radical is the new sensible . . .

The Silent Sentinels

On January 10th, 1917 the American Women’s Suffrage Movement began a two and a half years long Silent Sentinels protest in front of the White House. They were organized by Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and the National Woman’s Party. The women protested for six days a week until June 4, 1919 when the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed both by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The name Silent Sentinels was given to the women because of their silent protesting. Using silence as a form of protest was a new principled, strategic, and rhetorical strategy within the national suffrage movement and within their own assortment of protest strategies. The two-and-a-half year long protest sparked outrage, fury, beatings, scorn, derision, and arrests. When arrested, the women faced horrific conditions in the Occoquan Workhouse – torture, beatings, rotten food, lice, vermin, and force feeding the suffragettes raw eggs to break their hunger strike protest. This treatment ignited public sentiment and brought the cause further to national attention.

After Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4th, the suffragettes turned their attention to state ratification. Tennessee turned out to be the tipping point state on Aug 18th, 1920, becoming the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. It was won by the single vote of a legislator (Harry T. Burn) who had opposed the amendment but changed his position after his mother sent him a telegram saying “Dear Son, Hurrah! and vote for suffrage. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

What was on their signs?

“Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?”

“Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

Referencing a President Wilson quote as the US entered WWI:

“We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts–for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.”

Comparing President Wilson to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and to a famous quote of Jesus regarding hypocrisy:

“Kaiser Wilson, have you forgotten your sympathy with the poor Germans because they were not self-governed? 20,000,000 American women are not self-governed. Take the beam out of your own eye.”

This article is from Rivera Sun’s book of nonviolent histories that have made our world. Click here for more information.

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Rivera Sun is a change-maker, a cultural creative, a protest novelist, and an advocate for nonviolence and social justice. She’s a love-based revolutionary and the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, The Way Between and ten other fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Her essays and writings are syndicated by Peace Voice, and have appeared in over a hundred journals nationwide. Rivera Sun speaks and facilitates workshops in strategy for nonviolent change across the country and around the world. She connects the dots between the issues, shares solutionary ideas, and inspires people to step up to the challenge of being a part of the story of change in our times. www.riverasun.com

Learn more! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Sentinels

Photo Credit (Silent Sentinels) “Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women_suffragists_picketing_in_front_of_the_White_house.jpg#/media/File:Women_suffragists_picketing_in_front_of_the_White_house.jpg

Photo Credit (Kaiser Wilson) “Suffragette banner carried in picket of the White House” by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. (Photographer) – http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mnwp.160030. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suffragette_banner_carried_in_picket_of_the_White_House.jpg#/media/File:Suffragette_banner_carried_in_picket_of_the_White_House.jpg

Photo Credit (Kaiser Wilson) “Suffragette banner carried in picket of the White House” by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. (Photographer) – http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mnwp.160030. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suffragette_banner_carried_in_picket_of_the_White_House.jpg#/media/File:Suffragette_banner_carried_in_picket_of_the_White_House.jpg

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