THE FIRST-EVER WHITE HOUSE PICKET was led by women, lasted for more than a year, and was met with violence from both counter-protesters and law enforcement. In November 1917, after 10 months of picketing, the government’s crackdown on protestors reached a new intensity. Dozens of protesters were arrested and incarcerated at the infamous Occoquan Workhouse, where they faced brutality. One night, later dubbed the “Night of Terror,” a guard threw a protester on an iron bed, striking her head; another protester was denied medical care for a heart attack. On another occasion, activists went on hunger strike demanding to be classified as political prisoners; guards force-fed them with tubes, causing long-term internal damage.
The demonstrators were fighting for their right to vote, and even after that brutal November, the suffragists continued to picket the White House for months. “These women couldn’t be frightened,” says Lisa Kathleen Graddy, a curator in the Division of Political and Military History at the National Museum of American History. “They were not going to back down.”
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