Jailed for Freedom
Part 6 out of 8
reported to the Senate in the closing days of the previous
session, and was therefore already before the Senate awaiting
To be sure, the Judiciary Committee voted to report the amendment
without recommendation. But soon after, the members of the -
Suffrage Committee, provision for which had also been made during
the war session, were appointed. All but four members of this
committee were in favor of national suffrage, and immediately
after its formation it met to organize and decided to take the
suffrage measure out of the hands of the Judiciary Committee and
to press for a vote.
A test of strength came on December 18th.
On a trivial motion to refer all suffrage bills to the new
suffrage committee, the vote stood 204 to 10'7. This vote,
although unimportant in itself, clearly promised victory for the
amendment in the House. In a few days, Representative Mon-
See Chapter 8.
dell of Wyoming, Republican, declared that the Republican side of
the House would give more than a two-thirds majority of its
members to the amendment.
"It is up to our friends on the Democratic side to see that the
amendment is not defeated through hostility or indifference on
their side," said Mr. Mondell.
Our daily poll of the House showed constant gains. Pledges from
both Democratic and Republican members came thick and fast;
cabinet members for the first time publicly declared their belief
in the amendment. A final poll, however, showed that we lacked a
few votes of the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the
measure in the House.
No stone was left unturned in a final effort to get the President
to secure additional Democratic votes to insure the passage of
the amendment. Finally, on the eve of the vote President Wilson
made his first declaration of support of the amendment through a
committee of Democratic Congressmen. During the vote the
following day Representative Cantrill of Kentucky, Democrat,
reported the event to the House. He said in part:
It was my privilege yesterday afternoon to be one of a committee
of twelve to ask the President for advice and counsel on this
important measure (prolonged laughter and jeers). Mr. Speaker, in
answer to the sentiment expressed by part of the House, I desire
to say that at no time and upon no occasion am I ever ashamed to
confer with Woodrow Wilson upon any important question (laughter,
applause, and, jeers) and that part of the House that has jeered
that statement before it adjourns to-day will follow absolutely
the advice which he gave this committee yesterday afternoon.
(Laughter and applause.) After conference with the President
yesterday afternoon he wrote with his own hands the words which I
now read to you, and each member of the committee was authorized
by the President to give full publicity to the following:
"The committee found that the President had not felt at liberty
to volunteer his advice to Members of Congress in this
important matter, but when we sought his advice (laughter) he
very frankly and earnestly advised us to vote for the amendment
as an act of right and justice to the women of the country and o
f the world."
. . . To my Democratic brethren who have made these halls ring
with their eloquence in their pleas to stand by the President, I
will say that now is your chance to stand by the President and
vote for this amendment, "as' an act of right and justice to the
women of the country and of the world" . . .
Do you wish to do that which is right and just toward the women
of your own country? If so, follow the President's advice and
vote for this amendment. It will not do to follow the President
in this great crisis in the world's history on those matters only
which are popular in your own districts. The true test is to
stand by him, even though your own vote is unpopular at home. The
acid test for a Member of Congress is for him to stand for right
and justice even if misunderstood at home at first. In the end,
right and justice will prevail
. . . No one thing connected with the war is of more importance
at this time than meeting the reasonable demand of millions of
patriotic and Christian women of the Nation that the amendment
for woman suffrage be submitted to the States . . . .
The amendment passed the House January 10, 1918, by a vote of 274
to l36-a two-thirds majority with one vote to spare-exactly forty
years to a day from the time the suffrage amendment was first
introduced into Congress, and exactly one year to a day from the
time the first picket banner appeared at the gates o f the White
Eighty-three per cent of the Republicans voting on the measure,
voted in favor of it, while only fifty per cent of the Democrats
voting, voted for it. Even after the Republicans had pledged
their utmost strength, more than two-thirds of their membership,
votes were still lacking to make up the Democratic deficiency,
and the President's declaration that the measure ought to pass
the House, produced them from his own
party. Those who contend that picketing had "set back the
clock,"-that it did "no good,"-that President Wilson would "not
be moved by it"-have, we believe, the burden of proof on their
side of the argument. It is our firm belief that the solid year
of picketing, with all its political ramifications, did compel
the President to abandon his opposition and declare himself for
the measure. I do not mean to say that many things do not
cooperate in a movement toward a great event. I do mean to say
that picketing was the most vital force amongst the elements
which moved President Wilson. That picketing had compelled
Congress to see the question in terms of political capital is
also true. From the first word uttered in the House debate, until
the final roll-call, political expediency was the chief motif.
Mr. Lenroot of Wisconsin, Republican, rose to say:
"May I suggest that there is a distinction between the Democratic
members of the Committee on Rules and the Republican members, in
this, that all of the Republican members are for this
proposition?" This was met with instant applause from the
Representative Cantrill prefaced his speech embodying the
President's statement, which caused roars and jeers from the
opposition, with the announcement that he was not willing to risk
another election, with the voting women of the West, and the
amendment still unpassed.
Mr. Lenroot further pointed out that: "From a Republican
standpoint-from a partisan standpoint, it would be an advantage
to Republicans to go before the people in the next election and
say that this resolution was defeated by southern Democrats."
An anti-suffragist tried above the din and noise to remind Mr.
Lenroot that three years before Mr. Lenroot had voted "No," but a
Republican colleague came suddenly to the rescue with "What about
Mr. Wilson?" which was followed by, "He
kept us out of war," and the jeers on the Republican side became
This interesting political tilt took place when Representatives
Dennison and Williams of Illinois, and Representative Kearns of
Ohio, Republicans, fenced with Representative Raker of
California, Democrat, as he attempted, with an evident note of
self-consciousness, to make the President's reversal seem less
MR. DENNISON : It was known by the committee that went to see the
President that the Republicans were going to take this matter up
and pass it in caucus, was it not?'
MR. RAKER: I want to say to my Republican friends upon this
question that I have been in conference with the President for
over three years upon this question . . . .
MR. KEARNS: How did the women of California find out and learn
where the President stood on this thing just before election last
fall? Nobody else seemed to know it.
MR. RAKER: They knew it.
MR. KEARNS: How did they find it out?
MR. RAKER: I will take a minute or two
MR. KEARNS: I wish the gentleman would.
MR. RAKER: The President went home and registered. The President
went home and voted for woman suffrage.
MR. KEARNS: He said he believed in it for the several states . .
MR. RAKER: One moment—
MR. KEARNS : That is the only information they had upon the
subject, is it?
MR. WILLIAMS: . . . Will the gentleman yield?
MR. RAKER: I cannot yield.
MR. WILLIAMS: Just for a question.
MR. RAKER: I cannot yield . . . .
That the President's political speed left some overcome was clear
from a remark of Mr. Clark of Florida when he said:
"I was amused at my friend from Oklahoma, Mr. Ferris, who wants
us to ,stand with the President. God knows I want to stand with
him. I am a Democrat, and I want to follow the leader of my
party, and I am a pretty good lightning change artist myself
sometimes (laughter); but God knows I cannot keep up with his
performance. (Laughter.) Why, the President wrote a book away
back yonder" . . . and he quoted generously from President
Wilson's many statements in defense of state rights as recorded
in his early writings.
Mr. Hersey of Maine, Republican, drew applause when he made a
retort to the Democratic slogan, "Stand by the President." He
"Mr. Speaker, I am still `standing with the President,' or, in
other words, the President this morning is standing with me."
The resentment at having been forced by the pickets to the point
of passing the amendment was in evidence throughout the debate.
Representative Gordon of Ohio, Democrat, said with bitter
ness : "We are threatened by these militant suffragettes with a
direct and lawless invasion by the Congress of the United States
of the rights of those States which have refused to confer upon
their women the privilege of voting. This attitude on the part
of some of the suffrage Members of this House is on an exact
equality with the acts of these women militants who have spent
the last summer and fall, while they were not in the district
jail or workhouse, in coaxing, teasing, and nagging the Presi
dent of the United States for the purpose of inducing him, by
coercion, to club Congress into adopting this joint resolution."
Shouts of "Well, they got him!" and "They got it!" from all
sides, followed by prolonged laughter and jeers, interrupted the
flow of his oratory.
Mr. Ferris of Oklahoma, Democrat, hoped to minimize the
effectiveness of the picket.
"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I do not approve or believe in picketing
the White House, the National Capitol, or any other station to
bring about votes for women. I do not approve of wild militancy,
hunger strikes, and efforts of that sort. I do not approve of the
course of those women that . . ., become agitators, lay off their
womanly qualities in their efforts to secure votes. I do not
approve of anything unwomanly anywhere, any time, and my course
to-day in supporting this suffrage amendment is not guided by
such conduct on the part of a very few women here or elsewhere."
