly good health, but to the rest it
seemed impossible, even with our eyes closed, to crunch our teeth
into the raw pork.
However gaily you start out in prison to keep up a rebellious
protest, it is nevertheless a terribly difficult thing to do in
the face of the constant cold and hunger of undernourishment.
Bread and water, and occasional molasses, is not a diet destined
to sustain rebellion long. And soon weakness overtook us.
At the end of two weeks of solitary confinement, without any
exercise, without going outside of our cells, some of the
prisoners were released, having finished their terms, but five of
us were left serving seven months' sentences, and two, one month
sentences. With our number thus diminished to seven,
the authorities felt able to cope with us. The doors were
unlocked and we were permitted to take exercise. Rose Winslow
fainted as soon as she got into the yard, and was carried back to
her cell. I was too weak to move from my bed. Rose and I were
taken on stretchers that night to the hospital.
For one brief night we occupied beds in the same ward in the
hospital. Here we decided upon the hunger strike, as the ultimate
form of protest left us-the strongest weapon left with which to
continue within the prison our battle against the Administration.
Miss Paul was held absolutely incommunicado in the prison
hospital. No attorney, no member of her family, no friend could
see her. With Miss Burns in prison also it became imperative that
I consult Miss Paul as to a matter of policy. I was peremptorily
refused admission by Warden Zinkhan, so I decided to attempt to
communicate with her from below her window. This was before we
had established what in prison parlance is known as the "grape-
vine route." The grape-vine route consists of smuggling messages
oral or written via a friendly guard or prisoner who has access
to the outside world.
Just before twilight, I hurried in a taxi to the far-away spot,
temporarily abandoned the cab and walked past the dismal cemetery
which skirts the prison grounds. I had fortified myself with a
diagram of the grounds, and knew which entrance to attempt, in
order to get to the hospital wing where Miss Paul lay. We had
also ascertained her floor and room. I must first pick the right
building, proceed to the proper corner, and finally select the
The sympathetic chauffeur loaned me a very seedy looking overcoat
which I wrapped about me. Having deposited my hat inside the cab,
I turned up the collar, drew in my chin and began surreptitiously
to circle the devious paths leading to a side entrance of the
grounds. My heart was palpitating, for the authorities had
threatened arrest if any suffragists were
found on the prison grounds, and aside from my personal feelings,
I could not at that moment abandon headquarters.
Making a desperate effort to act like an experienced and trusted
attendant of the prison, I roamed about and tried not to appear
roaming. I successfully passed two guards, and reached the
desired spot, which was by good luck temporarily deserted. I
succeeded in calling up loudly enough to be heard by Miss Paul,
but softly enough not to be heard by the guards.
I shall never forget the shock of her appearance at that window
in the gathering dusk. Everything in the world seemed black-gray
except her ghost-like face, so startling, so inaccessible. It
drove everything else from my mind for an instant. But as usual
she was in complete control of herself. She began to hurl
questions at me faster than I could answer. "How were the
convention plans progressing?" . . . "Had the speakers been
secured for the mass meeting?" . . . "How many women had signed
up to go out on the next picket line?" And so on.
"Conditions at Occoquan are frightful," said I. "We are planning
to . . ."
"Get out of there, and move quickly," shouted the guard, who came
abruptly around the corner of the building. I tried to finish my
message. "We are planning to habeas corpus the women out of
Occoquan and have them transferred up here."
"Get out of there, I tell you. Damn you!" By this time he was
upon me. He grabbed me by the arm and began shaking me. "You will
be arrested if you do not get off these grounds." He continued to
shake me while I shouted back, "Do you approve of this plan?"
I was being forced along so rapidly that I was out of range of
her faint voice and could not hear the answer. I plead with the
guard to be allowed to go back quietly and speak a few more words
with Miss Paul, but he was inflexible. Once out of the grounds I
went unnoticed to the cemetery and sat on a
tombstone to wait a little while before making another attempt,
hoping the guard would not expect me to come back. The lights
were beginning to twinkle in the distance and it was now almost
total darkness. I consulted any watch and realized that in forty
minutes Miss Paul and her comrades would again be going through
the torture of forcible feeding. I waited five minutes-ten
minutes-fifteen minutes. Then I went back to the grounds again. I
started through another entrance, but had proceeded only a few
paces when I was forcibly evicted. Again I returned to the cold
tombstone. I believe that I never in my life felt more utterly
miserable and impotent. There were times, as I have said, when we
felt inordinately strong. This was one of the times when I felt
that we were frail reeds in the hands of cruel and powerful
oppressors. My thoughts were at first with Alice Paul, at that
moment being forcibly fed by men jailers and men doctors. I
remembered then the man warden who had refused the highly
reasonable request to visit her, and my thoughts kept right on up
the scale till I got to the man-President-the pinnacle of power
against us. I was indeed desolate. I walked back to the hidden
taxi, hurried to headquarters, and plunged into my work, trying
all night to convince myself that the sting of my wretchedness
was being mitigated by activity toward a release from this state
Later we established daily communication with Miss Paul through
one of the charwomen who scrubbed the hospital floors. She
carried paper and pencil carefully concealed upon her. On
entering Miss Paul's room she would, with very comical stealth,
first elaborately push Miss Paul's bed against the door, then
crawl practically under it, and pass from this point of
concealment the coveted paper and pencil. Then she would linger
over the floor to the last second, imploring Miss Paul to hasten
her writing. Faithfully every evening this silent, dusky
messenger made her long journey after her day's work, and
patiently waited while I wrote an answering note to be delivered
to Miss Paul the following morning. Thus it was that while in the
hospital Miss Paul directed our campaign, in spite of the
Administration's most painstaking plans to the contrary.
