Oh, you of the unquenchable spirit—
How I adore you!
I could light forever the waning fires of my courage
At the incessant, upleaping flame of your being!
You,—creature of light and color and vivid emotions—
Of radiant action,—who ever could dream of you passive,
Submissive, your small self stilled into lazy contentment?
You, fired with the beauty of ardor,
Lovely with love for all that is clean and earnest and forceful,
Yourself daring anything
So long as it be for Womanhood, and the cause of justice and progress—
Daring to lead and daring to follow—
Giving us each of your unfailing inspiration.
You, over whom the jeers and the mockings and the ugly thoughts
of those who understand not
Pass lightly, like a spent breath of foul air in a still cavern,
Unflicking the steadfast torch of you—
I could re-light forever the waning fires of my courage
At the incessant, upleaping flame of your being!
_The Suffragist_, January 25, 1919.
IN 1917 occurred the great leap forward in the activity of the Woman’s
Party; in swift succession came the picketing; the burning of the
President’s words; the Watchfires of Freedom. And Headquarters from 1917
on—as can be easily imagined—was a feverishly busy place. From the
instant the picketing started, it grew electric with action. As for the
work involved in making up the constant succession of picket lines——
It was not easy at an instant’s notice to find women who had the time to
picket. But always there were some women willing to picket _part_ of the
time and some willing to picket _all_ of the time. Mary Gertrude Fendall
was in charge of this work. That her office was no sinecure is evident
from the fact that on one occasion alone—that memorable demonstration of
March 4, 1917—she provided a line of nearly a thousand. Of course, too,
as fast as the women went to jail, other women had to be found to fill
their places. In those days Miss Fendall lived at the telephone and
between telephone calls, she wrote letters which invited sympathizers to
come from distant States to join the banner-bearing forces. Those women
who could always be depended on for picketing were, in the main, Party
sympathizers living in Washington; Party workers permanently established
at Headquarters; organizers come back suddenly from their regular work.
But volunteers came too—volunteers from the District of Columbia and
from all parts of the United States. In the winter, as has been before
stated, picketing was a cold business. The women found that they had to
wear a surprising amount of clothes—sweaters and coats, great-coats,
mufflers, arctics and big woolly gloves. Many of the pickets left these
extra things at Headquarters and the scramble to disengage rights and
lefts of the gloves and arctics was one of the amusing details of the
operation of the picket line. Banners took up space too; but they added
their cheering color to the picture.
When the arrests began, the atmosphere grew more tense and even more
busy. But just as—when trouble came—a golden flood poured into the
Woman’s Party treasury, so volunteer pickets came in a steadily
lengthening line. Anne Martin had said to the Judge who sentenced her:
“So long as you send women to jail for asking for freedom, just so long
will there be women willing to go to jail for such a cause.” This proved
to be true. Volunteers for this gruelling experience continued to appear
from all over the country. Mrs. Grey of Colorado, sending her twenty-two
year old daughter, Nathalie, into the battle, said:
I have no son to fight for democracy abroad, and so I send my
daughter to fight for democracy at home.
It interested many of the Woman’s Party members to study the first
reactions of the police to the strange situation the picketing brought
about. Most of the policemen did not enjoy maltreating the girls. Some
of them were stupid and a few of them were brutal, but many of them were
kind. They always deferred to Lucy Burns with an air of profound
respect—Miss Lucy, they called her. But a curious social element entered
into the situation. Large numbers of the women were well-known
Washingtonians. The police were accustomed to seeing them going about
the city in the full aura of respected citizenship. It was very
difficult often, to know—in arresting them—what social tone to adopt.
