Jail Door Pin

Date(s): 1917
Material: Metal

Modeled after the British suffragette pin – known as the Holloway Broach, Alice Paul created this jail door pin for the National Woman’s Party members who were imprisoned for picketing the White House.  The pin depicts a jail door with a lock and chain attached.

In 1917, the National Woman’s Party began picketing the White House in order to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to support the passage of the federal suffrage amendment.  Soon the suffragists were being arrested and imprisoned.  To honor these brave women, eighty-nine original pins were presented to the women on December 9, 1917 at a mass meeting held at the Belasco Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The National Woman’s Party owns the pin that was presented to Betsy Graves Reyneau, artist and civil rights activist.  She was one of sixteen women arrested for picketing the White House on Bastille Day, July 14, 1917, and sentenced to an unprecedented sixty days in Occoquan Workhouse.  President Wilson pardoned the pickets after three days.  As an active member of the National Woman’s Party, Reyneau later painted portraits of many of the leaders of the National Woman’s Party which remain in the museum’s collection today.

When Reyneau died in 1964, her daughter Marie gave the pin to Pauli Murray, famed civil rights activist and lawyer, who was a close friend to Reyneau.  According to Sonia Fuentes, a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) who was also on the board of directors of the National Woman’s Party, Murray began the tradition of giving the pin to a feminist, who would then give it to another feminist.  By 1980, the pin had been given to Aileen Hernandez, the first woman and the first African American woman commissioner at the EEOC; Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, the first African American woman director of the Woman’s Bureau; Catherine East, who held senior staff posts with every Presidential advisory commission on women from 1962 to 1967; and Mary Eastwood, an attorney at the Department of Justice and a founder of NOW.  Fuentes states: “In 1980, at a feminist dinner in Washington, Mary Eastwood passed the pin on to me for my work at the EEOC and as a founder of NOW . . . . After Pauli [Murray] died in 1985, Catherine East, Mary Eastwood, and I, with the permission of Pauli’s executrix, donated the pin to NWP.”

Alice Paul’s original pin and the pin that belonged to Lucille Agniel Calmes, a government secretary who served a five-day term in the District prison for picketing in 1919, are in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

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