Miss Paul's story continues here from the point where I
From the moment we undertook the hunger strike, a policy of
unremitting intimidation began. One authority after another, high
and low, in and out of prison, came to attempt to force me to
break the hunger strike.
"You will be taken to a very unpleasant place if you don't stop
this," was a favorite threat of the prison officials, as they
would hint vaguely of the psychopathic ward, and St. Elizabeth's,
the Government insane asylum. They alternately bullied and
hinted. Another threat was "You will be forcibly fed immediately
if you don't stop"-this from Dr. Gannon. There was nothing to do
in the midst of these continuous threats, with always the "very
unpleasant place" hanging over me, and so I lay perfectly silent
on my bed.
After about three days of the hunger strike a man entered my room
in the hospital and announced himself as Dr. White, the head of
St. Elizabeth's. He said that he had been asked by District
Commissioner Gardner to make an investigation. I later learned
that he was Dr. William A. White, the eminent alienist.
Coming close to my bedside and addressing the attendant, who
stood at a few respectful paces from him, Dr. White said: "Does
this case talk?"
"Why wouldn't I talk?" I answered quickly.
"Oh, these cases frequently will not talk, you know," he
continued in explanation.
"Indeed I'll talk," I said gaily, not having the faintest idea
that this was an investigation of my sanity.
"Talking is our business," I continued, "we talk to any one on
earth who is willing to listen to our suffrage speeches."
"Please talk," said Dr. White. "Tell me about suffrage;
why you have opposed the President; the whole history of your
campaign, why you picket, what you hope to accomplish by it. Just
I drew myself together, sat upright in bed, propped myself up for
a discourse of some length, and began to talk. The stenographer
whom Dr. White brought with him took down in shorthand everything
that was said.
I may say it was one of the best speeches I ever made. I recited
the long history and struggle of the suffrage movement from its
early beginning and narrated the political theory' of our
activities up to the present moment, outlining the status of the
suffrage amendment in Congress at that time. In short, I told him
everything. He listened attentively, interrupting only
occasionally to say, "But, has not President Wilson treated you
women very badly?" Whereupon, I, still unaware that I was being
examined, launched forth into an explanation of Mr. Wilson's
political situation and the difficulties he had confronting him.
I continued to explain why we felt our relief lay with him; I
cited his extraordinary power, his influence over his party, his
undisputed leadership in the country, always painstakingly
explaining that we opposed President Wilson merely because he
happened to be President, not because he was President Wilson.
Again came an interruption from Dr. White, "But isn't President
Wilson directly responsible for the abuses anal indignities which
have been heaped upon you? You are suffering now as a result of
his brutality, are you not?" Again I explained that it was
impossible for us to know whether President Wilson was personally
acquainted in any detail with the facts of our present condition,
even though we knew that he had concurred in the early decision
to arrest our women.
Presently Dr. White took out a small light and held it up to my
eyes. Suddenly it dawned upon me that he was examining me
personally; that his interest in the suffrage agitation and the
jail conditions did not exist, and that he was merely interested
in my reactions to the agitation and to jail. Even then I was
reluctant to believe that I was the subject of mental
investigation and I continued to talk.
But he continued in what I realized with a sudden shock, was an
attempt to discover in me symptoms of the persecution
mania. How simple he had apparently thought it would be, to prove
that I had an obsession on the subject of President Wilson!
The day following he came again, this time bringing with him the
District Commissioner, Mr. Gardner, to whom he asked me to repeat
everything that had been said the day before. For the second time
we went through the history of the suffrage movement, and again
his inquiry suggested his persecution mania clue? When the
narrative touched upon the President and his responsibility for
the obstruction of the suffrage amendment, Dr. White would turn
to his associate with the remark: "Note the reaction."
Then came another alienist , Dr. Hickling, attached to the
psychopathic ward in the District Jail, with more threats and
suggestions, if the hunger strike continued. Finally they
departed, and I was left to wonder what would happen next.
Doubtless my sense of humor helped me, but I confess A was not
without fear of this mysterious place which they continued to
It appeared clear that it was their intention either to discredit
me, as the leader of the agitation, by casting doubt upon my
sanity, or else to intimidate us into retreating from the
After the examination by the alienists, Commissioner Gardner,
with whom I had previously discussed our demand for treatment as
political prisoners, made another visit. "All these things you
say about the prison conditions may be true," said Mr. Gardner,
"I am a new Commissioner, and I do not know. You give an account
of a very serious situation in the jail. The jail authorities
give exactly the opposite. Now I promise you we will start an
investigation at once to see who is right, you or they. If it is
found you are right, we shall correct the conditions at once. If
you will give up the hunger strike, we will start the
investigation at once."
"Will you consent to treat the suffragists as political
prisoners, in accordance with the demands laid before you?" I
Commissioner Gardner refused, and I told him that the hunger
strike would not be abandoned. But they had by no means exhausted
every possible facility for breaking down our
resistance. I overheard the Commissioner say to Dr. Gannon on
leaving, "Go ahead, take her and feed her."
I was thereupon put upon a stretcher and carried into the
There were two windows in the room. Dr. Gannon immediately
ordered one window nailed from top to bottom. He then ordered the
door leading into the hallway taken down and an iron-barred cell
door put in its place. He departed with the command to a nurse to
Following this direction, all through the day once every hour,
the nurse came to "observe" me. All through the night, once every
hour she came in, turned on an electric light sharp in my face,
and "observed" me. This ordeal was the most terrible torture, as
it prevented my sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time.
