Skip Navigation/Skip to Content

Jailed for Freedom Pin


More than 150 women were sentenced to prison as a result of their picketing the White House. The charge of obstructing the sidewalk led to sentences from two to six months at the Occoquan Workhouse. The women demanded to be treated as political prisoners, objecting to poor conditions. With a few of their members placed in solitary confinement, some of the women embarked upon a hunger strike, which resulted in them being force fed by prison officials. The National Women's Party recognized the travail and heroism of the prisoners. 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 women wore their pins to commemorate their imprisonment and call attention to the injustice of being "jailed for freedom." In 1918 President Wilson pledged to support female suffrage. Many of the women went on to conduct protests around the country until the Nineteenth Amendment was passed.


"Jailed for Freedom Pin," National Museum of American History.

Much of the history of voting in America has been the story of the expansion and contraction of the voting rights. The invention and use of the 1898 Standard Voting Machine coincided with concern among progressive reformers about fraud and corruption in the electoral process. However, the story of progressive reform should be situated within the larger story of the struggle for voting rights among African Americans and women, and the attempt of the American polity to grapple with the question of whether the large numbers of newly arrived immigrants were fit to participate in civic life.