Representative Langley of Kentucky, Republican, was able to see
picketing in a fairer light:
"Much has been said pro and con about `picketing',-that rather
dramatic chapter in the history of this great movement. It is not
my purpose to speak either in criticism or condemnation of that;
but if it be true-I do not say that it is, because I do not know-
but if it be true, as has been alleged, that certain promises
were made, as a result of which a great campaign was won, and
those promises were not kept, I wonder whether in that silent,
peaceful protest that was against this broken faith, there can be
found sufficient warrant for the indignities which the so-called
`pickets' suffered; and when in passing up and down the Avenue I
frequently witnessed cultured, intellectual women arrested and
dragged off to prison because of their method, of giving
publicity to what they believed to be the truth, I will confess
that the question sometimes arose in my mind whether when the
impartial history of this great struggle has been written their
names may not be placed upon the roll of martyrs to the cause to
which they were consecrating their lives in the manner that they
deemed most effective."
Mr. Mays of Utah was one Democrat who placed the responsibility
for militancy where it rightly belonged when he said:
"Some say to-day that they are ashamed of the action of the
militants in picketing the Capitol: . . . But we should be more
ashamed of the unreasonable stubbornness on the part of the men
who refused them the justice they have so long and patiently
And so the debate ran on. Occasionally one caught a glimmer of
real comprehension, amongst these men about to vote upon our
political liberty; but more often the discussion stayed on a very
And there were gems imperishable!
Even friends of the measure had difficulty not to romanticize
about "Woman-God's noblest creature" . . . "man's better
counterpart" . . . "humanity's perennial hope" . . . "the world's
object most to be admired and loved" . . . and so forth.
Representative Elliott of Indiana, Republican, favored the
resolution because-"A little more than four hundred years ago
Columbus discovered America. Before that page of American history
was written he was compelled to seek the advice and assistance of
a woman. From that day until the present day the noble women of
America have done their part in times of peace and of war . . ."
If Queen Isabella was an argument in favor for Mr. Elliott of
Indiana, Lady Macbeth played the opposite part for Mr. Parker of
New Jersey, Republican . . . . "I will not debate the question as
to whether in a time of war women are the best judges of policy.
That great student of human nature, William Shakespeare, in the
play of Macbeth, makes Lady Macbeth eager for deeds of blood
until they are committed and war is begun and then just as eager
that it may be stopped." . . .
Said Mr. Gray of New Jersey, Republican: "A nation will endure
just so long as its men are virile. History, physiology, and
psychology all show that giving woman equal political rights with
man makes ultimately for the deterioration of manhood. It is,
therefore, not only because I want our country to
win this war but because I want our nation to possess the male
virility necessary to guarantee its future existence that I am
opposed to the pending amendment."
The hope was expressed that President Wilson's conversion would
be like that of St. Paul, "and that he will become a master-
worker in the vineyards of the Lord for this proposition."
Mr. Gallivan, Democrat, although a representative of
Massachusetts, "the cradle of American liberty," called upon a
great Persian philosopher to sustain him in his support. " `Dogs
bark, but the caravan moves on.' . . . Democracy cannot live half
free and half female."
Mr. Dill of Washington, Democrat, colored his support with the
following tribute: " . . . It was woman who first learned to
prepare skins of animals for protection from the elements, and
tamed and domesticated the dog and horse and cow. She was a
servant and a slave . . . . To-day she is the peer of man."
Mr. Little of Kansas, Republican, tried to bring his colleagues
back to a moderate course by interpolating:
"It seems to me, gentlemen, that it is time for us to learn that
woman is neither a slave nor an angel, but a human being,
entitled to be treated with ordinary common sense in the
adjustment of human affairs . . . ."
But this calm statement could not allay the terror of
Representative Clark of Florida, Democrat, who cried: "In the
hearings before the committee it will be found that one of the
leaders among the suffragettes declared that they wanted the
ballot for `protection', and when asked against whom she desired
`protection' she promptly and frankly replied, `men.' My God, has
it come to pass in America that the women of the land need to be
protected from the men?" The galleries quietly nodded their
heads, and Mr. Clark continued to predict either the complete
breakdown of family life . . . . or "they [man and wife] must
think alike, act alike, have the same ideals of life,
and look forward with like vision to the happy consummation
`beyond the vale.' . . .
"God knows that . . . when you get factional politics limited to
husband and wife, oh, what a spectacle will be presented, my
countrymen . . . . Love will vanish, while hate ascends the
throne . . . .
"To-day woman stands the uncrowned queen in the hearts of all
right-thinking American men; to her as rightful sovereign we
render the homage of protection, respect, love, and may the
guiding hand of an all-wise Providence stretch forth in this hour
of peril to save her from a change of relation which must bring
in its train, discontent, sorrow, and pain," he concluded
desperately, with the trend obviously toward "crowning" the
There was the disturbing consideration that women know too much
to be trusted. "I happen to have a mother," said Mr. Gray of New
Jersey, Republican, "as most of us have, and incidentally I think
we all have fathers, although a father does not count for much
any more. My mother has forgotten more political history than he
ever knew, and she knows more about the American government and
American political economy than he has ever shown symptoms of
knowing, and for the good of mankind as well as the country she
is opposed to women getting into politics."
The perennial lament for the passing of the good old days was
raised by Representative Welty of Ohio, Democrat, who said:
"The old ship of state has left her moorings and seems to be
sailing on an unknown and uncharted sea. The government founded
in the blood of our fathers is fading away. Last fall, a year
ago, both parties recognized those principles in their platforms,
and each candidate solemnly declared that he would abide by them
if elected. But lo, all old things are passing away, and the lady
from Montana has filed a bill asking
that separate citizenship be granted to American women marrying
Representative Greene of Massachusetts, Republican, all but shed
tears over the inevitable amending of the Constitution:
"I have read it [the Constitution] many times, and there have
been just 17 amendments adopted since the original Constitution
was framed by the master minds whom God had inspired in the cabin
of the Mayflower to formulate the Constitution of the Plymouth
Colony which was made the basis of the Constitution of
Massachusetts and subsequently resulted in the establishment of
the Constitution of the United States under which we now live . .
Fancy his shock at finding the pickets triumphant.
"Since the second session of the Sixty-fifth Congress opened," he
said, "I have met several women suffragists from the State of
Massachusetts. I have immediately propounded to them this one
question: ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the suffrage banners
in front of the White House . . . ?' The answer in nearly every
case to my question was: `I glory in that demonstration' . . .
the response to my question was very offensive, and I immediately
ordered these suffrage advocates from my office."
And again the pickets featured in the final remarks of Mr. Small
of North Carolina, Democrat, who deplored the fact that advocates
of the amendment had made it an issue inducing party rivalry.
"This is no party question, and such efforts will be futile. It
almost equals in intelligence the scheme of that delectable and
inane group of women who picketed the White House on the theory
that the President could grant them the right to vote."
Amid such gems of intellectual delight the House of the great
American Congress passed the national suffrage amendment.
We turned our entire attention then to the Senate.
An Interlude (Seven Months)
The President had finally thrown his power to putting the
amendment through the House. We hoped he would follow this up by
insisting upon the passage of the amendment in the Senate. We
ceased our acts of dramatic protest for the moment and gave our
energies to getting public pressure upon him, to persuade him to
see that the Senate acted. We also continued to press directly
upon recalcitrant senators of the minority party who could be won
only through appeals other than from the President.
There are in the Senate 96 members-2 elected from each of the 48
states. To pass a constitutional amendment through the Senate, 64
votes are necessary, a two-thirds majority. At this point in the
campaign, 58 senators were pledged to support the measure and 48
were opposed. We therefore had to win 11 more votes. A measure
passed through one branch of Congress must be passed through the
other branch during the life of that Congress, otherwise it dies
automatically and must be born again in a new Congress. We
therefore had only the remainder of the first regular session of
the 65th Congress and, failing of that, the short second session
from December, 1918, to March, 1919, in which to win those votes.
Backfires were started in the states of the senators not yet
committed to the amendment. Organized demand for action in the
Senate grew to huge proportions.
We turned also to the leading influential members of the
respective parties for active help.
Colonel Roosevelt did his most effective suffrage work at this
period in a determined attack upon the few unconvinced Republican
Senators. The Colonel was one of the few leaders in our national
life who was never too busy to confer or to offer and accept
suggestions as to procedure. He seemed to have imagination about
women. He never took a patronizing attitude nor did he with moral
unction dogmatically tell you how the fight should be waged and
won. He presupposed ability among women leaders. He was not
offended, morally or politically, by our preferring to go to jail
rather than to submit in silence. In fact, he was at this time
under Administration fire, because of his bold attacks upon some
of their policies, and remarked during an interview at Oyster
"I may soon join you women in jail. One can never tell these
His sagacious attitude toward conservative and radical suffrage
forces was always delightful and indicative of his appreciation
of the political and social value of a movement's having vitality
enough to disagree on methods. None of the banal philosophy that
"you can never win until all your forces get together" from the
Colonel. One day, as I came into his office for an interview, I
met a member of the conservative suffragists just leaving, and we
spoke. In his office the Colonel remarked, "You know, I
contemplated having both you and Mrs. Whitney come to see me at
the same time, since it was on a similar mission, but I didn't
quite know whether the lion and the lamb would lie down together,
and I thought I'd better take no chances . . . . But I see you're
on speaking terms," he added. I answered that our relations were
extremely amiable, but remarked that the other side might not
like to be called "lambs."
