1917 December 2

Dorothy Day, Seven Other Suffragists, to Sue for Treatment in Jail


Dorothy Day and seven other suffragists, who had been arrested for picketing the White House to demand women’s suffrage and were sentenced to jail, announced on this day that they would sue for damages because of their brutal treatment in jail. They planned to ask for $50,000 each in damages.

Dorothy Day later became famous as the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, a noted pacifist and social justice organization.

The suffragists were supported by the National Woman’s Party, founded by Alice Paul (March 3, 1917), who was the prime mover of the picketing of the White House in support of a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. Her campaign of picketing began in 1913 (March 3, 1917) and intensified in 1917 (January 10, 1917). Paul had also been arrested along with Day, but was released along with twenty-one other suffragists on November 27th. In jail, Paul, Day, and some others had undertaken a hunger strike to protest their treatment. The embarrassing publicity cause authorities, probably on the advice of President Woodrow Wilson, to release the suffragists.

Lucy Burns, one of the women planning to sue, alleged that she had been manacled to the door of her cell and threatened with a “strap and buckle gag.”

The Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted for the first time in all state and federal elections, including the election for president, on November 2 , 1920.

Read Alice Paul’s biography: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)

Learn more about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement here.

Read a biography of Alice Paul: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)

Learn more: Ellen Carol DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)

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