Remembering the women's suffrage movement of 1913

On the eve of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States on 20 January, and with a planned Womens March on Washington, it is an auspicious moment to remember the "suffrage pilgrims" who marched on Washington in 1913 to demand the vote for women at Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.

As reported in Retronauton February 12, a small band of suffragettes, bundled against the cold, assembled in New York and set out on foot for a “suffrage hike” to Washington, aiming to reach the capital in time for the main march.

They were led by “General” Rosalie Jones, a prominent activist who had led a march to Albany just a couple months earlier.

In addition to suffragist literature which they handed out to curious onlookers along their route, the “suffrage pilgrims” carried a letter to the President-elect, demanding that he make suffrage a priority of his administration and warning that the women of the nation would be watching "with an intense interest such as has never before been focused upon the administration of any of your predecessors."

After walking 234 miles in 17 days, the pilgrims arrived in Washington in time for the main event, which was officially dubbed The Woman Suffrage Procession.

Paul, Burns and NAWSA had assembled an army of women from across the United States and the world.

The procession was led by New York lawyer Inez Mulholland, clad in white atop a white horse. She was followed by five mounted brigades, nine bands, 26 floats and an estimated 8,000 marchers.

The marchers represented foreign countries from Sweden to New Zealand, professions from nurses to lawyers, and delegations from the individual states.

Among the notable marchers were Helen Keller, Jeannette Rankin (who would become the first woman elected to the House of Representatives four years later), journalist Nellie Bly and black activist Ida B. Wells, who marched with the Illinois delegation despite the complaints of some segregationist marchers.

The procession made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol, with the Treasury as its destination, passing buildings festooned with bunting and decorations for the next day’s inauguration.

After a few blocks, the surrounding crowds spilled into the street, blocking the way. As the marchers struggled through, sometimes in single file, they were heckled, tripped, shoved and showered with abuse.

The police were hardly helpful. Some even joined in the harassment. Ambulances had to squeeze through the masses to reach injured marchers. A hundred women were hospitalized.Still, many managed to complete the procession. The event concluded with an allegorical tableau on the steps of the Treasury Building, featuring women dressed in flowing costumes as Columbia, Justice, Charity, Liberty, Peace and Hope

The mistreatment of the marchers at the hands of the mob and police was widely witnessed and provoked an outcry. Congressional hearings were held, the superintendent of police was fired and the marchers’ cause gained wider visibility and support — on March 8, the Women’s Journal triumphantly declared, "Nation Aroused by Open Insults to Women — Cause Wins Popular Sympathy.”

The event provided a shot in the arm to the suffrage movement, but it would take another seven years of tireless and painful activism before the 19th Amendment was finally passed and ratified.

Source: retronaut