The Prison Special
February 24, 1919 — “Prison Special” protest, San Antonio TX
The suffrage demonstrations in Washington certainly have proved effective. We began to “picket” the White House January, 1917, at the opening of the Sixty-fifth Congress, after meeting defeat in both House and Senate in the Sixty-third Congress, and failing to get any action whatever on the suffrage amendment in either house during the Sixty-fourth Congress.
We carried on our picketing until November. Ignominious arrests, long terms of imprisonment, forceful feeding could not stop these protests, In November the sentences of all our prisoners were commuted. The week later a date was set for a role in the House on the suffrage amendment. A month later the amendment passed the house by a two-thirds majority for the first time in the history of the United States.
We waited eight months to give the Senate a chance to act, but could not get a date set for a vote on suffrage.
On September 16, 1918, women gathered at the foot of the Lafayette statue, opposite the House, and publicly burned a statement of President Wilson, declaring that he believed in woman suffrage. This was done as a symbol that women rejected mere words and demanded action. The following day the amendment was brought before the Senate, and on October 1 it was voted on. It failed to pass, but by nly two votes.
Women then asked the Senate to reconsider and vote again upon the amendment. They could not be persuaded to do this. So on January 1, 1919, the Woman’s party started a perpetual watch fire before the White House and cast it in all the speeches the President was making abroad upon liberty. They did this as a protest against the President’s indifference to the liberty of 20,000000 American women when he was so zealously advocating liberty for the nations of Europe.
In February these public criticisms had their effect. Democratic leaders in the Senate brought up the suffrage amendment again. It was again voted upon, failing this time by only one vote.
The day before the vote was taken suffragists at Washington knew that the amendment would be lost again. Although three-fourths of the Republicans were pledged to vote in favor of the bill, nearly half the Democrats were against it. Democratic Senators refused to make it a party measure. The President, who could undoubtedly have gained for the amendment the one vote needed for its passage, did not make any genuine effort to do so.
The measure was doomed to defeat, and for that defeat the President and the Democratic party were responsible.
The day before the vote was taken, therefore, the effigy of President Wilson was burned in front of the White House. The news of the defeat of the woman’s bill and the burning of the President’s effigy reached the public at the same time, lodging the responsibility of the defeat of democracy solidly at the door of the Democratic party.
Women did this to spur Democrats to action to remove this stain upon their party record in this session while they still have the power to do so.
We believe they will do this. The suffrage amendment has been reintroduced in the Senate. The prison special is touring the country to put the support of the Nation behind the amendment and secure its passage before March 4.
Source: San Antonio Evening News, February 24, 1919, p. 8.