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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)

TITLE: Night of Terror
By Kristi Peifer


November 21, 1917

My Dear Elsie,

By now you have heard of my arrest. Days ago a number of us were rounded up and brought here to this wretched place they call Occoquan. I pray you and yours are faring better than my compatriots here, my friend.

The conditions here are unlivable, yet live through them we must. Our damp little cells are dark and windowless. The air is stagnant and smells of human waste, yet enduring the stench is preferable to eating what passes as food. The gruel given to us is unidentifiable, with the exception of the mealworms that inhabit it. It is amazing any of us are able to keep down any nourishment whatsoever. I’m finding it hard to sleep at night with the rats scratching at the cement floors. My health is beginning to suffer, but I thank God that I am still among the living!

Less than a week ago the warden ordered the guards to rough us up. Some of the ladies were choked or slammed into furniture. Many were brutally beaten with clubs! The cruelty we witnessed was beyond reason—like nothing I had ever seen. The women in the cell across from mine suffered horribly. One of them seized up after seeing her cellmate knocked out cold by a guard. It looked to be a heart attack. We kept calling out for medical help, but no one answered. The ruffians don’t care if we live or die.

Elsie, I fear some of the women won’t survive this abuse. I know that all of them would give their very lives for our cause, but it is nothing short of a tragedy to think they may have to. Our only crime was exercising our right to free speech! Holding up a sign in front of the White House is enough to justify barbarism toward fellow Americans, female or otherwise? “We the people” apparently does not include women in President Wilson’s estimation! The bigotry of it all leaves an acrid taste in my mouth.

Time is running short, so I must finish quickly. My one chance to get this letter out of the workhouse and into your hands comes with the guard who brings the evening slop. He is a sympathizer—and a Godsend, to be sure.

I am holding out hope that this letter will safely reach you. It must. We might not survive another night of terror. Elsie, see that someone out there finds out what is really happening here before there is loss of life. You cannot trust the authorities. Go to the press—and quickly!

Until we meet again in the here or the hereafter,


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This article has been read 578 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/28/10
Wow you did a great job with the vivid details. There were several times when I actually shuddered.
Tiara Huffman11/02/10
I have to say the story peeked my interest at the title, but mainly because my nickname is terror. However I am very glad I read this well writing and a great piece I squirmed just thinking about eating something so gross and being treated so badly I found myself praying too that the guard bring her food would get it too Elise.
Jan Ackerson 11/02/10
I'm very interested in this--the date and several other details make me think this is based on a historical incident. Maybe a brief author's note would direct us to more information? Fascinating and horrible--well done.
Beth LaBuff 11/02/10
Wow, you've brought this story to life, with names and details. I remember reading this recently. Is this the event you were referring to?


Great work on this entry!
Henry Clemmons11/02/10
Nice historcal touch. A sad story but one with inspiration. I hope it not only compels people to vote but recognize those who were not afraid to fight for the right. Enjoyed it.
Catrina Bradley 11/02/10
So realistic, I could easily believe this to be an actual historical letter. The atrocities written about made me shiver and grieve. I would have liked an afterward of some sort to explain the historical circumstances, but still....Great job!
Amanda Brogan11/02/10
Awesome! It's always good to read stories of the heros of our country, those who fought for our freedom ... whether it's soldiers in World War II, or brave women fighting for woman's suffrage. Great history piece!
Sarah Heywood11/03/10
Fabulous! I just read a fiction book by Lynn Austin that dealt with the womens' suffrage movement. But until reading your story, I didn't realize just how much women went through to give us the right we take for granted. Wonderful writing!
Barbara Lynn Culler11/03/10
WOW! We may never really know what some women suffered for our rights.

Your story put me in the midst of the action.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/04/10
Congratulations for placing 10th in level 3!