In celebration of the 85th anniversary of women's right to vote in the United States, the Library of Congress has mounted an online presentation titled "Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party." The collection is accessible at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/.
This presentation is a selection of 448 of the approximately 2,650 photographs in the Records of the National Woman's Party, housed in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.
Representing the militant wing of the suffrage movement, the National Woman's Party effectively commanded the attention of politicians and the public through its aggressive agitation, relentless lobbying, creative publicity stunts and disarming examples of civil disobedience. It used parades, demonstrations and picketing, as well as its members' arrests, imprisonment and hunger strikes, to spur public discussion and win publicity for the suffrage cause.
"Women of Protest" presents images of the party's broad range of tactics as well as individual portraits of organization leaders and members. The photographs range from circa 1875 to 1938, but largely date from 1913 to 1922. They document the party's push for passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment as well as its later campaign for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was never ratified.
The National Woman's Party was one of the most important national suffrage organizations in the United States as well as a leading advocate for women's political, social and economic equality throughout much of the 20th century. An offshoot of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the party was instrumental in achieving passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extended suffrage to women nationally on Aug. 26, 1920.
Its leaders, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, were schooled in the techniques and tactics of the British suffrage movement, and they instilled in the flagging American campaign an energy and militancy that was reminiscent of the early radicalism of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. As Woodrow Wilson assumed the presidency in 1913, the members of the National Woman's Party (then called the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage; the group changed its name in 1917) and their supporters staged a series of parades, rallies and demonstrations in the streets of the U.S. capital and throughout the United States, lobbied and petitioned state and national politicians, created tableaus and suffrage pageants and ultimately picketed the White House.
They also organized coast-to-coast automobile and train tours of suffrage speakers and were reinforced by supporters across the country, who mounted billboards on public highways, wrote suffrage slogans in chalk on sidewalks and formed caravans of automobiles sporting suffrage signs. Upon arrest for picketing in Washington in 1917, Paul, Burns and nearly 100 other women participated in jailhouse hunger strikes. These tactics were successful in generating publicity and applying pressure to elected officials.
The Records of the National Woman's Party (1891-1974) chart both this creative grassroots push toward passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment and the long campaign that followed, from 1923 forward, in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment and other issues of importance to women.