"You delight in being the lions-on that point I am safe, am I
not?" And he smiled his widest smile as he plunged into a vivid
expository attack upon the Senatorial opponents of
suffrage in his own party. He wrote letters to them. If this
failed, he invited them to Oyster Bay for the week-end. Never did
he abandon them until there was literally not a shadow of hope to
When the Colonel got into action something always happened on the
Democratic side. He made a public statement to Senator Gallinger
of New Hampshire, Republican leader in the Senate, in which lie
pointed to the superior support of the Republicans and urged even
more liberal party support to ensure the passage of the amendment
in the Senate. Action by the Democrats followed fast on the heels
of this public statement.
The National Executive Committee of the Democratic party, after a
referendum vote of the members of the National Committeemen,
passed a resolution calling for favorable action in the Senate.
Mr. A. Mitchell Palmer wrote to the Woman's Party saying that
this resolution must be regarded as "an official expression of
the Democratic Party through the only organization which can
speak for it between national conventions."
The Republican National Committee meeting at the same time
commended the course taken by Republican Representatives who had
voted for the amendment in the House, and declared their position
to be "a true interpretation of the thought of the Republican
Republican and Democratic state, county and city committees
followed the lead and called for Senate action.
State legislatures in rapid succession called upon the Senate to
pass the measure, that they in turn might immediately ratify.
North Dakota, New York, Rhode Island, Arizona, Texas and other
states acted in this matter.
Intermittent attempts on the Republican side to force action,
followed by eloquent speeches from time to time, piquing their
opponents, left the Democrats bison-like across
the path. The majority of them were content to rest upon the
action taken in the House.
I was at this time Chairman of the Political Department of the
Woman's Party, and in that capacity interviewed practically every
national leader in both majority parties. I can not resist
recording a few impressions.
Colonel William Boyce Thompson of New York, now Chairman of Ways
and Means of the Republican National Committee, who with Raymond
Robins had served in Russia as member of the United States Red
Cross. Mission, had just returned. The deadlock was brought to
his attention. He immediately responded in a most effective way.
In a brief but dramatic speech at a great mass meeting of the
Woman's Party, at Palm Beach, Florida, he said:
"The story of the brutal imprisonment in Washington of women
advocating suffrage is shocking and almost incredible. I became
accustomed in Russia to the stories of men and women who served
terms of imprisonment under the Czar, because of their love of
liberty, but did not know that women in my own country had been
subjected to brutal treatment long since abandoned in Russia.
"I wish now to contribute ten thousand dollars to the campaign
for the passage of the suffrage amendment through the Senate,,
one hundred dollars for each of the pickets who went to prison
because she stood at the gates of the White House, asking for the
passage of the suffrage measure."
This was the largest single contribution received during the
national agitation. Colonel Thompson had been a suffragist all
his life, but he now became actively identified with the work for
the national amendment. Since then he has continued to give
generously of his money and to lend his political prestige as
often as necessary.
Colonel House was importuned to use his influence to win
additional Democratic votes in the Senate, or better still to
urge the President to win them. Colonel House is an interesting
but not unfamiliar type in politics. Extremely courteous, mild
mannered, able, quickly sympathetic, he listens with undistracted
attention to your request. His round bright eyes snap as he comes
at you with a counter-proposal. It seems so reasonable. And while
you know he is putting back upon you the very task you are trying
to persuade him to undertake, he does it so graciously that you
can scarcely resist liking it. He has the manner of having done
what you ask without actually doing more than to make you feel
warm at having met him. It is a kind of elegant statecraft which
has its point of grace, but which is exasperating when
effectiveness is needed. Not that Colonel House was not a
supporter of the federal amendment. He was. But his gentle, soft
and traditional kind of diplomacy would not employ high-powered
pressure. "I shall be going to Washington soon on other matters,
and I shall doubtless see the President. Perhaps he may bring up
the subject in conversation, and if he does, and the opportunity
offers itself, I may be able to do something." Some such gentle
threat would come from the Colonel. He was not quite so tender,
however, in dealing with Democratic senators, after the President
declared for the amendment. He did try to win them.
Ex-President Taft, then joint Chairman of the National War Labor
Board, was interviewed at his desk just after rendering an
important democratic labor award.
"No, indeed! I'll do nothing for a proposition which adds more
voters to our electorate. I thought my position on this question
was well known," said Mr. Taft.
"But we thought you doubtless had changed your mind since the
beginning of our war for democracy-" I started to answer.
"This is not a war for democracy," he said emphatically, looking
quizzically at me for my assertion; "if it were, I
wouldn't be doing anything for it .... The trouble in this
country is we've got too many mm voting as it is. Why, I'd take
the vote away from most of the men," he added. I wanted to ask
him what men he would leave voting. I wanted also to tell him
they were taking the vote away from one class of men in Russia at
Instead, I said, "Well, I'm not quite sure whom we could trust to
sit in judgment"-while he looked smiling and serene, as much as
to say, "Oh, that would be a simple matter."
"However," I said, "we have no quarrel with you. You are an
avowed aristocrat, and we respect your candor. Our quarrel is
with democrats who will not trust their own doctrines." Again he
smiled with as much sophistication as such a placid face could
achieve, and that was all. I believe Mr. Taft has lately modified
his attitude toward women voting. I do not know how he squares
that with his distaste of democracy.
There was Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of
Labor, high in Administration confidence. It was a long wait
before Abby Scott Baker and I were allowed into his sanctum.
"Well, ladies, what can I do for you?" was the opening question,
and we' thought happily here is a man who will not bore us with
his life record on behalf of women. He comes to the point with
"Will you speak to the President on behalf of your organization,
which has repeatedly endorsed national suffrage, to induce him to
put more pressure behind the Senate which is delaying suffrage?"
we asked with equal direction. We concealed a heavy sigh as a
reminiscent look came into his shrewd, wan eyes, and he began:
"Doubtless you ladies do not know that as long ago as1888"-I
believe that was the date-"my organization sent a petition to the
United States Congress praying for the adop-
tion of this very amendment and we have stood for it ever since .
. . ."
"Don't you think it is about time that prayer was answered?" we
ventured to interrupt. But his reverie could not be disturbed. He
looked at us coldly, for he was living in the past, and continued
to recount the patient, enduring qualities of his organization.
"I will speak to my secretary and see what the organization can
do," he said finally. We murmured again that it was the President
we wished him to speak to, but we left feeling reasonably certain
that there would be no dynamic pressure from this cautious
Herbert Hoover was the next man we sought. Here we encountered
the well-groomed secretary who would not carry our cards into his
"Mr. Hoover has appointments a week ahead," he said. "For
example, his chart for to-day includes a very important
conference with some grain men from the Northwest," . . . and he
continued to recite the items of the chart, ending with "a dinner
at the White House to-night."
"If we could see him for just five minutes," we persisted, "he
could do what we ask this very night at the White House." But the
trained-to-protect secretary was obdurate.
"We shall leave a written request for five minutes at Mr.
Hoover's convenience," we said, and prepared the letter.
Time passed without answer. Mrs. Baker and I were compelled to go
again to Mr. Hoover's office.
Again we were greeted by the affable secretary, who on this
occasion recounted not only his chief's many pressing
engagements, but his devoted family life-his Saturday and Sunday
habits which were "so dreadfully cut into by his heavy work:" We
were sympathetic but firm. Would Mr. Hoover not be willing to
answer our letter? Would he not be willing to state publicly that
he thought the amendment ought to be passed
in the Senate? Would the secretary, in short, please go to him to
ascertain if he' would be willing to say a single word in behalf
of the political liberty of women? The secretary disappeared and
returned to say, "Mr. Hoover wishes me to tell you ladies he can
give no time whatever to the consideration of your question until
after the war is over. This is final."
The Chief Food Administrator would continue to demand sacrifices
of women throughout the war, but he would not give so much as a
thought to their rights in return. Mr. Hoover was the only.
important man in public life who steadfastly refused to see our
representatives. After announcing his candidacy for nomination to
the Presidency he authorized his secretary to write us a letter
saying he had always been for woman suffrage.
Mr. Bainbridge Colby, then member of the Emergency Fleet
Corporation of the Shipping Board and member of the Inter-Allied
Council which sat on shipping problems, now Secretary of State in
President Wilson's Cabinet, was approached as a suffragist, known
to have access to the President. Mr. Colby had just returned from
abroad when I saw him. He is a cultivated gentleman, but he knows
how to have superlative enthusiasm.
"In the light of the world events," he said, "this reform is
insignificant. No time or energy ought to be diverted from the
great program of crushing the Germans."
"But can we not do that," I asked, "without neglecting internal
Mr. Colby is a strong conformist. He became grave. When I was
indiscreet enough to reveal that I was inclined to pin my faith
to the concrete liberty of women, rather than to a vague and
abstract "human freedom," which was supposed to descend upon the
world, once the Germans were beaten, I know he wanted to call me
"seditious." But he is a gallant
gentleman and he only frowned with distress. He continued with
enthusiasm to plan to build ships.
