Lafayette, we are here!

Title

Lafayette, we are here!

Description

No one symbolizes Franco-American friendship and loyalty like the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the Revolutionary War. During WWI, soldiers and suffragists both invoked him to represent the rightness of their cause. A thread.

When US troops arrived in France to shore up the Allies’ faltering defenses, the French were relieved. On July 4, 1917, “All France celebrated the 4th of July.” - NYT, A1

Arriving at the Marquis’ tomb, General Pershing* cried out “Lafayette, we are here!”

Though perhaps apocryphal, the quote came to symbolize US sacrifice on behalf of France. So it would resonate with the public when the National Woman’s Party organized massive demonstrations in Washington, DC's Lafayette Square a year later. You know, the one by the White House.

Remember: NWP protesters spent much of 1917 in prison, beaten and force fed. They succeeded in pushing the cause to the forefront of public awareness -- in January 1918 the House of Representatives passed the federal amendment by a ⅔ majority. Now it was stuck in the Senate.

Demonstrations in Lafayette Square began on August 6, the birthday of suffrage martyr Inez Milholland. NWP headquarters were at 14 Jackson Place, along the west side of the square. Lafayette himself was in sight of their building - and the White House. 

They marched straight to the statue, wrapping its base in the suffrage tricolor. Hazel Hunkins declared: “Here, at the statue of Lafayette, who fought for the liberty of this country, and under the American flag, I am asking for the enfranchisement of American women!” Hunkins was arrested before she finished speaking.

40+ women were arrested that day. More were arrested at subsequent demonstrations a few days later. By the end of the month, dozens of suffrage protesters had been tried and sentenced to 10-15 days in prison. (BTW, that spring the federal court of appeals had ruled that their arrest and detention was unconstitutional.) In prison they again went on hunger strike.

Still, the Senate wouldn’t budge. So on September 16, 1918, they were back in Lafayette Square. “Lafayette, we are here!” cried Berthe Arnold, an NWP activist from Colorado. She appealed directly to the Marquis himself, in bronze and in spirit. “We, the women of the United States, denied the liberty which you helped to gain, and for which we have asked in vain for sixty years, turn to you to plead for us. Speak, Lafayette!”

Then the National Woman’s Party took a copy of remarks President Wilson had made that day to a NAWSA delegation led by Carrie Chapman Catt - and burned them.

The Senate took up the suffrage amendment 10 days later.

#Suffrage100 #19thAmendment

*”La Fayette, nous voilà!” is variously ascribed to Pershing and to a Colonel Stanton - or may have been invented by a journalist covering the event.

Creator

Daily Suffragist

Date

Oct 5, 2020

Files

Daveed Diggs as Lafayette.jpg
NWP at Lafayette Statue 16 Sept 1918.jpg
Lafayette statute today.jpg
Lafayette thread.png

Citation

Daily Suffragist, “Lafayette, we are here!,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 20, 2021, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/526.

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