MABEL VERNON, "THE PICKETING CAMPAIGN NEARS
NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
(7 December 1917)
Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp
On August 14, 1917, a small group of women from the
National Woman's Party left their headquarters in Cameron House, across from
the White House. Armed with a number of
banners, they marched across Lafayette
Square to take their usual posts at the White
House gates. This was not a new tactic
in the drive for woman suffrage. Since January 10, 1917, contingents of NWP
members had stood almost daily in rain, snow, and heat at the White House gates
bearing banners with such messages to President Wilson as: "Mr. President What Will You Do For
Woman Suffrage?" Even after the
entry of the United States
into World War I on April 7,
1917, the pickets still arrived to take up their silent vigil. With their purple, white, and gold color
banners and the ever-changing messages to the President, the women were the
talk of Washington, D.C. and competed with the war news for
public interest. They also were historically noteworthy as
the first group to picket the White House, bringing their grievances directly
to the door of the executive branch.
Yet, a new banner on
this August day would be different.
During the four o'clock "shift" of pickets, Elizabeth
Stuyvesant carried over and unfurled what would come to be known as the "Kaiser"
banner. It read:
KAISER WILSON, HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN
SYMPATHY WITH THE POOR GERMANS
WERE NOT SELF-GOVERNING? TWENTY
MILLION AMERICAN WOMEN ARE NOT
GOVERNING. TAKE THE BEAM OUT OF YOUR
For thirty minutes a restless crowd grew around the banner
until one man ran forward and ripped the banner down. Following this first attack, all the other
banners were ripped away. The pickets
responded by returning to Cameron House bringing over more banners that would
be torn down by the crowd immediately upon display. When the bannerless pickets returned to
Cameron House, the crowd--now clearly a mob--followed to tear new banners from
their hands as they emerged. Soon,
Cameron House itself was under attack with the NWP members locked inside. Undaunted, Lucy Burns and Virginia Arnold appeared on the
balcony with a Kaiser banner and the tri-color of the NWP to brave an assault
of eggs and tomatoes. The mob attack
became open warfare as three yeomen climbed to the balcony to attack those
holding the banners, and a shot was fired through the second floor window of
the house just above the heads of two women.
Although police reserves finally cleared the mob from the streets, the
pickets on the next three days met much the same mob violence, with the police
themselves finally attacking and ultimately arresting the women on charges of "blocking
The attacks on the "Kaiser"
banner were perhaps the most iconic events of a year that saw an inventional
flurry of new protest strategies by the NWP in the drive for woman's
suffrage. Near the end of that same
year, on December 7, 1917,
NWP organizer Mabel Vernon addressed the Advisory Council Conference of the NWP,
reporting on the events of the past memorable 12 months. Through a calm recitation of silent
demonstrations met with violence, unjust arrests and grueling imprisonments,
and tortuous rounds of hunger strikes answered by forcible feedings, Vernon presented a
narrative of both struggle and opportunity. Yet, Vernon's speech to the Advisory Council also is
notable for what is not
included. A reader seeking a taste of
the great arguments for suffrage will find this speech thin gruel indeed. Suffragists had presented rationales for
woman's suffrage repeatedly during the seventy long years of activism leading
to this moment. In the view of the NWP,
the time for talk was past; the time for action had come. The very form that Vernon's address took supported this
view. More than most suffrage speeches, Vernon's address was
temporal rather than thematic in its structure.
Hers was a simple detailing of events across the course of a year, an
unfolding of a movement strategy that contained its own implicit
justification. Her very choice of a
chronological pattern grounded in fact heightened the sense of cause and effect
rationality. Thus, the speech's very
form was a refutation to charges of both female hysteria and the apparent
irrationality of new techniques of protest.
Mabel Vernon grounds her speech to
the Advisory Council in commemoration.
The events she recounted begin with the memorial delegation sent to the
White House following the death of NWP member, Inez Milholland. Such eulogistic commemoration is considered a
form of epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric.
This type of discourse, Aristotle stated, is directed toward "praise
or blame" of events or persons, and, thus, is directed more toward
contemplation than action. Yet,
Aristotle granted that epideictic rhetoric may exhibit purposes beyond the
ceremonial moment by "reminding [the audience] of the past and projecting
the course of the future." Recent studies of commemoration and the uses
of public memory have emphasized this deliberative aspect, where the past is
used to advocate for the realization of a particular future. John Gillis argues that "Commemorative
activity is by definition social and political, for it involves the
coordination of individual and group memories." Out of this coordination of memories emerges
a new sense of group identity and an impulse toward actions that project that
identity to the world. By tapping the
memory of their common grievances, Mabel Vernon leads her suffragist audience
to a new self-understanding and toward inventive methods of protest.
"The Young Are At the Gates": The Context of the Speech
By the opening of the twentieth
century, the British and American movements for woman's suffrage were mired in
what some called the "period of the doldrums." Certainly, for the American movement the
first decade of this bright new century brought not hope but a sense of being
lost in the "Great
Desert" of woman's
suffrage. The old guard was passing. The deaths of Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton in 1902 and Susan B. Anthony in 1906 simply highlighted the number of
women who had spent their lives dedicated to "the Cause," only to die
with their goal unattained. After so many decades, the arguments had all
been made, the petitions had been sent up again and again, and the suffragists
seemed less a curiosity than a staid old band of reformers who could safely be
ignored. Time alone had reduced the
luster of a movement that had first emerged over fifty years earlier at the
Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention in 1848.
Although one of the resolutions of that convention urged the securing of
the "sacred right to the elective franchise," it
would take until the post-Civil War period for the movement for woman suffrage
to crystallize. Suffragists had expected support from the
Republican Party for the enfranchisement of women at the same time as African
American males and formed the American Equal Rights Association to advocate for
both black and female suffrage. Yet, the Republican Party, claiming "this
is the Negro's hour," not only excluded women in the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments but also codified Constitutional gender discrimination by
inserting the word "male" into the Fourteenth Amendment.
Disagreement over a response to
these amendments split the woman suffrage movement. Those who felt resentment over the amendments
joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, established in 1869 and headed
by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The NWSA, as the term National implies, sought a federal amendment for
women much as had been granted to African American men. In the same year of 1869, the American Woman
Suffrage Association was founded, headed by Lucy Stone and Henry
Blackwell. The AWSA pursued a
state-by-state approach to suffrage, coupling that effort with attempts to
expand women's right to vote on referenda at the state level.
Not only did suffragists from the
two organizations favor different tactical approaches, but they also favored
different types of arguments. Two
primary arguments emerged in the campaign for woman suffrage. The natural rights (or justice) argument was
based on the similarities between men and women as human beings. Because of their "common humanity,"
men and women also possessed a right to the universal principles articulated in
the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This form of argument, based in woman's
individuality, humanity, and equality, was favored by the NWSA. Yet, the natural rights argument was not the
only rhetorical game in town. Although
developing slightly later than the natural rights argument, the "expediency"
argument gained in strength throughout the suffrage movement. This argument was based in presumed
differences between men and women, emphasizing the complementary nature of the
two genders. Women, according to this
view, had a higher sense of morality, a more peace-loving nature, and a natural
steadiness and responsibility. The
qualities that they possessed as mothers in their families could be brought
into the political sphere where they would serve as mothers to the nation. This argument was useful to the AWSA in their
state-by-state approach because it came closer to the common views of
women. Especially when it came to
seeking suffrage in such small venues as school board elections and town
referenda, women's expertise with children and moral concerns for the community
turned domesticity into an effective argument for suffrage.