Bernard Baruch, then member of the Advisory Committee of the
Council of National Defense, later economic expert at the Peace
Conference, was able to see the war and the women's problem at
the same time. He is an able politician and was therefore
sensitive to our appeal; he saw the passage of the amendment as a
political asset. I do not know how much he believed in the
principle. That was of minor importance. What was important was
that he agreed to tell the President that he believed it wise to
put more pressure on the measure in the Senate. Also I believe
Mr. Baruch was one member of the Administration who realized in
the midst of the episode that arresting women was bad politics,
to say nothing of the doubtful chivalry of it.
George Creel, chairman of the Committee on Public Information,
was also asked for help. We went to him many times, because his
contact with the President was constant. A suffragist of long
standing, he nevertheless hated our militant tactics, for he knew
we were winning and the Administration was losing. He is a
strange composite. Working at terrific tension and mostly under
fire, he was rarely in calm enough mood to sit down and devise
ways and means.
"But I talk to the President every day on this matter" and-"I am
doing all I can"-and-"The President is doing all he can"-he would
drive at you-without stopping for breath.
"But if you will just ask him to get Senator"
"He is working on the Senator now. You people must give him time.
He has other things to do," he would say, sweeping aside every
suggestion. Familiar advice!
Charles D. Hilles, former Chairman of the Republican National
Committee, was a leader who had come slowly to believe in
national suffrage. But, once convinced, he was a
faithful and dependable colleague who gave practical political
William Randolph Hearst in powerful editorials called upon the
Senators to act. Mr. R. J. Caldwell of New York, life-long
suffragist, financier and man of affairs, faithfully and
persistently stood by the amendment and by the militants. A more
generous contributor and more diligent ally could not be found. A
host of public men were interviewed and the great majority of
them did help at this critical juncture. It is impossible to give
a list that even approaches adequacy, so I shall not attempt it.
Our pressure from below and that of the leaders from above began
to have its effect. An attempt was made by Administration leaders
to force a vote on May 19, 1918. Friends interceded when it was
shown that not enough votes were pledged to secure passage. Again
the vote was tentatively set for June 27th and again postponed.
The Republicans, led by Senator Gallinger, provided skirmishes
from time to time. The Administration was accused on the floor of
blocking action, to which accusation its leaders did not even
Still unwilling to believe that we would be forced to resume our
militancy we attempted to talk to the President again A special
deputation of women munition workers was sent to him under our
auspices. The women waited for a week, hoping he would consent to
see them among his receptions-to the Blue Devils of France, to a
Committee of Indians, to a Committee of Irish Patriots, and so
"No time," was the answer. And the munition workers were forced
to submit their appeal in writing.
"We are only a few of the thousands of American women," they
wrote the President, "who are forming a growing part of the army
at home. The work we are doing is hard and dangerous to life and
health, making detonators, handling TNT, the
highest of all explosives. We want to be recognized by our
country, as much her citizens as our soldiers are."
Mr. Tumulty replied for the President:
"The President asks me to say that nothing you or your associates
could say could possibly increase his very deep interest in this
matter and that he is doing everything that he could with honor
and propriety do in behalf of the [suffrage] amendment."
An opportunity was given the President to show again his sympathy
for a world-wide endeavor just after having ignored this specific
opportunity at home. He hastened to accept the larger field. In
response to a memorial transmitted through Mrs. Carrie Chapman
Catt, President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, the
French Union for Woman Suffrage urged the President to use his
aid on their behalf "which will be a powerful influence for woman
suffrage in the entire world." The memorial was endorsed by the
suffrage committee of Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, and
Portugal. The President took the occasion to say: "The democratic
reconstruction of the world will not have been completely or
adequately obtained until women are admitted to the suffrage. As
for America it is my earnest hope that the Senate of the United
States will give an unmistakable answer by passing the federal
amendment before the end of this session."
Meanwhile four more Democratic Senators pledged their support to
the amendment. Influenced by the President's declaration of
support, and by widespread demands from their constituents,
Senators Phelan of California, King of Utah, Gerry of Rhode
Island, and Culberson of Texas abandoned the ranks of the
During this same period the Republican side of the Senate gave
five more Republican Senators to the amendment. They were
Senators McCumber of North Dakota, Kellogg of Minnesota, Harding
of Ohio, Page of Vermont, and Sutherland of
West Virginia. All of these men except Senator McCumber were
won through the pressure from Republican Party leaders.
This gain of nine recruits reduced to two the number of votes to
When at the end of seven months from the time the amendment had
passed the House, we still lacked these two votes, and the
President gave no assurance that he would put forth sufficient
effort to secure them, we were compelled to renew our attacks
upon the President.
Senator McCumber, though opposed, was compelled to support the
measure, by the action of the N. D. legislature commanding him to
New Attacks on the President
The Senate was about to recess. No assurance was given by the
majority that suffrage would be considered either before or after
the recess. Alarmed and aroused, we decided upon a national
protest in Washington August 6th, the anniversary of the birth of
The protest took the form of a meeting at the base of the
Lafayette monument in the park, directly opposite the White
House. Women from many states in the Union, dressed in white,
hatless and coatless in the midsummer heat of Washington, marched
t0 the monument carrying banners of purple, white and gold, led
by a standard-bearer carrying the American flag. They made a
beautiful mass of color as they grouped themselves around the
statue, against the abundant green foliage of the park.
The Administration met this simple reasonable form of protest by
Mrs. Lawrence Lewis of Philadelphia, the first speaker, began:
"We are here because when our country is at war for liberty and
democracy . . ." At that point she was roughly seized by a
policeman and placed under arrest. The great audience stood in
absolute and amazed silence.
Miss Hazel Hunkins of Montana took her place. "Here at the statue
of Lafayette, who fought for the liberty of this country," she
began, "and under the American flag, I am asking for . . ." She
was immediately arrested.
Miss Vivian Pierce of California began: "President Wilson
has said . . .' She was dragged from the plinth to the waiting
One after another came forward in an attempt to speak, but no one
was allowed to continue. Wholesale arrests followed. Just as the
women were being taken into custody, according to the New York
Evening World of August 13th, "the President walked out of the
northeast gate of the White House and up Pennsylvania Avenue for
a conference with Director General of Railroads McAdoo. The
President glanced across the street and smiled."
Before the crowd could really appreciate what had happened,
forty-eight women had been hustled to the police station by the
wagon load, their gay banners floating from the backs of the
somber patrols. They were told that the police had arrested them
under the orders of Col. C. S. Ridley, the President's military
aide, and assistant to the Chief Engineer attached to the War
Department. All were released on bail and ordered to appear in
court the following day.
When they appeared they were informed by the Government's
attorney that he would have to postpone the trial until the
following Tuesday so that he might examine witnesses to see "what
offense, if any, the women would be charged with."
"I cannot go on with this case," he said, "I have had no orders.
There are no precedents for cases like these . . . ."
The women demanded that their cases be dismissed, or else a
charge made against them. They were merely told to return on the
appointed day. Such was the indignation aroused against the
Administration for taking this action that Senator Curtis of
Kansas, Republican whip, could say publicly:
"The truth of this statement is made evident by the admission of
the court that the forty-eight suffragists are arrested upon
absolutely no charges, and that these women, among them munition
workers and Red Cross workers, are held in Washington until next
Tuesday, under arrest, while the United
States attorney for the District of Columbia decides for what
offense, `if any,' they were arrested.
"The meeting was called to make a justified protest against
continued blocking of the suffrage amendment by the Democratic
majority in the Senate. It is well known that three-fourths of
the Republican membership in the Senate are ready to vote for the
amendment, but under the control of the Democratic majority the
Senate has recessed for six weeks without making any provision
for action on this important amendment.
"In justice to the women who have been working so hard for the
amendment it should be passed at the earliest date, and if action
is not taken on it soon after the resumption of business in the
Senate there is every possibility that it will not be taken
during this Congress, and the hard-won victory in the House of
Representatives will have been won for nothing."
When they finally came to trial ten days after their arrest, to
face the charge of "holding a meeting in public grounds," and for
eighteen of the defendants an additional charge of "climbing on a
statue," the women answered the roll call but remained silent
thereafter. The familiar farce ensued. Some were released for
lack of identification. The others were sentenced to the District
Jail-for ten days if they had merely assembled to hold a public
meeting, for fifteen days if they had also "climbed on a statue"
The Administration evidently hoped by lighter sentences to avoid
a hunger strike by the prisoners.
The women were taken immediately to a building, formerly used as
a man's workhouse, situated in the swamps of the District prison
grounds. This building, which had been declared unfit for human
habitation by a committee appointed under President Roosevelt in
1909, and which had been uninhabited ever since, was now
reopened, nine years later, to receive twenty-six women who had
attempted to hold a meeting in a public park in Washington. The
women protested in a
body and demanded to be treated as political prisoners. This
being refused, all save two very elderly women, too frail to do
so, went on hunger strike at once.
