Season 2: Episode 8: Were Paul and Burns the turning point in women's suffrage?
With Dr. Sidney Bland
In this episode, Kelsie and Brooke sit down with Dr. Sydney Bland who is not only a pioneering women's historian, but also an expert on woman suffrage. In his early career, he had an opportunity to interview THE ALICE PAUL. He's a wealth of knowledge! Buckle your seat belt as you relearn history you think you know.
Kelsie Eckert 0:05
The Remedial Herstory Project is a nonprofit working to get women's history into the K to 12 curriculum to help us meet our goal. We produce media lesson plans, and so much more. Check it out on our website, www.remedialherstory.com. The remedial herstory project is funded through grants and by listeners like you. please head over to patreon.com and become a supporter of the remedial Herstory Project. YouTube can help us reform education and allow women to be seen heard and complicated. In particular funds from patrons added from here on out will help us launch a crash course YouTube channel on women's history. We will be producing short 10 minute videos that educators can play in their classes telling women's history from era to era for both us and world history. Let's make herstory together.
Brooke Sullivan 0:54
Kelsie Eckert 0:55
Brooke Sullivan 0:56
Want to tell everyone what's happening in today's episode?
Kelsie Eckert 0:58
In this episode, we are going to be talking to Dr. Sidney Bland, who is the historian for women's suffrage. And we are going to be talking about two women that everyone should know Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.
Hello and welcome to Remedial Herstory: the other 50%. The podcast that explores what happened to the women in history class. Now here's your host, Kelsie Brook Eckert and her partner in crime, Brooke Neva Sullivan.
Kelsie Eckert 1:33
In this episode, we are going to be exploring that final push for women's suffrage that came in the 19 teens in the midst of World War One in the midst of lots of social reform and the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. And so we are honored to have Dr. Sidney bland, come on to the episode with us. And for this episode, we're really going to be asking one key question which is were Paul and Burns the turning point in women's suffrage? These two women are crucial to the movement in many ways. They break away from NAWSA, the dominating force in the suffrage movement, the organization that was founded by Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and at this point is being led by Carrie Chapman Catt, who is sort of a middle generation of suffragettes working to get women's suffrage passed, and Lucy Burns and Alice Paul feel like this organization is not progressive enough. So I am so excited to have the expert Dr. Sidney Bland, come on to the show and tell us a little bit about these women, and about how we should remember their legacy and whether Carrie Catt really was sort of the bad guy that some contemporary historians make her out to be. Before we get any further I want to turn it over to Dr. Sidney Bland to introduce himself.
Dr. Sidney Bland 3:06
My name is Sidney Bland. I live in Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. I was a longtime professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. For about 45 years I was a teacher of American history. But I got into the field of women's history very early through my doctoral program at George Washington University and learned that this was a field that was opening up, there was plenty of room for scholars and teachers in that field. And it sound, it sounded fascinating. And I taught a course on women in US history for over 35 years or so, until I ultimately retired in 2010. In the process I was researching and writing and I did a book on a suffragist slash historic preservationist in Charleston, South Carolina, did a number of scholarly articles. Ultimately, I was honored by the university, I was their faculty speaker at their Centennial convocation in 2008. Before I retired, I was a Madison scholar, which is the highest honor the university offers in scholarship. I did receive a Distinguished Service Award. And there is a scholarship in my name from one of my earliest graduate students whom I'm still in contact with, who taught high school history at Salisbury, Maryland, and AP history for many, many years. So in a nutshell, that's who I am. I'm a North Carolinian originally, but I've been in Virginia most of my life. And in retirement I've been involved with a couple of women's suffrage museum projects, which I can talk about a little later.
Kelsie Eckert 4:57
This podcast is sponsored by Our patrons patrons get access to behind the scenes, regular RHP gear, bonus episodes insights into our research lesson plans before everybody else. And more. Brooke, read off these awesome people.
Brooke Sullivan 5:14
Thank you to Jeff Barbara, Christian Kent, Jamie, Jenna, Nancy, Megan, Leah, Mark, Nicole, and Sarah, Alicia and Katya.
Kelsie Eckert 5:23
Woohoo do you know what is so awesome about this particular group of people?
Brooke Sullivan 5:27
Kelsie Eckert 5:28
Very few of them are actually educators. These are badass people who care so much about equitable and inclusive education that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is
Brooke Sullivan 5:40
Kelsie Eckert 5:41
Brooke Sullivan 5:41
Kelsie Eckert 5:42
Yeah, so cool. You too can become a patron of the Remedial Herstory Project by heading over to www.patreon.com and becoming a sponsor of the Remedial Herstory Project for just $5 a month. That's it, that's one latte.
