Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

 

Biography of Berthe Louise Arnold, 1896-1968

 

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Link to NWP Database

By Chris Nicholl, Local History Specialist, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs

Suffragist.

Berthe Louise Arnold was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1896, to the former Louisa Calhoun and Clarence Arnold, a prominent physician. She attended local schools and Colorado College, where she studied voice and elementary education. Arnold was surrounded by progressive-minded feminists who in 1913 had allied with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns’s Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU). By 1916, the Colorado headquarters of the CU/National Woman’s Party (NWP) was located in Colorado Springs.

Arnold joined the White House pickets in late August 1918, knowing that she would be attacked by protesters, arrested and jailed. Anticipating a brief visit in D.C., she nonetheless stayed on as an organizer and Alice Paul’s private secretary. In mid-September 1918, Arnold joined forty women protesters in a pageant at the Lafayette Monument where they burned papers inscribed with President Wilson’s empty words about democracy. Throughout late 1918, Arnold participated in various suffrage events, joining a protest in which the women intended to burn the words of anti-suffragist senators in the Senate Chamber. Detained by police for several hours, there were no arrests but their flags and banners were confiscated and destroyed.

In January 1919, Arnold was arrested at the Watchfires for Justice protest at which suffragists burned President Wilson’s words about democracy in cauldrons of fire. She was arrested and sentenced to a 5-day jail term. Accounts of her militant activities appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette: “Miss Arnold in Next Watchfire party at Capitol.” “Miss Arnold Arrested Again For Picketing.” “Suffragist Sentenced to Five Days In Jail, Berthe Arnold of Colorado Springs Behind Bars for Picketing!" In the spring of 1919, Arnold joined the “Prison Special” or “Democracy Limited,” a party of suffragists who toured the county by train. Wearing prison garb, they recounted to large audiences their stories of brutal street attacks by mobs, arrests and imprisonments for suffrage. Arnold also worked as a trusted and effective NWP organizer in Colorado, California and Tennessee until the passage of the 19th Amendment.

In September 1921, Arnold married musician Frederick Knorr of Colorado Springs with whom she had one daughter, Jean. She appeared in the 1923 Equal Rights Amendment pageant at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, portraying Lucretia Mott. Berthe Arnold died in San Diego in 1968.

Chris Nicholl, “Dr. Caroline Spencer & Colorado Springs’ Radicals for Reform,” in Tim Blevins, et al., eds., Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West (Colorado Springs: Pikes Peak Library District, 2010), 291-98; National Woman’s Party Papers, Library of Congress: Caroline Spencer to Alice Paul, August 20, 1918, Reel 64, Alice Paul to Caroline Spencer, Sept. 7, 1918, Reel 64; Caroline Spencer to Alice Paul, October 14, 1918; Inez Haynes Gilmore, The Story of the Woman’s Party, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921), 331 & 364; The Suffragist, Sept. 28, 1918, 6-8; Nov. 23, 1918, 9; Colorado Springs Gazette, Dec. 8, 1918, January 21, 25, 26, 1919; Sept. 11, 1921; New York Times, March 11, 1919; California Death Records, RootsWeb.com.

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