Though born in Delaware, Kathryn Lincoln considered herself a Philadelphian by the time she became active in the suffrage movement. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Sociology, she worked at the State Home for Girls in Trenton, New Jersey, then was employed by the Traveler’s Aid Society in Philadelphia before going to Washington, D.C., to join the “Silent Sentinel” demonstration of November 10, 1917.
Picketing of the White House had begun on January 10th, and arrests had been common since June 22nd, but Lincoln’s introduction to the picket line was still on a remarkable day. The authorities hoped that long sentences imposed on previous pickets would put an end to the demonstrations, but it had the opposite effect. Never before had so many as 41 pickets been arrested at once, and the military precision with which each of the five contingents alternately marched to the East and West gates of the White House impressed even the usually hostile crowd.
Lincoln was in the second detachment of nine protesters whose objective was the West Gate. After refusing to give up their right to peacefully protest, all were arrested, loaded into the “Black Maria” police van and taken off for booking, then each released on $25 bail, pending trial.
After the usual courtroom farce, all those who went to trial on November 14th were convicted of “blocking traffic” on the wide Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk. They refused to pay their fines, so she and almost all the others were immediately, and as it would turn out, illegally, sent to Virginia’s Occoquan Workhouse. Sentences ranged from six days to six months, with Lincoln getting 30 days.
When Superintendent Whittaker and a number of guards burst into the room where the women were to be processed, Lincoln recognized him immediately: “He has stiff white hair, blazing little eyes, and a dull little birthmark on the side of his face,” she wrote in her diary.
After Superintendent Whittaker had his guards grab Dora Lewis, spokesperson for the group, and take her out of the room “like a dressmaker’s dummy” according to Lincoln, she herself was just as rudely thrown into a cell directly across from Eunice Brannan. When she tried to give some encouragement to Brannan, Whittaker became furious, and with clenched fists said: “… I’ll gag you and put you in a strait jacket for the night. Now get away from that door.”
After four days in a cold cell, and without having eaten any food, Lincoln noted: “My back seems to be breaking and the dull pain in my head becomes unbearable.” The next day she was taken to the prison hospital, where she could hear what she believed to be nearby sounds of force-feeding, and wondered if she would be next.
Before the end of November, public pressure caused all the suffrage prisoners to be released. Her ordeal certainly didn’t discourage her from further activism, as she did work for the National Woman’s Party for several months, and she won a coveted “Prison Pin” from the party as well.
On May 3, 1918, she and Mollie Condon, an organizer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and then the National Woman’s Party, arrived in Reno, Nevada, to “study practical politics” and help elect Anne Martin as the first female U.S. Senator. Though the campaign was unsuccessful, Martin still got 18% of the votes cast, despite running against the two major party candidates as an Independent.
By January, 1920, Lincoln was living in New York City, earning a salary as an “organizer,” so her commitment to activism never wavered despite prison time and a campaign setback.
Though her life after 1920 is a mystery, she did leave us with a clear insight into her feelings about being a part of the great struggle for equality that still continues all these years later:
“A Picket Song
By Kathryn Lincoln.
I will sing to the Cause of Woman,
That unites from every walk in life,
That inspires to any sacrifice,
That brings from the ends of a great country Women of all ages, Who place a remote freedom for every sister Above a near personal liberty, And above the cant of criticism.
And the Cause has brought
The light of freedom to their eyes,
And strength to battle for a world to come, Which broad vision, They who have not received the magic touch Cannot conceive.”
(Published in The Suffragist, February 16, 1918, page 12.)
“A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot” by Mary Walton, pages 197 – 201;
“Jailed for Freedom” by Doris Stevens, pages 193 & 364;
New York Times, November 11, 1917, “Arrest 41 Pickets for Suffrage At the White House,” Page 1 Col. 1;
Los Angeles Daily Times, November 11, 1917, “Suffragists Arrested at Capital,” Part 1, Page 3, Col. 1;
Nevada State Journal, May 4, 1918, “Come from East to Study Politics,” Page 8, Col. 4;
1920 U.S. Census, Richmond Borough, NY, S.D. 3, E.D 1544, Sheet 15 B;
Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.
