One Hundred Years Ago Today, August 19, 2017

 

On August 19, 1917 The New York Times reported that an enraged Senator Myers of Montana denounced the actions of the “militant” suffragists who were arrested while picketing the White House. In a hearing that lasted only forty minutes the six women were convicted of obstructing traffic; they were given the choice of a $10 fine or sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. All refused to plead guilty and were sent to the workhouse.

Although Senator Myers insisted he was in favor of woman suffrage, he then proposed a bill that would prohibit during wartime the possession or carrying of any “flag, streamer, sash or other device having thereon any words or language in reference to the President or Vice-President of the United States or…with reference to any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States or the suffrage right of citizens.” He further asserted that “The people of this country are thoroughly tired of this nuisance.”

What he did not report was that the women of this country were also tired of working for almost seventy years and still not sharing in the political equality of their own nation. Thankfully this assault on the suffragists’ First Amendment rights was never enacted. The women continued peacefully picketing, even when violence was visited upon them, and they were unlawfully confined to the dreaded workhouse, punished for the crime of demanding an equal voice in their government.

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