By Taylor Thompson, undergraduate, Roanoke College
Little is known about Louise M. Black beyond her determination to advance the cause of women’s suffrage in the last years before the passage of the 19th amendment. Black, an active member of the Virginia branch of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) from Norfolk, Virginia, participated in several suffrage demonstrations during the late 1910s. Arrested multiple times in support of the cause, Black most notably was imprisoned for her participation in the first demonstration held by the NWP across from the White House. On August 6, 1918, Black was arrested for attempting to climb the Lafayette statue along with 46 other women, who followed the example of their demonstration leader, Hazel Hunkins. Black was taken into custody and tried for her actions at the Federal Police Court the following day, though the case was postponed and the women were released on bail because they had arrived an hour late.
Louise Black continued to protest even after being released on bail, joining other suffragists in a similar protest on August 12, 1918. She and several other activists who were out on bail from the first demonstration were arrested a second time, and appeared for trial on August 13, 1918 at the D.C. Police Court. The case was rescheduled for August 15, 1918 and it was on this day that the women appeared in court to defend themselves without legal counsel. Each suffragist pleaded not guilty and claimed the right of free assembly as her defense. In the end, Black was sentenced to time at the Occoquan Workhouse, which she and the other suffragists unanimously chose over a $25 fine.
Black was a very determined suffragist and continued to participate in demonstrations after being imprisoned. For example, in the September 16, 1918 demonstration, she was one of four women who represented Virginia at the event, carrying a suffrage banner. This was the first Lafayette Square demonstration after the series of five held the month before. Black continued to participate in these public showcases, despite being arrested several times throughout the process.
Irwin, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Woman’s Party. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921.
National Woman’s Party. “The September 16 Demonstration”. The Suffragist. VI.35 (1918): 4-5.
“Seize Suffragists Near White House.” New York Times. August 13, 1918,