And if I did finally get to sleep it was only to be shocked
immediately into wide-awakeness with the pitiless light.
Dr. Hickling, the jail alienist, also came often to "observe" me.
Commissioner Gardner and others-doubtless officials came to peer
through my barred door.
One day a young interne came to take a blood test. I protested
mildly, saying that it was unnecessary and that I objected. "Oh,
well," said the young doctor with a sneer and a supercilious
shrug, "you know you're not mentally competent to decide such
things." And the test was taken over my protest.
It is scarcely possible to convey to you one's reaction to such
an atmosphere. Here I was surrounded by people on their way to
the insane asylum. Some were waiting for their commitment papers.
Others had just gotten them. And all the while everything
possible was done to attempt to make me feel that I too was a
At this time forcible feeding began in the District Jail. Miss
Paul and Miss Winslow, the first two suffragists to undertake the
hunger strike, went through the operation of forcible feeding
this day and three times a day on each succeeding day until their
release from prison three weeks later. The
hunger strike spread immediately to other suffrage prisoners in
the jail and to the workhouse as recorded in the preceding
One morning [Miss Paul's story continues the friendly face of a
kindly old man standing on top of a ladder suddenly appeared at
my window. He began to nail heavy boards across the window from
the outside. He smiled and spoke a few kind words and told me to
be of good cheer. He confided to me in a sweet and gentle way
that he was in prison for drinking, that he had been in many
times, but that he believed he had never seen anything so inhuman
as boarding up this window and depriving a prisoner of light and
air. There was only time for a few hurried moments of
conversation, as I lay upon my bed watching the boards go up
until his figure was completely hidden and I heard him descending
After this window had been boarded up no light came into the room
except through the top half of the other window, and almost no
air. The authorities seemed determined. to deprive me of air and
Meanwhile in those gray, long days, the mental patients in the
psychopathic ward came and peered through my barred door. At
night, in the early morning, all through the day there were cries
and shrieks and moans from the patients. It was terrifying. One
particularly melancholy moan used to keep up hour after hour,
with the regularity of a heart beat. I said to myself, "Now I
have to endure this. I have got to live through this somehow.
I'll pretend these moans are the noise of an elevated train,
beginning faintly in the distance and getting louder as it comes
nearer." Such childish devices were helpful to me.
The nurses could not have been more beautiful in their spirit and
offered every kindness. But imagine being greeted in the morning
by a kindly nurse, a new one who had just come on duty, with, "I
know you are not insane." The nurses explained the procedure of
sending a person to the insane asylum. Two alienists examine a
patient in the psychopathic ward, sign an order committing the
patient to St. Elizabeth's Asylum, and there. the patient is sent
at the end of one week.
No trial, no counsel, no protest from the outside world! This was
the customary procedure.
I began to think as the week wore on that this was probably their
plan for me. I could not see my family or friends; counsel was
denied me; I saw no other prisoners and heard nothing of them; I
could see no papers; I was entirely in the hands of alienists,
prison officials and hospital staff.
I believe I have never in my life before feared anything or any
human being. But I confess I was afraid of Dr. Gannon, the jail
physician. I dreaded the hour of his visit.
"I will show you who rules this place. You think you do. But I
will show you that you are wrong." Some such friendly greeting as
this was frequent from Dr. Gannon on his daily round. "Anything
you desire, you shall not have. I will show you who is on top in
this institution," was his attitude.
After nearly a week had passed, Dudley Field Malone finally
succeeded in forcing an entrance by an appeal to court officials
and made a vigorous protest against confining me in the
psychopathic ward. He demanded also that the boards covering the
window be taken down. This was promptly done and again the
friendly face of the old man became visible, as the first board
"I thought when I put this up America would not stand for this
long," he said, and began to assure me that nothing dreadful
would happen. I cherish the memory of that sweet old man.
The day after Mr. Malone's threat of court proceedings, the
seventh day of my stay in the psychopathic ward, the attendants
suddenly appeared with a stretcher. I did not know whither I was
being taken, to the insane asylum, as threatened, or back to the
hospital-one never knows in prison where one is being taken, no
reason is ever given for anything. It turned out to be the
After another week spent by Miss Paul on hunger strike in the
hospital, the Administration was forced to capitulate. The doors
of the jail were suddenly opened, and all suffrage prisoners were
With extraordinary swiftness the Administration's almost
incredible policy of intimidation had collapsed. Miss Paul had
been given the maximum sentence of seven months, and at the end
of five weeks the Administration was forced to acknowledge
defeat. They were in a most unenviable position. If she and her
comrades had offended in such degree as to warrant so cruel a
sentence, (with such base stupidity on their part in
administering it) she most certainly deserved to be detained for
the full sentence. The truth is, every idea of theirs had been
subordinated to the one desire of stopping the picketing
agitation. To this end they had exhausted all their weapons of
From my conversation and correspondence with Dr. White, it is
clear that as an alienist he did not make the slightest
allegation to warrant removing Miss Paul to the psychopathic
ward. On the contrary he wrote, "I felt myself in the presence of
an unusually gifted personality" and . . . "she was wonderfully
alert and keen . . . possessed of an absolute conviction of her
cause . . . with industry and courage sufficient to avail herself
of them [all diplomatic possibilities. He praised the "most
admirable, coherent, logical and forceful way" in which she
discussed with him the purpose of our campaign.
And yet the Administration put her in the psychopathic ward and
threatened her with the insane asylum.
An interesting incident occurred during the latter part of Miss
Paul's imprisonment. Having been cut off entirely from outside
communication, she was greatly surprised one night at a late hour
to find a newspaper man admitted for an interview with her. Mr.
