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The Effects of Picketing

c. December 6-9, 1917 — National Advisory Council, National Women’s Party, Washington DC



This is the fourth meeting of the National Advisory Council. Each time it has met has marked a epoch in the history of the national organization. In September, 1914, we met at Newport where plans were made for our first campaign against Democratic Congressmen in the suffrage States because of the opposition of the party in power to the federal suffrage amendment.

The second meeting was held in New York in March, 1915, where the Advisory Council endorsed the plan of organizing branches of the Congressional Union in every State.

The third meeting was held in Washington in April, 1916, when we approved the sending of the Suffrage Special into the Western States to appeal to women voters to from the Woman’s Party in order better to use their political power for the freedom of all women.

At this fourth meeting of our body we find ourselves facing a crucial moment for our cause. Victory or defeat will come in January. The likelihood of victory is greater than ever before. What has brought this about? Let us go back to last spring and look at the situation we then faced. It was this: How, in the midst of a great war, absorbing the souls and bodies of the public, the press, the President and Congress, to keep our cause in the light and alive, to get action on it.

With the tremendous outpourings of strength and energy and time and money, we had pushed suffrage steadily to the front of public attention Must we now lose the result of years oaf agitation? As Miss Paul said, we must focus upon suffrage the attention of the public, the press, Congress and the President, show that the responsibilities at the gates of the executive; make him see that if he posed as the champion of world democracy, it was necessary to grant our great measure of democracy to America. Picketing was to visualize the suffrage cause before the world.

We continued our picket of the White House, making the words on our banners boldly challenge all insincerity. They virtually said day in and day out, to President Wilson, “Make your words deeds!”

Yes, the pickets have kept the suffrage flag flying.

When the members of the Council separate for their various States there are certain points I wish you would carry with you: first, the key to an understanding of the policies of the National Woman’s Party is always to be found in watching the effect of those politics on the federal suffrage amendment. They are planned with that end in view, and that alone. Judge the effect on the President, not by what he thinks of us, but by what he does for the amendment. Considered from this point of view what effect have the pickets had on the amendment?

From the moment of the jailing of women, the amendment prospered. Immediately after Senator [Andrieus] Jones, chairman of the Woman Suffrage Committee of the Senate, visited Occoquan, the President allowed the Senate suffrage committee to report the amendment favorably out of committee. When more women were jailed, when Lucy Burns and many others were serving sixty days in Occoquan, the President allowed Chairman [Edward W.] Pou, of the Rules Committee, to let the House vote on the proposed suffrage committee in the House, and the resolution carried.

When the jail and Occoquan were full of our political prisoners in November, the government released them a few days before Congress opened.

Though the President did not mention suffrage in his message, on the very day it was given to the public, the press carried the news that suffrage would be pressed to a vote early this session of Congress.

The pickets, we believe, forced the attention of the President to suffrage. First we had words from him — words to Tennessee; more words to Maine; more words to New York; more and more and more desire for “the speedy success of the cause.” Then we had the word to Congress given for the little step of the formation of the suffrage committee. And in Congress itself we have gained over fifty votes since picketing began.

Again the effect of picketing on the press has been excellent. The day after the sixteen women went to Occoquan the New York Times carried the headline “The President may urge the Suffrage Amendment;” and ever since the press has stated over and over that suffrage would be pressed to a vote. Truly the pickets pressed the press, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific people were compelled to think of what the pickets wanted.

In the New York campaign where the Socialist vote was conceded to the deciding factor, picketing by its widespread publicity forced the Socialists to activity for this cause, which they have always advocated.

The effect of picketing on ourselves is to be considered, and clearly shows overwhelming gains. From the time of the arrets money has poured into our treasury. The total collections for 1916 were $111, 147.04 and the total collections for eleven months in 1917 are, up to date, $117,579.34. In July of 1917, when the arrests began, the receipts were $21,623.65 as compared with $3,690.62 for July 1916. In August, 1916, the receipts were $8,966.63 and in August, 1917, the receipts were $11,703.53. In November, 1916, the receipts were $15,008.18; in November, 1917, they were $31,117.87.

Our membership has increased not only through the support of individuals but through whole groups of suffragists coming into the National Woman’s party. Far from alienating our own members the picket campaign has brought us forward in leaps and bounds towards factory this winter.



Source: The Suffragist, Vol. V, No. 99., December 15, 1917.