Both of these arguments actually
ran through the speeches of most suffragists; however, as the new century
approached, arguments of expediency began to take precedence. In 1890, the NWSA and AWSA merged to form the
National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The increasing strength of the South (and its strong opposition to woman
suffrage) made the success of a national amendment appear more difficult. Ties between the suffrage and Temperance
movements also increased the appeal of expediency arguments and the moral
influence women could bring to government through the vote. Thus, NAWSA initially took on much of the
tone and direction of the AWSA, concentrating its efforts on a state-by-state
campaign and emphasizing conciliatory arguments from expediency. Change, however, was coming to the suffrage
There were several factors that
influenced a transformation in the twentieth century American suffrage
movement. First, as the new century
neared its teens, the Progressive Era would bring a new interest in reform. Issues of poverty, child labor, sanitation,
and industrial safety had heightened concerns about society and led many women
to seek a means to effect change. Second, a new generation of suffragists,
inspired by the militancy of the agitation for the vote in Great Britain, would energize the
movement and take the struggle for suffrage in new directions. The leaders of this new approach were two
young American women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, both of whom had been active
in the British suffrage movement.
Following her graduation from Swarthmore in 1905, Alice Paul, a slight,
pale Quaker, had traveled to England
on a fellowship to study social work.
Before long, she was attracted to the work of the Women's Social and
Political Union, the militant wing of the British suffrage movement. Founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her
daughters Christabel and Sylvia, the WSPU called themselves "suffragettes,"
a term originally coined by the Daily
Mail as a derisive diminutive of the word suffragist. Far from being insulted, the WSPU liked the
lively modern sound of the word and even named their newspaper The Suffragette. Even today, the term suffragette refers only
to the British militants of the WSPU.
WSPU used new forms of activism to bring the suffrage movement out of the same
quiescence that the American cause had experienced. Parades and processions added color and
excitement to the suffrage issue and deputations to Parliament brought the
request for suffrage to the very gates of power. Early militancy for the WSPU consisted of
colorful attempts to generate publicity:
"picketing" the Parliament from a boat on the Thames, speaking in novel and inconvenient places, and
interrupting government speakers with questions about their support for women's
suffrage. The WSPU found that legal
deputations to Parliament and heckling of speakers (a tradition in British
politics) met with extenuated violence by police and arrest on flimsy
charges. The suffragettes found that
throwing a stone to break a window or simulating spitting or slapping a police
officer led to a quicker, less punishing arrest. Once in prison, WSPU members were denied "first
division" privileges as political prisoners and were consigned to the
criminal "third division." In
protest, the suffragettes would go on hunger strike and be forcibly fed.
Appropriately enough, Alice Paul
met Lucy Burns, a redheaded Irish American, in a London police station following their arrest
at a demonstration. Both women took part
in the questioning of government officials, demonstrations, prison hunger
strikes, and forcible feeding that formed part of the British movement. Although Burns stayed on to organize in England, Paul would return home in 1910 to
complete her doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania. The two women were reunited in 1912 in their
efforts to convince NAWSA to establish a permanent lobbying committee in Washington, D.C.
to work for a federal suffrage amendment. Feelings in NAWSA about a federal amendment
had softened because of the decidedly mixed outcome of the state-by-state
approach. Between 1890 and 1896, four
western states granted the vote to women (Wyoming,
however, between 1896 and 1910, no new suffrage states were added to the
total. This fourteen year drought made
some suffragists realize the slow and uncertain nature of state suffrage and to
think again about a federal amendment.
In 1910, Washington State gave the franchise to women and California did the same
in 1911. Despite their pleasure over
these victories, some suffragists realized that the western states might be
easier to win for woman's suffrage than their eastern (and certainly their
southern) counterparts. Also, with new
women voters in the western states to help elect pro-suffrage senators and
congressmen, a federal amendment began to appear as a possibility.
Alice Paul was quick to seize this
opening. She appeared at the November
1912 NAWSA annual convention with plans for a suffrage parade in the nation's
capital to correspond with Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. She was granted the title of chairman of the
Congressional Committee (NAWSA's lobbying wing, which had been in half-hearted
existence for some time) and given the responsibility to raise any funds
needed. The resulting March 3, 1913, parade was quite incredible. The cost of the event was just under $15,000,
and it echoed the grand processions of the British suffrage parades. Over 8,000 marchers participated with floats
and banners in the march down Pennsylvania
Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. At the front of the parade rode a beautiful
young lawyer, Inez Milholland, as a Joan of Arc figure draped in a white cape
and mounted upon a white horse. The
sidewalks were packed with crowds, mainly composed of men in Washington
inaugural the following day. In fact, when President Wilson arrived by
train at Union Station that afternoon, the expected crowds were not there to
greet him. "Where are the people?"
reported to have asked on the drive to his hotel. "Over on the avenue watching the
suffrage parade," came the response. More than anyone could know, that exchange
was a portent of the years to come.
Equally prophetic was the response
by men in the crowds that lined the suffrage parade route. The procession had only gone a few blocks
when men poured into the streets.
Jeering and grabbing at the marchers, the men tore at their banners,
overturned their floats, and closed the avenue down so that the women were
threading their way through a gauntlet of abuse. Rather than protect the procession, the
police seemed to enjoy the resulting melee and allowed it to continue. By the end of the day, one hundred marchers
were treated at a local Emergency
Hospital and cavalry had
to be brought in to restore order. As they were mauled, spat upon, and groped by
middle-class men, many of the marchers had their first glimpse at the brutality
and male privilege that hid beneath the thin veneer of chivalry.
Because of disagreements with NAWSA
over fund-raising and the wisdom of dramatic processions, Paul and Burns
established a shadow organization in April 1913 and called it the Congressional
Union. The CU produced its own weekly
journal The Suffragist and chose as
their colors purple, white, and gold (signifying loyalty, purity, and life). They also promoted a policy of holding the
party in power responsible for the failure to bring a suffrage amendment. This party policy was the same one held by
the WSPU in England, and it
meant that the Democrats (with Wilson
as their head) would be blamed for the continued failure to enfranchise
women. This policy was bound to clash
with the more conciliatory and diplomatic NAWSA approach, and in February 1914,
NAWSA and the CU split permanently. In June
1916, at a CU convention in Chicago
held for women in the western suffrage states, the National Woman's Party was
born. The NWP was meant to organize
voting women in the west under their own political party, while the CU
continued to organize non-voting eastern women.
Yet, it is difficult to separate the activities and members of the two
organizations and, by March 1917, they had combined under the NWP name.
Thus, through a convoluted path of
organizations, policies, and divisions, the way was prepared for the rise of
militancy in the American suffrage movement.
Alice Paul did not like the term militancy, believing (and rightfully
so) that it was easily confused with violence.
The militant WSPU in England
had, by 1913, turned to a program of "guerilla" militancy that
involved arson of letterboxes, bombings of buildings (including churches and
the summer home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and widespread destruction
of private and public property. Paul
could see the negative impact of this violent campaign and, true to her Quaker
roots, eschewed all violence. As it had
for the earlier nonviolent British movement, the term militant meant activism
and a defiant, uncompromising spirit in the pursuit of truth. It was a use of the term that resonated with
the Christian concept of the "church militant." Remaining unfailingly nonviolent throughout
its history, the NWP only referred to themselves as militant after June 1917
when they faced imprisonment for the civil disobedience of the picketing campaign.
Mabel Vernon: The Speaker
It is appropriate that one of Mabel
Vernon's speeches should represent the National Woman's Party and the militant
voice of protest in the American suffrage movement. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns are far better
known and revered as the leaders of the NWP.
