blackbirdonline journalSpring 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
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Miss Flanagan in “Model Prison”
reprinted from The Hartford Courant, August 30, 1917

Miss Flanagan in “Model Prison”

So Congressman Lonergan Finds on Visiting Workhouse

Sees No Cause For Complaints

Discharged Employee, However, Makes Charges

Congressman Augustine Lonergan has visited and inspected the District of Columbia workhouse, at Occoquan, Va., twenty-five miles from Washington, where Miss Catherine Flanagan of Hartford and five other militant suffragists are serving sentences of thirty days for obstructing traffic while picketing the White House, and failed to discover any causes for the many complaints the suffragettes have been registering against their treatment at the workhouse.

Mr. Lonergan went to Occoquan Tuesday night in response to telegrams from Mrs. Katharine Hepburn, president of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association; from Mrs. Lillian Ascough, chairman of the Connecticut Branch of the National Woman’s Party, and several others. He made a thorough inspection of the workhouse, talked with the officials there, and received every courtesy.

The workhouse grounds occupy over 2,500 acres of ground situated on a hill, he said. Separate buildings are maintained for men and women, Mr. Lonerman said, and the colored prisoners are separated from the white. There are no cells in the institution, and it is said to be the most up-to-date penal institution in the world.

Since Miss Flanagan of Hartford and the five other militant suffragettes have been confined to the Occoquan workhouse a number of senators and congressmen have inspected the workhouse to investigate the numerous complaints made by the women of the treatment they are receiving. But none of them have found anything on which to base a complaint.

At the urging of some of his constituents, Senator J. Hamilton Lewis of Illinois, went to Occoquan last Sunday to investigate the charges that the women were being improperly fed. He, too, found nothing about which he could complain. He suggested that he might be able to obtain the prisoners a parole if they would promise to stop picketing the White House and obey the law. When they declined to make such a promise he washed his hands of the whole affair.

Prison officials from all over the United States and abroad who have visited the Occoquan workhouse have declared it to be an unequalled example of cleanliness and a model for humane treatment of prisoners.

The National Woman’s party today obtained an affidavit from Mrs. Virginia H. Bovee of Alexandria, Va., who was yesterday dismissed from the Occoquan workhouse for “unsatisfactory services” making sensational charges against Superintendent Whittaker of the institution.

Mrs. Bovee, who asserts she was discharged because she was friendly to suffragist prisoners, declares girl prisoners at the workhouse are beaten. Superintendent Whittaker and his son , an officer of the workhouse, are the only ones who beat prisoners, she says, none of the other employees have punitive powers.

Her first charge against the Occoquan management concerns the holding up of mail for the suffrage prisoners by Mrs. Herndon, the woman warden. Letters for prisoners, she declares, were frequently destroyed by the Occoquan authorities and mail for the suffragettes was held up until the completion of sentences.

She declares that the bedding for the common prisoners was changed only at long intervals and that this rule was not broken, even when a new prisoner took the bed occupied by a discharged prisoner.

Mrs. Bovee declares the soap used by the prisoners was common to all. Every incoming prisoner was required to take a bath and the same cake of soap was used as long as it lasted.

Superintendent Whittaker, when shown the charges, denied them all, saying no prisoners there had been beaten, and asserted Mrs. Bovee was not discharged for friendliness to the suffragists, but for “unsatisfactory services.”  end

   Silent Sentinels and the Night of Terror
   Introduction & Table of Contents

   Voices from Occoquan
   Introduction & Table of Contents

   1917 Suite: A Month, a Year, a Term of Liberty
   Introduction & Cross-issue Table of Contents

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