January 18, 1917
On January 10, 1917 suffrage leaders from the Congressional Union, discouraged by President Wilson’s refusal to support the suffrage amendment, decided on a daring, attention-grabbing demonstration – picketing the White House. Silent Sentinels appeared at the White House gates, holding banners with such messages as “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” and “Mr. President, What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage?,” braving cold, rain and snow in a desperate attempt to garner support for their cause.
January 18, 1917 found the Silent Sentinels still at their posts, still braving weather and criticism when a verbal attack came from a surprising source. Children’s writer Ruth Kimball Gardiner usually wrote light-hearted stories for children, such as In Happy Faraway Land. But in an article sent to the New York Times she offered a caustic complaint of the Silent Sentinels, claiming that the picketers were putting the President’s life in danger of assassination, “making it possible for any crank or criminal to stand at the gate waiting for an opportunity to shoot the President…with a weapon concealed under suffrage banners,” and comparing the demonstrators to “a small boy thrusting out his tongue.”
Ruth Kimball Gardiner was leader of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. But research shows that while she might have been a staunch anti-suffragist but she was not opposed to breaking down other male barriers. Working as a Washington newspaper correspondent, she was the first woman to gain entrance to the Press Gallery of the US Senate and when faced with opposition to her presence “held her seat among other reporters.”
And in another ironic twist, somewhere along the way Gardiner seems to have changed her mind about suffrage. Her 1924 obituary lists her as secretary of the National League of Women Voters.
And still they persisted…