Brooke Sullivan 5:59
But I mean, it's, it's one of something but it's cheap! And you get all that stuff.
Unknown Speaker 6:04
All that stuff, you too can give up one latte for thousands of children and women.
Brooke Sullivan 6:11
You could also buy condoms for more than that. You could reduce reproduction for less than that.
Kelsie Eckert 6:23
Brooke, most importantly, instead of lamenting that women's history isn't being taught in high school, or that they didn't know these women, these people are putting their money, where their mouth is, and they are getting it in to the curriculum by funding us.
Brooke Sullivan 6:36
It's awesome. And they believe women stories are important.
Kelsie Eckert 6:40
Brooke Sullivan 6:40
Kelsie Eckert 6:41
Duh! Thanks, patrons, we love you!
Brooke Sullivan 6:43
We do love you.
Kelsie Eckert 6:48
One of the things I really admire about you and think is really important and powerful for people to keep in context is that you are a man who's a women's historian, you jumped into this field, really, as it was emerging in the middle of the 20th century. And I think it's really powerful that you did that, that you saw an opportunity and a need for this, this gap in the literature to be filled. So I'm just curious, though, was the women's history course that you taught the first one that was offered at your school?
Dr. Sidney Bland 7:22
Yes. And I had a significant problem in convincing my colleagues that it was worthy of teaching. And I had to get sell-by from a lot of other women's history programs, and women's studies programs, to, to some extent validate what was mostly an all male department, and to validate the fact that this was a worthy course of study, that other universities, including the nearby University of Virginia, we're now offering it, and that JMU should begin to offer it as well. So it took a bit of approval, you know, things have to go through committees, of course, which delays them. But ultimately, it was offered, I think, for the first time in the early 1970s. And I think I taught it probably for 3035 semesters, it was a 400 500 level course, but mostly upper level undergraduates. It was an elective, but majors Of course taught it. Initially, I had a good mix of men and women. But over the years, there were less men, for whatever the reason is, things changed, and more women, but I had good enrollment for it all the way down till the time I finished. And I can happily note that the last time I offered it, both my wife and one of her feminist friends set in to take the course as well. But it was a joy to teach. And it was, again, my major focus while I taught other graduate courses. Diplomatic history taught a major survey every semester. But women's history was my focus, and has been been my field of study from the very beginning.
Kelsie Eckert 9:12
So then did you see it become integrated?
Dr. Sidney Bland 9:15
Well that was part of the debate, I think all along as to whether it should be treated separately, or integrated. We did not have a women's studies minor at JMU for a number of years, and so it was simply an elective in the history department. Plus, I co chaired the American Studies program for 35 years at JMU, which was again, not a major program, but a minor program. But it was also an elective, that I helped ensure that people did elect it when they took a minor in American Studies. And then ultimately a women's studies minor was developed for the university and this was one have several courses in in a series of interdisciplinary department offerings. But there was never a full major Women's Studies major at JMU. Unlike a lot of women's colleges, of course, and I think also at UVA, probably, but it was it was very much. Increasingly, I think, a part of the multicultural offerings of the university, I usually get pretty good enrollments every time I taught it.
Unknown Speaker 10:30
So I want to transition here to talking about these powerful women, Lucy Burns and Alice Paul. Alice Paul, I think is becoming more known than her partner in crime. Lucy Burns, and we, our mission here today is to really elevate the name Lucy Burns, and help people remember her just as much as they're remembering Alice Paul, so can you tell me a little bit about these women?
