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Suffering for Suffrage

Suffragists were derided in the newspapers and mocked in political cartoons. When they spoke, opposition gathered to shout them down or make fun of them. When they paraded, some men tried to strike them or spit on them. They persisted.

After the 1913 Suffrage Parade, women regularly picketed the White House, but after the United States entered World War I, the government was determined to root out any form of dissent, so the police began arresting suffragists who picketed.

Undaunted, women continued to picket daily.

In just one day, police arrested 33 suffragists. Most were sentenced to serve time at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, their sentences varying from six days to seven months (Alice Paul received this longest sentence).

At Occoquan, the women were subjected to horrendous conditions including worm-ridden food, dirty water and filthy bedding. The suffragists protested their treatment by refusing to comply with prison guards’ orders. The guards grew violent. On Nov. 14, 1917 the women were clubbed, beaten and tortured. The suffragists dubbed their treatment as the “Night of Terror,” an even that helped galvanize public support of the suffrage movement.