David Lawrence, then generally accepted as the Administration
journalist, and one who wrote for the various newspapers
throughout the country defending the policies of the Wilson
Administration, was announced. It was equally well known that
this correspondent's habit was to ascertain the position of the
leaders on important questions, keeping inti-
mately in touch with opinion in White House circles at the same
Mr. Lawrence came, as he said, of his own volition, and not as an
emissary from the White House. But in view of his close relation
to affairs, his interview is significant as possibly reflecting
an Administration attitude at that ,point in the campaign.
The conversation with Miss Paul revolved first about our fight
for the right of political prisoners, Miss Paul outlining the
wisdom and justice of this demand.
"The Administration could very easily hire a comfortable house in
Washington and detain you all there," said Mr. Lawrence, "but
don't you see that your demand to be treated as' political
prisoners is infinitely more difficult to grant than to give you
the federal suffrage amendment? If we give you these privileges
we shall have to extend them to conscientious objectors and to
all prisoners now confined for political opinions. This the
Administration cannot do."
The political prisoners protest, then, had actually encouraged
the Administration to choose the lesser of two evils some action
on behalf of the amendment.
"Suppose," continued Mr. Lawrence, "the Administration should
pass the amendment through one house of Congress next session and
go to the country in the 1918 elections on that record and if
sustained in it, pass it through the other house a year from now.
Would you then agree to abandon picketing?"
"Nothing short of the passage of the amendment through Congress
will end our agitation," Miss Paul quietly answered for the
Since Mr. Lawrence disavows any connection with the
4dministration in this interview, I can only remark that events
followed exactly in the order he outlined; that is, the Admin-
istration attempted to satisfy the women by putting the amendment
through the House and not through the Senate.
It was during Miss Paul's imprisonment that the forty-one women
went in protest to the picket line and were sent to the
workhouse, as narrated in the previous chapter. The terrorism
they endured at Occoquan ran simultaneously with the attempted
intimidation of Miss Paul and her group in the jail.
Administration Lawlessness Exposed
In August, 1917, when it was clear that the policy of imprisoning
suffragists would be continued indefinitely, and under longer
sentences, the next three groups of pickets to be arrested asked
for a decision from the highest court, the District Court of
Appeals. Unlike other police courts in the country, there is no
absolute right of appeal-from the Police Court of the District of
Columbia. Justice Robb, of the District Court of Appeals, after
granting two appeals, refused to grant any more, upon the ground
that he had discretionary power to grant or withhold an appeal.
When further right of appeal was denied us, and when the
Administration persisted in arresting us, we were compelled
either to stop picketing or go to prison.
The first appealed case was heard by the Court of Appeals on
January 8, 1918, and the decision handed down in favor of the
defendants on March 4, 1918. This decision was concurred in by
all three judges, one of whom was appointed by President Wilson,
a second by President Roosevelt and the third by President Taft.
In effect the decision declared that every one of the 218
suffragists arrested up to that time was illegally arrested,
illegally convicted, and illegally imprisoned. The whole policy
of the Administration in arresting women was by this decision
held up to the world as lawless. The women could, if they had
chosen, have filed suits for damages for false arrest and
imprisonment at once.
See Hunter vs. District of Columbia, 47 App. Cas. (D. C.) p.
The appeal cases of the other pickets were ordered dismissed and
stricken from the records. Dudley Field Malone was chief counsel
in the appeal.
Another example of ethical, if not legal lawlessness, was shown
by the Administration in the following incident. Throughout the
summer and early autumn we had continued to press for an
investigation of conditions at Occoquan, promised almost four
October 2nd was the date finally set for an investigation to be
held in the District Building before the District Board of
Charities. Armed with 18 affidavits and a score of witnesses as
to the actual conditions at Occoquan, Attorney Samuel C. Brent
and Judge J. K. N. Norton, both of Alexandria, Virginia, acting
as counsel with Mr. Malone, appeared before the Board on the
opening day and asked to be allowed to present their evidence.
They were told by the Board conducting the investigation that
this was merely "an inquiry into the workhouse conditions and
therefore would be held in secret without reporters or outsiders
present." The attorneys demanded a public hearing, and insisted
that the question was of such momentous importance that the
public was entitled to hear both sides of it. They were told they
might submit in writing any evidence they wished to bring before
the Board. They refused to produce testimony for a "star chamber
proceeding," and refused to allow their witnesses to be heard
unless they could be heard in public.
Unable to get a public hearing, counsel left the following letter
with the President of the Board:
Hon. John Joy Edson,
President Board of Charities,
Washington, D. C.
Dear Sir:-We are counsel for a large group of citizens, men and
women, who have in the past been associated with Occoquan work
house as officials or inmates and who are ready
to testify to unspeakable conditions of mismanagement, graft,
sanitary depravity, indignity and brutality at the institution.
We are glad you are to conduct this long-needed inquiry and shall
cooperate in every way to get at the truth of conditions in
Occoquan through your investigation, provided you make the
hearings public, subpoena all available witnesses, including men
and women now prisoners at Occoquan, first granting them
immunity, and provided you give counsel an opportunity to examine
and cross examine all witnesses so called.
We are confident your honorable board will see the justice and
wisdom of a public inquiry. If charges so publicly made are
untrue the management of Occoquan work house is entitled to
public vindication, and if these charges are true, the people of
Washington and Virginia should publicly know what kind of a
prison they have in their midst, and the people of the country
should publicly know the frightful conditions in this institution
which is supported by Congress and the government of the United
We are ready with our witnesses and affidavits to aid your
honorable board in every way, provided you meet the conditions
above named. But if you insist on a hearing behind closed doors
we cannot submit our witnesses to a star chamber proceeding and
shall readily find another forum in which to tell the American
public the vivid story of the Occoquan work house.