Dr. Sidney Bland 10:55
I wouldn't start with these two, if I were teaching it in American history, or I would teach it differently, perhaps in women's in my women's history course. But integrating it into American history survey, it would sort of fall into the pattern of reformism. And you can take any number of threats of reform, as you well know, and your audience will notice, you know, whether it's abolition of slavery, ending slavery, civil rights, the temperance movement of child labor reform, a number of reform threads, but it's part of the larger reform movement beginning in the 1840s. Of course, with Seneca Falls, when I taught it in women's history, I would start with some threads to reform prior to that, including quotations from Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and a few others along the way, to show that it just didn't emerge out of the wilderness as it were. But of course, Seneca Falls was a major focal point, the right to vote portion of the amendments that were offered at Seneca Falls, becomes, you know, ultimately, the one, the one platform that was not approved unanimously, and so for 72 years, women's or women are struggling, and a lot of men along the way increasingly, to gain for women the right to vote. So I put it in the sort of the larger reformed context initially, then I you know, I mentioned Stan and athenaeus, most of the textbooks do, what they don't do, of course, as you and your audience well know your teachers. Well, no, you know, you're lucky if you get l Paul mentioned anymore. Lucy burns is never mentioned. Nobody ever heard of Lucy burns. Well, you you and your audience, I think probably do now. The women's suffrage movement was divided throughout most of the late 19th century. And I like to talk about a quote that the famous abolitionists Theodore weld, stated in the late 19th century, when somebody asked him why he was not joining his wife, Angelina Grimm key and going to suffrage meetings. And he said, Why should I go nobody's been mobbed in 20 years. And it reflected the fact that in the late 19th century, the movement was going nowhere. It was in the so called doldrums period into the early 20th century. And the first generation like Stan and Anthony were dying out a second more moderate generation, including Carrie Chapman cab, and Anna Howard Shaw. We're filling in some of the gaps. But it was the two notable women you mentioned. But the two women I want to talk a little bit about are Alice Paul, and Lucy burns, who was a co partner with Alice Paul, in leading the national woman's party, and the National woman's party with Alice Paul and Lucy burns emerged from the more moderate national American Woman Suffrage Association. Let me talk a little bit about who these two women were because I've identified them and you've identified them. Alice Paul was born in 1885. in Morristown, New Jersey. She was a Quaker, but a member of the very liberal hicksite Quaker segment of the religion, which, all along Of course, as you know, the Quaker, Quakers were reformers, promoters of abolition of slavery, women's rights, and a whole host of other reforms. Alice Paul, ultimately was educated. Her father was a banker. She was educated at birth. Mr. Howe ultimately received a doctorate in law at the University of Pennsylvania and was studying in England at Oxford University in the early 20th century, beginning about 1909. Lucy Burns was a Catholic from Brooklyn. Her father was also a very wealthy man, a banker. She was one of eight Catholic siblings, and graduated from a rather prestigious girl school in Brooklyn Packer Collegiate Institute, which was sort of a training ground to send women on to Vassar College. Many of its graduates went to Vassar Lucy Burns was a faster graduate of that influence was significant. Then she went on to study and homology briefly, she had a keen interest in the English language and languages including German. She taught English for a couple of years at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, then studied at Yale briefly, and then went on to the universities of Bonn in Berlin, in Germany to work on a doctorate, but took a summer course at Oxford. At the same time that Ellis Paul was studying at Oxford, and both of them independently got involved in the British militant suffrage movement, led by Emmeline Pankhurst and the Pankhurst family, and Alice Paul and Lucy burns got caught up in the militant movement in England. They demonstrated with the Pankhurst both were in Scotland, Paul and burns. Ultimately, Lucy burns, stayed in Scotland all the way through till 1912. As an organizer in Glasgow, and the east of Scotland, she picketed both of these women were arrested. And supposedly The two met in a jail sale in London when they were arrested as part of the Pankhurst arrest for disrupting the public and disturbing the peace, etc, etc. So they got acquainted in England, as speech was studying independently, but became active in the Woman Suffrage Movement there. And this was, these were turning points for both of these women, because they ultimately then made their whole careers in working for women's rights for a Woman Suffrage. And of course, with Alice Paul, then introducing the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. And continuing then to work for the era, all the way till the end of her life. I might say, and I'm not bragging here, but in the course of my research for my doctoral dissertation, which was on the militant suffrage techniques of this woman's party, I interviewed Alice Paul, three different times. She was in her 80s at the time, but still lobbying hard for the era. And she didn't want to sit with me and talk about Woman Suffrage. She wanted me to come back to Harrisonburg, I met her in Washington at the women's party building and women's party headquarters there on Capitol Hill, memorable occasions, but she wanted me to come back and organize a lobby group in Harrisonburg and get the era past and forget about those old days and suffrage. But in any case, they
Kelsie Eckert 18:54
I wonder if she could feel today when Virginia has finally passed the ERA, you know,
Dr. Sidney Bland 19:01
Well, I, you know, I keep rumbling back there myself and channeling back there, as I as I noticed, and I was happy to see Finally, approval of the era in Virginia. And with the growing number of Centennial observances that continued to mention, both Alice Paul and Lucy burns, because they ultimately became co leaders of this militant wing of the party, that ultimately organize this great big parade in Washington, the day before Wilson's inaugural. And I probably should talk a little bit about that. Yeah, that was sort of the beginning of their national prominence. And if you're familiar at all with that parade, you remember that it was just a huge parade where some 5000 women marched from the Capitol to the White House, some on horseback, some in covered wagons, some walking, many carrying banners, some with their college delegations, African American women, there were a number of them. But that was a bit of a controversial point. Because not everybody approved of African American women being a part of this parade. Because Southern women who were suffered just did not want black women to get the right to vote. They were approving upper middle class white women getting the right to vote, because now immigrants could even get the right to vote. And they as well to do wives, or teachers, whatever. They couldn't vote. So this was a huge parade that as you may remember, and your teachers remember, perhaps, it was totally disrupted by huge crowds, particularly Southern men, who were there to see Woodrow Wilson inaugurated president, the first Southern president, and over 50 years. And supposedly, when Wilson got to the train station in Washington, there wasn't anybody hardly there to greet him. And he kept saying this was the day before his inaugural, he said, Where's the crowd, and he said, Well, the crowds down on Pennsylvania Avenue watching the women watching the women parade. And indeed, it was a huge spectacle. With a pageant on the Treasury steps building, organized by pageant organizers, and Lucy burns and, and Alice Paul put this whole pageant together. It was a massive parade that ultimately was really disrupted by mob violence.