Mrs. Gilson Gardner tells an amusing story of her first arrest. In the
midst of her picketing, an officer suddenly stepped up to her. He said
politely: “It is a very beautiful day.” She concurred. They chatted. He
was in the meantime looking this way and that up the Avenue. Suddenly,
still very politely, he said: “I think the patrol will be along
presently.” Not until then did it dawn on Mrs. Gardner that she was
Later, when the Watchfires were going, Mrs. Gardner was again arrested
while she was putting wood on the flames. There was a log in her arms:
“Just a minute, officer,” she said, in her gentle, compelling voice, and
the officer actually waited while she crossed the pavement and put the
remaining log on the fire. Later, when Mrs. Gardner’s name was called in
the court, she decided that she preferred to stand, rather than sit in
the chair designated for the accused. The policeman started to force her
down. Again she said, in the gentle, compelling tone: “Please do not
touch me, officer!” and he kept his hands off her from that time forth.
Of course, the unthinking made the usual accusation that these women
were doing all this for notoriety. That was a ridiculous statement,
whose disproof was easy. The character and quality of the women
themselves were its best denial. The women who composed the Woman’s
Party were of all kinds and descriptions; they emerged from all ranks
and classes; they came from all over the United States. The Party did
not belong exclusively to women of great wealth and social position,
although there were many such in its list of membership; and some of
these belonged to families whose fortunes were internationally famous.
It did not belong exclusively to working women, although there were
thousands of them in its ranks; and these represented almost every
wage-earning task at which women toil. It did not belong exclusively to
women of the arts or the professions; although scores of women, many
nationally famous and some internationally famous, lent their gifts to
the furtherance of the work. It did not belong exclusively to the women
of the home, although scores of wives left homes, filled with the beauty
which many generations of cultivation had accumulated—left these homes
and left children; and although equal numbers left homes of a
contrasting simplicity and humbleness—left these homes and left children
to go to jail in the interests of the movement. It may be said, perhaps,
that the rank and file were characterized by an influential solidity,
that they were women, universally respected in their communities,
necessary to it. It was an all-woman movement. Indeed, often women who
on every other possible opinion were as far apart as the two poles,
worked together for the furtherance of the Federal Amendment. On one
occasion, for instance, on the picket line, two women who could not
possibly have found a single intellectual congeniality except the
enfranchisement of women stood side by side. One was nationally and
internationally famous as a conservative of great fortune. The other was
nationally and internationally famous as a radical. In other words, one
stood at the extreme right of conservatism and the other at the extreme
left of radicalism. It was as though, among an archipelago of differing
intellectual interests and social convictions, the Party members had
found one little island on which they could stand in an absolute
unanimity; stand ready to fight—to the death, if it were necessary—for
Some of the stories which they tell at Headquarters to illustrate the
Pan-woman quality of the Party are touchingly beautiful. There is the
case, for instance, of a woman government clerk, self-supporting, a
widow, and the mother of a little girl. Every day for weeks, she had
passed that line of pickets standing silently at the White House gates.
She heard the insults that were tossed to the women. She saw the
brutalities which were inflicted on them. She witnessed arrests.
Something rose within fluttered … tore at her…. One day when Alice
Paul was picketing, this young woman, suit-case in hand, appeared before
her. She said “I am all ready to picket if you need me. I have made all
the necessary arrangements in case I am arrested. Where shall I go to
join your forces so that I may picket today?” She was arrested that
afternoon and sent to prison.
Two other government clerks, who appeared on the picket line, were
arrested and jailed. They appealed to the government authorities for a
month’s leave of absence on the score of their imprisonment. All these
three women, of course, ran the risk of losing their positions. But in
their case the instinct to serve their generation was stronger than the
instinct to conserve any material safety. It is pleasant to record that
they were not compelled to make this sacrifice. Others, however,
suffered. A school teacher in the Woman’s Party, for instance, lost her
position because of her picketing.
