Alice Paul’s “Silent Sentinel” Pin


Women who participated in suffrage picketing received "Silent Sentinel" pins to honor their service. The small silver banners are engraved, "Without Extinction is Liberty." The reverse is engraved, "For service in the cause of the freedom of women Presented by the National Woman’s Party." The phrase "Without Extinction is Liberty" is drawn from a Walt Whitman poem, "By Blue Ontario’s Shore":

"Without extinction is Liberty, without retrograde is Equality,

They live in the feelings of young men and the best women,

(Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been

always ready to fall for Liberty.)"

In January 1917, discouraged by President Wilson’s continued opposition to the suffrage amendment, Alice Paul, the leader of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) posted pickets at the White House gates—the first people to ever picket the White House. These “silent sentinels” stayed on duty in all weather and in the face of threats, taunts, and physical violence. Using their banners and their quiet courage they asked, "Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for their Liberty?" and "Mr. President What Will you do for Woman Suffrage?" Hoping to provoke a response, the language on the banners became more inflammatory. They used the president’s own words against him and pointed out the hypocrisy of his leading the country into the First World War to defend freedom while denying it to the women of his own country. Crowds who believed the pickets’ activities were disloyal in a time of war attacked the suffragists and destroyed their banners. In July the police began arresting the pickets for "obstruction of traffic." When they refused to pay fines they were imprisoned. When they went on hunger strikes to demand the rights of political prisoners they were forcibly fed—a painful and invasive procedure. The pickets continued despite the risk. Paul had endured such treatment while she was in England. Although she knew what lay ahead and that she, as the organizer of the picketing, would receive a harsher sentence, she insisted on taking her place on the picket line. She was arrested in October. While in jail she was forcibly fed and threatened with commitment to an insane asylum. Reports of the long sentences, abuse, and the courage of the suffragists became public and all prisoners were released in November.

Presenter: National Woman's PartyAssociated Person: Paul, Alice

Associated Place: United States

Subject Association: Women's SuffrageWomen's Rights


See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, Women's History Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform, American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith, Woman Suffrage

Exhibition: American Democracy

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Alice Paul Centennial Foundation, Inc.

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1987.0165.036Catalog Number: 1987.0165.036Accession Number: 1987.0165

Object Name: pin

Physical Description: silver (overall material)Measurements: average spatial: 1 1/2 in x 1 5/8 in x 3/8 in; 3.81 cm x 4.1275 cm x .9779 cm


Record Id: nmah_1066180

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