The single-minded Paul functioned very much as the General and main
tactician of her organization. The
lively and academically brilliant Lucy Burns was more of a field commander,
often found in the thick of a protest. As a talented organizer and speaker, Mabel
Vernon was part of the inner circle of leadership just one rung below Paul and
Burns. Yet, in many ways, she operated
as a soldier in the field. She
represents well the many talented women who spent their lives working in the
Although Mabel Vernon attended
Swarthmore at the same time as Alice Paul, graduating a year prior to Paul, the
two women did not really know each other until the time of the suffrage
a Delaware native, had won awards as a debater
at Swarthmore and, following graduation taught high school Latin and German in Pennsylvania. In 1912, she attended a NAWSA conference in Philadelphia, and when Alice Paul was organizing the CU in
1913, a mutual acquaintance recommended Vernon
for a position in the organization. Vernon came to Washington
for an interview and Paul immediately promised to match her schoolteacher
salary of $70 a month. Thus, Vernon became Alice Paul's
first paid organizer. Vernon
was extremely talented as the advance person for CU campaigns across the
country, and The Suffragist contained
many articles from her adventures cross-country. With the founding of the NWP, she was named
secretary of the new organization.
During the fall of 1916, she served as a regional organizer in the
presidential election campaign, speaking on street corners and organizing
rallies against the re-election of Wilson and those legislators blocking the
For all of her skills as an organizer and speaker,
Mabel Vernon was more valuable to the NWP as the advance guard of militant
action. It seems that whenever a new
technique was introduced into the NWP repertoire, Vernon was the one to carry it out. At the 1916 dedication of the new labor
temple in Washington, D. C., President Wilson addressed participants in a labor
parade from the reviewing stand. Seated
on the platform, only steps away from the President, were Alice Paul and Mabel
Vernon. As the President proclaimed his
support for every class, Vernon
took the opportunity for a pre-planned interruption. In the ringing tones for which she was known,
Vernon asked, "Mr.
President, if you sincerely desire to forward the interests of all the people,
why do you oppose the national enfranchisement of women?" Startled into a response, Wilson replied, "That is one of the
things which we will have to take council over later." Toward the close of the speech, with the
subject of woman suffrage still unaddressed, Vernon spoke up again, "Answer, Mr.
President, why do you oppose the national enfranchisement of women?" At
this point, Vernon
was peacefully escorted from the platform by the police.
President Wilson would again hear
from Vernon in
a more symbolic way during his December
5, 1916, message to Congress.
A small group of women had attained seats in the front row of the
visitors' gallery facing the speaker's desk.
When President Wilson spoke for the rights and privileges of the people
of Puerto Rico, Mabel Vernon unfurled the
banner she had smuggled in under her coat and flung it over the rail of the
gallery. With a swish of silk, the
bright yellow banner displayed its message in black lettering: "Mr. President What Will You Do For
Woman Suffrage?" Although the
banner was removed within five minutes, the women had effectively put their
question before Congress and, through the newspapers, before the country. It is not surprising that, six months later,
Mabel Vernon would be one of six women who were first to be imprisoned in the
fight for woman suffrage in America.
Mabel Vernon presented the speech
analyzed in this essay before the Advisory Council Conference of the National
Woman's Party, held in Washington,
D.C. from December 6 through December 9, 1917. This was the fourth Advisory Council Conference
of the NWP and these conferences proved to be the major strategizing meetings
for the organization. Generally, in understanding a speech, an
examination of context takes us right up to the speaking moment. To follow standard form, I should detail the
events of 1917 as providing the "rhetorical situation" (a
situation inviting a rhetorical response) for Mabel Vernon's December
speech. An examination of the speech
text would then follow. Yet, this is a
retrospective presented to an audience that already has endorsed a
groundbreaking policy and put it into effect.
This speech is best understood by following the chronological unfolding
of events as detailed by Vernon
during the speech itself. It is a
discussion of the events themselves, coupled with an examination of Vernon's specific
rhetorical techniques, which provides understanding of an inventional
process: the development of a nonverbal
rhetoric of protest. This speech offers
insight into a new symbolic warfare conducted by women, one that embodied an
appeal to physical presence as opposed to physical force.
"The Picketing Campaign Nears
In her speech to the Advisory
Council, Mabel Vernon took full advantage of what Stephen Browne calls "tactical
representations of the past." Unlike most commemorative rhetoric, Vernon dealt not in the
distant past of history but in the recent collective past she shared with her
NWP audience. Throughout her speech, Vernon tapped the recent
memories of her Advisory Council audience for deliberative more so than epideictic
purposes. As John Wilson and Karyn
Stapleton state, such appeals to collective memory summon "the past
glories and/or past suffering of the group" and thus form a "discursive
practice . . . central to a group's sense of identity and belonging." For Vernon,
this process cannot stop at identity but must be "transformed for
strategic purposes" into
new forms of action for the suffrage cause.
In this speech, Mabel Vernon repeatedly used a three-pronged approach, wherein
she shared a recent common memory with her audience, utilized that memory to
forge a new collective identity, and argued for new forms of protest suitable
to that new identity. An examination of "The
Picketing Campaign Nears Victory" reveals a process by which collective
memory can be marshaled in support of innovative action.
In establishing the commemorative
moment, Mabel Vernon began her speech to the Advisory Council by taking her
audience "back to the 9th of last January" (1)
when many of them appeared before President Wilson to present a series of
memorial resolutions. Yet, for Vernon's audience, this
opening would take them back even farther:
to the fall of the previous year, the 1916 campaign in the West, and the
death of an iconic figure of the suffrage movement.
The NWP organized women voters in
the western states to vote against Wilson and legislators opposed to woman
suffrage, countering Wilson's
campaign slogan, "He kept us out of war" with their own version, "He
kept us out of suffrage." Among the hundreds of women involved in the
western campaign, one of the fieriest speakers was Inez Milholland
(Boissevain), the woman celebrated as the stunning figurehead of the 1913
parade. Despite indications of ill
health, she took on a campaign of eight states.
In a Los Angeles rally in September, she
had just quoted Wilson's
words, "The tide is rising to meet the moon; you will not have long to
wait." "How long,"
Milholland continued, "must women wait for liberty?" As she said the word "liberty,"
Milholland collapsed in a faint, and only weeks later she was dead, whether of
leukemia or pernicious anemia is unclear. In Milholland's death, the NWP lost not
simply a brilliant speaker but the ideal symbol of the New Woman, the sporty
and emancipated image of young women that appeared in advertisements and
writing in the early years of the new century.
Because she was beautiful, married, and naturally elegant, her presence
in the movement challenged the common stereotype of suffragists. In her death, however, the NWP gained an
unsought martyr, and her loss became a point of movement coalescence. The international suffrage movement had
earlier been shocked by the violent death of British militant, Emily Wilding
Davison, killed in her attempt to stop the King's horse during the 1913 Derby, Milholland's
non-violent death appeared more symbolic of the grinding hard work that had
already consumed the lives of generations of suffragists.