If the foregoing is not denial enough of the charge, common when the
picketing began, that these women were notoriety-seeking fanatics,
perhaps nothing will bring conviction. It scarcely seems however that
the most obstinate antagonist of the Woman’s Party would like to believe
that delicately reared women could enjoy, even for the sake of
notoriety—aside from the psychological effect of spiders and cockroaches
everywhere, worms in their food, vermin in their beds, rats in their
cells—the brutalities to which they were submitted. Yet many women who
had endured this once, came back to endure it again and again.
One of the strong points of the Woman’s Party was its fairness. In
reference to the President, for instance, Maud Younger used to say that
the attitude of the Woman’s Party to him was like that of a girl who
wants a college education. She teases her father for it without
cessation, but she goes on loving him just the same. Another strong
point of the Woman’s Party was its sense of humor on itself. They tell
with great delight the amusing events of this period—of the grinning
street gamin who stood and read aloud one of the banners, _How long must
women wait for liberty?_ and then yelled: “T’ree months yous’ll be
waitin’—in Occoquan.”—of a reporter who, coming into Headquarters in
search of an interview, found a child sliding down the bannisters.
Before he could speak, the child announced in a tone of proud triumph:
“My mother’s going to prison.”
A story they particularly like is of that young couple who, having had
no bridal trip at the time of their marriage, came to Washington for a
belated honeymoon. They visited Headquarters together. The bride became
so interested in the picketing that she went out with one of the picket
lines and was arrested. She spent her belated honeymoon in jail, and the
groom spent his belated honeymoon indignantly lobbying the Congressmen
of his own district.
Later, when they were lighting the Watchfires of Freedom on the White
House pavement, the activity at Headquarters was increased one
The pickets themselves refer to that period as the most “messy and
mussy” in their history. Everything and everybody smelled of kerosene.
All the time, there was one room in which logs were kept soaking in this
pervasive fluid. When they first started the Watchfires they carried the
urn and the oil-soaked logs openly, to the appointed spot on the
pavement in front of the White House. Later, when the arrests began and
the fires had to be built so swiftly that they had to abandon the urn,
they carried these logs under coats or capes. The White House pavement
was always littered with charred wood even when the Watchfires were not
going. Once the fires were started it was almost impossible to put them
out. Kerosene-soaked wood is a very obstinate substance. Water had no
effect on it. Chemicals alone extinguished it. Amazed crowds used to
stand watching these magic flames. Often when the policemen tried to
stamp the fires out, they succeeded only in scattering them.
It was an extraordinary effect, too, when the policemen were busy
putting out one fire, to see others start up, in _this_ corner of the
Park, in _that_ corner, in the great bronze urn, near the center.
Building a fire in that bronze urn was as difficult a matter as it
seems. A Woman’s Party member, glancing out from a stairway window at
the top of the house at Headquarters, had noted how boldly the urn stood
out from the rest of the Park decoration….
[Illustration: EVERY GOOD SUFFRAGIST THE MORNING AFTER RATIFICATION.
Nina Allender in _The Suffragist_.]
At three o’clock one morning, Julia Emory and Hazel Hunkins, two of the
youngest and tiniest pickets, bore over to the Park from Headquarters
several baskets of wood which they concealed in the shadows under the
trees. The next problem was to get a ladder there without being seen.
They accomplished this in some way, dragging it over the ground, slow
foot after slow foot, and placed it against the urn. At intervals the
policeman on the beat, who was making the entire round—or square—of the
Park, passed. While one girl mounted the rudder and filled the urn with
oil-soaked paper, oil-soaked wood, and liberal libations of oil, the
other remained on guard. When the guard gave the word that the policeman
was near, the two girls threw themselves face downward on the frozen
grass. It is a very large urn and by this stealthy process it took hours
to fill it. It was two days before they started the fire. Anybody might
have seen the logs protruding from the top of the urn during those two
days, but nobody did.
The day on which the urn projected itself into the history of the
Woman’s Party, the Watchfires were burning for the first time on the
White House pavements. The street and the Park were filled with people.