(Signed) DUDLEY FIELD MALONE,
J. K. N. NORTON,
SAMUEL G. BRENT.
Subsequently the District Board of Charities reported findings on
their secret investigation. After a lengthy preamble, in which
they attempted to put the entire blame upon the suffrage
prisoners, they advised:
That the investigation directed by the Commissioners of the
District of Columbia be postponed until the conditions of unrest,
excitement, and disquiet at Occoquan have been overcome:
That the order relieving W. H. Whittaker as superintend-
ent, temporarily and without prejudice, be revoked, and Mr.
Whittaker be restored to his position as superintendent:
That the members of the National Woman's Party now at Occoquan be
informed that unless they obey the rules of the institution and
discontinue their acts of insubordination and riot, they will be
removed from Occoquan to the city jail and placed in solitary
In announcing the report to the press the District Commissioners
stated that they approved the recommendations of the Board of
Charities "after most careful consideration," and that "as a
matter of fact, the District workhouse at Occoquan is an
institution of which the commissioners are proud, and is a source
of pride to every citizen of the nation's Capital."
That the Administration was in possession of the true facts
concerning Mr. Whittaker and his conduct in office there can be
no doubt. But they supported him until the end of their campaign
Another example of the Administration's lawlessness appeared in
the habeas corpus proceedings by which we rescued the prisoners
at the workhouse from Mr. Whittakers custody. The trial occurred
on November 23rd.
No one present can ever forget the tragi-comic scene enacted in
the little Virginia court room that cold, dark November morning.
There was Judge Waddill-who had adjourned his sittings in
Norfolk to hasten the relief of the prisoners-a mild mannered,
sweet-voiced Southern gentleman. There was Superintendent
Whittaker in his best Sunday clothes, which mitigated very little
the cruel and nervous demeanor which no one who has come under
his control will ever forget. His thugs were there, also dressed
in their best clothes, which only exaggerated their coarse
features and their shifty eyes. Mrs. Herndon, the thin-lipped
matron, was there, looking nervous
Pending the investigation Mr. Whittaker was suspended, and his
first assistant, Alonzo Tweedale, served in the capacity of
Appointed to the bench by President Roosevelt.
and trying to seem concerned about the prisoners in her charge.
Warden Zinkhan was there seeming worried at the prospect of the
prisoners being taken from the care of Superintendent Whittaker
and committed to him-he evidently unwilling to accept the
Dudley Field Malone and Mr. O'Brien of counsel, belligerent in
every nerve, were ready to try the case. The two dapper
government attorneys, with immobile faces, twisted nervously in
their chairs. There was the bevy of newspaper reporters
struggling for places in the little courtroom, plainly
sympathetic, for whatever they may have had to write for the
papers they knew that this was a battle for justice against
uneven odds. There were as many eager spectators as could be
crowded into so small an area. Upon the whole an air of
friendliness prevailed in this little court at 'Alexandria which
we had never felt in the Washington courts. And the people there
experienced a shock when the slender file of women, haggard, red-
eyed, sick, came to the bar. Some were able to walk to their
seats; others were so weak that they had to be stretched out 6n
the wooden benches with coats propped under their heads for
pillows. Still others bore the marks of the attack of the "night
of terror." Many of the prisoners lay back in their chairs hardly
conscious of the proceedings which were to. free them. Mrs.
Brannan collapsed utterly and had to be carried to a couch in an
It was discovered just as the trial was to open that Miss Lucy
Burns and Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, who it will be remembered had been
removed to the jail before the writ had been issued, were absent
from among the prisoners.
"They are too ill to be brought into court," Mr. Whittaker
replied to the attorneys for the defense.
"We demand that they be brought into court at our risk," answered
counsel for the defense.
The government's attorneys sustained Mr. Whittaker in
not producing them. It was clear that the government did not
her wish to have Miss Burns with the marks still fresh on
wrists from her manacling and handcuffing, and Mrs. Lewes with a
fever from the shock of the first night, brought before the judge
who was to decide the case.
"If it was necessary to handcuff Miss Burns to the bars of her
cell, we consider her well enough to appear," declared Mr.
O'Brien. . "We consider we ought to know what has happened to all
of these petitioners since these events. While I was at Occoquan
Sunday endeavoring to see my clients, Mr. Whittaker was trying to
induce the ladies, who, he says, are too sick to be brought here,
to dismiss this proceeding. Failing in that, he refused to let me
see them, though I had an order from Judge Mullowny, and they
were taken back to the District of Columbia. From that time to
this, though I had your Honor's order which you signed in
Norfolk, the superintendent of the Washington jail also refused
to allow me to see my clients, saying that your order had no
effect in the District of Columbia."
"If there are any petitioners that you claim have not been
brought here because they have been carried beyond the
jurisdiction of the courts, I think we should know it," ruled the
court. "Counsel for these ladies want them here; and they say
that they ought to be here and are well enough to b here; that
the respondent here has spirited them away and put them beyond
the jurisdiction of the court. On that showing, unless there is
some reason why they ought not to come, they should be here."
Miss Burns and Mrs. Lewes were accordingly ordered brought to
This preliminary skirmish over, the opening discussion revolved
about a point of law as to whether the Virginia District Court
had authority to act in this case.
After hearing both sides on this point, Judge Waddill said:
"These are not state prisoners; they are prisoners of the
District of Columbia. They are held by an order of the court
claiming to have jurisdiction in the District of Columbia.