Gary Alan Fine tells us that every martyr leaves behind "a dead body with
powerful cultural resonance," and the NWP sought ways to honor a friend
and draw the symbolic lesson of her death. A dramatic service was conducted in Statuary
Hall in Milholland's memory, the first memorial ever held in the Capitol to
honor a woman. In the Advisory Council speech one year
later, Mabel Vernon spoke of Milholland's death in two ways. First, she presented Milholland as the symbol
of "the undaunted kind of spirit that never recognizes defeat," (2)
the exemplar of the NWP's view that action is the vital thing: "to go on and do more, do the thing
which will win" (2). Second,
Milholland's death was presented as a "hinge" event that would
directly lead to a new protest strategy. Ron Aminzade and Doug McAdam argue that "the
collective mobilization of heightened emotion" is a necessary prelude to a
new round of contentious politics. By
saying this, they do not mean that political activists are responding out of
irrational feelings; in fact, they believe that heightened emotions lead both
to rational thought and the discovery of new instrumental ways to achieve a
goal. The loss of a friend and colleague, a woman
who was admired as the living embodiment of their movement, generated new
determination within the NWP and an increased sense of engagement. Vernon reminded her
audience of their common loss, of "that beautiful service that many of us
remember; it made an impression, I think, that we will never allow to escape
from our memories" (2). Building on
this collective memory, Vernon
structured her speech around three distinct events that formed the recent
history of the National Woman's Party.
She thus set the stage for a process of invention, for the
transformation of the suffragist identity, and for the discovery of new tactics
to bring that identity into action.
Silent Sentinels at
the Gates of Power
For her first structuring memory, Vernon took her audience
forward to the details of the January
9, 1917, memorial delegation of 300 women dispatched to the White
House to see the President. As part of
a series of presentations to Wilson, Sara Bard Field asked, "in the name
of this gallant girl who died with the word 'Liberty' on her lips," that
Wilson "speak some favorable word . . . that we may know that you will use
your good and great office to end this wasteful struggle of women." Vernon
reminded her audience of the President's response, "words," she said,
"that amazed us" (8):
Ladies, I think you make a mistake
in coming to me. I cannot speak
for my party, I must wait until my
party speaks to me. I am not the
leader of my party, I am only the
servant of my party. (7)
uses the President's own words to introduce the language devices that will
dominate her speech and movement rhetoric in the years to come: parallel structure and antithesis. Antithesis, or the use of paired opposites,
generally provides a pleasing sense of balance to a speech. Vernon (and
the NWP) took this device and applied it to Wilson's words and actions as the underlying
rhetorical basis for charges of hypocrisy against the administration.
described how Wilson
ended the memorial delegation with a piece of sage advice, "You must
concert public opinion in this country in behalf of woman suffrage" (9). Wilson
stopped speaking and there came a moment that suffragist Doris Stevens
described in her memoirs: "Dead
silence. The President stood for a brief
instant as if waiting for some faint stir of approval which did not come. He had the baffled air of a disappointed
actor who has failed to reach his audience." Vernon
described this same moment for the Advisory Council:
The group of women simply stood in
the East Room of the
White House, never moved, never
turned for a little while.
secret service men came and pushed us back a little.
doors opened behind the President and he went out.
The doors were shut in
our faces; and those were the last
words left with us: "Ladies, concert public opinion in
Here, in actuality, was what the suffragists had experienced
figuratively for all those decades of effort, the doors of government shut in
Vernon picks up her
narrative, providing a visual image, not of three hundred delegates but of the
little band of leaders: "We went
across the square very slowly, and when we came to our headquarters we sat down
there in the drawing-room. Everyone was
thinking, considering what the President had said to us, and questioning, 'What
are we going to do now'" (10)? This is a David versus Goliath image, here
domesticated to the homey confines of a drawing room. It provided a visual antithesis, an image of
paired opposites that complemented the verbal antithesis found in so much of Vernon's speech. In Vernon's
account, it was Harriet Stanton Blatch who spoke to propose the new strategy
with the same parallelism and antithesis that marked Wilson's denial of responsibility:
We may not be admitted within the
doors, but we at least can
stand at the gates. We may not be allowed to raise our voices
and speak to the President, but we
can address him just the
same, because our message to him
will be inscribed upon
the banners which we will carry in
our hands. Let us post
silent sentinels at the gates of the White House. (13)
Vernon's account moved the new strategy from revelation
through inspiration to execution as she described in jaunty language, the "straight,
steady, line" of women that set off the next day from headquarters, "marched
down Madison Place, swung up the Avenue and took their places at the gates of
the White House" (15).
As Mabel Vernon put it, the NWP was
"giving right here in Washington
the visualization of all this sentiment which does exist, we know it exists, in
all parts of our country" (41). If,
as John Berger maintains, our culture is one where "men act and women appear," then
the NWP initiated a strategy where women acted through their appearance,
providing an argument through visualization.
True to their beliefs that all the arguments had already been made, the
banners carried by this first group of picketers were questions already asked
through Mabel Vernon's banner at Wilson's State
of the Union and Inez Milholland's final
public words: "Mr. President, what
will you do for woman suffrage?" "Mr.
President, how long must women wait for liberty" (16)? Here they appeared as dialectical questions
directed to Woodrow Wilson, indications of a conversation that was as yet
incomplete, of questions that had received no answers. The sentinels themselves remained silent. Silence, Peter Ehrenhaus tells us, is an "encounter,"
one that "issues a call of conscience." By appearing at his gate, the picketers hoped
to appeal to Wilson's
conscience, to stimulate a soul searching that might yield a new awareness and
action. The suffragists utilized a
strategic silence that is both mystifying and disturbing to those against whom
it is directed. As Barry Brummett
maintains, "If talk is the substance of political relationships, then
strategic silence is taken to mean the temporary denial of relationship." By their silent vigil, the suffragists
declared the breakdown of their relationship with the administration and their
distrust of Wilson's
words and goodwill.
The instituting of the NWP's silent
picket line was rhetorically brilliant.
In some ways the use of silence is inherently feminine, projecting a "passive
reflective of the public silence that had in the past been imposed on women by
their culture. Yet, here, women have
stepped right to the gates of power, symbolically seizing their rights as
citizens under the first amendment to petition the government and have their
grievances met. Their argument that they
were full citizens (entitled to the political rights and subject to the
responsibilities of the same) was made in their actions. Their appearance at the White House was a
form of "enactment," wherein "a rhetor illustrates by embodying
the point she or he is making." "Implicit enactment," as Karlyn
Kohrs Campbell describes it, is often performative, putting forth a non-verbal
rather than a verbal claim. In describing the actions of the National
Woman's Party as opposed to more conventional suffragists, George Lakey states
that the militants continued "the freedom
motif to the very mode of action itself.
Nonviolent direct action is a means which is itself experienced as
releasing. . . they enacted their
freedom and experienced the elation which went with it." And, Lakey argues, such actions transformed
the militant's self-image. No longer
would they place themselves in the position of begging; they now had moved to a
stance of demanding.
Vernon in her first description reminded her
audience of their shared experience of the closed door. From there, she moved to the NWP's adoption
of an antithetical identity as silent sentinels, quietly eloquent in their
condemnation of injustice. By an
innovative action that visualized their arguments, the NWP pickets stepped to
the doors of power and opened a silent conversation with the President and the
nation about the rights of women. It
was, as Vernon
soon would relate, a conversation destined to become more heated with the
advent of war.
The Wartime Policy
continued the narrative in her speech with the Presidential interview granted
to one representative of each of the five political parties (including the
Woman's Party) on May 14,
1917. This interview with Wilson followed the
American entrance on April 7,
1917, into what was then called "The Great War." Intriguingly, Vernon (the official coordinator of the
picket campaign) was chosen to be the NWP representative. After hearing appeals for woman suffrage as a
war measure, Wilson
(apparently dropping the fiction of his own lack of power) said, "I am
free to tell you that this is a matter which is daily pressing upon my mind for
reconsideration" (20). Vernon's series of
rhetorical questions provided a knowing wink to her audience: "Do you wonder that I smiled? How could I help it? Had we not been standing at his gates every day
for four whole months" (21)? She drew the conclusion for her audience that
visualization, women placing themselves where they must be seen and not
ignored, was effective. The pickets'
banners "had been the chief sight which met the President's eyes every
time he went out and every time he came in" (21). It was the silent call to conscience that
caused the daily "pressing" upon the President's mind.