A member of the Woman’s Party, passing the urn, furtively threw into it
a lighted asbestos coil. The urn instantly belched flames which
threatened to lick the sky. The police arrested every Woman’s Party
member in sight. All the way down the street as the patrol carried them
away, Hazel Hutchins and Julia Emory saw the flames flaring higher and
“How did they do that?” one man was heard to say. “I’ve been here the
whole afternoon and I didn’t see them light it.”
Twice afterwards fires were started in the urn. For that matter, fires
were started there after the police had set a watch on it.
Hazel Hunkins, young, small, slender, took the urn under her special
patronage. One of the pictures the Woman’s Party likes to draw is the
time Hazel was arrested there. She had climbed up onto the pedestal and
was throwing logs into the pool of oil when two huge policemen descended
upon her. The first seized one foot and the second seized the other; and
they both pulled hard. Of course in these circumstances, it was
impossible for her to move. But she is an athlete and she clung tight to
the urn edge. Still the policemen pulled. Finally she said gently, “If
you will let go of my feet, I will come down myself.”
Later asbestos coils were introduced into the campaign. This—from the
police point of view—was more annoying than the kerosene-soaked logs;
for they were compact to carry, easy to handle, difficult to put out,
and they lasted a long, long time.
Another picture the Woman’s Party likes to draw is of Mildred Morris
starting asbestos coils. With her nimbus of flaming hair, Miss Morris
seemed a flame herself. She was here, there, everywhere. The police
could no more catch up with her than they could with a squirrel. One
night, with the assistance of two others, she—unbelievably—fastened some
asbestos coils among the White House trees; but to her everlasting
regret the guards found them before the illumination could begin.
The stories they tell about arrests at this time are endless. Little
Julia Emory, who was arrested thirty-four times, is a repository of lore
on this subject.
They were a great trial to the police—the arrests of these later months.
While under detention, the pickets used to organize impromptu
entertainments. This was during the period, when at their trials, the
Suffragists would answer no questions and the court authorities were put
to it to establish their identities. They related with great glee how in
his efforts to prove Annie Arniel’s identity, a policeman described one
of their concerts in court.
And then, your Honor, that one there said, “We’ll now have a comb
solo from a distinguished combist, who has played before all the
crowned heads of Europe, Annie Arniel,” and then, your Honor, the
defendant got up and played a tune on a comb.
When, for instance, Suffragists refused bail, the police did not like to
hold them overnight because it was such an expense to the District of
Columbia to feed them. Julia Emory describes one evening when a roomful
of them, arrested, and having refused to put up bail, were waiting the
will of the powers. During this wait, which lasted several hours, they
entertained themselves by singing.
Once a policeman came in:
“Will you pay your bail if we put it at twenty-five dollars?”
“No,” answered the pickets promptly.
He went out, but later he returned.
“Will you pay your bail if we put it at five dollars?”
“Then march out.”
But those light moments were only foam thrown up from serious and
sometimes desperate times. When a crowd of ex-pickets gather together
and indulge in reminiscences, extraordinary revelations occur. Looking
at their faces and estimating their youth, one wonders at a world which
permitted one per cent of these things to happen.
And as for their experiences with the mobs…. Not the least of the
psychological factors in the situation was the slow growth of the
crowds; the circle of little boys who gathered about them first,
spitting at them, calling them names, making personal comments; then the
gathering gangs of young hoodlums who encouraged the boys to further
insults; then more and more crowds; more and more insults; the final
Often of course the pickets stood against the White House fence, an
enormous mob packed in front of them, with the knowledge that police
protection—according to the orders of the day—might be given them or
might not…. Sometimes that crowd would edge nearer and nearer until
there was but a foot of smothering, terror-fraught space between them
and the pickets. Literally those women felt they had their backs to the
wall. Occasionally they had to mount the stone coping! Always too they
feared that any sudden movement within the packed, slowly approaching
hostile crowd might foam into violence. Occasionally, when the police
followed orders to protect the pickets, violent things happened to
people in the crowd. Catherine Flanagan saw a plain-clothes man hit six
sailors over the head in succession with a billy. They went down like
nine pins. Yet when after hours of a seemingly impressive waiting the
actual struggle came—something—some spiritual courage bigger than
themselves—impelled them to hold on to their banner poles to the last
gasp. They were big in circumference—those banner poles—but the girls
clutched them so tightly that often it took three policemen to wrench
them away. Catherine Flanagan had deep gashes on the inside of her palms
where her own nails had penetrated her flesh and great wounds on the
outside of her hands where the policemen had dug their nails into them.
