The White House

Starting on January 10, 1917, the Silent Sentinels began holding organized pickets outside of the White House. The Silent Sentinels were a group of over 2000 suffragists led by activist Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party co-founder Lucy Burns. The group acquired their name by protesting in complete silence. They all wore clothing that were purple and yellow. They also wore gold sashes and white ribbons. Instead of demonstrating with words, they chose silence as their protest tactic. They also carried banners and signs that displayed the messages they wanted to convey. Most of the messages they displayed supported suffrage, but many also called President Wilson to action. Some even accused him of hypocrisy, as he made it seem like he supported their movement but then stated that women's suffrage was a matter to be decided by states and should not be a federal matter. The women were steadfast in their protesting, showing up 6 days a week for 2 years for hours on end in complete silence. They made it so that the president could not leave or enter the White House without being faced with the pressing question of women's suffrage. 

The protests were merely tolerated at first, but after America got further entangled in World War I, many believed that women's suffrage should be pushed to the back burner. President Wilson believed this to be true as well and asked for patience with the matter. Women viewed this as an excuse to be silenced temporarily. That is why the leaders of the Silent Sentinels decided to persist with the protests. All was well for a little while until the summer of 1917. It was at this time that protestors began to get arrested, harassed, and some even assaulted. The public began to turn against the cause until a fateful night in November 1917. This night is known as the 'Night of Terror'. During this night, the women in attendance of the protest were beaten into compliance with an opposing force. They were denied medical help and some forced into jail cells for multiple nights. These brutalities brought national attention to what the women were going through and also helped them regain support. The Silent Sentinels came out stronger than ever, even after the callousness they endured. 

Eventually, President Wilson gave in. On January 9, 1918, President Wilson publicly supported a federal amendement for women's suffrage. After his announcement, the arrests, assaults, and punishments of the protesters were deemed unconstitutional. The women continued to protest until the 19th Amendment was signed in June 1919.


Works Cited

"Oregon Secretary of State" State of Oregon: Woman Suffrage- Silent Sentinels Picket the White House,

Price, Karen. "Silent Sentinels." We Invite You to Celebrate With Us, 18 Nov. 2017,

"National Woman's Party Protests During World War I (U.S. National Park Service)" National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1 Sept. 2020,

"Silent Sentinels." Boundary Stones: WETA's Washington DC History Blog, 19 March 2017,


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