With that assurance to her audience
of the success of the picket campaign, Vernon
was ready to present her second collective memory: the darkening of public mood against the
suffragists following the advent of war.
Response in the press and public to the initial days of picketing had
been benign; it was widely viewed as a colorful stunt. As the women continued to appear day after
day, their persistence was increasingly attacked in the press as "unwomanly,"
and viewed, in the words of an Ohio
representative on the floor of Congress, as "an insult to the President." Passersby were only occasionally
negative. As for Wilson, himself, he
responded initially with confident good humor, walking straight by the pickets,
often raising his hat or smiling politely.
During a particularly brutal stint of winter weather, he ordered the
guards to invite the picketers in for hot coffee; the women refused the offer. The women varied the spectacle with College
Day (and sashes from their respective alma maters), teachers' day, Susan B.
Anthony day; but they carried on in every type of weather. On Inaugural Day, one thousand women marched
for two hours in a gale and driving rain, requesting a brief audience with the
President, but found the gates of the White House locked against them and no
Then came the declaration of war on
April 7, 1917, and
the NWP was pressured to end their drive for suffrage (as had the British
militants) for the duration. The NWP
refused. In her Advisory Council speech,
for her audience the instituting of the wartime policy of the NWP: confronting the President with his own
stirring words on democracy and with banners that pointed out the irony of the
situation. Vernon described the change in administration
and public response to this policy that came with the large banner displayed on
the 20th of June, during the Russian envoys' meeting at the White
House. The banner read:
WE WOMEN OF AMERICA TELL YOU THAT AMERICA
IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. TWENTY MILLION AMERICAN
WOMEN ARE DENIED THE RIGHT TO
WILSON IS THE CHIEF OPPONENT OF THEIR
recounted in her speech that a passerby "tore it down because he did not
like the truth told upon it" (25).
continued the story, the NWP were warned to refrain from carrying banners. On the 21st of June, six women
were arrested as they displayed Wilson's
words from the declaration of war speech. Because carrying a banner was legal, the
charge against the suffragists was "obstructing traffic" (28). Although she does not mention it here, Mabel
Vernon was one of the six women arrested.
By moving to the gates of the White
House, the NWP--like the British militants before them--had "encroached
upon male space." The physical attacks on the marchers in the
1913 parade provided a foretaste of the steps that men would take to maintain
that space. The entry into war then
served as the patriotic justification for physical attacks and arrests that
might have come in any event. But,
George Lakey maintains, the war was also a "releasing event" for
women, heightening a sense that they were in a parallel war for democracy at
is her audience's memory of events in this shadow war at home to which Vernon now turned in her
speech. In recounting these events, she
relied upon parallelism as a device to heighten the irony of each situation and
to strengthen a new identity within her audience. Vernon
described Speaker Clark on the Ellipse at the back of the White House quoting
the Declaration of Independence in a 4th of July speech. Simultaneously, women displaying words from
the Declaration were being arrested at the front of the White House. She described the Bastille Day celebrations
and the sentencing of 16 women to 60 days in the Occoquan workhouse for
displaying the slogan of the French revolution, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" (30). The juxtaposition of these events, the
lauding of fine sentiments and the revolutions that brought men their rights
even while arresting women using the same words in seeking their own rights,
provided proof of a hollow political culture.
Through the recounting of these
strengthened the suffragists' new identity as warriors for democracy. By this reasoning, the suffragists'
willingness to suffer physical attack and arrest for a democratic ideal at home
made them analogous to the men fighting for democracy overseas. The importance of this analogy to the
identity of NWP members may be seen in the popularity of banners displaying Wilson's own words from
the war message, "We shall fight for the things nearest our hearts, for
The depth of this feeling escaped an administration operation out of
the belief that arresting the "ringleaders" (36), and subjecting
middle-class women to physical punishment, would send them scurrying back to
the comforts of home. "Such a
stupid government!" (35) expostulated Mabel Vernon as she described the
arrest of Alice Paul and her seven month sentence for displaying the President's
own words. It would be 73-year-old Mrs.
Nolan's words to the judge, as he sentenced her to 6 months for protesting Paul's
arrest, which best characterized the rationale based on parallelism: "Your honor, I have a nephew fighting
for democracy in France. He is offering
his life for his country. I should be
ashamed if I did not join these brave women in their fight for democracy in America. I should be proud of the honor to die in
prison for the liberty of American women."
In her speech, Vernon
implied the actions inherent to this new warrior identity: to accept the physical punishment
necessitated by a fight for democracy and never to sound retreat. As with her support for the initial
picketing, she justified these actions through a second series of rhetorical
questions for her audience:
Was it not worth standing there
through the cold weather and on
the hot days which began to come
early in the summer? Was it not
worth even going to prison for, to
have national woman suffrage daily
in the mind of the President? . . .
Truly, I do not know how we could
have kept alive the woman suffrage
question in the war session of
Congress if it had not been for the
banners that we held, not only at
the White House, but also on
Capitol Hill. (22 – 23)
the stakes grew higher for the suffragists, as they were subject not merely to
harsh weather and boredom on the picket line but to physical attacks and
arrest, there was an increased need to remain tenacious in the fight. Vernon
assured her audience that theirs was a just war, that they reflected "the
demand of women in all parts of the country that this question of democracy at
home should be settled at a time when we fight for democracy abroad" (24). By attiring her audience in a soldier's
strengthened their resolve for further action and assured them of the coming
Night of Terror
Mabel Vernon was now ready to make her third
progression from memory to identity to action.
Here she makes an interesting rhetorical choice. Vernon
cloaks the most dramatic aspects of the suffrage campaign under a simple "We
know what happened . . ." (37), a simple phrase by which she called up the
disturbing events that were fresh in the minds of her audience. Briefly, when
the arrested pickets that had protested Alice Paul's sentence reached Occoquan,
they requested to speak to Superintendent Whittaker, demanding that they be
granted the rights of political prisoners.
What followed was a night of wholesale abuse as the women (including
Mrs. Nolan) were brutally manhandled, dragged down stairs and across hallways,
and slammed against iron benches and onto the floor of cells. Dorothy Day, later the founder of the
Catholic Workers, was brutally beaten and choked. When Lucy Burns called the roll to ascertain
if her fellow prisoners were injured, she was suspended by her handcuffed
wrists from her cell door. Unable to
help, Julia Emory stood with her hands above her head in the same position
until Burns was later released. This "Night
as it became known, was as iconic for American militants as had been the
British militants' 1910 "Black Friday" beating by police and male
crowds. In both instances, the mask of
civility had fallen and the powerlessness of women in society was highlighted.
summoning the memory of prison abuse, Vernon
draws forth the third identity of NWP members as martyrs for justice. By taking on the identity of those willing to
suffer for freedom, the NWP completed a further move away from words and
towards a policy of "body rhetoric." In this speech, Vernon's passing reference to "the
suffering women have shown they are willing to endure" (39), reminded her
audience of the NWP policy of prison hunger strikes to protest their lack of
status as political prisoners. The
hunger strike is a fascinating rhetorical tool in that it is the performance of
a power relationship. The hunger
striker puts the prisoner in the hands of an oppressor, making those against
whom s/he fasts "take responsibility for [the act of] starvation." In terms provided by Kenneth Burke, the
suffragists' self-sacrifice was an act of "mortification." Through a symbolic drama of suffering, they
sought "redemption" for the guilt caused by their challenge to the "hierarchy"
of governmental power. In such acts, Jane Marcus sees a moral
advantage for the hunger striker: "Like
children casting themselves on the mercy of an unjust father, by inflicting
pain and suffering on themselves, such protesters appeal to the patriarch's
humanity." It was not a surprising choice for the NWP
in their determination to remain nonviolent.