This last lodgment was the worst. Hideous aspects which had not
been encountered in the workhouse and jail proper were
encountered here. The cells, damp and cold, were below the level
of the upper door and entirely below the high windows. The doors
of the cell were partly of solid steel with only a small section
of grating, so that a very tiny amount of light penetrated the
cells. The wash basins were small and unsightly; the toilet open,
with no pretense of covering. The cots were of iron, without any
spring, and with only a thin straw pallet to lie upon. The
heating facilities were antiquated and the place was always cold.
So frightful were the nauseating odors which permeated the place,
and so terrible was the drinking water from the disused pipes,
that one prisoner after another became violently ill.
"I can hardly describe that atmosphere," said Mrs. W. D. Ascough,
of Connecticut. "It was a deadly sort of smell, insidious and
revolting. It oppressed and stifled us. There was no escape."
As a kind of relief from these revolting odors, they took their
straw pallets from the cells to the floor outside. They were
ordered back to their cells but refused in a body to go. They
preferred the stone floors to the vile odors within, which kept
Conditions were so shocking that Senators began to visit their
constituents in this terrible hole. Many of them protested to the
authorities. Protests came in from the country, too.
At the end of the fifth day the Administration succumbed to the
hunger strike and released the prisoners, trembling with
weakness, some of them with chills and some of them in a high
fever, scarcely able even to walk to the ambulance or motor car.
We had won from the Administration, however, a concession to our
protest. Prior to the release of the prisoners we had announced
that in spite of the previous arrests a second protest meeting
would be held on the same spot. A permit to hold this second
protest meeting was granted us.
"I have been advised [Col. Ridley wrote to Miss Paul that you
desire to hold a demonstration in Lafayette Square on Thursday,
August 9.2d. By direction of the chief of engineers, U. S. Army,
you are hereby granted permission to hold this demonstration. You
are advised good order must prevail."
"We received yesterday [Miss Paul replied] your permit for a
suffrage demonstration in Lafayette Park this afternoon, and are
very glad that our meetings are no longer to be interfered with.
Because of the illness of so many of our members, due to their
treatment in prison this last week, and with the necessity of
caring for them at headquarters, we are planning to hold our neat
meeting a little later. We have not determined on the exact date
but we will inform you of the time as soon as it is decided
It was reported on credible authority that this concession -was
the result of a conference at which the President, Secretary of
War Baker and Colonel Ridley were present. It was said that
Secretary Baker and Colonel Ridley persuaded the President to
withdraw the orders to arrest us and allow our meetings to go on,
even though they took the form of attacks upon the President.
Two days after the release of the women, the Republican Party,
for the first time in the history of woman suffrage, caucused in
the Senate in favor of forcing suffrage to a vote.
The resolution which was passed unanimously by the caucus
determined to "insist upon consideration immediately" and
`also to insist upon a final vote . . . at the earliest possible
moment .... Provided, That this resolution shall not be construed
as in any way binding the action or vote of any Member of the
Senate upon the merits of the said woman suffrage amendment."
While not a direct attempt, therefore, to win more Republican
Senators, this proved a very great tactical contribution to the
cause. The Republicans were proud of their suffrage strength.
They knew the Democrats were not. With the Congressional
elections approaching the Republicans meant to do their part
toward acquainting the country with the Administration's policy
of vacillation and delay. This was not only helpful to the
Republicans politically; it was also advantageous to the
amendment in that it goaded the majority into action.
Nine months had passed since the vote in the House and we were
perilously near the end of the session, when on the 16th of
September, Senator Overman, Democrat, Chairman of the Rules
Committee, stated to our Legislative Chairman that suffrage was
"not on the program for this session" and that the Senate would
recess in a few days for the election campaigns without
considering any more legislation. On the same day Senator Jones,
Chairman of the Suffrage Committee, announced to us that he would
not even call his Committee together to consider taking a vote.
We had announced a fortnight earlier that another protest
'meeting would be held at the base of the Lafayette Monument that
day, September 16th, at four o'clock. No sooner had this protest
been announced than the President publicly stated that he would
receive a delegation of Southern and Western women partisans on
the question of the amendment at two o'clock the same day.
To this delegation he said, "I am, as I think you know, heartily
in sympathy with you. I have endeavored to assist you in every
way in my power, and I shall continue to do so.
I will do all I can to urge the passage of the amendment by an
Presumably this was expected to disarm us and perhaps silence our
demonstration. However, it merely moved us to make another hasty
visit to Senator Overman, Chairman of the Rules Committee, and to
Senator Jones, Chairman of the Suffrage Committee, between the
hours of two and four to see if the President's statement that he
would do all he could to secure an early vote had altered their
statements made earlier in the day.
These Administration leaders assured us that their statements
stood; that no provision had been made for action on the
amendment; that the President's statement did not mean that a
vote would be taken this session; and that they did not
contemplate being so advised by him.
Such a situation was intolerable. The President was uttering more
fine words, while his Administration leaders interpreted them to
mean nothing, because they were not followed up by action on his
We thereupon changed our demonstration at four o'clock to a more
drastic form of protest. We took these words of the President to
the base of Lafayette Monument and burned them in a flaming
A throng gathered to hear the speakers. Ceremonies were opened
with the reading of the following appeal by Mrs. Richard
Wainwright, wife of Rear-Admiral Wainwright:
"Lafayette, we are here!
"We, the women of the United States, denied the liberty which you
helped to gain, and for which we have asked in vain for sixty
years, turn to you to plead for us.
"Speak, Lafayette, dead these hundred years but still living in
the hearts of the American people. Speak again to plead for us
like the bronze woman at your feet, condemned like us to a silent
appeal. She offers you a sword. Will you not use
for us the sword of the spirit, mightier far than the sword she
holds out to you?
"Will you not ask the great leader of democracy to look upon the
failure of our beloved country to be in truth the place where
every one is free and equal and entitled to a share in the
government? Let that outstretched hand of yours pointing to the
White House recall to him his words and promises, his trumpet
call for all of us, to see that the world is made safe for
"As our army now in France spoke to you there, saying here we are
to help your country fight for liberty, will you not speak here
and now for us, a little band with no army, no power but justice
and right, no strength but in our Constitution and in the
Declaration of Independence; and win a great victory again in
this country by giving us the opportunity we ask,,--to be heard
through the Susan B. Anthony amendment.
"Lafayette, we are here!"
Before the enthusiastic applause for Mrs. Wainwright's appeal had
died away, Miss Lucy Branham of Baltimore stepped forward with a
flaming torch, which she applied to the President's latest words
on suffrage. The police looked on and smiled, and the crowd
cheered as she said:
"The torch which I hold symbolizes the burning indignation of the
women who for years have been given words without action . . . .
"For five years women have appealed to this President and his
party for political freedom. The President has given words, and
words, and words. To-day women receive more words. We announce to
the President and the whole world to-day, by this act of ours,
our determination that words shall not longer be the only reply
given to American women-our determination that this same
democracy for whose establishment abroad we are making the utmost
sacrifice, shall also prevail at home.
"We have protested to this Administration by banners; we have
protested by speeches; we now protest by this symbolic act.
"As in the ancient fights for liberty, the crusaders for freedom
symbolized their protest against those responsible for injustice
by consigning their hollow phrases to the flames, so we, on
behalf of thousands of suffragists, in this same way to-day
protest against the action of the President and his party in
delaying the liberation of American women."
Mrs. Jessie Hardy Mackaye of Washington, D. C., then came forward
to the end of the plinth to speak, and as she appeared, a man in
the crowd handed her a twenty-dollar bill for the campaign in the
Senate. This was the signal for others. Bills and coins were
passed up. Instantly marshals ran hither and thither collecting
the money in improvised baskets while the cheers grew louder and
louder. Many of the policemen present were among the donors.
Burning President Wilson's words had met with popular approval
from a large crowd!
The procession of women was starting back to headquarters, the
police were eagerly clearing the way for the line; the crowd was
dispersing in order; the great golden banner, "Mr. President,
what will you do for woman suffrage?" was just swinging past the
White House gate, when President Wilson stepped into his car for
the afternoon drive.
President Wilson Appeals to the Senate Too Late
The next day the Administration completely reversed its policy.
Almost the first Senate business was an announcement on the floor
by Senator Jones, Chairman of the Suffrage Committee, that the
suffrage amendment would be considered in the Senate September
26th. And Senator Overman, Chairman of the Rules Committee,
rather shyly remarked to our legislative chairman that he had
been "mistaken yesterday." It was "now in the legislative
program." The Senate still stood 6Q votes for and 34 against the
amendment-2 votes lacking. The President made an effort among
individual Democrats to secure them. But it was too feeble an
effort and he failed.
Chairman Jones took charge of the measure on the floor. The
debate opened with a long and eloquent. speech by Senator
Vardaman of Mississippi, Democrat, in support of the amendment.
"My estimate of woman," said he, in conclusion, "is well
expressed in the words employed by a distinguished author who
dedicated his book to a `Little mountain, a great meadow, and a
woman,' `To the mountain for the sense of time, to the
meadow for the sense of space, and of everything."'
