Occuquan Workhouse was no “workhouse.” It was more like a concentration camp. Thirty-three women from the National Women’s Party fighting for voting rights were locked up there in 1917, after being the first protesters to picket the White House.
Anne Henrietta Martin from Reno, Nev., was one of them.
Conditions at Occuquan located in northern Virginia were horrendous — especially on Nov. 14, a “Night of Terror.”
Guards manacled suffragette Lucy Burns, the party’s co-founder to overhead bars, forcing her to stand all night, while Dorothy Day was slammed against an iron bench — her arm twisted behind her back.
NWP leader Alice Paul was on a hunger strike, and prison doctors force-fed her and others. “When the forcible feeding was ordered,” she told the Philadelphia Tribune, “I was taken from my bed, carried to another room and forced into a chair, bound with sheets and sat upon bodily by a fat murderer, whose duty it was to keep me still. Then the prison doctor, assisted by two woman attendants, placed a rubber tube up my nostrils and pumped liquid food through it into the stomach.
“Twice a day for a month, from November 1 to December 1, this was done.”
In addition to the brutality, the prison was plagued with rats and the food infested with maggots.
Soon, newspapers told the public and America was outraged. It was a public relations nightmare for Democrat President Woodrow Wilson, who at first was lukewarm to women voting rights, but later gave it his support.
In January 1919, the women still held at Occoquan and elsewhere were set free after the D.C. Appeals Court called the arrests unconstitutional.
Anne Martin was locked up at Occoquan for one week.
Anne Henrietta Martin was born in Empire City, Nev., in 1875. Her father was Irish and mother Bavarian. While she was still a toddler, the family moved to San Francisco but returned to Reno in 1883. The family lived under Victorian Era ideals and Anne was blessed to have been given a good education.
Her father became a state senator, was president of the Washoe County Bank, the Reno Water Company and the Reno Flour Mills.
Anne was a bright student, earned a B.A. degree at Nevada State University, then another bachelor’s in history at Stanford, followed by a master’s in history.
After Stanford, she returned to Reno and started the history department at Nevada State.
Four years later, the travel bug bit her and she spent the next 10 years traveling and studying in Europe and Asia.
In England, she learned about the Fabian Society, a socialist organization founded in 1884 in London to promote democratic socialism by the strategy of doing it gradually and peacefully rather than by violence.
That paradigm would fit Anne Martin’s life work perfectly.
The Fabians model was adapted from a military strategy developed by Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrocusus — remembered as “The Delayer.” His plan was to harass the enemy through hit-and-run attacks, causing attrition of enemy manpower, disruption of supply lines and destruction of morale.
George Washington used the Fabian strategy successfully against the British, and the British used it against Napoleon. Sam Houston bought time after the Alamo, enabling him to regroup and defeat Mexican General Santayana at the Battle of San Jacinto.
The Fabians took a non-militant long-term view on promoting socialism, while suffragettes did the same fighting for women’s rights.
Anne Martin joined the Fabian Society and started writing articles in England promoting socialism and women’s rights. That landed her in jail.
Lou Henry Hoover, her friend from the Stanford days, sent her husband, Herbert, the future president of the United States, to England to bail her out. However, she was already bailed out by Baron Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and publisher of several left-wing newspapers.
The Baron would end up in prison himself shortly thereafter for his involvement, but survived the ordeal and was later elected to Parliament, defeating Winston Churchill.
In 1911, Anne Martin returned to Nevada and took up the battle for women’s voting rights in her state. She joined the Nevada Equal Franchise Society and went to work convincing male voters that it was a good idea to let women vote.
In the election of 1914, they agreed — and Anne became a star in the national movement, as a speaker and executive committee member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Congressional Union.
Then she challenged the Democrats by organizing the voting women in the West.
In 1869, the Territory of Wyoming was the first to grant unrestricted suffrage to women, followed by Utah the next year.
In the West, Washington Territory joined the movement in 1883, but had to fight that battle again in 1910, after becoming a state.
Idaho joined the Union in 1890 and gave women the right to vote six years later.
Martin never married but devoted her life to causes she believed in.
