Lucy Burns

lucy burns

Lucy Burns, co-founded the Congressional Union and the National Woman’s Party (NWP) with Alice Paul, and led the militant wing of American suffrage.

A brilliant scholar at Vassar and at the University of Berlin, visits to Britain imbued her with a passion for the vote. She was a paid organizer for the militant British movement, was jailed, hunger struck, and force-fed. Meeting Alice Paul, Burns returned with her to the U. S. to set up an organization to work solely for a constitutional amendment for the vote.

She and Paul co-organized the famous 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D. C. They formed the Congressional Union and, later, the National Woman’s Party. Paul was the strategist, Burns the ultimate organizer. Burns headed the NWP’s lobbying in Congress, edited the NWP’s journal The Suffragist, and spent more time in prison than any other American suffragist. Burns led political campaigns in western states, many of which already had woman suffrage, urging women to vote against Democrats as long as the Party refused to pass suffrage. She organized White House demonstrations against Wilson, was arrested, hunger struck, and force-fed. She managed the publicity tour for the “Prison Special” taking jailed suffragist to speak around the country.

Exhausted after suffrage was won, Burns retired to private life to raise her orphaned niece. She died in Brooklyn in 1966. Burns injected passion, high drama, meticulous organization, and fiery oratory power to the militants’ final drive for the vote.

 

 

Works Cited:

  • Reprinted from NWHM Cyber Exhibit "Rights for Women"
    Author Kristina Gupta
  • PHOTO: Lucy Burns, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (mnwp 148015)