By Kaitlin Hair, undergraduate, SUNY Oneonta
Unfortunately, there is very little known about Elizabeth Hamilton. What we do know about Hamilton is that she was arrested on November 10, 1917 and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for thirty days. She and many other women were jailed on the date of the “night of terror,” November 14-15. That night, workhouse superintendent W.H. Whittaker refused the women's demand to be treated as political prisoners. (America did not recognize the distinction). Instead, he forcibly sent them to the “punishment cells.” Many were thrown into these cells, including Dora Kelly Lewis who hit her head against the iron bed and was knocked unconscious. Another woman, Alice Cosu, had a heart attack and was denied medical care until later that evening. The specific events that Hamilton had to deal with during her arrest are also unknown. If she participated in the hunger strike following that night, it is likely that she was force-fed. It is also likely that if she could afford a lawyer, he would have been denied access to advise her. Instead, all that we know is that she was later decorated for service and won a prison pin.
Besides her documented arrest, the only other thing that we can ascertain is that she may have been a member of the Metlakhatla Chapter Number 439, Order of the Eastern Star. This order was located on Long Island, which is in close proximity to Elizabeth’s native hometown, New York City. Regretfully, it was hard to determine a middle name or a maiden name, so one could not be sure of the information found about her.
Doris Stevens and Carol O'Hare. Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote (Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995; originally published 1920), pp. 122-24.
"Our Secret Societies." Suffolk County News (Suffolk), August 06, 1915 (accessed February 19, 2016). http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn84031477/1915-08-06/ed-1/seq-10/.