The historical marker commemorates the imprisonment of 70 suffragists during 1917. The women had been peacefully picketing on the White House sidewalk and were known as the Silent Sentinels.
The Washington, D.C., police arrested the women with the charge of obstructing traffic. They were given the choice of paying a $25 fine or going to jail. They refused to pay the fine since they considered it an admission of guilt. So, the women were jailed at the Occoquan Workhouse.
The suffragists were treated poorly at the workhouse, housed in rat-infested cells and given food that had maggots. They were forced to suffer physical and psychological violence.
On November 14, 1917, the superintendent of the workhouse told the guards that they could beat the suffragists. Then on November 15, 1917, 20 women were subject to severe assaults and torture. These included activists Lucy Burns and Dorothy Day. Many of the prisoners suffered severe repercussions. Alice Cosu had a heart attacked, and Dora Lewis was knocked unconscious.
Due to the brutality suffered, many consider this the turning point of the suffragist movement.
Historical Marker Inscription
In the nearby Occoquan Workhouse, from June to December, 1917, scores of women suffragists were imprisoned by the District of Columbia for picketing the White House demanding their right to vote. Their courage and dedication during harsh treatment aroused the nation to hasten the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The struggle for woman’s suffrage had taken 72 years.
9518 Workhouse Way Lorton, VA 22079 (intersection of Ox Road and Workhouse Way)
38° 41.839′ N, 77° 15.365′ W