Senator McCumber of North Dakota, Republican, followed with a
curious speech. His problem was to explain why, although opposed
to suffrage, he would vote for the amendment. Beginning with the
overworked "cave man" and "beasts of the forests," and down to
the present day, "the male had
always protected the female" He always would! Forgetting recent
events in the Capital, he went so far as to say, " . . . In our
courts she ever finds in masculine nature an asylum of
protection, even though she may have committed great wrong. While
the mind may be convinced beyond any doubt, the masculine heart
finds it almost impossible to pronounce the word `guilty' against
a woman." Scarcely had the galleries ceased smiling at this idea
when he treated them to a novel application of the biological
theory of inheritance. "The political field," he declared,
"always has been and probably always will be an arena of more or
less bitter contest. The political battles leave scars as ugly
and lacerating as the physical battles, and the more sensitive
the nature the deeper and more lasting the wound. And as no man
can enter this contest or be a party to it and assume its
responsibilities without feeling its blows and suffering its
wounds, much less can woman with her more emotional and more
"But . . . you may ask why should she be relieved from the scars
and wounds of political contest? Because they do not affect her
alone but are transmitted through her to generations yet to come
. . . . "
The faithful story of the sinking ship was invoked by the Senator
from North Dakota. One might almost imagine after listening to
Congressional debates for some years that traveling on sinking
ships formed a large part of human experience. "Fathers, sons,
and brothers," said the Senator in tearful voice, "guarding the
lifeboats until every woman from the highest to the lowest has
been made safe, waving adieu with a smile of cheer on their lips,
while the wounded vessel slowly bears them to a strangling death
and a watery tomb, belie the charge . . " that woman needs her
citizenship as a form of protection.
In spite of these opinions, however, the Senator was obliged to
vote for the amendment because his state had so ordered.
Senator Hardwick of Georgia, Democrat, felt somewhat betrayed
that the suffrage plank in the platform of his party in 1916,
recommending state action, should be so carelessly set aside.
"There is not a Democratic Senator present," said Mr. Hardwick,
"who does not know the history that lies back of the adoption of
that plank. There is not a Democratic Senator who does not know
that the plank was written here in Washington and sent to the
convention and represented the deliberate voice of the
administration and of the party on this question, which was to
remit this question to the several States for action . . . .
"The President of the United States . . . was reported to have
sent this particular plank . . .from Washington, supposedly by
the hands of one of his Cabinet officers." The fact that his own
party and the Republican party were both advancing on suffrage
irritated him into denouncing the alacrity with which
"politicians and senators are trying to get on the band wagon
Senator McKellar of Tennessee, Democrat, reduced the male
superiority argument to simple terms when he said: " . . . Taking
them by and large, there are brainy men and brainy women, and
that is about all there is to the proposition."
Our armies were sweeping victorious toward Germany. There was
round on round of eloquence about the glories of war. Rivers of
blood flowed. And always the role of woman was depicted as a
contented binding of wounds. There were those who thought woman
should be rewarded for such service. Others thought she ought to
do it without asking anything in return. But all agreed that this
was her role. There was no woman's voice in that body to protest
against the perpetuity of such a role.
The remarks of Senator Reed of Missouri, anti-suffrage Democrat,
typify this attitude. “. . . Women in my state
believe in the old-fashioned doctrine that men should fight the
battles on the red line; that men should stand and bare their
bosoms to the iron hail; and that back of them, if need be, there
shall be women who may bind up the wounds and whose tender hands
may rest upon the brow of the valiant soldier who has gone down
in the fight.
"But, sir, that is woman's work, and it has been woman's work
always . . . . The woman who gave her first born a final kiss and
blessed him on his way to battle," had, according to the Senator
from Missouri, earned a "crown of glory . . . gemmed with the
love of the world."
And with Senator Walsh of Montana, Democrat, "The women of
America have already written a glorious page in the history of
the greatest of wars that have vexed the world. They, like
Cornelia, have given, and freely given, their jewels to their
Some of us wondered.
Senator McLean of Connecticut, anti-suffrage Republican, flatly
stated "that all questions involving declarations of war and
terms of peace should be left to that sex which must do the
fighting and the dying on the battlefield." And he further said
that until boys between 18 and 21 who had just been called to the
colors should ask for the vote, "their mothers should be and
remain both proud and content" without it. He concluded with an
amusing account of the history of the ballot box. "This joint
resolution," he said, "goes beyond the seas and above the clouds.
It attempts to tamper with the ballot box, over which mother
nature always has had and always will have supreme control; and
such attempts always have ended and always will end in failure
Senator Phelan of California, Democrat, made a straightforward,
Senator Beckham of Kentucky, Democrat, deplored the idea that man
was superior to woman. He pleaded "guilty to
the charge of Romanticism." He said, "But I look upon woman as
superior to man." Therefore he could not trust her with a vote.
He had the hardihood to say further, with the men of the world at
each other's throats, . . . "Woman is the civilizing, refining,
elevating influence that holds man from barbarism." We charged
him with ignorance as well as romanticism when he said in
closing, "It is the duty of man to work and labor for woman; to
cut the wood, to carry the coal, to go into the fields in the
necessary labor to sustain the home where the woman presides and
by her superior nature elevates him to higher and better
conceptions of life."
Meanwhile Senator Shafroth of Colorado, Democrat, lifelong
advocate of suffrage, was painstakingly asking one senator after
another, as he had been for years, "Does not the Senator believe
that the just powers of government are derived from the consent
of the governed?" and then-"But if you have the general principle
acknowledged that the just powers of government are derived from
the consent of the governed." . . . and so forth. But the idea of
applying the Declaration of Independence to modern politics
fairly put them to sleep.
These samples of senatorial profundity may divert, outrage, or
bore us, but they do not represent the real battle. It is not
that the men who utter these sentiments do not believe them. More
is the pity, they do. But they are smoke screens-mere skirmishes
of eloquence or foolishness. They do not represent the motives of
their political acts.
The real excitement began when Senator Pittman of Nevada,
Democrat, attempted to reveal to the senators of his party the
actual seriousness of the political crisis in which the Democrats
were now involved. He also attempted to shift the blame for
threatened defeat of the amendment to the Republican side of the
chamber. There was a note of desperation in his voice, too, since
he knew that President Wilson had not
up to that moment won the two votes lacking. The gist of Senator
Pittman's remarks was this: The Woman's Party has charged the
Senate Woman Suffrage Committee, which is in control of the
Democrats, and the President himself, with the responsibility fob
obstructing a vote on the measure. "I confess," said he, that
this is "having its effect as a campaign argument" in the woman
Senator Wolcott of Delaware, Democrat, interrupted him to ask if
this was "the party that has been picketing here in Washington?"
Senator Pittman, having just paid this tribute to our campaign in
the West, hastened to say that it was, but that there was another
association, the National American Woman Suffrage Association,
which had always conducted its campaign in a "lady-like-modest-
and intelligent way" and which had "never mixed in politics."
Waving a copy of the Suffragist in the air, Senator Pittman began
his attempt to shift responsibility to the Republican side, for
the critical condition of the amendment. He denounced the
Republicans for caucusing on the amendment and deciding
unanimously to press for a vote, when they the Republicans] knew
there were two votes lacking. He scored us for having given so
much publicity to the action of the caucus and declared with
vehemence that a "trick" had been executed through Senator Smoot
which he would not allow to go unrevealed. Senator Pittman
charged that the Republicans had promised enough votes to pass
the amendment and that upon that promise the Democrats had
brought the measure on the floor; that the Republicans thereupon
withdrew enough votes to cause the defeat of the amendment.
Whether or not this was true, at any rate, as Senator Smoot
pointed out, the Democratic Chairman in charge of the measure
could at any moment send the measure back to Committee, safe from
immediate defeat. This was true, but not exactly a suggestion to
be welcomed by the Democrats.
"Yes," replied Senator Pittman, "and then if we move to refer it
back to the committee, the Senator from Utah would say again,
`The Democrats are obstructing the passage of this amendment . .
. . We told you all the time they wanted to kill it.' . . . If we
refer it back to the committee, then we will be charged, as we
have been all the time in the suffrage states, with trying to
prevent a vote on it, and still the Woman's Party campaign will
go on as it is going on now; and if we vote on it they will say:
`We told you the Democrats would kill it, because the President
would not make 332 on his side vote for it'."
That was the crux of the whole situation. The Democrats had been
manaeuvered into a position where they could neither afford to
move to refer the amendment back to the committee, nor could they
afford to press it to a losing vote. They were indeed in an
exceedingly embarrassing predicament.
Throughout hours of debate, Senator Pittman could not get away
from the militants. Again and again, he recited our deeds of
protest, our threats of reprisal, our relentless strategy of
holding his party responsible for defeat or victory.
"I should like the Senator," interpolated Senator Poindexter of
Washington, Republican, "so long as he is discussing the action
of the pickets, to explain to the Senate whether or not it is the
action of the pickets . . . the militant . . . woman's party,
that caused the President to change his attitude on the subject.
Was he coerced into supporting this measure -after he had for
years opposed it-because he was picketed? When did the President
change his attitude? If it was not because he was picketed, will
the Senator explain what was the cause of the change in the
Mr. Pittman did not reply directly to these questions.
