Judith Pouche


Petite, frail, physically impaired, and seventy-three years old, Mary Nolan could easily be underestimated by anyone foolish enough to equate physical vigor with mental strength. On November 14, 1917, several men brutalized the Jacksonville grandmother as she endured what suffragists would soon call the "Night of Terror" in a Virginia prison. One guard had told her, "I'll take you and handle you, and you'll be sorry you made me." Nolan recalled: "A man sprang at me, and caught me by the shoulder. ... I was jerked down the steps and away into the dark ... [,and later] they pushed me through a door. I lost my balance and fell on the iron bed." As she recovered at the headquarters of the National Woman's Party (NWP), the militant suffragist organization battling for the ballot, Nolan recorded her prison experiences, remembering how the guards cursed the suffragists: "I'll put you through hell!" Nolan's recollections of her prison experiences were published two weeks later and entitled "That Night of Terror." Her memoir is the only suffrage prison narrative by a Floridian. "That Night of Terror" is the written manifestation of Mary Nolan's suffrage militancy, an evolution that began with her as an atypical NWP recruit; continued with her picketing, arrests, and imprisonment; found written expression in "That Night of Terror"; and concluded with additional protest activities.