Tag Archives: Night of Terror
By Lauriane Lebrun
On August 26, I hosted a chat and simultaneous viewing of the film Iron Jawed Angels via the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association’s Twitter in celebration of Women’s Equality Day and the 95th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification. To everyone who watched and tweeted along: you’re awesome! Thank you so much for making this event fun, insightful, and informative.
Did you miss the event? No worries – you can still find all the tweets by visiting our Twitter page or by searching #IJAwithTPSM.
Read on for a recap of the chat, including commentary (from myself and other event participants) on the content and historical accuracy of Iron Jawed Angels.
Iron Jawed Angels: How Accurate Is It?
Overall Iron Jawed Angels does an excellent job of depicting a specific time period in the suffrage movement. The film takes place mainly from 1913 to 1920 and focuses on the militant tactics of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party (NWP). There was, of course, much more to the movement in terms of time, events, and strategies, and many more suffragists that could have been portrayed in more detail. Given the typical runtime of a movie, however, the amount of information included in Iron Jawed Angels is impressive enough. It should nevertheless be noted that the film is not an exhaustive account of the entire women’s suffrage movement. (If you want to learn more about the parts of the movement that were not depicted in the film, I recommend reading Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States by Eleanor Flexner and Ellen Fitzpatrick, and Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker. These books served as two of my main sources for fact-checking Iron Jawed Angels.)
Even where the film breaks from fact and veers off into fiction, it does so with a purpose. The fictional characters of Emily Leighton and Senator Thomas Leighton serve as an effective portrayal of marriage and parenthood in the 1910s. Ben Weismann, also fictional, is incorporated as Alice Paul’s made-up love interest. While Ben’s presence adds drama and romantic appeal for viewers, it also provides a reason for the characters of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns to discuss how they feel about love, marriage, and children. These details humanize the suffragists, and bring to light historical truths such as the fact that Alice Paul remained single throughout her life.
The film is also “effectively inaccurate” in terms of chronology. For the sake of a smooth storyline and practical runtime, the dates of real events are rearranged in the film. These two timelines exemplify this technique:
- Night of Terror
- Watchfires of Freedom
- Alice Paul arrested at Suffrage Pickets
- Alice Paul arrested at Suffrage Pickets (October 1917)
- Night of Terror (November 1917)
- Watchfires of Freedom (began January 1919)
Here are some other goofs and inaccuracies that were mentioned on Twitter. As you can see, though, there are only a few, which goes to show that the film is pretty factual overall.
Iron Jawed Angels: Discussion
While participants of the Twitter event shared plenty of factual information, they also engaged by sharing their personal thoughts, opinions, and photos. One common trend I noticed in several tweets involved honoring and reflecting on the past and connecting it to the present—which is what the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial is all about.
Paula O. Jakobi, a New Yorker, was an active suffragist and playwright. Paula Owen married Leo C. Jakobi, a manufacturer. They had two daughters, Audrey and Ruth. In 1904, Paula O. Jakobi was widowed after a long separation, when Leo died by suicide. She was active in the suffrage movement in New York City, where she wrote plays, including one about the Silent Sentinels who picketed the White House. Well-connected in the literary field, in 1914 she organized an “Authors Evening” where authors gave readings and books were auctioned. In attendance were Lincoln Steffens, Zona Gale, Edna Ferber and many other pro-suffrage authors. She also studied prison reform at the Massachusetts women’s reformatory in Framingham, and wrote about destitute women. For three years she was the opera critic for a New York newspaper. She was a member of Heterodoxy, a Greenwich Village feminist discussion and debate group. With its founder, Jakobi wrote a satirical one-act play, “Telling the Truth at the White House” (1917), based on suffrage protests in Washington D. C., not knowing that she would later be among those arrested.
Her arrest came in 1917 when she was among the 41 pickets who protested the imprisonment of Alice Paul. On November 10, 1917, she was in the first of five groups of banner-carrying suffragists who went the White House. They were arrested immediately. Tried on November 12 and when released pending judicial decision, promptly went back to the picket line later that same day. Arrested and tried again on November 14, she and the other suffragists were sentenced from 30 to 60 days at the notorious Occoquan Workhouse at the D.C. Prison complex in Lorton, Va. There she experienced the “Night of Terror” and her vivid account of the experience provides many of the details we know about that horrible night.