But they are imprisoned in the Eastern District of Virginia, in
Occoquan workhouse which, very much to our regret, is down
here, and is an institution that we alone have jurisdiction over.
No court would fail to act when such a state of affairs as is set
forth in this petition is brought to its attention.
"Here was a case concerning twenty-five or thirty ladies. The
statement as to their treatment was bloodcurdling; it was
shocking to man's ideas of humanity if it is true. They are here
in court, and yet your answer denies all these facts which they
submit, It is a question whether you can do that anal yet deny
these petitioners the right of testimony."
Proceeding with this argument, the defense contended that the act
itself of the District Commissioners in sending prisoners to the
Occoquan workhouse was illegal; that no formal transfer from one
institution to another had ever been made, the sentencing papers
distinctly stating that all prisoners were committed to "the
Washington Asylum and Jail."
"We deny that the records of the Commissioners of the District of
Columbia can show that there was any order made by the Board for
the removal of these women. The liberty of a citizen cannot be so
disregarded and trifled with that any police official or jailer
may at his own volition, commit and hold him in custody and
compel him to work. The liberty of the people depends upon a
Repeated questions brought out from Mr. Zinkhan, Warden of the
Jail, the fact that the directions given by the Commissioners to
transfer prisoners from the jail to Occoquan rested entirely upon
a verbal order given "five or six years ago."
"Do you really mean," interrupted the court, "that the only
authority you have on the part of the Commissioners of
the District of Columbia to transfer parties down to Occoquan is
a verbal order made five or six years ago?"
Questions by the defense brought out the fact also that Mr.
Zinkhan could remember in detail the first oral orders he had
received for such a transfer, dating back to 1911, although he
could not remember important details as to how he had received
the orders concerning the suffragists committed to his care! He
only knew that "orders were oral and explicit."
Q. [By defense in court You say the three commissioners were
Q. Who else was present?
A. I am not sure just now who else was present. I remember
somebody else was there, but I don't remember just who . . . .
Q. Were the three commissioners present at the time Mr.
[Commissioner] Brownlow gave you this order?
Q. You say it was a verbal order of the Commissioners?
Q. Was the clerk of the Board present?
A. I think not.
Q. And you cannot remember who was present aside from the three
A. No, I cannot remember just now.
Q. Try to recollect who was present at that meeting when this
order was given, aside from the Commissioners. There was somebody
A. It is my impression that there was some one other person
present, but I am not sure just now who it was.
Q. It was some official, some one well known, was it not . . . .?
A. I am not sure. . . .
[This conference was one in which Mr. McAdoo was reported to have
The gentle judge was distressed when in answer to a question by
the government's attorney as to what Mr. Zinkhan did when the
prisoners were given into his charge, the warden replied:
A. I heard early in the afternoon of the sentence, and I did not
get away from the Commissioners' meeting until nearly 4 o'clock
and I jumped in my machine and went down to the jail, and I think
at that time six of them had been delivered there and were in the
rotunda of the jail, and a few minutes after that a van load
came. The remaining number of ten or twelve had not arrived, but
inasmuch as the train had to leave at 5 o'clock and there would
not be time enough to receive them in the jail and get them there
in time for the train, I took the van that was there right over
to the east end of the Union Station, and I think I took some of
the others in my machine and another machine we had there carried
some of the others over, and we telephoned the other van at
Police Court to go direct to the east end of the Union Station
and to deliver them to me. I had of course the commitments of
those that were brought up to the jail-about 20 of them-and
received from the officer of the court the other commitments of
the last van load, and there I turned all of them except one that
I kept back . . over to the receiving and discharging officer
representing the District Workhouse, and they were taken down
there that evening.
There followed some questioning of the uneasy warden as to how he
used this power to decide which prisoners should remain in jail
and which should be sent to Occoquan. Warden Zinkhan stuttered
something about sending "all the able bodied prisoners to
Occoquan-women able to perform useful work"-and that
"humanitarian motives" usually guided him in his selection. It
was a difficult task for the warden for he had to
conceal just why the suffrage prisoners were sent to Occoquan,
and in so doing had to invent "motives" of his own.
Q. [By defense.] Mr. Zinkhan, were you or were you not actuated
by humanitarian motives when you sent this group of women to the
Q. Were you actuated by humanitarian motives when you sent Mrs.
Nolan, a woman of 73 years, to the workhouse? Did you think that
she could perform some service at Occoquan that it was necessary
to get her out of district jail and go down there?
Warden Zinkhan gazed at the ceiling, shifted in his chair and
hesitated to answer. The question was repeated, and finally the
warden admitted uncomfortably that he believed he was inspired by
"Mrs. Nolan, will you please stand up?" called out Mr. Malone.
All eyes turned toward the front row, where Mrs. Nolan slowly got
to her feet. The tiny figure of a woman with pale face and snowy
hair, standing out dramatically against her black bonnet and
plain black dress, was answer enough.
Warden Zinkhan's answers after that came even more haltingly. He
seemed inordinately fearful of trapping himself by his own words.
"The testimony has brought out the fact," the judge remarked at
this point, "that two of these ladies were old and one of them is
a delicate lady. Her appearance would indicate that she is not
strong. Under this rule, if one of these ladies had been eighty
years old and unable to walk she would have gone along with the
herd and nobody would have dared to say `ought this to be done?'
Would the Commissioners in a case of that sort, if they gave
consideration to it, think of sending such an individual there?
Was not that what the law expected them to do, and not take them
off in droves and inspect them
at the Union Station and shoot them on down? Yet that is about
what was done in this case."
In summing up this phase of the case in an eloquent appeal, Mr.