With the same silence and passivity that was displayed in the picketing
campaign itself, the suffragists made their bodies into both battlegrounds and
theaters. By playing out a "spectacle of
hoped to touch the conscience of the administration and the public. They also used this tactic, much as they had
in their picketing, to make an argument of presence,  to
render themselves visible, refusing to serve unjust sentences in silence and
obscurity. As Eyal Naveh states, "the
very term martyr means witness," and by their physical martyrdom, the NWP
prisoners witnessed against an unjust power relationship.
The suffragists' new identity as
martyrs would involve them in experiences far more physically wearing than
anything they had experienced in the past. The response to the NWP hunger
strike was the start of a policy of forcible feeding. Forcible feeding, a process described
repeatedly during the suffrage campaign in Britain
generally consisted of the suffragist held down in a chair or on a bed by
guards. Her mouth would be pried open,
often by the use of some type of wedge, and a tube forced down her throat and
into her stomach. Some form of
nourishing concoction would be poured in.
Because of the repeated vomiting caused by the procedure, it rarely
provided much in the way of nourishment.
It was, instead, torture and its metaphoric resemblance to rape has been
commented upon by recent researchers. While the NWP prisoners suffered through
multiple forcible feedings per day, their compatriots on the outside brought a
writ of habeas corpus, forcing a trial on November 23 where the prisoners'
condition (including marks from the Night of Terror to their wasted condition associated
with hunger strikes and feeding) would be on display. With its hand forced, the administration
folded and all suffragist prisoners were released on November 27 and 28.
In her speech, Vernon
glossed over the harrowing experiences of NWP members in order to emphasize the
coming victory their suffering would surely bring. She claimed a dual effect as the government
was "spurred to action" (39).
First, friends that "hung back" would see the "urgency of
immediate action" (39). More
importantly, she offered a benefit to enemies that included a subtle
threat. The foes of suffrage, she claimed,
desired that an increasingly "intense" agitation leave the capital
and be "scattered among the legislatures of forty-eight states" (39). The NWP was more than willing to make that
deal. Women would disappear from the
White House gates; the banners that publicized American hypocrisy would be
folded and put away; the NWP would leave Washington,
D.C. and move to the states to
campaign. The offer Vernon made was an apparent return to the
status quo; the only acceptable price was a federal suffrage amendment.
Despite her optimism, Mabel Vernon ended her speech on a
cautionary note, raising the possibility that the amendment might not pass
successfully through Congress. Her
expectation of immediate success and her concern that the success might be
incomplete were both borne out. The
amendment came up for a vote in the House of Representatives on January 10, 1918. On the eve of the vote, exactly a year to the
day following the Inez Milholland deputation, the President finally declared
his support for the amendment and urged Democratic congressmen to vote in its
favor. The amendment passed the House
with a two-thirds majority and at least six congressmen's support could be
credited to the President's lobby. The
radical shift in Wilson's
rhetoric in a year, and following so close on the heels of capitulation in
releasing the suffrage prisoners, gave a distinct impression of victory to the
picketing campaign. Alice Paul had no
doubt about the impact of the pickets on Wilson's
decision, describing it thusly: "If
a creditor stands before a man's house all day long, demanding payment of his
bill, the man must either remove the creditor or pay the bill." The arrests and imprisonments having failed
to remove the "creditors," the time had come for the President to pay
Yet, the U.S. Senate would be much more difficult to win and
months continued with the suffragists two votes shy of success. In her speech Vernon asked, in the case that the amendment
failed, "What have we in store for us?" She answered her own question, "Why, we
can simply go on doing what we have done . . ." (41). That is precisely what the NWP continued to
do. The President spoke to the U.S.
Senate on the amendment's behalf in September 1918, but it failed to pass in October. The NWP continued the round of
demonstrations, underwent more violent attacks on their pickets, were arrested
on trumped up charges of "obstructing traffic" and "loitering"
at a parade, and withstood terrible prison conditions. Throughout they continued to focus their
pressure on Wilson,
believing that he had not done enough to bring the final senators into the
fold. The NWP's final innovations
included the "watchfires of freedom," which they kept burning in
front of the White House and in which they burned the President's words on
finally applied the necessary pressure, even summoning one Democratic senator
from Italy to Paris, where Wilson
met with him and attained his pledge to vote for the amendment. Finally, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment
passed the Senate and was submitted to the states for ratification on June 4, 1919. Fourteen months later, the amendment was
ratified by the 36th state and on August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment became
There is still debate over whether the militants were most
responsible for Wilson's
conversion and the winning of suffrage or whether it was the slow and sober
efforts of the NAWSA moderates under the leadership of Carrie Chapman
Catt. Whatever the political effect of
the militant agitation, it had a tremendous effect on the women involved. Linda Ford makes the point that the
imprisoned picketers "saw life in prison as a microcosm, in extreme form,
of women's situation in American society." Many suffragists felt great disillusionment
over the brutality they experienced and witnessed. Yet, suffering for a greater cause gave the
NWP members a renewed spirit and a transformed sense of self. They developed a new model of womanhood that
honored strength and physical courage. Although treated as common criminals, the NWP
were clearly political prisoners and, in that guise, they brought their
argument before the eyes of America. Gerald Hauser describes political prisoners
as being in a "unique rhetorical position," distinguished from "common
felons in that their incarceration grows from the threat of their ideas." Hauser argues that the political prisoner's
body becomes a vehicle for "displays of resistance," that serve as a
form of epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric.
Their "bodily resistance" becomes a means of invention, "in
which 'showing' may acquire the demonstrative power of irrefutable proof." The proof of women's oppression lay in the
over-reaction of the administration and the repressive means used to regain
physical control of the NWP pickets.
The NWP also developed a new model of reform agitation, pioneering
an argument of presence that challenged the absence of women in the public
arena. By remaining nonviolent even when
on the receiving end of violence, their chosen form of civil disobedience would
have a major impact on reform movements to follow in the twentieth
century. Gandhi, a visitor to London in 1906, 1909, and
1914, was impressed by the early passive resistance techniques of the British
militants, the same tactics that inspired the NWP. Gandhi wrote of the British militants, "Today,
the whole country is laughing at them, and they have only a few people on their
side. But undaunted, these women work on
steadfast in their cause. They are bound
to succeed . . . "
As did the NWP leadership, Gandhi voiced deep concern over the later turn to
violence by the British militants, believing that they would alienate the
public and lose their moral imperative. New tactics developed in the suffrage
movement, particularly the use of physical presence and the body as an
instrument of protest, would be cultivated by Gandhi in his passive resistance
campaigns. The further ties between Gandhi's Indian
independence movement and the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and
1960s dated from 1915 when Gandhi's followers arrived in the United States and developed a
relationship with African American leaders.
The desire for a "Black Gandhi" to lead the civil rights
movement would be fulfilled with the rise to leadership of Martin Luther King,
Jr., who often acknowledged Gandhi's influence on his techniques of passive
resistance. Thus, it is easy to trace the development of
a rhetoric of nonverbal protest beginning with the NWP (and the British
militants that inspired them) and evolving across the twentieth century.
