Home & Leisure

Beauty rises from a Virginia prison where violence against suffragists changed history

Catharine Hamm, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Travel News

Lucy Burns was stripped naked, her hands raised over her head and chained to the bars until the next day.

Some of the women protested the physical abuse of that one night by going on a hunger strike. For their troubles, they were force-fed raw eggs and milk, which made them violently ill.

Those who did not fast were given food so horrific, part of the psychological cat-and-mouse game, that they sent worms found in their soup and bread to the warden.

Lawyers for the women said that because they had been sentenced in the District of Columbia, it was illegal to place them in the Virginia workhouse.

A Virginia judge agreed, and they were returned to D.C. after their Nov. 23 trial. By month's end, all had been released, weakened and, in some cases, permanently worse for the wear.

By early January 1918, Wilson expressed his support for the voting rights amendment, which passed the House but failed in the Senate. Some opponents argued that women already had the right to vote in some states, but proponents wanted an amendment to ensure that women had the right in every state.


On June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment, which the House had passed two weeks earlier.

Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on Aug. 18, 1920. Eight days later, it became part of the U.S. Constitution, more than seven decades after the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.


Occoquan Workhouse had its own happy ending after years of turmoil as Lorton Reformatory, a badly run, crowded and occasionally corrupt prison. It was closed in 2001 and sold to Fairfax County.


swipe to next page


blog comments powered by Disqus