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No group had ever picketed the White House before, according to Jennifer Krafchik, Acting Director, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. Many viewed women picketing during wartime as unpatriotic, so the police arrested 70 women on November 14, 1917. Given the choice of a $25 fine or incarceration, they chose jail. “Not a dollar of your fine shall we pay,” protested National Women’s Party co-founder Lucy Burns. “To pay a fine would be an admission of guilt. We are innocent.”

Officers then hauled the women to the Occoquan Workhouse, 25 miles south of Washington in Lorton, Virginia, where jailers fed the “law-breakers” maggot-laden food and stripped, dragged and clubbed them before they housed them in rat-infested cells alongside drunks and thieves. Guards manacled Burns by her hands to the overhead cell bars, forcing her to stand all night. When some of the suffragists went on a hunger strike, jailers force fed them raw eggs and milk through a tube inserted into their nasal passages. The women called this the “Night of Terror.”

Public exposure of the male guards’ abusive treatment galvanized public support for suffrage and created sticky political discomfort for Wilson, who still stonewalled. In 1918, he finally proposed that Congress pass the Susan B. Anthony amendment guaranteeing women suffrage as “a necessary war measure.” (To pressure Wilson to actively advocate for the amendment, the women built “watch fires” in Lafayette Park and burned his speeches.)

Five years earlier, 8,000 “uppity” women had upstaged President-elect Wilson’s inauguration when they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue carrying banners proclaiming “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Their leader, attorney Inez Milholland, wearing white robes astride a magnificent white horse, invoked Joan of Arc. People on the sidelines, mostly men, hurled jeers and nasty insults, deriding these dogged women as “unwomanly,” “unsexed” and “pathological.” About 100 marchers were hospitalized after suffering injuries from the hostile onlookers. When Wilson disembarked at Union Station, disappointed at the size of his own greeting party, he asked where everyone was.  “On the avenue,” came the answer, “watching the suffragists’ parade.”

Source/ rest: msmagazine.com