Cavalry had to call be called in from nearby Fort Myer, Virginia. And ultimately, there was an over 700 page congressional testimony and hearings that resulted in the DC police chief being censured and I think may have ultimately lost his job. And it unfortunately, sort of reminds you of the mob scene that we've just altered recently experienced. And this was a mob scene that resulted in women being spit on, harassed, some of their banners torn, and in turn, it brought a lot of media attention to Woman Suffrage. And to Alice Paul and Lucy burns, who quickly left, the more moderate movement. And I should point out one thing here, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was the dominant part of the movement had ultimately many 1000s of women members, but favored a more moderate, slower state by state approval approach to giving women the right to vote. And of course, that's what happened initially, in the territories out in the West, and increasingly, slowly, in referenda in eastern states, including ultimately New York, I think, finally, by 1915. But the national woman's Party, which was ultimately created by Alice, Paul and Lucy burns, favored not only public demonstrations, rather than a more moderate lobbying, polite, what I used to call the tea and cookie stage approach, where you had periodic gatherings in women's nice parlors, and you had your tea, your cookies, you talked a little bit about Woman Suffrage. By the late 19th century women were only going to Washington once to lobby once a year. I mean, how much pressure is that on Congress? Great tale. So it's Alice Paul and Lucy burns who changed the whole dynamic of the women's suffrage movement by not only favoring a federal amendment, rather than this slow state by state approach, but also public demonstrations. It is ultimately their picketing, which made them rather infamous, notorious, but also extremely courageous leaders.
Kelsie Eckert 24:26
This bit of history that we're talking about was turned into a feature film called Iron Jawed Angels. Have you seen it?
Dr. Sidney Bland 24:33
I've seen it two or three times.
Kelsie Eckert 24:35
Dr. Sidney Bland 24:36
I have I have a copy
Kelsie Eckert 24:37
You do? I'm just curious because I feel like probably a lot of teachers have seen it and maybe even show it in their classes depending on the student group that they have. And I'm curious your thoughts as an expert in this, how they did because you know, they show the the parade and they show it getting rowdy, but then it quickly cuts to the next scene and they're all black eyed and excited and you know that there's there's so much that's obviously cut. What are your thoughts on on the film?
Dr. Sidney Bland 25:10
It's been a while since I've viewed it. It was a Hollywood production of sorts. In fact, what Hilary Swank played Alice Paul, didn't she? Yeah, it introduces Izod recall a romance element with Alice Paul with a male suitor, that again was largely fabrication. Alice Paul never married. And like many women of this period, their closest friends were fellow females, whom they lived with worked with careered with, and I don't know, frankly, that Alice Paul ever had much of a male suitor, nor basically I think either did Lucy burns who also never married. But Lucy Burns was close to her Catholic family in Brooklyn, and ultimately retired from the woman's movement after suffrage, when, of course, many women were simply exhausted from campaigning for so many years. And Lucy burns went back to Brooklyn to raise a niece because one of her sisters died in childbirth. And she raised help with another sister raise the niece throughout her whole life, and worked for Catholic reform work for the Catholic Church in Brooklyn. But, and was a feminist, I did a major article on Lucy burns for the Long Island history journal many years ago. That that remains one of the primary pieces of scholarship on Lucy burns. I recently read another article in which someone was a little bit critical of my work, because they said Lucy burns remained much more of a feminist in her later years, despite not lobbying for era and working with Alice Paul, than I had led them to believe. And I was happy to see there was still some scholarship going on. Your question about Angel Angel? Yes, it was bits and pieces. And I think if you use that film, it's good to use clips, certainly not necessarily show the whole thing. And I think you have to as a teacher and a scholar, point out where the flaws are. Let them see some of the dynamics let them see the parading let them see the harassment, the imprisonment because as I recall, there's plenty of fairly ugly scenes there, of forced feeding through the tubes, and the hunger strikes that left these women sick and anemic. And in very poor health. So I with any sort of video, I think, you know, I use snippets of them. And I urge caution, and allow students to self portrait form some of their own opinions. But be wary of the fact that film productions often do what they want to do to make it a lot more viewable for audiences.
