What is the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial?
Fairfax County, Virginia, is the site of perhaps the most significant moment in the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States.
Beginning in 1917, suffragists were arrested in Washington, D.C. and imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse, then part of the Lorton Prison complex, in retaliation for picketing the Woodrow Wilson White House for the right to vote. The reports of inhumane conditions, beatings and force-feedings at the workhouse electrified the country and became the “turning point” in the struggle for the 19th Amendment.
The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association is working with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to raise funds to erect a suffragist memorial to commemorate the struggle of these women and educate future generations about women’s history and the suffrage movement.
Why were Suffragists Arrested and Imprisoned?
In 1917, the suffrage movement began organizing picketers outside the White House gates. For over two years, suffragists coordinated ongoing demonstrations. Thousands of women from across the country stood quietly at the White House, holding banners that read: “Mr. President: How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” and “Mr. President: What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage?”
When the United States entered World War I, some viewed the continued demonstrations at the White House and criticism of the President as unpatriotic, and spectators became aggressive. From June 1917 to early 1919, dozens of women were arrested on false charges such as “obstructing traffic.” Refusing to admit guilt or pay fines, the women were imprisoned in Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia and the District of Columbia Jail.
Find out more about the women’s suffrage movement here.