Today, many of the protest strategies for modern reform movements,
such as picketing and marches/processions, remain consistent with those of the
suffragists. In some ways, the
tacticians of the National Woman's Party could have been writing the strategic
playbook for reformers of the mid-twentieth century. Just as one example, it is Woodrow
Wilson, the individual, who appears throughout Mabel Vernon's speech to the
Advisory Council. As had the British
militants with Prime Minister Asquith, the NWP pinned responsibility on Wilson for his lack of support
for the Federal suffrage amendment. In
this way, the NWP anticipated Saul Alinsky's advice in his 1971 Rules for Radicals to "pick the
target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." For all of the NWP's strategic prescience,
however, protest strategies have continued to evolve. Spectacles of protest are often geared to the
reform that is being pursued. Thus, we
have tree sitters in the environmental movement who occupy--sometimes for years
at a time--the branches of endangered old growth trees. As with the NWP protests at the gates of
government, the environmentalists use their bodies to occupy contested space. The animal rights movement has been particularly
physical in their "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" marches and
their symbolic attacks with ketchup or red paint on fur coats, whether in
stores or worn by women in the streets.
The further use of the body in such
mortification techniques as hunger strikes has been far more prevalent in Great Britain. Most notably, a series of hunger strikes
resulted in the 1981 deaths of Bobby Sands and nine other Irish Republican Army
prisoners protesting, as had the suffragists, for political prisoner status. In 2001, British animal rights activist,
Barry Horne, died while on his fourth hunger strike to try to force the forming
of a Royal Commission on vivisection. Certainly the use of the protester's body as
a tool was obvious in the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement,
the "die-ins" to protest the Vietnam War, or the blockading of the
entrances to abortion clinics. New laws
have been developed to respond to these changes in protest strategies, such as
the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) law, that places a buffer zone
for protest away from abortion clinic entrances.
Many of the techniques
pioneered by the NWP were in conscious rejection of the British militants' turn
to violence against property. Today,
there are increased fears that protest will turn violent, and many reform
movements must deal with a radical "fringe" that has taken the step
either into spontaneous violence or planned acts of terrorism. Whether it has
been the torching of SUV's or a Vail ski resort by the Environmental Liberation
Front, arson of research laboratories or fur stores by the Animal Liberation
Front, or bombings of abortion clinics, many of the violent acts in modern
reform have centered around the destruction of contested items or spaces. More disturbing still has been the murder of
doctors who perform abortions. These
planned assassinations have, thus far, been performed by individuals, and no
group has taken direct credit for the violence.
Yet, a number of anti-abortion leaders--while declaring themselves
personally non-violent-- have described such efforts to protect fetal life as "justifiable
homicide." If anything, ninety
years after the NWP stood at the White House gates, the tensions within reform
movements over the acceptable limits of protest have been heightened.
The legacy of the NWP may be still
more important in post-9/11 America. In 1917, United States involvement in a
foreign war led to onerous laws that branded protest as a form of
sedition. The 1917 Espionage Act and its
1918 amendment made it a crime to utter or print "any disloyal, profane,
scurrilous or abusive language" against the United States government. The
imprisonment of the NWP for displaying the President's words could be
considered mild compared to some of the prosecutions under this act. Still, there is little doubt that the
suffragists were denied their First Amendment rights. Today, in the volatile atmosphere following
the World Trade
Center attacks and the entry into wars
with Afghanistan and Iraq,
even simple critique of the government has been viewed as a traitor's
game. A negative comment by the Dixie
Chicks about President Bush led to a consumer boycott of their music and a
blacklisting of the group on country music stations. Of more concern are such recent laws as the
USA Patriot Act and their potential impact on protest in time of war. The negative repercussions of being labeled
as not merely "unpatriotic" but somehow "in league with the
terrorists" are so great as to have a chilling effect on dissent. Thus,
the tension between patriotism in wartime and freedom of speech is a recurrent
problem with new resonance in the twenty-first century. Perhaps in our current environment, we are in
a better position to understand the risks of protest during time of war and to
appreciate the bravery of the suffragists of the National Woman's Party.
Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp is Professor of Communication
Studies at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg,
Virginia. She would like to thank Jennifer Spencer,
Collections Manager at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington, D.
C., the archivists of the Library of Congress, and the librarians of the
Knight-Capron Library at Lynchburg
College for their
assistance with this project. She would
also like to thank J. Michael Hogan and Shawn J. Parry-Giles for their helpful
advice in the development of this unit.
British movement referred to "women's suffrage" and the American
movement used the terms "woman suffrage" or "woman's
suffrage." Although I personally
find the construction uncomfortable, I will use the American terminology
throughout this essay.
Haynes Irwin, The Story of the Woman's
Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace and
Company, 1921), Kraus Reprint, 1971, 196-197; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote, ed., Carol
O'Hare (Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press,
1995), 59-72; Eleanor Clift, Founding
Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003), 122-128.
Lakey, "Technique and Ethos in Nonviolent Action: The Woman Suffrage Case," in Dissent:
Symbolic Behavior and Rhetorical Strategies, ed., Haig Bosmajian
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972),
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 230.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 234-237.
Aristotle, Aristotle on Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, Trans.
George A. Kennedy (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1991), 48.
 See, for
example, Paula Wilson Youra and Heidi Koring, Pomp & Circumstance:
Ceremonial Speaking (Greenwood, IN:
Alistair Press, 2002); Stephen H. Browne, "Reading, Rhetoric, and
the Texture of Public Memory," Quarterly
Journal of Speech 81 (1995): 169-187;
A. Cheree Carlson and John E. Hocking, "Strategies of Redemption at
the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial," Western
Journal of Speech Communication 52 (1988): 203-215; Carole Blair, Marsha S.
Jeppeson, and Enrico Pucci, Jr., "Public Memorializing in
Postmodernity: The Vietnam Veterans
Memorial as Prototype," Quarterly
Journal of Speech 77 (1991): 263-288; E.T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle
to Create America's Holocaust Museum (New York: Viking Penguin, 1995); Victoria J. Gallagher,
"Remembering Together: Rhetorical
Integration and the Case of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial," Southern Communication Journal, (1995):
109-119; Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp and Lori Lanzilotti, "Public Memory and
Private Grief: The Construction of
Shrines at the Sites of Public Tragedy," Quarterly Journal of Speech 84 (1998): 150-170.
 John R.
Gillis, ed., Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1994), 5.
Dock, The Suffragist, June 30, 1917, quoted in
Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 212.
S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage
Movement, 1890 – 1920 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1965), 6; Jean H. Baker, Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists (New York:
Hill and Wang, 2005), 190.
Ellen Zimmerman, Alice Paul and the
National Woman's Party, 1912-1920, diss. Tulane University,
Zimmerman, Alice Paul and the National
Woman's Party, 28.
in Zimmerman, Alice Paul and the National
Woman's Party, 7.
first woman suffrage amendment was introduced by George W. Julian on March 15, 1869. Ann D. Gordon, "Woman Suffrage (Not
Universal Suffrage) by Federal Amendment" in Votes For Women: The Woman
Suffrage Movement in Tennessee,
the South, and the Nation, ed., Marjorie Spruill Wheeler (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 6.
Alice Paul and the National Woman's
Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage
"Woman Suffrage (Not Universal Suffrage) by Federal Amendment," 6.
details on these two arguments see Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 43-74.
"Woman Suffrage (Not Universal Suffrage) by Federal Amendment,"
Zimmerman, Alice Paul and the National
Woman's Party, 30-33.