Kelsie Eckert 28:16
Yeah, I always skip that part. And you know, the kids know the guy who plays the male love interest. He's in Grey's Anatomy, and so they're all very excited when they see he's in the in the movie, and so I'm always like we're skipping it.
Dr. Sidney Bland 28:33
Yeah. Yeah, well, good, because there, there was not and this book is the most scholarly book on Alice Paul by Jill Zahniser, I highly recommended for in depth reading, because it details very much about her Quaker bread background, her involvement with the bankers of her entire career. And she was a very brilliant organizer. And Lucy Burns was her co leader who held virtually every job with the National woman's party. She was the one who was their chief lobbyist for a long time. Lucy burns edited the suffragist, which was the national woman's party journal. Each of these organizations, the women's party, and NASA, the National American Association, each had their separate programs. And if you read each of their histories, you'd never know the other existed, that they didn't credit each other very much. They didn't totally work with each other. They worked independently for the same cause. They had some of the same strategies. But ultimately, their strategies were rather different, particularly as the women's party becomes more sensational in their picketing and dominance. Reading in front of the White House. And I think I think you know, in many of your many of your teachers know, because you have approached the subject, in lots of ways I think along the way, that these were just enormous ly courageous women who put their lives on the line, big time for the cause of women getting the right to vote, including many, many African American women. And I hasten to add that many black women who were part of the Delta Sigma Theta, I hope I have that right, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at Howard University, there were some 22 of those women who marched in the initial big parade. And ultimately, in 2013, there was a huge reenactment where some 1000 members of that delta sorority, African American women came to Washington, and reenacted that parade to commemorate part of the centennial. For women getting the right to vote. Ida B. Wells, the famous woman crusading against lynching filtered into this parade in Washington, and Mary church, Terrell, who headed the National Association of colored women's clubs. She and her daughter both picketed once or twice in the course of this movement. So there were many African American women involved. And one of the speakers yesterday at the dedication, at the turning point, suffragists memorial was a past president of this Delta Sigma Theta sorority, who like like me, it was up in years, but who remembers the the battle and better days for the cause?
Kelsie Eckert 31:54
At one point, I became very conscious that they had made Carrie Chapman Catt into a bad guy in this film. And I wasn't quite sure that the head of NAWSA should be cast in that light. And so I was curious about this. And I did a little bit of research and I found an article that basically said, Iron Jawed Angels did a bad job, and that Carrie Catt really deserves a lot more credit than then they give her for the passage of the 19th amendment. So what do you think about that?
Dr. Sidney Bland 32:24
I don't think there was that much antagonism between the two because essentially, they were working for the same cause. You're exactly right in pointing out the role of Carrie Chapman Catt, it was enormous. And she developed this is perhaps you and your your comrades and no, develop the so called winning plan, where ultimately women would work both for state referenda and to support the federal amendment. And she was the major second generation leader for the Nasr movement that was working alongside, at but parallel to the work of Alice Paul and Lucy burns. And what gained a lot of credibility for Carrie Chapman Catt and NASA was the fact that they were more moderate. They stopped working for suffrage in World War One, to work for the cause of supporting the war effort, which is what Wilson demanded. And so they went to work for relief work, they worked in factories, they worked in relief kitchens, they worked for the Red Cross, whereas the Alice Paul Lucy burns group, were demonstrating against Wilson, and were increasingly being labeled as traitors. And in this case, they were being labeled as the bad guys. But there's a tendency, I think, to argue that one group was more important than the other. And ultimately, I think you have to come down on the fact that both groups were complimentary in many respects, and that both groups and each of their leaders demands credit for ultimately getting the amendment passed. But it's also Wilson, who ultimately rather reluctantly and rather slowly, but ultimately came around finally, to approving and supporting the amendment as well. And part of that was due to one line of thought, which is that he was rewarding the moderates and women generally because they supported the war effort. And that was not true with Lucy burns and Ellis Paul. By and large, they they continue to work for the federal amendment. But Carrie Chapman Catt and her organization had a better relationship with Wilson and they worked better closer with him, bended Ellis Paul and Lucy burns. Wilson once invited, I think, Paul and a deputation to come in to have audience with him, and they refused to do so. So it was a better working group with Carrie Chapman cap that ultimately certainly helped the calls to, and you're quite right. I think in teaching the movement, both sides have to be looked at, somewhat independently, but also complimentary.
Kelsie Eckert 35:32
I think it's hard to segregate suffered history, from the history of everything else that's going on in the country and the world. And I always put women's suffrage and the, you know, locking up the the suffragettes and putting them into prison in the context that they're doing that to labor rights activists like Eugene Debs, and there's a broader shutting down a free speech because this is a war, right? We are a nation at war. So I'm just curious if you could expand on this and help put suffrage in context?
