Too late, itâs over, this monstrous, useless war that took my Joe and so many other Joes. If women had been able to vote, perhaps weâd never have gotten in it. Well, President Wilson didnât keep us out of war and hasnât done much to get us the vote, but by God, getting women the vote better finally happen. His proposed League of Nations better keep us out of any more nonsense like another damned war!
Last night I dreamed Joeâs death telegram was a mistake. Heâs coming home to our daughter and me. I saw his face, smiling reassurance, as always. Our time together was so short, but it will live in me forever.
When waking reality returns, these dreams are painful, but I wouldnât give them up for anything.
It soon came out the United States had more than 320,000 casualties, including over 53,000 killed in action, 204,000 wounded, and over 63,000 non-combat-related deaths, due mainly to the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. And this was just to take sides in this European war with no interest for us. Never again! Please â¦.
I celebrate my nineteenth birthday by helping start a long-term watch-fire campaign in front of the White House. We burn a copy of President Wilsonâs lying lofty words about democracy in an urn to protest his hypocrisy. NDP protestors had done this several times over recent years before the end of the war, but this is intended to continue until he vigorously backs the suffrage amendment.Maybe until it passes Congress. We continued burning Wilsonâs hypocritical statements as the days of the war continued,drawing criticism for being unpatriotic. And now, we still continue. Being patriotic.
On the Sentinels line today, the women display banners with messages like âPresident Wilson is Deceiving the World When He Appears as the Prophet of Democracy.â Shockingly, a group of sailors and soldiers rush us and overturn the urn burning Wilsonâs statements. Like the president, they were afraid of anything that might interfere with the war effort and now,with him.
Alice asked me to bring my baby and Grandma to the fire to symbolize the movementâs support for all women. Sheâs so sweet with my little Sue. I wonder if she aches with her chosen lonely life of dedication to our cause. Afterward, I sit in the car and nurse my dear baby, wishing Alice could have the joyful experience of feeding a baby from her body.
With diminishing cooing, Sue sleeps all the way home in her basket on the back seat, so good a traveler. After I put her in her crib, still sleeping, and have my supper, I am soon asleep, too.
I am chatting with Sue White on a hot chocolate break across the street from the White House when word comes through. President Wilson hasdeclared his support for the suffrage amendment.
âSo, are we done, Sue?â
âNo, not until he gets us the two Senate votes we need for the amendment. He thinks all he has to do is make a statement for us to be happy and leave him alone. As we say in West Tennessee, not âtil the âcoon hits the ground do you put your rifle down.â
âYou donât think we can trust him?â
âLook at the number of us arrested since New Years Day. Thatâs not a coon laying dead on the ground. Itâs one forced to dodge around. So, we keep shooting. Youâll see. Burning speeches is protected speech, but there will be more physical attacks on us and jailings. All Wilson has to do is deliver. Then we stop.â
Weâre making plans to burn the president in effigy soon. Sometimes I wish we could burn him for real. Iâm afraid Iâm becoming bitter, so young. Oh, Joe, I need you and your calm!
After burning speeches,our members are attacked by schoolboys leading a mob. As the women light new fires, the mob moves on to thenearby NWP headquarters, where they pull down the watchfire bell and destroy banners. Eighteen of our women are charged with building fires on bordering government property and making disorderly speeches. Police release 12, who then return to the park and are arrested again. They refuse to post bond and go on a hunger strike. Officials are reported considering forcible feeding. On February 9, a hundred women demonstrate, burning speeches and a straw effigy of President Wilson with two thousand onlookers.
I ask Sue as we eat lunch, âWhy are people so terribly upset by the idea of letting women vote? I could understand when it appeared that we were opposing the countryâs war policy. At least there was a fear of the dissention causing our men to be killed in the war. But the war is over.â
âIâve puzzled about that, Mercy. Any time unity is threatened, I think fear arises from a feelingthat in disunity, there is weakness. This hostility after the peace is an extension of that fear, maybe, like a bad dream that continues to scare us even when we wake. The feeling persists. And bigoted people just seize on any reason, having none of their own.â
TouchÃ©. I mull that over. âBut their reaction is so out of proportion to what weâre doing, asking to be allowed to vote.â
After a sigh, she says quietly, âAnd thereâs racism. The idea of negro women voting, and perhaps helping to stop the ongoing blocking of their men voting, is terrifying beyond all reason. Guilt. The South knows what theyâve done and turn the guilt to fear and rage. On the subject of slavery, Jefferson said, âI tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.â â