Ten suffragists Are Arrested As They Picket The White House

Ten suffragists were arrested on August 28, 1917, as they picketed the White House.

The protesters were there in an effort to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to support the proposed "Anthony amendment" to the Constitution that would guarantee women the right to vote. Daily picketing began on January 10, 1917. During that year, more than 1,000 women from across the country joined the picket line outside the White House. Between June and November, 218 protestors from 26 states were arrested and charged with "obstructing sidewalk traffic." Of those arrested, 97 spent time in either the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia or in the District of Columbia jail. Initially, protestors stood silently, holding placards inscribed with relatively tame messages such as "Mr. President, what will you do for Woman Suffrage?" and "How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?" President Wilson maintained decorum, greeting the protestors with a tip of the hat as he rode, his wife at his side, through the White House gates.

By late spring, the picketers brandished more provocative placards. They took advantage of the United States' April 6 entry into the war in Europe to press their case. Bystanders erupted in violence on June 20, when picketers met Russian envoys with signs that proclaimed the United States a democracy in name only.

The White House protest reflected a rift between the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), led by Carrie Chapman Catt, and the more confrontational National Woman's Party, led by former NAWSA member Alice Paul.

Having spent time in a British jail for her participation in suffrage protests in England, Paul was no stranger to confrontation or its potential value to a political movement. In "Alice Paul Talks," she describes her experience during a hunger strike, a tactic she later employed at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D. (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. To date he is the only President to hold a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree, and the only President to serve in a political office in New Jersey before election to the Presidency, although Grover Cleveland is the only President born in the state of New Jersey. Early in his first term, he supported some cabinet appointees in introducing segregation in the federal workplace of several departments, a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation that included the Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act, America's first-ever federal progressive income tax in the Revenue Act of 1913 and most notably the Federal Reserve Act.

Narrowly re-elected in 1916, Wilson had a second term centered on World War I. He promised to maintain U.S. neutrality, but when the German Empire began unrestricted submarine warfare, he wrote several admonishing notes to Germany, and in April 1917 asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers. He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the military establishment. On the home front, he began the first effective draft in 1917, raised billions in war funding through Liberty Bonds, imposed an income tax, enacted the first federal drug prohibition, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, and suppressed anti-war movements. National women's suffrage was achieved under Wilson's presidency, but this egalitarian success was offset by the Wilson administration's segregation of the federal government.

I resorted to the hunger strike method twice…When the forcible feeding was ordered I was taken from my bed, carried to another room and forced into a chair, bound with sheets and sat upon bodily by a fat murderer, whose duty it was to keep me still. Then the prison doctor, assisted by two woman attendants, placed a rubber tube up my nostrils and pumped liquid food through it into the stomach. Twice a day for a month, from November 1 to December 1, this was done. ”

— "Alice Paul Talks,"