The first national observance of the “Night of Terror” will be held November 15, 2014 by the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, an organization raising money to build a national memorial honoring women who were arrested and imprisoned during the 72-year campaign to win voting rights for women. Lorton, Virginia is the planned site for the suffragist memorial, not far from Occoquan Workhouse where the “Night of Terror” on arrested suffrage picketers was carried out in 1917.
November 14-15, 1917 is recognized in history as the night when a total of 31 suffrage activists were targeted with violent attacks in an effort to break the spirit of the activists. The “Night of Terror” occurred at the Occoquan Workhouse (then part of the District of Columbia’s prison complex) in Lorton, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC.
A total of 14 women from New York State, among a larger group of 31 picketers, were convicted and sentenced on November 14th for participating in the preceding day’s nonviolent protest held silently in front of the White House gates.
The demonstrators demanded that President Woodrow Wilson exercise leadership on the issue of women’s right to vote. They were charged with “blocking the sidewalk.” A significant number of New Yorkers also provided support on the White House picket line from January 1917 through June of 1918. A total of 70 suffragists were arrested during 1917 from around the nation, including New York.
Suffragists themselves called November 15th the “Night of Terror.” The attack on activists within the correctional facility and the subsequent extensive nationwide publicity became a turning point in the national effort to win votes for women. The campaign for voting rights goes back to the 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY and ends with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in August of 1920.
A two-week 2014 “Night of Terror” campaign will include fundraising and educational events on college campuses, distribution of an audio podcast series of first-hand reports from the Occoquan Workhouse, as well as numerous educational resources. The goal is to raise money for the planned memorial to honor the imprisoned Occoquan activists in Lorton, VA that is planned for completion before 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
The proposed suffragist memorial will be located within the newly-developed cultural area of the Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton, Virginia overlooking the Occoquan River. The memorial is expected to be a cornerstone of planned park development that includes a banquet facility, enhanced marina, amphitheater, brick kiln and control house, restrooms, and new parking area. Architectural designs and a 3D rendering of the planned memorial are available online.
New York will observe the state centennial of women’s voting rights in 2017. The state conducted two referendums on the “votes for women” issue in 1915 and then again in 1917. The 1917 New York State victory recharged the national suffrage movement. After 1917, New York’s large population of new women voters effectively doubled the number of women voters in the nation. The New York victory represented a major step forward in bringing the national suffrage issue to a conclusion in 1920.
“Most of the suffragists who endured the ‘Night of Terror’ weren’t famous,” explains Nancy Sargeant, spokesperson for the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association. “They silently protested in front of the White House in 1917. After their arrest, most were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, VA where they endured horrendous conditions. They were simply seeking the right to vote. Our goal is to complete this national memorial before 2020, the national centennial when American women will have been voting for 100 years. We’re at a critical phase of fundraising at the present time.”
“I was raised hearing stories about the brave women who survived the Occoquan Workhouse ‘Night of Terror,’” said Marguerite Kearns, editor of Suffrage Wagon News Channel. “My grandmother Edna Kearns served as the Long Island Congressional representative for the National Woman’s Party. She also did her part by picketing the White House along with Serena Kearns, my mother’s older sister who was 12 years old in 1917.”
New York women arrest for “unlawful assembly” and sentenced on November 14, 1917:
- Amy Juengling, Buffalo, NY
- Hattie Kruger, Buffalo, NY
- Paula Jacobi, NYC
- Eunice Brannan, NYC
- Lucy Burns, NYC
- Emily Dubois Butterworth, NYC
- Dorothy Day, NYC
- Elizabeth Hamilton, NYC
- Louise Hornsby, NYC
- Peggy Johns, NYC
- Kathryn Lincoln, NYC
- Belle Sheinberg, NYC
- Cora Week, NYC
- Matilda Young, NYC
The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association and Suffrage Wagon News Channel are partnering to raise awareness about the suffrage movement and the “Night of Terror.” More information is available at http://www.suffragistmemorial.org and http://SuffrageWagon.org