Suffrage in 60 Seconds: Traitors or Patriots?

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Have you ever dreaded a change in plans or had difficulty making progress towards a goal? After the United States entered World War 1 in 1917, that's what the National Woman's Party feared about the fight for women's right to vote.

When the U.S joined the war in Europe almost three years after it began, President Wilson's foreign policy and public sentiment had shifted from one of strict neutrality to patriotic support of the war effort. At home, Americans bought and sold war bonds, conserved food, and volunteered with organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Many suffrage organizations supported these efforts and even worked directly with the Wilson administration to mobilize the nation's resources.

Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party would not take this approach. Feeling the need to preserve their momentum, they called out the president for his lack of support on suffrage and his claim that the U.S was fighting to make the world safe for democracy. The National Woman's Party picketed the White House with banners that questioned how Wilson could claim this purpose but simultaneously refuse to support U.S women's participation in democracy. On multiple occasions, the crowds that gathered labeled them as traitors, became violent, and tore down or stole their banners.

While the National Woman's Party's decision to continue protests may not have been popular, it kept women's voting rights in the headlines.

Can expanding freedoms be just as important as protecting them during war? If you would like to share, write about it in the comments below

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1 minute, 34 seconds

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the National Woman's Party faced a decision. Should the NWP continue to pressure Woodrow Wilson to support woman suffrage? Or should they demonstrate their citizenship and patriotism by joining the war effort, hoping to win the vote that way? Ranger Lorne has the story.

Alice Paul decided to continue picketing. "This is our war," she said, "only we are fighting it with banners instead of guns."

Part of a series of articles titled Suffrage in Sixty Seconds.

Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Pennsylvania Avenue, The White House and President's Park

Last updated: September 1, 2020