Suffragists had to be strong: They were considered outrageous and dangerous not only because they demanded equal rights as citizens, but also because they were challenging society’s attitudes toward women and girls. They were ridiculed and bullied, criticized as “unladylike” and ugly, denounced as radicals and misfits, and called unpatriotic—even traitors. Though they called themselves suffragists, the press called them “suffragettes” to make fun of them. They were pelted with rotten eggs and spoiled vegetables; attacked by mobs of angry men and boys; and imprisoned in dirty, rat-infested cells, where they were tortured and assaulted.
To get their message across, suffragists used many creative strategies: They spoke on street corners and from the backs of wagons and cars; they held outdoor rallies and colorful parades; they protested—by marching in the streets of cities, even picketing the White House and Congress; and they went on hunger strikes (and were force-fed raw eggs, with tubes rammed up their noses in response).
Suffragists also engaged in civil disobedience, breaking what they considered unjust laws. Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth—a black abolitionist and suffragist who had escaped slavery—and 200 other women attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election. Anthony was arrested, tried, and convicted of illegal voting, but she refused to pay the fine set by the judge.
“It is a downright mockery,” Anthony proclaimed during her trial, “to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot.”