Militant Suffragists | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Militant Suffragists

Nov 10, 2020

 

Suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns learned about militant protest tactics from suffrage efforts in England. They felt such tactics could help in the United States, but the National American Woman Suffrage Association did not approve, so they founded a separate group, the National Woman’s Party, under Alice Paul’s leadership.

 

In January of 1917, they organized the first-ever picket of the White House, which lasted 18 months. Beulah Amidon, daughter of Judge Amidon of Fargo, was one of the early participants. At first, this ‘silent picketing’ was smiled at by local police and President Wilson, but soon, their presence began to create some agitation—especially as the United States entered World War I. On the picket line, Lucy Burns displayed one banner that read: “Kaiser Wilson—Have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor Germans because they are not self-governed? Twenty million women are not self-governed. Take the beam out of your own eye.”

 

As wartime patriotism escalated, the banners provoked hostile responses from onlookers, leading to shouting and even riots. Many denounced the actions of the militant suffragists, including Dr. Anna Howard Shaw of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In North Dakota, the Steele Ozone newspaper in Kidder County equated suffragists with national threats, arguing that the government should do more to harden their policies in dealing with “spies, German agents, … [and] suffrage pickets.”

 

In October, a group of picketing suffragists including Alice Paul were arrested and given a 7-month sentence at a workhouse. Paul soon began to refuse to eat. By this date, she was several days into a hunger strike—but North Dakotans proudly noted that Dr. Cora Smith King, her physician, was a North Dakota native and a graduate of UND. King was also on the Advisory Council of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage, and Treasurer of the National Council of Women Voters.

 

In the meantime, other members of the National Woman’s Party used the fall months to tour various parts of the country. Mabel Vernon, national secretary of the party, spoke in Grand Forks and Fargo. She stated, “I recently had an interview with President Wilson…in which he gave every indication that he will put his power behind the [suffrage] amendment…. It is difficult to say how he could do otherwise. The nation must soon establish at home the democracy for which we are fighting abroad. This cannot be done until all our women citizens are enfranchised.”

 

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

 

Sources:

Grand Forks Herald, February 26, 1917, p7

The Bismarck Tribune, March 3, 1917, p5

Grand Forks Herald, October 26, 1917, p2

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, October 20, 1917, p9

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, October 25, 1917, p7

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, August 10, 1917, p2

Grand Forks Herald, June 29, 1917, p6

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, August 3, 1917, p10

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, June 28, 1917, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, August 10, 1917, p1

The Grand Forks Herald, July 4, 1917, EXTRA, p4

Grand Forks Herald, October 16. 1917, p4

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, July 23, 1917, p4

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, January 10, 1917, p8

http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nwp-militant/

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/alice-paul

https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000100/

The Washington Times, November 7, 1917, FINAL EDITION, p1

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, November 7, 1917, p6

Grand Forks Herald, November 8, 1917, p2

https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/connections/women-protest/history3.html