Senator Reed of Missouri, anti-Administration Democrat, consumed
hours reading into the Congressional Record various
press reports of militant activities. He dwelt particularly upon
the news headlines, such as,
"Great Washington Crowd Cheers Demonstration at White House by
National Woman's Party." . . .
"Suffragists Burn Wilson `Idle Words' . . ."
"Money Instead of Jeers Greet Marchers and Unique Protest Against
Withholding Vote" . . .
"Apply Torch to President's Words . . . Promise to Urge Passage
of Amendment Not Definite Enough for Militants."
"Suff's Burn Speech . . .,Apply Torch to Wilson's Words During
Demonstration-Symbol of `Indignation'-Throngs Witnessing Doings
in Lafayette Square Orderly and Contribute to Fund-President
Receives Delegation of American Suffrage Association Women."
Senator McKellar of Tennessee, Democrat, asked Mr. Reed if he did
not believe that we had a right peaceably to assemble under the
"first amendment to our Constitution which I shall read: Congress
shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances." Mr. Reed made no direct answer.
Lest the idea get abroad from the amount of time they spent in
discussing the actions of the "wicked militants," that we had had
something to do with the situation which had resulted in
Democratic despair, Senator Thomas of Colorado, the one Democrat
who had never been able to conceal his hostility to us for having
reduced his majority in 1914, arose to pay a tribute to the
conservative suffrage association of America. Their "escutcheon,"
he said, "is unstained by mob methods or appeals to violence. It
has neither picketed Presidents nor populated prisons . . . . It
has carried no banners flaunting insults to the Executive," while
the militants on the other hand have indulged in "much tumult and
vociferous braying, all for notoriety's sake." . . . The
galleries smiled as he counseled
the elder suffrage leaders "not to lose courage nor yet be:
fainthearted," for this "handicap" would soon be overcome. It
would have taken an abler man than Senator Thomas, in the face of
the nature of this debate, to make any one believe that we had
been a "handicap" in forcing them to their position. He was the
only one hardy enough to try. After this debate the Senate
adjourned, leaving things from the point of view of party
politics, tangled in a hopeless knot. It was to untie this knot
that the President returned hastily from New York in answer to
urgent summons by long distance telephone, and went to the
Capitol to deliver his memorable address.
Mr. Vice President and Gentlemen of the Senate: The unusual
circumstances of a world war in which we stand and are judged in
the view not only of our own people and our own consciences but
also in view of all nations and all peoples will, I hope, justify
in your thought, as it does in mine, the message I have come to
bring you. I regard the concurrence of the Senate in the
constitutional amendment proposing the extension of the suffrage
to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of
the great war of humanity in which we are engaged. I have come to
urge upon you the considerations which have led me to that
conclusion. It is not only my privilege, it is also my duty to
appraise you of every circumstance and element involved in this
momentous struggle which seems to me to affect its very processes
and its outcome. It is my duty to win the war and to ask you to
remove every obstacle that stands in the way of winning it.
I had assumed that the Senate would concur in the amendment
because ho disputable principle is involved but only a question
of the method by which the suffrage is to be extended to women.
There is and can be no party issue involved in it. Both of our
great national parties are pledged, explicitly pledged, to
equality of suffrage for the women of the country. Neither party,
therefore, it seems to me, can justify hesitation as to the
method of obtaining it, can rightfully hesitate to substitute
federal initiative for state initiative, if the early adoption,
of the measure is necessary to the successful prose-
cution of the war and if the method of state action proposed in
party platforms of 1916 is impracticable within any reasonable
length of time, if practicable at all. And its adoption is, in my
judgment, clearly necessary to the successful prosecution of the
war and the successful realization of the objects for which the
war is being fought.
That judgment, I take the liberty of urging upon you with solemn
earnestness for reasons which I shall state very frankly and
which I shall hope will seem as conclusive to you as they have
seemed to me.
This is a peoples' war, and the peoples' thinking constitutes its
atmosphere and morale, not the predilections of the drawing room
or the political considerations of the caucus. If we be indeed
democrats and wish to lead the world to democracy, we can ask
other peoples to accept in proof of our sincerity and our ability
to lead them whither they wish to be led nothing less persuasive
and convincing than our actions. Ours professions will not
suffice. Verification must be forthcoming when verification is
asked for. And in this case verification is asked for, asked for
in this particular matter. You ask by whom? Not through
diplomatic channels; not by Foreign Ministers, not by the
intimations of parliaments. It is asked for by the anxious,
expectant, suffering peoples with whom we are dealing and who are
willing to put their destinies in some measure in our hands, if
they are sure that we wish the same things that they wish. I do
not speak by conjecture. It is not alone the voices of statesmen
and of newspapers that reach me, and the voices of foolish and
intemperate agitators do not reach me at all! Through many, many
channels I have been made aware what the plain, struggling,
workaday folk are thinking upon whom the chief terror and
suffering of this tragic war falls. They are looking to the
great, powerful, famous democracy of the West to lead them to the
new day for which they have so long waited; and they think, in
their logical simplicity, that democracy means that women shall
play their part in affairs alongside men and upon an equal
footing with them. If we reject measures like this, in ignorance
or defiance of what a new age has brought forth, of what they
have seen but we have not, they will cease to follow or to trust
us. They have seen their own governments accept this inter-
pretation of democracy,-seen old governments like Great Britain,
which did not profess to be democratic, promise readily and as of
course this justice to women, though they had before refused it,
the strange revelations of this war having made many things new
and plain to governments as well as to peoples.
Are we alone to refuse to learn the lesson? Are we alone to ask
and take the utmost that women can give,-service and sacrifice of
every kind,-and still say that we do not see what title that
gives them to stand by our sides in the guidance of the affairs
of their nation and ours? We have made partners of the women in
this war; shall we admit them only to a partnership of sacrifice
and suffering and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and
of right? This war could not have been fought, either by the
other nations engaged or by America, if it had not been for the
services of the women, services rendered in every sphere,-not
only in the fields of effort in which we have been accustomed to
see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very
skirts and edges of the battle itself. We shall not only be
distrusted but shall deserve to be distrusted if we do not
enfranchise them with the fullest possible enfranchisement, as it
is now certain that the other great free nations will enfranchise
them. We cannot isolate our thought or our action in such a
matter from the thought of the rest of the world. We must either
conform or deliberately reject what they propose and resign the
leadership of liberal minds to others.
The women of America arc too noble and too intelligent and too
devoted to be slackers whether you give or withhold this thing
that is mere justice; but I know the magic it will work in their
thoughts and spirits if you give it them. I propose it as I would
propose to admit soldiers to the suffrage, the men fighting in
the field for our liberties and the liberties of the world, were
they excluded. The tasks of the women lie at the very heart of
the war, and I know how much stronger that heart will beat if you
do this just thing and show our women that you trust them as much
as you in fact and of necessity depend upon them.
Have I said that the passage of this amendment is a vitally
necessary war measure, and do you need further proof? Do
you stand in need of the trust of other peoples and of the trust
of our women? Is that trust an asset or is it not? I tell you
plainly, as commander-in-chief of our armies and of the gallant
men in our fleets, as the present spokesman of this people in our
dealings with the men and women throughout the world who are now
our partners, as the responsible head of a great government which
stands and is questioned day by day as to its purposes, its
principles, its hopes, whether they be serviceable to men
everywhere or only to itself, and who must himself answer these
questionings or be shamed, as the guide and director of forces
caught in the grip of war and by the same token in need of every
material and spiritual resource this great nation possesses,-I
tell you plainly that this measure which I urge upon you is vital
to the winning of the war and to the energies alike of
preparation and of battle.
And not to the winning of the war only. It is vital to the right
solution of the great problems which we must settle, and settle
immediately, when the war is over. We shall need then a vision of
affairs which is theirs, and, as we have never needed them
before, the sympathy and insight and clear moral instinct of the
women of the world. The problems of that time will strike to the
roots of many things that we have not hitherto questioned, and I
for one believe that our safety in those questioning days, as
well as our comprehension of matters that touch society to the
quick, will depend upon the direct and authoritative
participation of women in our counsels. We shall need their moral
sense to preserve what is right and fine and worthy in our system
of life as well as to discover just what it is that ought to be
purified and reformed. Without their counselings we shall be only
That is my case. This is my appeal. Many may deny its validity,
if they choose, but no one can brush aside or answer the
arguments upon which it is based. The executive tasks of this war
rest upon me. I ask that you lighten them and place in my hands
instruments, spiritual instruments, which I do not now possess,
which I sorely need, and which I have daily to apologize for not
being able to employ. (Applause).
It was a truly beautiful appeal.
When the applause and the excitement attendant upon the occasion
of a message from the President had subsided, and the floor of
the chamber had emptied itself of its distinguished visitors, the
debate was resumed.
"If this resolution fails now," said Senator Jones of Washington,
ranking Republican member of the Suffrage Committee, "it fails
for lack of Democratic votes."
