By Ashley Nicole Owens, undergraduate, Meredith College
Virginia Arnold was born February 12, 1880 in North Carolina. She was a student at George Washington University and Columbia University and later a teacher. From 1916 to 1918 she was an executive secretary of the Congressional Union, later the National Woman’s Party (NWP).
Arnold also was a part of an organized 1916 NWP effort to establish NWP chapters in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington and North Dakota. The goal was to engage women already enfranchised in these states to lend their support for passage of a federal amendment. Virginia Arnold also worked as an NWP organizer in Oregon for the fall 1916 election season. Newspapers reported Arnold as an eloquent speaker with a sunny temperament, tact and charm.
Virginia Arnold was deeply involved in NWP picketing of the White House from 1917 until the suffrage amendment was passed. She was among the first set of protesters arrested in June 23, 1917 and was sentenced to three days in jail after refusing to pay the fines set by the court for obstructing traffic. Virginia’s banner was especially scandalous as it compared President Woodrow Wilson with the German ruler during World War I. Arnold was arrested at least 4 times between 1917 and 1918. She was also involved in the campaign called Watchfires for Freedom, where NWP suffragists burned President Wilson’s speeches regarding democracy in front of public buildings in Washington, D.C.
Information about Virginia Arnold’s involvement in woman’s suffrage is available in Doris Stevens’s Jailed for Freedom and The Story of the Woman’s Party by Inez Haynes Gilmore. A photograph of Arnold with a brief description of her education and suffrage activities is available through the Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000075 and a photo of Arnold holding the infamous “Kaiser Wilson” banner at https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000220. Biographical information about Arnold is also available at the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial site at http://www.suffragistmemorial.org/miss-virginia-arnold/.