blackbirdonline journalSpring 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
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Preface to Jailed for Freedom
reprinted from Jailed for Freedom, Doris Stevens, 1920

This book deals with the intensive campaign of the militant suffragists of America (1913–1919) to win a solitary thing—the passage by Congress of the national suffrage amendment enfranchising women. It is the story of the first organized militant political action in America to this end.

The militants differed from the pure propagandists in the movement chiefly in that they had a clear comprehension of the forces which prevail in politics. They appreciated the necessity of the propaganda stage and the beautiful heroism of those who had led in the pioneer agitation, but they knew that this stage belonged to the past; these methods were no longer necessary or effective.

Doris Stevens, Mrs. J.A.H. Hopkins, Mrs. John Winters, 1917
 Doris Stevens, Mrs. J.A.H. Hopkins [Alison Turnbull Hopkins],
 Mrs. John Winters Brannan [Eunice Dana Brannan], 1917.

. . . Militancy is as much a state of mind, an approach to a task, as it is the commission of deeds of protest. It is the state of mind of those who in their fiery idealism do not lose sight of the real springs of human action.

There are two ways in which this story might be told. It might be told as a tragic and harrowing tale of martyrdom. Or it might be told as a ruthless enterprise of compelling a hostile administration to subject women to martyrdom in order to hasten its surrender.

Outdoor photograph of three National Woman’s Party members in prison dress carrying wooden chairs
 Doris Stevens, Mrs. J.A.H. Hopkins [Alison Turnbull Hopkins], Mrs. John Winters Brannan
 Eunice Dana Brannan], 1917.

The truth is, it has elements of both ruthlessness and martyrdom. And I have tried to make them appear in a true proportion. It is my sincere hope that you will understand and appreciate the martyrdom involved, for it was the conscious voluntary gift of beautiful, strong, and young hearts.

But it was never martyrdom for its own sake. It was martyrdom used for a practical purpose.

Mrs. W. L. Prendergast, Mrs. W. L. Colt, Doris Stevens, Alice Paul, c. 1910–1915
 Mrs. W. L. Prendergast, Mrs. W. L. Colt, Doris Stevens, Alice Paul, c. 1910–1915.

The narrative ends with the passage of the amendment by Congress. The campaign for ratification, which extended over fourteen months, is a story in itself. The ratification of the amendment by the 36th and last state legislature proved as difficult to secure from political leaders as the 64th and last vote in the United States Senate.

This book contains my interpretations, which are of course arguable. But it is a true record of events.  

Doris Stevens
New York
August 1920  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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