Picketing the White House begins


Picketing the White House begins


Suffragists picketed the White House from 10 am-6pm every day but Sundays. They continued - attacked by mobs, arrested daily - for more than two years.

But in their first months, the pickets were greeted warmly. Thread.

Until January 1917, no one had ever done what they were doing. Frustrated at President Wilson’s refusal to support a federal suffrage amendment, they were the first Americans to stand outside the mansion in protest.

The picketers walked 4-hour shifts, leaving only when relief arrived. They continued in every kind of weather, though in heavy rain and snow shifts were shortened to 2 hours. To stay warm, the janitor from Nat’l Woman’s Party headquarters brought wheelbarrows of hot bricks to stand on. In this picture from January 26, they’re standing on boards to keep their feet drier.

National Woman’s Party members from around the country traveled to Washington to picket. These women from Minnesota might have been the only ones with warm enough clothing! They're in front of NWP's office on Lafayette Square, in sight of the White House.

There were state days, days for different professions, a wage earners’ day, a women voters day (for women from western states). Alice Paul asked Mary Church Terrell to join the pickets, and she did, bringing her teenage daughter Phyllis too. 

Alice Paul knew of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s non-violent tactics in South Africa, and trained the National Woman’s Party picketers: do not respond to taunts, do not lash back, refuse to be provoked.

This was easy at first, as the initial public reception was positive. People came to watch, and many expressed support for the cause and admiration for the effort. The women’s tenacity - especially in winter - earned respect even from suffrage skeptics.

But the goodwill evaporated when the U.S. went to war.


Daily Suffragist




Women Voters Day Feb 14 1917.jpg
Wage Earners Day Feb 18 1917.jpg
Minnesota women early 1917.jpg
NY day Jan 26 1917.jpg
PA day early 1917.jpg
Aug 22 screenshot.png


Daily Suffragist, “Picketing the White House begins,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 27, 2022, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/491.

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