Dr. Sidney Bland 36:04
Some of this comes back to where we are today. To some extent, you know, we, we keep hearing socialists mentioned in just awful contexts. And yet they were, you know, suffers movement, that substance movement was very much a major movement in the same period that we're talking about. And many socialists were very supportive of Woman Suffrage. And in fact, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's daughter in New York, Harriet Stanton, Blatch, was very interested in getting working women, labor, women, and socialists, and Greenwich Village types to support the movement. Because the feeling was that it was to middle class and a little too proper, and it needed more total public support. And so there were efforts to get working women involved, particularly in the New York referendum, and ultimately, in the national movement as well. What we should keep in mind too, I think, is that Wilson, ultimately was heavily criticized, not only on racial issues, all the way through his presidency. But the fact that, that he increasingly fostered restrictive legislation, starting with an Espionage Act and a sabotage act, and then ultimately a Sedition Act, which is what you were talking about, which led to anybody speaking publicly or writing critically in any way about his administration, and particularly, involvement in World War One could be arrested. And you're exactly right. That's why dabbs was already Eugene Debs was arrested. And that's why he was in prison. And it ultimately, is in no small way why Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and many others were arrested. In Washington. The charge was they were disrupting traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue when they picketed, and the crowds kept growing. But their banners kept becoming more strident. And as you may or may not recall, there was ultimately a Russian banner critical of Wilson, supporting a democratic faction in Russia after the rebellion, when Russia was leaning toward Lenin and communism, and critical as well of these women who were speaking out publicly against the war, and his leadership. And the sort of the breaking point was the Kaiser Wilson banner, which was displayed in mid mid 1917 when we were at war, that likened Wilson to the German Kaiser. And of course, the Wilson administration put up enormous hatred banners during its administration, including a Committee on Public Information, which was a propaganda machine to sell the war to the American public, by in part hating the Germans. German language was not taught in colleges and universities German history wasn't taught German opera wasn't listened to. It was it was totally unpatriotic, in the states in world war one, too in any way. And you remember the extremes even eating hamburgers, right tail winners were now Liberty sausage. So anything likening Kindred ship to German was traitorous. And these women then by likening Wilson to the German Kaiser, that was the final straw and that led to the beginning of the arrest. where women were initially imprisoned in the DC jail. And then as the numbers increased, or moved down to aka Kwan into what was then the Lorton reformatory which housed mostly black prisoners, but had a women's workhouse, 25 miles south of DC, and where women were imprisoned for weeks, ultimately, initially, it was just a few days, but increasingly, it was weeks. And they began to follow the same tactics that they used in England, and going on hunger strikes. And increasingly, the Wilson administration made the the fateful decision to force feed them, which led to more and more unpopularity, and more and more headlines that increasingly brought a rather favorable outlook to the women suffragist and a critical outlook to the Wilson administration, which was now not only ending free speech and assembly, but torturing women.
Kelsie Eckert 41:16
There's a scene in the film Iron Jawed Angels where they portray the night of terror and I later read and learned a great deal about the night of terror. This is a historic event. It is well documented. And I'm just curious if you could tell me a little bit more about what is known about the night of terror?
Dr. Sidney Bland 41:35
In November of 1917. The Wilson administration essentially sanctioned the warden and some 40 guards who were guarding these suffragist prisoners to engage in more brutal tactics. Because the women were increasingly treated as common prisoners. They wanted to be treated as political prisoners with a cause, and not like thieves or robbers or prostitutes or murderers. But they were thrown in jail with common criminals. And the night of terror resulted in a sort of weakening of the efforts to be, in some sense, halfway kind to these women, where the the guards began to harass and ultimately beat some of the women and Lucy burns, who was the leader of this group. Her hands were chained to the top of her cell, and she was in shackles all night, as were many of these women, who of course, were in some state in some stage weakened by being on hunger strikes. But the night of terror was an increasingly brutal approach to dealing with their imprisonment. And in many ways, this it becomes a turning point, if you will, for the creation of what is now a new outdoor museum. That was officially dedicated yesterday, in fact, and is scheduled to open sometime in June that consists of three statues, a ones of Alice Paul, Mary Church Terrell, representing African American women, and I believe Carrie Chapman Catt, I think those are the three women there. There are other statues at the Lucy burns Museum, and 19 panels in an outdoor museum park at Occoquan, right off highway 95, where the details of the women's suffrage movement are chronicled on 19 panels, with most of them about half of them devoted to the militants who were imprisoned, and were victimized in this night of terror. They were ultimately released as they became weaker, and the Wilson administration decided it was time to release them before more and more adverse publicity occurred. But the night of terror in many ways, is a turning point in publicizing the movement and in creating support for even the militants in the movement. And it's memorialized and will be memorialized in this outdoor museum. I was very much involved in that, which is why I'm here Speaking rather passionately about it, because I was one of three scholars who was honored to be those who determine the wording and the content of these 19 suffrage panels.
