Top of page

Exhibition Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote

Suffrage and World War I

We are being imprisoned, not because we obstructed traffic, but because we pointed out to the President the fact that he was obstructing the cause of democracy at home, while Americans fight for it abroad.

—Alice Paul, 1917

When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, suffragists were divided on their response. The NWP continued picketing the White House and brandished even more provocative placards despite the fact that the political climate had become less accepting of government criticism. The protesters endured arrests, long prison sentences, and on at least one occasion, extreme violence after insisting they be given political prisoner status. Carrie Chapman Catt encouraged NAWSA members to contribute to the war effort, compromising her personal pacifist beliefs while winning appreciation from the Wilson administration. Many countries around the world adopted women’s suffrage during the war, including Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Americans debated whether to pass suffrage as a war measure, but Congress deferred such action.