When they arrived at the Occoquan Workhouse, the women waited for Superintendent Whittaker to arrive to demand to be treated as political prisoners. But when he showed up, the women were attacked, beaten and dragged to a distant building. She writes that Dorothy Day’s arm was through the arm of Jakobi’s handbag, and the male guards pulled them in opposite directions until the string of the bag broke. Two men then dragged Jakobi away. Dorothy Day’s back was smashed over the back of a chair. When she cried out to Jakobi for help, Jakobi could do nothing as she was in the tight grip of the two men.
According to Jakobi, “I didn’t know at the time what happened to the other women. I only knew that it was hell let loose with Whittaker as the instigator of the horror. In the ante-chamber to the cells, some of the guards were standing, swinging night sticks in a menacing manner. We were thrust into cells; the ventilators were closed. The cells were bitter cold. There was an open toilet in the corner of the cell, which was flushed from the outside. We had to call to a guard who had previously attacked us to flush them. The doors were barred, there were no windows … there was no light in the room, only one in the corridor… The floors were filthy, as were the blankets.”
“In the morning, we were roughly told to get up. . . .Faint, ill, exhausted, we were ordered before the superintendent … Whittaker asked my name; then whether I would go the Workhouse and obey prison regulations and be under the care of the ladies. I told him I would not. . . I demanded the rights of a political prisoner. He interrupted me with ‘Then you’ll go the male hospital’—he emphasized ‘male’—‘and be in solitary confinement. Do you change your mind?’ I said ‘no,’ and was taken to the hospital by a trusty.”
Jakobi fasted in protest of her treatment and was continually offered food, including fried chicken and salad. Her account goes on to report forced feedings at the prison. She recounts repeated attempts by Whittaker to get the women to stop their hunger strike, and to work and voluntarily obey the prison staff. This was always refused by the strong determined women. Jakobi showed her resourcefulness while at the Workhouse, hiding pencil stubs in her pillow and even in the hem of the window shade. The women also sent messages by tapping on the steampipe running through the walls. 
All of the suffragists were eventually released by a writ of habeas corpus in late November, 1917.
1. “Literary Lights are Lined Up for Votes,” New York Tribune (January 11, 1914): 9. http://fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%206/New%20York%20NY%20Tribune/New%20York%20NY%20Tribune%201914%20Jan%20Grayscale/New%20York%20NY%20Tribune%201914%20Jan%20Grayscale%20-%200263.pdf;
2. Mary Chapman and Angela Mills, eds., Treacherous Texts: U. S. Suffrage Literature 1846-1946 (Rutgers University Press 2011): 275. ISBN 0813549590.
3. Inez Haynes Irwin,The Story of the National Woman’s Party (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1921). Photo from New York Tribune (January 11, 1914).
Cora Week was an artist from New York City. She was engaged with the National Woman’s Party (NWP) at several key events. She was among those who came to Alice Paul’s window at the DC Jail on November 9, 1917, to communicate with their leader who had been in jail for some time. They promised her they would picket at the White House the next day to protest her treatment.
The next morning 41 women formed the picket line with tricolored banners marching in formation from NWP Headquarters to the White House in five groups. Ms. Week was in the first group. There was a thick stream of workers passing who paused to look at them. Involuntarily they applauded when the women were arrested on-the-spot. The suffragists heard one voice of encouragement call out, “Keep right on! You’ll make them give it to you!”
The police charged them with “obstructing traffic” and they were tried on November 12. The police testimony was refuted by defense witnesses. After eloquent testimony by the suffragists, Judge Mullowney admitted he was embarrassed by the Administration and dismissed the pickets without sentence saying he would take the matter under advisement. An hour later, 27 of the 41 women, plus a few additional women were out picketing again. Despite their surprise at such determination, police managed to arrest all of the pickets, 31 in all. They were ordered to appear in court on November 14. These pickets endured the “Night of Terror” at the Occoquan Workhouse which included beatings and verbal abuse. Cora Week was among them.