Kelsie Eckert 45:15
Alice, Paul and Lucy burns seem to me to be this duo, this dynamic duo in history. And yet, after the passage of the 19th amendment, I have not really heard anything about what happens to Lucy Burns, whereas I have heard about Alice Paul, and we've done a previous episode on Alice Paul's life after the 19th amendment. And so I'm just curious, does their friendship sustain this suffrage period?
Dr. Sidney Bland 45:43
That's a good question. And it's one that a number of people have wondered about. Alice Paul was totally committed to women's rights and women's suffrage and the era and she was often frustrated by women, including Lucy burns, who did not give 120% to the cause, because Lucy burns had a close Catholic family in Brooklyn. Plus their health conditions often determined their degree of activism. And both Ellis Paul and Lucy burns had health issues devoted to their imprisonment, their forced feeding their hunger strikes. And Alice Paul was often a bit frustrated that Lucy burns gave more time, or often time to her family, rather than being in Washington 100% of the time. And while the two of them worked in a very complimentary way, were burned where Paul was the organizer and the writer. And Burns was the catalyst, the activist who organized the picketers, who led the prison special after women were released from prison. You may remember that women dressed in their prison uniforms, and went out west, on the trains to states where Democrats were trying to get elected to work against the Democratic Party and Wilson, showing where they had ended up in the Wilson era. They ended up in prison for working for women to have the right to vote, and for democracy, and they were often critical of Wilson's hypocrisy in making the war, a war to make the world safe for democracy. When democracy didn't exist here in the United States, for white women, for black women, for Native American women, and for many immigrant women, although some immigrant women got the right to vote before white women, Native American native women. But anyway, Paul and berms closeness, I think pretty much ended. There were letters that are letters apparently, for a few years into the 20s when Paul introduces the era and also goes to work for international women's rights. And Jill's book only carries Alice Paul through the suffrage years. And somebody certainly needs to write a sequel to Alice Paul's era years and her work abroad for international women's rights, which led her often to be out of the United States. And that's another story that ultimately divided the women's party to some extent, as late as the 1940s. But Alice, Paul and Lucy burns were very close during the suffrage years, they were not so close, as burns returned, mostly to family to church work. In the 20s, and for the rest of her life.
Kelsie Eckert 49:11
That's, I did not know about the prison suit tour. That's, that's amazing!
Dr. Sidney Bland 49:18
It was called the prison special. Again, it was it was part of the, you know, in your face kind of approach of the women's party. You know, women were not supposed to be out of the home, as you well know, in this early 20th century. And so these are women who go out on the street corners to demonstrate like the bankers did in England at lunchtime. You know, I've got images of Lucy burns in my files. And I interviewed her niece. She was dead by the time I started writing about her, but I've got images of her on a busy street corner in Washington, where mostly men in their bowler hats are sort of sneaking Hearing and listening. But they're being told, get out and give women the right to vote, we need to vote, you need our help to solve social problems. And the etiology of the movement had changed by the early 20th century, where now, more and more people are approved of women having the right to vote, not because they deserved it as citizens, but because they could help solve social problems like child labor, and they could become in essence, social housekeepers, keeping the housekeeping moniker around but becoming socially involved for good causes, including temperance, child labor, and, you know, other prison reform and pure food and drug laws, laws, especially that affected children and the home. But the prison special was another another sort of public demonstration that Alice, Paul and Lucy burns engaged in, after and in fact, during the picketing, as you may well remember to, they often stood across in Lafayette Park across from the White House, and it was closer you were, you could get closer to the White House then than now. And they burned Wilson speeches and burn them and drop the ashes into urns. And the woman I wrote a book about in Charleston was one of those women who actually came to Washington, and I think, demonstrated at Lafayette Park by lighting a match and burning one of Wilson speeches. They also hung Wilson in effigy, occasionally, but mostly it was sort of demonstrating with banners with posters that that particularly led to their arrest.
Kelsie Eckert 51:45
In his speech to Congress supporting women's suffrage, Woodrow Wilson says that he did not pass he's not encouraging everybody to pass this because of the hooligans, the radicals that are out there in the streets protesting that it's not Lucy burns and Alice Paul that have persuaded him Do you buy that does is this something does that stand up to the historic record? Or is he right?