Senator Cummins of Iowa, Republican, also a member of the
Suffrage Committee, reminded opponents of the measure of the
retaliatory tactics used by President Wilson when repudiated by
senators on other issues. "I sincerely hope," he said tauntingly,
"that the President may deal kindly and leniently with those who
are refusing to remove this obstacle which stands in his way. It
has not been very long since the President retired the junior
Senator from Mississippi [Mr. Vardaman] from public life. Why?
Because he refused at all times to obey the commands which were
issued for his direction. The junior Senator from Georgia [Mr.
Hardwick] suffered the same fate. How do you hope to escape? . .
. My Democratic friends are either proceeding upon the hypothesis
that the President is insincere or that they may be able to
secure an immunity from him that these other unfortunate
aspirants for office failed to secure."
Senator Cummins chided Senator Reed for denouncing "the so-called
militants who sought to bring their influence to bear upon the
situation in rather a more forcible and decisive method than was
employed by the national association. . . I did not believe in
the campaign they were pursuing (not one senator was brave enough
to say outright that he did). . . .
"But that was simply a question for them to determine; and if
they thought that in accordance with the established custom the
President should bring his influence to bear more effectively
than he had, they had a perfect right to burn his message; they
had a perfect right to carry banners in Lafay-
ette Park, in front of the White House, or anywhere else; they
had a perfect right to bring their banners into the Capitol and
display them with all the force and vigor which they could
command. I did not agree with them; but they also were making a
campaign for an inestimable and a fundamental right.
"What would you have done, men, if you had been deprived of the
right to vote? What would you have done if you had been deprived
of the right of representation? Have the militants done anything
worse than the revolutionary forces who gathered about the tea
chests and threw them into the sea? . . .
"I do not believe they [the militants] committed any crime; and
while I had no particle of sympathy with the manner in which they
were conducting their campaign, I think their arrest and
imprisonment and the treatment which they received while in
confinement are a disgrace to the civilized world, and much the
more a disgrace to the United States, which assumes to lead the
civilized world in humane endeavor. They disturbed nobody save
that disturbance which is common to the carrying forward of all
propaganda by those who are intensely and vitally interested in
it. I wish they had not done it, but I am not to be the judge of
their methods so long as they confine themselves to those acts
and to those words which are fairly directed to the
accomplishment of their purposes. I cannot accept the conclusion
that because these women burned a message in Lafayette Park or
because they carried banners upon the streets in Washington
therefore they are criminals."
The time had come to take the vote, but we knew we had not won.
The roll was called and the vote stood 62 to 34 [Oct. 1, 1918],
counting all pairs. We had lost by 2 votes.
Instantly Chairman Jones, according to his promise to the women,
changing his vote from "yea" to "nay," moved for a
reconsideration of the measure, and thus automatically kept it on
the calendar of the Senate. That was all that could be done.
The President's belief in the power of words had lost the
amendment. Nor could he by a speech, eloquent as it was, break
down the opposition in the Senate which he had so long protected
Our next task was to secure a reversal of the Senate vote. We
modified our tactics slightly.
Our immediate task was to compel the President to secure a
reversal of two votes in the Senate. It became necessary to enter
again the Congressional elections which were a month away.
By a stroke of good luck there were two senatorial contests-in
New Jersey and New Hampshire-for vacancies in the short term.
That is, we had an opportunity to elect two friends who would
take their seats in time to vote on the amendment before the end
of this session. It so happened that the Democratic candidates
were pledged to vote for the amendment if elected, and that the
Republican candidates were opposed to the amendment. We launched
our campaign in this instance for the election of the Democratic
candidates. We went immediately to the President to ask his
assistance in our endeavor. We urged him personally to appeal to
the voters of New Jersey and New Hampshire on behalf of his two
candidates. As Party leader he was at the moment paying no
attention whatever to the success of these two suffragists. Both
of the Democratic candidates themselves appealed to President
Wilson for help in their contests, on the basis of their suffrage
advocacy. His speech to the Senate scarcely cold, the President
refused to lend any assistance in these contests, which with
sufficient effort might have produced the last two votes.
At the end of two weeks of such pressure upon the President we
were unable to interest him in this practical endeavor. It was
clear that he would move again only under attack. We
went again, therefore, to the women voters of the west and asked
them to withhold their support from the Democratic Senatorial
candidates in the suffrage states in order to compel the
President to assist in the two Eastern contests. This campaign
made it clear to the President that we were still holding him and
his party to their responsibility.
And as has been pointed out, our policy was to oppose the
Democratic candidates at elections so long as their party was
responsible for the passage of the amendment and did not pass it.
Since there is no question between individuals in suffrage
states-they are all suffragists-this could not increase our
numerical strength. It could, however, and did demonstrate the
growing and comprehensive power of the women voters.
Shortly before election, when our campaign was in full swing in
the West, the President sent a letter appealing to the voters of
New Jersey to support Mr. Hennessey, the Democratic candidate for
the Senate. He subsequently appealed to the voters of New
Hampshire to elect Mr. Jameson, candidate for Democratic Senator
in New Hampshire.
We continued our campaign in the West as a safeguard against
relaxation by the President after his appeal. There were seven
senatorial contests in the western suffrage states. In all but
two of these contests-Montana and Nevada-the Democratic
Senatorial candidates were defeated. In these two states the
Democratic majority was greatly reduced.
Republicans won in New Jersey and New Hampshire and a Republican
Congress was elected to power throughout the country.
The election campaign had had a wholesome effect, however, on
both parties and was undoubtedly one of the factors in persuading
the President to again appeal to the Senate.
Immediately after the defeat in the Senate, and throughout the
election campaign, we attempted to hold banners at the Capitol to
assist our campaign and in order to weaken the
resistance of the senators of the opposition. The mottoes on the
banners attacked with impartial mercilessness both Democrats and
Republicans. One read:
SENATOR WADSWORTH's REGIMENT IS FIGHTING FOR DEMOCRACY ABROAD.
SENATOR -WADSWORTH LEFT HIS REGIMENT AND IS FIGHTING AGAINST
DEMOCRACY IN THE SENATE.
SENATOR WADSWORTH COULD SERVE HIS COUNTRY BETTER BY FIGHTING WITH
HIS REGIMENT ABROAD THAN BY FIGHTING WOMEN AT HOME.
SENATOR SHIELDS TOLD THE PEOPLE OF TENNESSEE HE WOULD SUPPORT THE
THE ONLY TIME THE PRESIDENT WENT TO THE SENATE TO ASK ITS SUPPORT
SENATOR SHIELDS VOTED AGAINST HIM.
DOES TENNESSEE BACK THE PRESIDENT'S WAR PROGRAM OE SENATOR
And still a third:
GERMANY HAS ESTABLISHED "EQUAL, UNIVERSAL, SECRET, DIRECT
THE SENATE HAS DENIED EQUAL, UNIVERSAL, SECRET SUFFRAGE TO
WHICH IS MORE OF A DEMOCRACY, GERMANY OR AMERICA?
As the women approached the Senate, Colonel Higgins, the Sergeant
at Arms of the Senate, ordered a squad of Capitol policemen to
rush upon them. They wrenched their banners from them, twisting
their wrists and manhandling them as they took them up the steps,
through the door, and down
into the guardroom,-their banners confiscated and they themselves
detained for varying periods of time. When the women insisted on
knowing upon what charges they were held, they were merely told
that "peace and order must be maintained on the Capitol grounds,"
and further, "It don't make no difference about the law, Colonel
Higgins is boss here, and he has taken the law in his own hands."
Day after day this performance went on. Small detachments of
women attempted to hold banners outside the United States Senate,
as the women of Holland had done outside the Parliament in the
Hague. It was difficult to believe that American politicians
could be so devoid of humor as they showed themselves. The panic
that overwhelms our official mind in the face of the slightest
irregularity is appalling! Instead of maintaining peace and
order, the squads of police managed to keep the Capitol grounds
in a state of confusion. They were assisted from time to time by
Senate pages, small errand boys who would run out and attack
mature women with impunity. The women would be held under the
most rigid detention each day until the Senate had safely
adjourned. Then on the morrow the whole spectacle would be
While the United States Senate was standing still under our
protest world events rushed on. German autocracy had collapsed.
The Allies had won a military victory. The Kaiser had that very
week fled for his life because of the uprising of his people.
"We are all free voters of a free republic now," was the message
sent by the women of Germany to the women of the United States
through Miss Jane Addams. We were at that moment heartily ashamed
of our government. German women voting! American women going to
jail and spending long hours in the Senate guardhouse without
arrests or, charges. The war came to an end. Congress adjourned
When the 65th Congress reconvened for its short and final
session, December 2nd, 1918 [less than a month after our election
campaign], President Wilson, for the first time, included
suffrage in his regular message to Congress, the thing that we
had asked of him at the opening of every session of Congress
since March, 1918.
There were now fewer than a hundred days in which to get action
from the Senate and so avoid losing the benefit of our victory in
In his opening address to Congress, the President again appealed
to the Senate in these words:
"And what shall we say of the women-of their instant
intelligence, quickening every task that they touched; their
capacity for .organization and cooperation, which gave their
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