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Monday, August 28, 2017

VOTES FOR WOMEN | Aug. 28 – Police Arrest Picketing Suffragists

Lucy Burns in Lorton.
August 28, 2017 – On this day in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson is personally confronted, by woman suffragists picketing in front of the White House, with signs opposing American participation in the European war. 

The women had been picketing six days a week, sunup to sundown, since they met with him in January 2017 to present memorials of the death of Inez Milholland Boissevain. 




Back in January, he told them they were politically naive. They responded by vowing to picket the White House six days a week to demand his support of the Anthony Amendment to guarantee women the right to vote. It worked.

Wilson gave lukewarm support to woman suffrage during both political campaigns. During the 1912 presidential campaign against Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson and his opponent agreed on many reform measures such as child-labor laws and pro-union legislation. They differed, however, on woman suffrage. Roosevelt was in favor of recognizing the right of women to vote at the national level and Wilson was not. 

In his reelection campaign, his position was to leave the issue to the states.  He just ignored the daily picketing and peaceful suffrage demonstrators at the White House. As a former teacher at Bryn Mawr, and the father of two daughters who supported suffrage, he was under pressure to support the cause.


However, that changed on August 28, 1917. According to the Library of Congress in its "American Memory" archives, Wilson rode out of the White House gates that morning with his wife (his first wife died and he remarried in 1914) at his side, and tipped his hat toward the protestors as usual.

The suffragists then held high anti-World War I slogans on their placards in addition to pleas for Votes for Women. Later that day, the protestors clashed with outraged bystanders supporting the war. 

Many of the women were arrested and brought to the Lorton Workhouse for Women. The jailed suffragists included the two leaders of the National Women's Party, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and Vida Milholland, sister of Inez Milholland Boissevain. All three were trained by the Pankhurst suffragettes. Dorothy Day, currently up for sainthood in the Catholic Church, was also there.

The suffragists went on a hunger strike and were force-fed by their captors. Wilson, worried by publicity about the force-feeding, agreed to a suffrage amendment in January 1918. 

Congress soon enough after that passed the 19th Amendment and in 1920 Tennessee voted for the Amendment, bringing the number of ratifying states to two-thirds and enacting the Amendment.