August 28, 1917: Ten Suffragettes Arrested Outside White House


The suffragette movement in the US cut across party lines and was regional in nation.  The Western States were strongly in favor of votes for women, and by 1917 almost all states West of the Mississippi granted some form of the franchise to women, with most states in the area granting suffrage to women on the same basis with men.  Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to grant women full voting rights in 1913.

Activist groups of women had for decades agitated for votes for women.  In 1917 the two main groups were the National American Women Suffrage Association dedicated to working within the system for female enfranchisement and the break away National Women’s Party dedicated to militant action.  Both parties were on record in favor of votes for women, but calling for it to be done state by state rather than by a federal amendment.  Women were by no means of one mind on the issue, with numerous female anti-suffrage groups existing around the country, especially in the East.

In 1917 the National Women’s Party set up a picket line outside the White House which had never been picketed before.  Public ire against the picketers was sparked when they compared Woodrow Wilson to the Kaiser and otherwise opposed the war effort.  Some 200 picketers were arrested for obstructing the sidewalk between June and November of 1917.  Wilson, who was in favor of suffrage, always tipped his hat to the picketers as he drove by with his anti-suffrage wife by his side.

The antics of the picketers got a lot of headlines, but the quiet work of the National American Women Suffrage Association was much more successful at swaying votes, emphasizing patriotism and urging women to support the war effort by volunteering for military service and offering to replace men in critical jobs while they were away fighting.  Wilson spoke in favor of female suffrage in his annual address of 1918.  The nineteenth amendment granting female suffrage was passed in 1919 and ratified by the states in 1920.

Published in: on August 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 28, 1917: Ten Suffragettes Arrested Outside White House  
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