Raeburn, The Militant Suffragettes
(Newton Abbot, England: Victorian &
Modern History Book Club, 1974), 11.
more on the various tactics of British women's suffrage groups, see Lisa
Tickner, The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign, 1907-14
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1988); Roger Fulford, Votes for
Women: The Story of a Struggle
(London: Faber & Faber, 1957);
Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp, Speeches and
Trials of the Militant Suffragettes (Cranberry, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999);
Andrew Rosen, Rise Up Women! The Militant Campaign of the Women's Social
and Political Union, 1903-1914 (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), 154.
 Clift, Founding Sisters, 87-88.
Christine A. Lunardini, From Equal
Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and
the National Woman's Party, 1910 – 1928 (New York: New York University Press, 1986), 2-5.
Sheridan Harvey, "Marching For the Vote:
Remembering the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913," The Library of
Congress American Memory, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/aw01e/aw01e.html.
"Marching For the Vote," np.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 30.
"Marching For the Vote," np.
Zimmerman, Alice Paul and the National
Woman's Party, 50. It did not escape
notice (and comment) that these colors were very close to the purple, white,
and green of the WSPU.
G. Ford, "Alice Paul and the Politics of Nonviolent Protest," in Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited, ed.,
Jean H. Baker (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002)
174-177, and Linda G. Ford, "Alice Paul and the Triumph of
Militancy," in One Woman, One
Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage
Movement, ed., Marjorie Spruill Wheeler (Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press,
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 14-17.
example, see The Suffragist, May 23, 1914, no. 21, pp.
"President Hears Woman's Protest," The Suffragist, Vol IV, #28, July 8, 1916, 7.
"Mr. President, What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage?" The Suffragist, Dec. 9, 1916, Vol iv, #50, 7.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 77.
"National Advisory Council Conference," The Suffragist, Vol v, #91, October 20, 1917, 9.
E. Bitzer, "The Rhetorical Situation," in Contemporary Rhetoric, ed., Douglas Ehninger (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, and Company, 1972), 47.
references to this speech are taken from:
Mabel Vernon, "The Picketing Campaign Nears Victory: Speech of Mabel Vernon at National Advisory
council Conference, December 7," The
Suffragist, Vol. V, #98, December
22, 1917, 9-10.
H. Browne, "Remembering Crispus Attucks:
Race, Rhetoric, and the Politics of Commemoration," Quarterly Journal of Speech 85
Wilson and Karyn Stapleton, "Voices of Commemoration: The Discourse of Celebration and
Confrontation in Northern
Ireland," Text 25 (2005): 634.
 All of
the remaining passages from Mabel Vernon's December 7, 1917, speech before the National
Advisory Council Conference are cited with reference to the paragraph numbers
in the text of the speech that accompanies this essay.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 51.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 185;
Clift, Founding Sisters and the
Nineteenth Amendment, 113.
Alan Fine, "John Brown's Body:
Elites, Heroic Embodiment, and the Legitimation of Political
Violence," Social Problems 46 (1999): Expanded Academic ASAP, www.web7.infotrac.galegoup.com/its/ (February 16, 2000), np.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 54.
Traugott, "Barricades as Repertoire:
Continuities and Discontinuities in the History of French Contention,"
in Repertoires and Cycles of Collective
Action, ed., Mark Traugott (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1995), 45.
Aminzade and Doug McAdam, "Emotions and Contentious Politics," in Silence and Voice in the Study of
Contentious Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2001),
Bard Field quoted in Irwin, The Story of
the Woman's Party, 189.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 56.
Ellmann, The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
Erhenhaus, "Silence and Symbolic Expression," Communication Monographs, Vol. 55, March (1988): 46.
Brummett, "Towards A Theory of Silence as a Political Strategy," The Quarterly Journal of Speech 66
"Towards a Theory of Silence," 293.
M. Daughton, "The Fine Texture of Enactment: Iconicity as Empowerment in Angelina Grimké's
Pennsylvania Hall Address," Women's
Studies in Communication, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring (1995): 22.
Kohrs Campbell, "Enactment as a Rhetorical Strategy in 'The Year of Living
Dangerously,'" Central States Speech
Journal, 38, (1988): 258-268.
"Technique and Ethos in Nonviolent Action," 311-312.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 59-60.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 60-61.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 208.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 63-70.
Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women,
1850-1920 (Chicago: University of
Chicago, 1985), 264.
"Technique and Ethos in Nonviolent Action," 310.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 63-70.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 122.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 271-275;
Ford, "Alice Paul and the Politics," 183.
P. J. Corbett, "The Rhetoric of the Open Hand and the Rhetoric of the
Closed Fist," in Dissent: Symbolic Behavior and Rhetorical Strategies,
ed., Haig A. Bosmajian (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1972), 76.
Ellmann, The Hunger Artists, 54.
Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), 190.
Marcus, ed., Suffrage and the Pankhursts
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
Ellmann, The Hunger Artists, 88.
Ellmann, The Hunger Artists, 21.
Perelman describes "presence" as "bringing to mind things that
are not immediately present." Chaim
Perelman, "The New Rhetoric: A
Theory of Practical Reasoning" in The
Rhetorical Tradition: Readings From Classical Times to the Present,
eds., Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg (Boston, MA: Bedford Books, 1990), 1088-1089.
 Eyal Naveh, Crown of Thorns: Political Martyrdom in America from Abraham Lincoln to
Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: New York University Press, 1990), 1; Like
the NWP, Gandhi was strongly influenced by the hunger strikes of the British
militants and adopted the fast as an act of civil disobedience. Gandhi described fasting (or hunger striking)
thusly, "A fast is the sincerest form of prayer. . . . It stirs up
sluggish consciences and inspires loving hearts to act. Those who have to bring about radical changes
in human conditions and surroundings cannot do it without raising a ferment in
society." See Ford, "Alice Paul and the Politics," 185.
 See, in
particular, Marcus, Suffrage and the
Pankhursts, 1987; Sandra Stanley Holton, "In Sorrowful Wrath: Suffrage Militancy and the
Romantic Feminism of Emmeline Pankhurst," in British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, ed., H. Smith (Amherst:
University of Massachusetts Press, 1990), 7-24; Jane Purvis, "'Deeds Not
Words': The Daily Lives of Militant
Suffragettes in Edwardian Britain," Women's
Studies International Forum, 18, (1995):
91-101; Jane Purvis, "The Prison Experiences of the Suffragettes in
Edwardian Britain," Women's History
Review, 4, (1995): 103-132; Lisa
Tickner, The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1988); Martha Vicinus, Independent
Women: Work and Community for Single
Women, 1850-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).
Jailed for Freedom, 129-130.
 Irwin, The Story of the Woman's Party, 196.
Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, 133-185.
"Alice Paul and the Triumph," 290.
"Technique and Ethos in Nonviolent Action," 313.
A. Hauser, "Demonstrative Displays of Dissident Rhetoric: The Case of Prisoner 885/63" in Rhetorics of Display, ed., Lawrence J. Prelli (Columbia: University
of South Carolina Press,
"Demonstrative Displays of Dissident Rhetoric," 230.
in Francis G. Hutchins, Gandhi in London
by James D. Hunt (review), The American
Historical Review, vol 84, no 5 (Dec., 1979): 1458.
Hutchins, Gandhi in London, 1459.
E. Nym Mayhall, "Defining Militancy:
Radical Protest, the Constitutional Idiom, and Women's Suffrage in Britain,
1908-1909," The Journal of British
Studies, 39, (2000): 371.
Watts, Raising Up a Prophet: The African-American Encounter With Gandhi
by Sudarshan Kapur (review), The Journal
of American History, 80, (1993):
Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals
(New York: Random House, 1971), 130.
Bosmajian, "The Abrogation of the Suffragists' First Amendment Rights,"
Western Journal of Communication
(1974): 218 - 232.