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Maud Jamison

Maud Jamison

Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

Maud Jamison of Norfolk, Virginia, was an active and inexhaustible participant in almost all of the key National Woman’s Party (NWP) demonstrations, serving four prison sentences.

A school teacher and business woman, Jamison came to Washington, D.C., in 1916 as a volunteer worker for the NWP. She was among the first “Silent Sentinel” picketers who, on January 10, 1917, protested President Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to support a federal suffrage amendment.

After the U.S. entered into the World War in 1917, Jamison was one of 12 suffragists arrested on June 25 and among six suffragists tried on June 27 in police court in DC. On August 28, she was arrested again and sentenced to 30 days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. On October 6, the last day of the War Emergency Session, she again was arrested with ten other women, tried two days later, and arrested yet again while under a suspended sentence.

When, in 1918, President Wilson endorsed the federal constitutional amendment on woman suffrage and legislation passed the House but stalled in the Senate, she participated in demonstrations at the Capitol and Senate Office building.  On October 10, she and three other suffragists carried a banner, which read,

“WE PROTEST AGAINST 34 WILFUL SENATORS WHO HAVE DELAYED THE POLITICAL FREEDOM OF AMERICAN WOMEN. THEY HAVE OBSTRUCTED THE WAR PROGRAM OF THE PRESIDENT. THEY HAVE LINED UP THE SENATE WITH PRUSSIA BY DENYING SELF-GOVERNMENT TO THE PEOPLE.”

When the demonstrators unfurled their banner and attempted to ascend the Capitol steps, police seized the banner and detained them in the Capitol guardroom. When the suffragists demanded to know by what authority they were detained, they were told their treatment was at the authority of the Sargeant-at-Arms.  When the suffragists noticed they could reach their banner, they picked it up and walked uninterrupted to the Senate Office Building where they stood for the rest of the day, calling each Senator out by name.

On each day of the Senate demonstrations, police officers would allow onlookers to attack the demonstrators, before seizing their banners and detaining the suffragists in the Capitol guardroom until evening. On October 26, seven picketers saw their banners snatched and broken. But that afternoon they returned with new banners. At one point, they were handled so roughly that Maud Jamison was knocked “senseless” by the police.

Two days later, she again was among 21 suffragists with the tricolored suffragist banners who marched to the Capitol. Halfway up the steps, plain clothes policemen grappled with them, injuring several, including one who was taken to the hospital. All other picketers were locked in a basement room of the Capitol until evening and then escorted off the Capitol grounds where they were released.

On November 21, 1918, the Senate recessed without passing the suffrage amendment. In protest the suffragists demonstrated again, and this time were taken by police to a basement room in the Capitol, where they were brutally treated.

The following year, with the amendment still stalled in the Senate, Maud Jamison was arrested with others for building “Watchfires of Freedom” on the sidewalk in front of the White House and ceremonially burning President Wilson’s speeches on democracy in Europe. She was among those detained overnight before trial, where she was sentenced to serve five days in the DC jail. 

When the demonstrations and her stalwart service on the picket lines ended, Jamison became an assistant in the Treasurer’s Department of NWP.

Sources:

Inez Haynes Irvin, The Story of the Woman’s Party, (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921), 220-1, 238, 245-7,373-9, 396.

Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, (New York, NY: Hardpress, 1920), 273.