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Suffrage and World War I

On Veterans Day I am especially thinking about veterans—my father and four of Linda’s uncles were World War II veterans, two of my brothers served during the Vietnam War.

I have written three books about women and war: “Spies: Women in the Civil War; “Rosie the RIveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II”; and “Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II.”

In “The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight,” World War I impacts the suffrage movements abroad and in America. Regarding the British movement, I wrote: “The British fight for the vote was upended on August 4, 1914, when Great Britain entered World War I. This war, as had the Civil War in the 1860s in America, posed stark choices: war work, suffrage work, peace work, or a combination. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst quickly made their choice . . .”

Three years later in 1917, American suffragists dealt with the same choices. I wrote about a meeting of the leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association that was “a volatile mix of militarists and pacifists.” It was a “difficult meeting” according to Mary Gray Peck . . . “the national officers and state presidents were women of strong personality and decided views.”

One of the threads i

n my book is newspaper coverage, and it wasn’t uncommon for suffrage and war news to share front page coverage.

On June 27, 1917, the front page headline in the “Carson City Daily Appeal,” Carson City, Nevada, read AMERICAN TROOPS ARRIVE ON FRENCH SOIL. Just below it was an article with the headline: “Poor Mabel! How Could They Do It.” Mabel was Mabel Vernon of Nevada, one of six women picketing the White House who were convicted “of obstructing traffic” and fined $25 or three days in the District of Columbia jail. Vernon along with Katharine Morey, Lavinia Dock, Virginia Arnold, Maud Jamison, and Annie Arneil were the first of hundreds of suffragists who went to jail for the cause.

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