Cora Week was again on the scene when the National Woman’s Party organized watch fires on the sidewalk in front of the White House to burn the president’s speeches on democracy in Europe. She was again arrested on February 9, 1919, and served time in the DC Jail in an area that was re-opened to house the suffragists. The environment was cold and rat infested.
Sources: Inez Haynes Irwin, The Story of the Woman’s Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1921), 251, 404, 407. Photo from: Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.,http://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000296/
Today we begin posting our timeline countdown to the Night of Terror. Follow us on Twitter @tpsm2020.
Timeline: November 9, 1917
Each month, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association recognizes one woman as Suffragist of the Month. This month, we recognize Dora Lewis (aka Mrs. Lawrence Lewis). Her recognition is timely as she is known to have been one of the women arrested and imprisoned at Occoquan Workhouse on the Night of Terror of November 14-15, 1917.
Her biography (below) is copied from TPSM’s website.
Dora Lewis was born in 1862 and was a member of a prominent Philadelphia family. While working with the National Woman’s Party she was among those suffragists who endured the “Night of Terror” in November of 1917, after being taken to the Occoquan Workhouse to serve a sentence for “obstructing the sidewalk.”
Lewis became involved in the suffrage movement as a wealthy widow from Philadelphia (Cooney, 185). She was one of the earliest supporters of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party but actually began working for the cause with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Her first major project with NAWSA was working with Paul to increase the support for a federal women’s suffrage amendment (Cooney, 185). When Paul and Lucy Burns created the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in 1913 – which later became the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916 — Lewis was one of the first women to become a member of the organization.
Incredibly active in the National Woman’s Party, Lewis served as a member of the National Woman’s Party executive committee, chairman of the finance committee, national treasurer, and ratification committee chairman. Lewis was also very active in picketing the White House on behalf of women’s suffrage and was often at odds with law enforcement. In November 1917, Lewis and other picketers stood before the White House gates, protesting the imprisonment of Alice Paul. In particular, the women were picketing against the denial of Paul’s status as a political prisoner (Irwin, 257) and were arrested. Lewis was tried on November 14th and sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse (Walton, 196). She and her fellow suffragists while in the Workhouse, fought to be treated as political prisoners.
From the evening of November 14th until the early hours of the morning on November 15th, the women endured what was later called the “Night of Terror.” Lewis and more than thirty other women were subjected to brutality at the hands of the prison guards (Walton, 199). They were kicked, dragged, choked and subjected to beatings. Lewis was thrown into a tiny cell and hit her head on an iron bed, knocking her unconscious and causing many of her comrades to believe she was dead (Cooney, 360). Despite their brutal treatment, Lewis and Lucy Burns led the other imprisoned women in a hunger strike (Walton, 200). A few days after their hunger strike began, Lewis and the other women were subjected to force feedings. Lewis explained that as they forced the feeding tube down her throat she was, “gasping and suffocating with the agony of it” and “everything turned black when the fluid began pouring in” (Irwin, 288). As the American public became aware of the treatment of the women, many people called for the release of the suffragists. On November 27th, less than ten days after their hunger strike began, Lewis and the other imprisoned suffragists were released (Walton, 206-207).
Lewis’ involvement in the NWP did not end with her imprisonment on the Night of Terror, despite the brutality she faced. She remained an active member of the NWP and was devoted to women’s suffrage. On August 6, 1918, she was the main speaker at a protest at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., that was held in memory of Inez Milholland, the iconic suffragist on horseback who led suffrage parades and who became ill and died while on a speaking tour to promote women’s suffrage. Lewis was beginning her speech when she was dragged away and arrested. Other suffragists quickly rose to take her place and they too were arrested (Irwin, 364). A year later, Lewis began the watch fire protests at the White House in which President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches were burned. She took part on New Year’s Day 1919 and was promptly arrested. (Irwin, 375). Lewis’ involvement in the fight for women’s suffrage continued as she traveled to various states considering ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was loyal to her cause and to the goals of the National Woman’s Party.
Sources: Robert P.J. Cooney Jr., Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press, 2005); Inez Haynes Irwin, The Story of Alice Paul and the National Women’s [Sic] Party (Fairfax, Va: Denlinger’s Publishers, 1977); Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2010); photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.