Dr. Sidney Bland 52:13
Well, it sort of fits in with Wilson, you know, the Wilson Presidential Center in Stanton and and that was Wilson's home, which is a southern city. It has had to deal with that that issue, particularly in the course of the Black Lives Matter movement. And in recent years. How do they deal with Wilson and racism, because Wilson was a southerner, and he was a racist, and there's no denying that. And yet, he was a very noted American president, who steered us successfully through World War One who created and campaign for the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN, who champion many reforms that were enacted into law in the progressive reform period, including the Federal Reserve Act, a federal child labor law, a an antitrust law, any number of reforms, and, of course, was president of Princeton. But at the same time, was a southern racist to showed Birth of a Nation to an audience in the White House. And he is only slow to come around to supporting the cause. I don't recall the specific wording, you're you're mentioning a lot of recall, some of it generally. But I think probably in some ways, it's a reflection back on where he was along the way. Because there were many news articles. Many in Brooklyn in the Brooklyn ego criticizing Lucy burns, and many just criticizing women, for their Bob hair. They're short skirts, and they're speaking out in public, when they weren't supposed to be doing anything like that at all. They were radicals, many of them they felt were too radical politically and ideologically. So I think in some ways, it's a kind of backhanded smack at these women, whom he was reluctant to credit, and I think ultimately did not credit as much as a credit credited so the whole of the American woman's movement and particularly the more moderate national Americans movement, for for supporting the cause. Both Wilson's daughters, supported Woman Suffrage. His first wife, I think, did more so than his second. And he ultimately but slowly comes around. So any voted for a Woman Suffrage in a referendum in New Jersey pretty early, so he's not totally opposed, but he felt like as a state writer from the south that it should be the states that decide this issue and not the federal government. So you get into the state's race theme there, too.
Kelsie Eckert 55:08
I'm just abundantly grateful to have you on our show Dr. Bland, and I feel like I have learned so much. There's so many things you shared with me that I have not learned yet. And I feel like I've spent quite a deal time studying suffragettes. It's sort of like the preeminent women's history thing to study. So I'm just curious if there's anything I haven't asked you about that you want to make sure you include in the episode for our listeners to learn about?
Dr. Sidney Bland 55:32
No, I think I obviously have spent a lot of my career sort of fleshing their lives out and teaching about them. And there, as you well know, you know, women's history has long since emerged as a very prominent course of study, and a cause. I would suggest that it is significant for all of your teachers to vote for teaching about voting, and women's voting, African American voting, and the threats that have been posed in the last few years to voting rights in this country. And that is being posed as we speak, in state laws that are supposed to, quote, reform the electoral process, but in which in many ways are limiting more and more options for women, and the voting public. And I think it is gratifying to me to see women like Alice Paul and Lucy burns honored, and I would come back to the fact that this Lucy Burns Museum, and your your audience can go to websites for the Lucy Burns Museum, and they can go to the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, to see the beginnings of that outdoor museum. And, and to see that these women are being honored in a major, major way now. And the hope is certainly by promoters, Congressman in these areas, and women's organizations like the League of Women Voters, General Federation of Women's Clubs, that this will bring tourism to, again, the Washington, DC and Occoquan area, that these will be major tourist attraction, as the pandemic lessens. But we'll also keep alive the fact that the challenge is still there to honor what these women courageously fought for, and that they, we all can do our part by being interested in voting by supporting the cause of women's rights, African American rights, Native American rights, and those who have been ill treated in the course of often, decades and decades of American history.
Kelsie Eckert 58:00
It's important to remember that not all politicians hold office, that part of being political is influencing politics. And suffragists had to be very political. And so we're lumping suffragists here with politicians.
Thanks so much for listening to Remedial Herstory, the other 50% please subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to your podcasts to bring more voices to the conversation. We'd really appreciate that effort. Until next time.
Dr. Sidney R. Bland, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of American History at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. During his 45-year career at James Madison, Sidney’s research and teaching focused largely on American women’s history. An acquaintance of the late suffrage leader Alice Paul, Sidney’s doctoral dissertation on the Militant Suffrage Techniques of the National Women’s Party, and a later article on the 1913 “Great Suffrage Parade,” were supported by his personal interviews of Paul. In addition, his research on suffrage pioneer Lucy Burns is considered seminal, and his book, Preserving Charleston’s Past, Shaping It’s Future: The Life and Times of Susan Pringle Frost (1994), was chosen as a finalist for the award of Best Book of the Year in South Carolina History.
Sidney earned a B.A. from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina; an M.A. from the University of Maryland; and a Ph.D. from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. At James Madison, he served as a Madison Scholar, the University’s highest academic honor, and received a Distinguished Service Award and the Edna T. Schaeffer Humanist Award. He was the first male admitted to membership in the Virginia Division of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of The Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Pine Knot Foundation.