top of page


Epigraph: The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part V, Chapter 16

They tried to terrorize and suppress us. They could not. This statement by Alice Paul is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 16, Night of Terror: September-December 1917.

Forty-one women from across America had answered Alice Paul’s summon to picket the White House. Front-page headlines on November 11, 1917 announced their arrest. They were tried and sentenced to terms ranging from six days for seventy-three-year-old Mary Nolan, a longtime suffragist from Florida, to seven months for Lucy Burns, a member of the NWP’s executive committee who had already served two jail sentences. They arrived at Occoquan

Workhouse in the early evening of November 14. The superintendent, Raymond Whittaker was not there. Intending to state their demand to be treated as political prisoners, Dora Lewis, the “velvet-voiced and immovable” acting chair of the NWP, refused to give their names to the matron. They would wait for Whittaker who was at a meeting at the White House.

The exhausted women waited, some sitting and others lying on the floor. Mary Nolan described Whittaker’s arrival and subsequent events in what became known as “The Night of Terror”: “We could see a crowd of them on the porch. They were not in uniform. Mrs. Lewis stood up. . .She had hardly begun to speak, saying we demanded to be treated as political prisoners, when Whittaker said, ‘You shut up. I have men here to handle you.’ Then he shouted ‘Seize her!'”

Thus began a night-long vicious attack on the women. Dora Lewis was thrown in a cell, striking her head on the iron bed. Dorothy Day was lifted up and banged down on the arm of an iron bench. Emily DuBois Butterworth was taken to the male section of the jail and told that “they could do what they pleased with her.” Lucy Burns was handcuffed to the cell door with her arms stretched above her head.

On Nov. 27 and 28, Judge Mullowney ordered the release of the women remaining in jail, including Alice Paul who had been jailed in October, where she and Rose Winslow went on a hunger strike and were force fed. Upon her release, a “very pale and thin” Alice Paul said: “We are put out of jail as we were put into jail, at the whim of the government. They tried to terrorize and suppress us. They could not, and so freed us.”

I detail the attack, hunger strikes, forced feeding, and the efforts to free the women in Chapter 16 in my book, The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight. The images from top to bottom: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis upon her release from jail, having undergone a five-day hunger strike and been force fed. (Click on image to enlarge.)

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page