Virginia Arnold’s hands and arms were torn as though in a struggle with
some wild beast.
Yet, I repeat, Headquarters saw its lighter moments even in those most
troubled times. And during those most troubled times, that gay spirit of
youth managed to maintain itself. The onlookers marveled at it. But it
was only because it was a spiritual quality—youth of the soul, in
addition to youth of the body—that it could endure. During the course of
the eight years of its history, the members of the Woman’s Party had
been subjected to disillusion after disillusion. The older ones among
them bore this succession of shocks with that philosophy which a long
experience in public affairs engenders. But the younger ones—believing
at first, as youth always believes, in the eternal verities, and in
their eternal prevalence—witnessed faith-shaking sights and underwent
even more faith-shaking experiences.
In their contact with public men, they saw such a man as Borah for
instance—perhaps the chief of the Knights of the Double Cross—give the
Woman’s Party what virtually amounted to his pledged word to support the
Amendment and then coolly repudiate it. They saw Moses of New Hampshire
play a quibbling trick on them which involved them in weeks of the
hardest kind of work only calmly to ignore his own pledge at the end.
They contended with such differing personalities as the cold, cultured
mind, immutably set in the conventions of a past generation, of Henry
Cabot Lodge; the unfairness, or fatuity, or brutality of such men as
Penrose of Pennsylvania, Thomas of Colorado, Wadsworth of New York, Reed
of Missouri, Brandegee of Connecticut, Hoke Smith of Georgia.
When the picketing began, they saw outside forces get their Headquarters
from them; saw them influence scores of property owners sometimes after
an advance rent had been paid, not to let houses to them; saw them try
to influence the people who gave money, to withhold such financial
support; saw them try to influence the newspapers to be less impartial
in their descriptions of Woman’s Party activities. As the picketing went
on and the burning of the President’s words and the Watchfires succeeded
it—while they were exercising their inalienable right of peaceful
protest—they knew the experience of being harried by mobs at the very
door of the President of the United States; harried while the President
passed in his carriage through their midst; later to be harried in
collaboration by both mobs and police. Under arrest and in prison, they
underwent experiences which no one of them would have believed possible
of the greatest republic in the world. They were held incommunicado;
they could see neither counsel nor Party members. They were offered food
filled with worms. They were submitted to incredible brutalities.
And yet, I have said that spirit of youth prevailed. It prevailed
because they were speaking for their generation. They developed a sense
of devotion to their ideal of freedom which would have stopped short of
no personal sacrifice, not death itself. They developed a sense of
comradeship for each other which was half love, half admiration and all
reverence. In summing up a fellow worker, they speak first of her
“spirit,” and her “spirit” is always _beautiful_, or _noble_, or
_glorious_, or some such youth-loved word.
Once, when one party of pickets, about to leave Occoquan, was in the
dining-room, a fresh group, just sentenced, were brought into luncheon
and placed at another table. Conversation was not permitted. Not a word
was spoken, but with one accord the released pickets raised their
water-glasses high, then lowered them and drank to their comrades.
Yes, that was their strength—spirit of youth. Lavinia Dock said, “The
young are at the gates.” The young stormed those gates and finally
forced them open. They entered. And leaving behind all sinister
remembrance of the battle, they turned their faces towards the morning.