"Can the Commissioners, with caprice and no order and no record
except that orally given five or six years ago, and one which
this warden now says was given `oral and explicit,' transfer
defendants placed in a particular institution, and under a
particular kind of punishment arbitrarily to another institution,
and add to their punishment?
"Even if we admit that the Commissioners had power, did Congress
ever contemplate that any District Commissioners would dare to
exercise power affecting the life and health of defendants in
this fashion? Did Congress ever contemplate that, by mere whim,
these things could be done? I am sure it did not, and even on the
admission of the government that they had the power, they have
exercised this power in such a scandalous fashion that it is
worthy of the notice of the court and worthy of the remedy which
we seek-the removal of the suffrage prisoners from the Occoquan
After a brief recess, Judge Waddill rendered this decision: "The
locking up of thirty human beings is an unusual sort of thing and
judicial officers ought to be required to stop long enough to see
whether some prisoners ought to go and some not; whether some
might not be killed by going; or whether they should go dead or
alive. This class o f prisoners and this number of prisoners
should haze been given special consideration. There cannot be any
controversy about this question . . . . You ought to lawfully
lock them up instead of unlawfully locking them up-if they are to
be locked up . . . . The petitioners are, therefore, one and all,
in the Workhouse 'without semblance of authority or legal process
of any kind . . . . and they will accordingly be remanded to the
custody of the Superintendent of the Washington Asylum and Jail."
. . .
It having been decided that the prisoners were illegally detained
in the workhouse, it was not necessary to go into a discussion of
the cruelties committed upon the prisoners while there.
The government's attorneys immediately announced that they would
appeal from the decision of Judge Waddill. Pending such an appeal
the women were at liberty to be paroled in the custody of
counsel. But since they had come from the far corners of the
continent and since some of them had served out almost half of
their sentence, and did not wish in case of an adverse decision
on the appeal, to have to return later to undergo the rest of
their sentence, they preferred to finish their sentences.
These were the workhouse prisoners thus remanded to the jail who
continued the hunger strike undertaken at the workhouse, and made
a redoubtable reinforcement to Alice Paul and Rose Winslow and
their comrades 'on strike in the jail when the former arrived.
The Administration Outwitted
With thirty determined women on hunger strike, of whom eight were
in a state of almost total collapse, the Administration
capitulated. It could not afford to feed thirty women forcibly
and risk the social and political consequences; nor could it let
thirty women starve themselves to death, and likewise take the
consequences. For by this time one thing was clear, and that was
that the discipline and endurance of the women could not be
broken. And so all the prisoners were unconditionally released on
November 27th and November 28th.
On leaving prison Miss Paul said: "The commutation of sentences
acknowledges them to be unjust and arbitrary. The attempt to
suppress legitimate propaganda has failed.
"We hope that no more demonstrations will be necessary, that the
amendment will move steadily on to passage and ratification
without further suffering or sacrifice. But what we do depends
entirely upon what the Administration does. We have one aim: the
immediate passage of the federal amendment"
Running parallel to the protest made inside the prison, a
public protest of nation-wide proportions had been made
against continuing to imprison women. Deputations of in-
fluential women had waited upon all party leaders, cabinet
officials, heads of the war boards, in fact every friend of the
Administration, pointing out that we had broken no law, that
we were unjustly held, and that .the Administration would suffer
politically for their handling of the suffrage agitation.
A committee of women, after some lively fencing with the
Secretary of War, finally drove Mr. Baker to admit that women had
been sent to prison for a political principle; that they were not
petty disturbers but part of a great fundamental struggle.
Secretary Baker said, "This [the suffrage struggle] is a
revolution. There have been revolutions all through his-
tory. Some have been justified and some have not. The burden of
responsibility to decide whether your revolution is justified or
not is on you. The whole philosophy of your movement seems to be
to obey no laws until you have a voice in those laws."
At least one member of the Cabinet thus showed that he had caught
something of the purpose and depth of our movement. He never
publicly protested, however, against the Administration's policy
Mr. McAdoo, then Secretary of the Treasury, gave no such evidence
of enlightenment as Mr. Baker. A committee of women endeavored to
see him. He was reported "out. But we expect him here soon."
We waited an hour. The nervous private secretary returned to say
that he had been mistaken. "The Secretary will not be in until
"We shall wait," said Mrs. William Kent, chairman of the
deputation. "We have nothing more important to do to-day than to
see Secretary McAdoo. We are willing to wait the whole day, if
necessary, only it is imperative that we see him."
The private secretary's spirits sank. He looked as if he would
give anything to undo his inadvertence in telling us that the
Secretary was expected after luncheon! Poor man! We settled down
comfortably to wait, a formidable looking committee of twenty
There was the customary gentle embarrassment of attend-
ants whose chief is in a predicament from which they seem
powerless to extricate him, but all were extremely courteous. The
attendant at the door brought us the morning papers to read.
Gradually groups of men began to arrive and cards were sent in
the direction of the spot where we inferred the Secretary of the
Treasury was safely hidden, hoping and praying for our early
Whispered conversations were held. Men disappeared in and out of
strange doors. Still we waited.
Finally as the fourth hour of our vigil was dragging on, a
lieutenant appeared to announce that the Secretary was very sorry
but that he would not be able to see us "at all." We consulted,
and finally sent in a written appeal, asking for "five minutes of
his precious time on a matter of grave importance." More waiting!
