Jailed for Freedom Pin

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 9/3/2008

In January 1917, members of the National Woman's Party (NWP) became the first people to picket the White House. Protesting the government's failure to pass a constitutional amendment enfranchising women, NWP members, led by Alice Paul, began picketing the White House. Their purple, white, and gold banners asked President Woodrow Wilson, "Mr. President what will you do for woman suffrage?" and "Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?" Tolerated at first, the "silent sentinels" were increasingly seen as an embarrassment to the administration. As the United States entered the First World War, the NWP pickets' banners often pointed out the hypocrisy of fighting for democracy and freedom in Europe while denying it to women at home. In June 1917, the D.C. police began arresting picketers for obstructing sidewalk traffic. Over 150 women were sentenced to terms ranging from 60 days to six months in the Occoquan Workhouse. When their demands to be treated as political prisoners were ignored, they went on hunger strikes and were forcibly fed. The publicity surrounding their ordeal generated public sympathy for the suffragists and their cause.

In December, 1917, at a meeting in their honor, the pickets who had been jailed were presented with small silver pins in the shape of prison doors with heart-shaped locks. The National Museum of American History owns three "Jailed for Freedom" pins that belonged to Lucille Calmes, Amelia Walker, and Alice Paul.

The nineteenth amendment to the Constitution enfranchising women was ratified in August 1920.

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.