Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
 
Biography of Margaret Oakes
 

By Jess Esparza and Emerson Ford, undergraduates, Illinois Wesleyan University

Margaret Oakes is originally from the state of Idaho and she had a son. She was a member of the National Woman's Party and participated in the demonstration that was held at Lafayette Square, Washington D.C., August 6, 1918. The women in the march held a series of banners in the front that included the American flag, as well a purple, white and gold flag that represented the official colors of the National Woman's Party. When moving towards the back, the banners began to showcase the suffrage message behind the march. The distaste for President Woodrow Wilson was evident by referring to him as weak and calling on him and his party to secure the passage of the constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. Banners appeared that read "how long must women wait for liberty?" and "we protest against the continued disenfranchisement of American women, for which the President of the United States is responsible". Many of the women holding these banners also chose to step forward to showcase their anger but were immediately arrested. Oakes was one who spoke out. In an urn, she burned a similar suffrage message to the Senate by saying that "We [the Senate] shall deserve to be distrusted if we do not enfranchise our women". Oakes was then arrested as well.

Like other protesters, Oakes was given the choice of a fine or jail time; all chose the sentence. While in prison, she and 25 other women participated in a hunger strike to demand treatment as political prisoners, a designation not recognized in the United States. On August 17,1918, after 10 days in jail, Margaret Oakes's son paid her bail; at first, Oakes refused to leave. Once the fine was paid for, authorities refused to let her stay and she left jail. There is no evidence to support that Oakes continued her work within the National Woman's Party or in the suffrage movement, but her behavior during her jail sentence suggests that she remained loyal to the cause.

Sources:

Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 366.

Inez Haynes Irwin. The Story of the Woman's Party (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1921), 366, 400.

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