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Epigraph: The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part V, Chapter 15

Arrests!  There is no law against what we are doing, remember that. This statement by Dora Lewis is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 15, Arrests!:

Spring-September 1917

On July 4, 1917, Independence Day, fifty-four-year-old Dora Lewis, a member of the NWP Executive Committee, mailed a postcard to her eighty-one-year-old mother, who had sent Dora a jar of jelly. Dearest Mother . . . . We are going out presently carrying our banner—Policemen and policewomen & plain clothes men on the sidewalks thick as blackberries. There is no law against what we are doing, remember that. Love to Father . . . .I’m expecting to enjoy that jelly in jail.  Your loving D. 

The police had started arresting picketing suffragists on June 22, 1917, after two days of mobs assaulting suffragists and destroying their banners. A Philadelphia newspaper covered the melee with a front-page article headlined: CAPITAL POLICE STOP PICKETING. The continuation of the article on page three was illustrated by three photographs grouped together with the headline MOB ATTACKS SUFFRAGISTS IN STREETS OF WASHINGTON. (Click to enlarge images.) 

The mob’s attack was precipitated by the banner, known as the Russian banner. It was in response to news that President Wilson’s envoy to Russia, Elihu Root, had claimed that there was universal suffrage in America. The banner charged Wilson and Root with “deceiving Russia,” an ally during World War I, pointing out that “twenty million American women are denied the right to vote” and pleading—“Help us make this nation really free.”

After consulting with administration officials, the chief of police called Alice Paul. Stop sending the pickets, he told her, or they will be arrested. Picketing was legal, according to their lawyers, Paul replied: “Certainly it is as legal in June as it was in January. The picketing will go on as usual.” Pickets were arrested and released until June 26 when six pickets were found guilty of obstructing traffic,” and given a fine of $25 or three days in the District of Columbia Jail. The women chose to go to jail.  The mob attacks, arrests, and jailing of pickets continued.

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