By Jennifer Caldwell, undergraduate student, Central Connecticut State University
Miss Ruth Scott, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was a suffragist, affiliated with the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and Local Bridgeport Women’s Labor Union. She was also imprisoned for fighting for women’s political freedom. Scott worked in the munitions industry at the Union Metallic Cartridge plant in Bridgeport during World War One and was also a part of the local union, which was headed by Mrs. Elsie VerVane. The women’s union was better known as the “Park City Women Workers Lodge,” which helped fight for better pay and hours for women during the early 1900s and had more than 100 members.
On January 10, 1919, Miss Scott left Bridgeport to help with the NWP’s watchfire demonstrations taking place in Washington D.C. The protests urged President Wilson to secure the last necessary Senate votes to pass what would become the 19th Amendment. Miss Scott, along with Mrs. Vervane helped keep the fires burning in a metal cauldron by igniting copies of speeches by Wilson.
On January 13, Miss Scott was arrested for her involvement in the watchfire demonstration and spent five days in jail. Some 22 prisoners were incarcerated that day and were split up two to a cell. The prisoners’ living conditions were horrible, living amongst rats and bed bugs. The jail cells also contained only two buckets, one for washing and one for toilet purposes, with the buckets only being emptied once a day. The women also did not eat during their stay and only drank water for breakfast and dinner. After five days in jail, the women were released from prison. The National Woman's Party would continue burning these fires outside of the White House and other political buildings for two months.
For her effort in the watchfire demonstration and time spent in jail, Ruth Scott was given a prison pin by the National Woman’s Party for a sacrifice of individual liberty for freedom of all women. Ruth Scott’s efforts helped pave the way for females to have the right to vote on November 2, 1920.
“Four Go To Keep Watch Fires Burning.” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, January 10, 1919.
Irwin, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Woman's Party. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921.
McCartin, Joseph A. Labor's Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1997.
“McLean Tells Mrs. Bennett It’s A Fine Thing To Burn Words Of President Wilson,” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, January 20, 1919.
“Decorated for Service,” The Suffragist. Vol. 8, No. 8, (September 1920), 209. Accessed online at https://books.google.com/books?id=nJszAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA209&lpg=PA209&dq=ruth scott connecticut suffragist&source=bl&ots=H-EVjTEMAp&sig=Og6gE9JAsNfTrqYeaAts17DtSP0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiFu9SdrsDTAhVHwVQKHQm9BmAQ6AEILjAC#v=onepage&q=ruth%20scott%20connecticut%20suffragist&f=false.
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. NY: Boni and Liveright, 1920. Accessible online at https://books.google.com/books?id=R-GGAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
"Suffragists Planning Prisoners Special To Tour Entire Country." The Bridgeport times and evening farmer, January 22, 1919.
"TACTICS AND TECHNIQUES OF THE NATIONAL WOMAN’S PARTY SUFFRAGE CAMPAIGN ." Accessible online at https://www.loc.gov/collections/static/women-of-protest/images/tactics.pdf.
Thornton, Steve. "In the Voting Booth and on the Shop Floor, Women Fought for Parity." Bridgeport History Center, Bridgeport Library. Accessible online at http://bportlibrary.org/hc/labor/in-the-voting-booth-and-on-the-shop-floor-women-fought-for-parity/.