She and other suffragettes formed a group called the Silent Sentinels — so named because of their novel tactic of using silent protests instead of violence and course behavior.
The Sentinels met with President Wilson on Jan. 9, 1914, and he encouraged them to “concert public opinion on behalf of women’s suffrage.” The next day, the women started picketing the White House, ending up in prison.
Wilson ordered the women released, and they immediately began a two and a half year protest, during which time some 2,000 women were harassed, arrested, and unjustly treated by both local and federal authorities.
In the West, there were other women fighting for the right to vote. Among them were Idaho’s May Arkwright Hutton and Oregon’s Abigail Scott Duniway.
May Arkwright moved from Ohio to the Silver Valley when she was 23, opened a one-table restaurant serving homemade berry pies and hot dishes to silver prospectors near Wallace; started a boarding house, married Levi W. Hutton, a locomotive engineer.
They bought the Hercules silver and lead mine in Burke and became millionaires.
May joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and became comrades-in-arms with Oregon suffrage leader Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915), as well as Emma Smith DeVoe (1848-1927), who was sent from Illinois to lead the suffrage fight in Idaho and Washington.
“Women should vote because they have the intelligence to vote,” May Hutton said. “They should vote because it gives them responsibilities, and responsibilities better fit women for all conditions of life.
“Equality before the law gives women a fair chance with men in a question of wages for the same work. In other words, the enfranchisement of women means a square deal for all.”
In 1906, May and Levi moved to Spokane, where she spent the rest of her life as a suffragette and philanthropist — also jumping into politics as a Democrat.
Abigail Scott Duniway believed in paying it forward:
“The young women of today — free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation — should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price … the debt that each generation owes to the past, it must pay to the future.”
Abigail and her family came over the Oregon Trail to Lafayette in the Willamette Valley in 1852 when she was only 17 — losing two younger siblings along the way. She married Benjamin C. Duniway the following year.
After he was disabled nearly 10 years later, Abigail had to be the breadwinner, so she took in boarders, taught school and ran a millinery shop.
In 1871, the Duniways moved to Portland with their six children, and Abigail became one of America’s most notable suffragettes, publishing The New Northwest weekly newspaper, championing women’s rights. It ran for 16 years.
On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote nationwide. Tennessee became the deciding state vote on Aug. 18, 1920, making the amendment law of the land — ending almost a century of protest.
When Anne Henrietta Martin was only 18, she said, “Will I never have any ambition? Will I never accomplish anything? Oh, I must do something … I suppose I should live more for others, but I don’t understand how. I must do something …”
• • •
Contact Syd Albright at email@example.com.
• • •
The 19th Amendment…
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
“Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Three-quarters of the states needed to ratify the amendment, with Tennessee being the deciding vote. The 12 other states did ratify it later, the last being Mississippi on March 22, 1984.
— Amendment adopted on Aug. 18, 1920
Thanks to the ladies…
“Throughout history, women have made significant contributions to every discipline and all other areas of life. Women have influenced our culture and the progression of literature, photography, music, math, science, research, and so much more. The originality, beauty, endurance, imagination, and multiple dimensions of women’s lives have shaped our collective history, and all of this must be written back into it.”
— Kelly Gorski, Learning Center
Band of Sisters…
“All honor to women, the first disenfranchised class in history who unaided by any political party, won enfranchisement by its own effort alone, and achieved the victory without the shedding of a drop of human blood.”
— Harriot Stanton Blatch (1856-1940), suffragette
Champion for liberty…
“Abigail Scott Duniway exposed and combated what she identified as social injustice. She discussed questions as diverse as the legal status of women, the treatment of the Chinese, policies related to American Indians, and the limits of Temperance and Prohibition.”
— Oregon Encyclopedia
Anne’s final chapter…
Anne Martin never married and she never stopped trying to make a difference. In Nevada, she ran for the U.S. Senate but didn’t win. She campaigned for support of the Sheppard-Towner Bill that provided government-funded health care for mothers and infants — reducing infant mortality rates, especially among non-whites.
She moved to Carmel, Calif., in 1921, continued writing and received an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Nevada. Anne Henrietta Martin died in Carmel in 1951.