PROFILE IN COURAGE: Doris Stevens

21 Aug

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Who is Doris Stevens?

My Suffragette Doris Stevens was born in Omaha, Nebraska on October 26, 1892. Her journey through woman suffrage began from the moment she graduated from Oberlin College in 1911. After graduation she became a teacher and then a social worker until she found herself involved with NAWSA (the National American Woman Suffrage Association). Within this Organization she became their regional organizer. In 1914 Doris became the executive secretary for the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage in Washington, D.C. In this organization she organized the first convention of women voters at the Panama Pacific Explosion in San Francisco in 1915. She was also involved in the 1916 NWP (National Women’s Party) election campaign in California. 

Doris Stevens gets her notoriety for being arrested in 1917, for picketing at the White House. Stevens was only incarcerated for three days of her 60 day sentence at the Occoquan Workhouse before being pardoned. The moment of valor didn’t end there, Stevens was arrested again in March 1919 for the NWP demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Out of her experiences of standing up for women’s rights she published in 1920 a book titled Jailed for Freedom, which expressed her account of the events during the imprisonment of NWP activists. The accounts allowed readers to get a closer glimpse on what suffragettes such as Doris Stevens and others did towards the movement, which showcased their sacrifices and determination.

Doris then parted with the NWP in 1947 due to an internal dispute over the views toward the World Women’s Party and her thoughts toward international rights rather than domestic organization. She then joined forces with another women’s rights group. Later in life, more like the 1950s we found that Stevens had been linked to supporting McCarthyism and anti-communism. She had also supported the establishment of feminist studies as a legitimate field of academic inquiry in American Universities. A little fun fact about Doris Stevens: Her life was portrayed by Laura Fraser in the 2004 HBO film Iron Jawed Angels. Doris Stevens ended her journey on March 22, 1963, but her memorable strive for existence and rights still live on.

“When all suffrage controversy has died away it will be the little army of women with their purple, white and gold banners, going to prison for their political freedom, that will be remembered. They dramatized to victory the long suffrage fight in America. The challenge of the picket line roused the government out of its half-century sleep of indifference. It stirred the country to hot controversy. It made zealous friends and violent enemies. It produced the sharply-drawn contest which forced the surrender of the government in the second Administration of President Wilson.”- Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom

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