"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lucy Burns

 In Jail

This Harris and Ewing photo of Lucy Burns taken in November of 1917 in the Occaquan workhouse appeared in an exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery.
Lucy Burns in Jail 
Beginning on January 10, 1917, Lucy Burns (1879—1966) led the picketing of the White House. She famously carried the banner that targeted President Woodrow Wilson: "Twenty Million American Women Are Denied the Right to Vote. President Wilson Is the Chief Opponent of Their National Enfranchisement." Burns was arrested for "obstructing traffic" and served six different prison sentences.
While incarcerated, she attempted to obtain the status of political prisoner by going on hunger strikes. Political prisoners had less supervision, greater freedom of dress and movement, and the opportunity to receive visitors. Since imprisoned suffragists were denied the right to free speech, their hunger strikes were a non-verbal way to protest being jailed on false charges. This tactic also forged a meaningful connection between suffragists and international civil rights groups. Allowing herself to be photographed for the press was another way Burns protested this violation of her civil rights. -- NPG

This photo of Lucy Burns appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger on June 17, 1917.

After spending three days in jail 
because of her activities in the 
picketing of the White House, Miss 
Burns, who is a member of the 
executive committee of the Na- 
tional Woman's party, asserts that 
if courage is all that is needed 
to cause the passage of the Susan 
B. Anthony amendment giving 
votes to women throughout the 
nation victory is in sight. She 
says she has no intention of giving 
up the fight.

In 1917 while representatives of the newly formed communist government of Russia visited President Wilson at the Whitehouse. Suffragists including Lucy Burns were demonstrating outside. one large banner read:

To the Russian Envoys

President Wilson and Envoy Root are deceiving Russia when they say
“We are a democracy, help us win the world war so that democracy may

We the women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty-million American women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement.

Help us to make the nation really free. Tell our government it must liberate its people before it can claim free Russia as an ally.

Little wonder that even some suffragists such as Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Catt thought this was treasonous.

Nicolas Lambert in A People's Art History, 2013, page 116, says that:
On June 27, Burns and Katherine Morey were arrested for “obstructing traffic,” Three days later, twelve more women were arrested for carrying banners. In court, the women, were ordered to pay a $25 fine; they refused and spent three days in jail. When one group of six women was brought before the court, one responded by stating, “Not a dollar of your fine will we pay. To pay a fine would be an admission of guilt. We are innocent.” From that point on NWP women began to fill the jails.

On “Night of Terror,” November 14, 1917, the women prisoners who demanded to be treated as political prisoners were systematically tortured. Lucy's arms were handcuffed above her head and she left that way all night. The next day the women began a hunger strike. Public opinion forced authorities to release the women on Nov.  28. This short article appeared in the The Butte Montana Daily Post, Nov. 28, 1917. 

Hunger Strikers Released
Hunger Strikers Released

Washington Nov. 27--Twenty
two women's party militant hunger
strikers in. the District of Columbia
jail here were suddenly released to.
day before the expiration of their term
Among them were Alice Paul, chair-
man of the party and Lucy Bung, vice

Harris and Ewing took another more flattering  photo of "Miss Lucy Burns of the C.U.W.S" in 1913. (LOC)

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CUWS) headed up by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns was a sort of radical-wing of the National Woman's Suffrage Association, which broke off in 1913.  It was incorporated into the National Woman's Party in 1916. 

 This smiling picture Miss Burns in an airplane, piloted by T.T. Marony, appeared in the Sunday Oregonian Oct. 8, 1916. 

“Burns threw suffragist literature from the airplane as it flew over Seattle”

See Unlikely Rebel on Youtube:

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