Finally a letter was brought to us directed to Mrs. William Kent,
with the ink of the Secretary of the Treasury's signature still
wet. With no concealment of contempt, he declared that under no
circumstances could he speak with women who had conducted such an
outrageous campaign in such an "illegal" way. We smiled as we
learned from his pronouncement that "picketing" was "illegal,"
for we were not supposed to have been arrested for picketing. The
tone of his letter, its extreme bitterness, tended to confirm
what we had always been told, that Mr. McAdoo assisted in
directing the policy of arrests and imprisonment.
I have tried to secure this letter for reproduction but
unfortunately Mrs. Kent did not save it. We all remember its
bitter passion, however, and the point it made about our "illegal
Congress convened on December 4th. President Wilson delivered a
message, restating our aims in the war. He also recommended a
declaration of a state of war against Austria; the control of
certain water power sites; export trade-combination; railway
legislation; and the speeding up of all neces-
sary appropriation legislation. But he did not mention the
suffrage amendment. Having been forced to release the prisoners,
he again rested.
Immediately we called a conference in Washington of the Executive
Committee and the National Advisory Council of the Woman's Party.
Past activities were briefly reviewed and the political situation
discussed. It is interesting to note that the Treasurer's report
made at this conference showed that receipts in some months
during the picketing had been double what they were the same
month the previous year when there was no picketing. In one month
of picketing the receipts went as high as six times the normal
amount. For example in July of 1917, when the arrests had just
begun, receipts for the month totalled $21,628.65 as against
$8,690.62 for July of 1916. In November, 1917, when the militant
situation was at its highest point, there was received at
National Headquarters $81,117.87 as against $15,008.18 received
in November, 1916. Still there were those who said we had no
A rumor that the President would act persisted. But we could not
rely on rumor. We decided to accelerate him and his
Administration by filing damage suits amounting to $800,000
against the District Commissioners, against Warden Zinkhan,
against Superintendent Whittaker and Captain Reams, a workhouse
guard. They were brought in no spirit of revenge, but merely
that the Administration should not be allowed to forget its
record of brutality, unless it chose to amend its conduct by
passing the amendment. The suits were brought by the women woo
suffered the greatest abuse during the "night of terror" at the
If any one is still in doubt as to the close relation between the
Court procedure in our case and the President's actions,
We were obliged to bring the suits against individuals, as we
could not in the law bring them against the government.
this letter to one of our attorneys in January, 1918, must
My dear Mr. O'Brien:
I wish you would advise me as soon as you conveniently can, what
will be done with the suffragist cases now pending against
Whittaker and Reams in the United States District Court at
I have heard rumors, the truth of which you will understand
better than I, that these cases will be dropped if the President
comes out in favor of woman suffrage. This, I understand, he will
do and certainly hope so, as I am personally in favor of it and
have been for many years. But in case of his delay in taking any
action, will you agree to continue these cases for the present?
Very truly yours,
(Signed) F. H. STEVENS,
Assistant Corporation Counsel, D. C.
In order to further fortify themselves, the District
Commissioners, when the storm had subsided, quietly removed
Warden Zinkhan from the jail and Superintendent Whittaker
resigned his post at the workhouse, presumably under pressure
from the Commissioners.
The Woman's Party conference came to a dramatic close during that
first week in December with an enormous mass meeting in the
Belasco Theatre in Washington. On that quiet Sunday afternoon, as
the President came through his gates for his afternoon drive, a
passageway had to be opened for his motor car through the crowd
of four thousand people who were blocking Madison Place in an
effort to get inside the Belasco Theatre. Inside the building was
packed to the rafters. The President saw squads of police
reserves, who had been for the past six months arresting pickets
for him, battling with a crowd that was literally storming the
theatre in their eagerness to do honor to those who had been
arrested. Inside there was a fever heat of enthusiasm, bursting
thundering applause which shook the building. America has never
before nor since seen such a suffrage meeting.
Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, chairman, opened the meeting by saying:
"We are here this afternoon to do honor to a hundred gallant
women, who have endured the hardship and humiliation of
imprisonment because they love liberty.
"The suffrage pickets stood at the White House gates for ten
months and dramatized the women's agitation for political
liberty. Self-respecting and patriotic American women will no
longer tolerate a government which denies women the right to
govern themselves. A flame of rebellion is abroad among women,
and the stupidity and brutality of the government in this revolt
have only served to increase its heat.
"As President Wilson wrote, `Governments have been very
successful in parrying agitation, diverting it, in seeming to
yield to it and then cheating it, tiring it out or evading it.
But the end, whether it comes soon or late, is quite certain to
be the same.' While the government has endeavored to parry, tire,
divert, and cheat us of our goal, the country has risen in
protest against this evasive policy of suppression until to-day
the indomitable pickets with their historic legends stand
triumphant before the nation."
Mrs. William Kent, who had led the last picket line of forty-one
women, was chosen to decorate the prisoners.
"In honoring these women, who were willing to go to jail for
liberty," said Mrs. Kent, "we are showing our love of country and
devotion to democracy." The long line of prisoners filed past her
and amidst constant cheers and applause, received a tiny silver
replica of a cell door, the same that appears in miniature on the
title page of this book.
As proof of this admiration for what the women had done, the
great audience in a very few moments pledged $86,826 to continue
the campaign. Many pledges were made in honor of
Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, Mrs. Belmont, Dudley Field Malone,
and all the prisoners. Imperative resolutions calling upon
President Wilson and his Administration to act, were unanimously
passed amid an uproar.
Immediately following the release of the prisoners and the
magnificent demonstration of public support of them, culminating
at the mass meeting recorded in the preceding chapter, political
events happened thick and fast. Committees in Congress acted on
the amendment. President Wilson surrendered and a date for the
vote was set.
The Judiciary Committee of the House voted 18 to 2 to report the
amendment to that body. The measure, it will be remembered, was
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