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Epigraphs: The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part VI, Chapter 19

Where was my Uncle Sam. This statement by Louisine Havemeyer, is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 19, Escalation: January-March 1919

“No picketing and no prison for me, I don’t like the thought of either one,” Louisine

Havemeyer had “always laughingly” told Alice Paul who was thirty years younger than the sixty-four-year old Havemeyer. Nevertheless, when Alice Paul called and asked her to participate in a demonstration and pack a valise “in case we should have to go to prison,” Havemeyer left her three-story mansion that housed a world-famous art collection and a fleet of Rolls-Royce motor cars, and took the train from New York City to Washington, D.C. Paul explained that she planned to send a train, called the “Prison Special,” around

the country with speakers who had been imprisoned to arouse the public in support of a federal woman suffrage amendment. She wanted experienced speakers, and ones who would attract curious crowds and the press. Havemeyer, a prominent art collector, philanthropist, and a witty, down-to-earth, even risque speaker, fit both categories. But, first, she needed to be arrested. 

While leading a demonstration on January 9, 1919, Louisine Havemeyer was arrested along with thirty-nine other women. The next day, while the women waited in a jail attached to the courthouse for their trial, the U.S. Senate once again defeated the federal woman suffrage amendment, one vote shy of victory.  Soon after the vote, the judge sentenced the women to a five-dollar fine or five days in jail. They chose jail. Much to their disbelief they were taken to the condemned jail where previous suffrage prisoners had suffered from breathing fumes of poisonous gases. Entering the “pestilential jail,” Havemeyer reported: “My very heart stood still for an instant and then bounded beneath my ribs and crackled as the sparks of indignation snapped within. Where was my Uncle Sam? Where was the liberty my fathers fought for? Where was the democracy our boys were fighting for?”

Other key events in Chapter 19 are the beginning of continual “Watchfire of Freedom,” or a fire on the sidewalk in front of the White House; the “Prison Special” tour; a demonstration and imprisonment in Boston; and the violence unleashed on suffragists in New York City at their Metropolitan Opera House demonstration, the last of the NWP’s “dramatic acts of protest.” 

Image from top to bottom: Louisine Havemeyer with the Suffrage Torch (the chains holding the mobile speaker’s platform on the suffrage van are visible in the picture); an advertisement in a Chattanooga, Tennessee newspaper, The Chattanooga News  (1/19/1919, p. 6) for the “Prison Special” that made fourteen stops during a three-week transcontinental train trip; a “Watchfire of Freedom” ablaze in front of the White House. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight is available in paperback and eBook.

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