Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Happy Birthday Lucy Burns!

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

I've never found a biography of Lucy Burns.  I couldn't even find her obituary.  This of course, has made me more curious about her and determined to set the record straight.  The lack of scholarhip about Burns is apparently of concern to other historians, read here.

Born in Brooklyn, Lucy Burns--like Alice Paul--was extremely well educated and attended Cambridge when she met Alice Paul.  The women met in a police station when they were both arrested for assisting the Women's Social Political Union (suffragettes in England).  According to Paul, the two women became "great friends and allies and comrades."  Both women were integral to the movement and worked as partners.

Together they formed the Congressional Union which later became the National Woman's Party.  Paul would say in a later interview, "Lucy Burns was a very good speaker--she had what you call that gift of the Irish--and she was extremely courageous, a thousand times more courageous than I was.  I was the timid type, and she was just naturally valiant.  Lucy became one of the pillars of our movement.  we never, never, never could have had such a campaign in this country without her."

Doris Stevens later wrote that "Her talent as an orator is of the kind that makes for instant intimacy with her audience."

Lucy Burns spent more time in jail than any other
American suffragist.

During the Night of Terror, the guards handcuffed her arms above her head because she roll-called the women to make sure they were all accounted for and safe.

Katherine Roston Fisher would later write a poem called "The Empty Cup" about one episode in the Occdoquan Workhouse where the brutality against the suffragists occured.  The poem was published in The Suffragist in 1917.

After suffrage had been achieved, Burns left the movement.  Her sister died during childbirth and Lucy and two sisters raised their niece, Janet Appleton (later Campbell after marriage).  One of the most insightful articles I have read about Lucy is here.

In a wonderfully ironic turn, the Occoquan Workhouse, later called the DC Correctional Facility at Ralton (Virginia), has been recently reopened.  It is called the Lucy Burns Musuem and you can read about the museum here.  I'm hoping the museum will make it through the pandemic.

I read in one source (only one source) that quoted when Lucy left the movement she said this:  "...we have done all this for women, and we have sacrificied everything we possessed for them, and now let them fight for it now."

We continue the fight Lucy.  Thank you for your sacrifices.

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