Woman suffrage parade of 1913
The woman suffrage parade of 1913, officially the Woman Suffrage Procession, was the first suffragist parade in Washington, D.C. It was also the first large, organized march on Washington for political purposes. The procession was organized by the suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Thousands of suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday, March 3, 1913, the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. The parade's purpose, stated in its official program, was to "march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded". The event kicked off Paul's campaign to refocus the suffrage movement on obtaining a national constitutional amendment for woman's suffrage. The demonstration consisted of a parade with floats, bands, and various groups representing women at home, in school, and in the workplace.
Official program for the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C., March 3, 1913
|Date||March 3, 1913|
|Organised by||National American Woman Suffrage Association|
At the Treasury Building, a pageant of allegorical tableaux was acted out during the procession. District police failed to keep the enormous crowd out of the street, impeding the marchers' progress. Many participants were subjected to heckling from spectators, though there were also many supporters present. The final act was a rally at the Memorial Continental Hall with prominent speakers, including Anna Howard Shaw and Helen Keller.
American suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns spearheaded a drive to adopt a national strategy for women's suffrage in the National American Woman Suffrage Association.:362 Paul and Burns had seen first-hand the effectiveness of militant activism while working for Emmeline Pankhurst in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Britain. Their education included rallies, marches, and demonstrations, knowledge of which the two would put to work back in America. They already had first-hand experience with imprisonment as a backlash against suffrage activism. They had gone on hunger strikes and suffered force-feeding. They were not afraid to be provocative, even knowing the potential consequences. The procession would be their first foray into moving into militant mode on a national stage.:365
Paul and Burns found that there were many suffragists who supported the WSPU's militant tactics, including Harriot Stanton Blatch, Alva Belmont, Elizabeth Robins, and Rhetta Child Dorr.:363–364 Burns and Paul recognized that the women from the six states that had full suffrage at the time comprised a powerful voting bloc. They submitted a proposal to Anna Howard Shaw and the NAWSA leadership at their annual convention in 1912. The leadership was not interested in changing the state-by-state strategy and rejected the idea of holding a campaign that would hold the Democratic Party responsible. Paul and Burns appealed to prominent reformer Jane Addams, who interceded on their behalf, resulting in Paul being appointed chair of the Congressional Committee.:362
Up until this time, the woman's suffrage movement had relied on oratory and written arguments to keep the issue before the public. Paul believed that it was time to add a strong visual element to the campaign. While her tactics were non-violent, Paul exploited elements of danger in her events. Her plan for using visual rhetoric was intended to have lasting impact. She felt it was time for women to stop begging for suffrage and demand it with political coercion instead. Though the suffragists had staged marches in many cities, this would be the first time for Washington. It would also be the first large political demonstration in the nation's capital. The only previous similar demonstration was made by a group of 500 men known as Coxey's Army protesting unemployment in 1894 (joined by a few remainders from Fry's Army).
At the time Paul and Burns were assigned to lead the Congressional Committee of the NAWSA, it was merely a shadow committee headed by Elizabeth Kent, wife of a California congressman, with an annual budget of ten dollars that mostly went unspent.:362 With Paul and Burns at the helm, the committee revived the push for a national suffrage amendment. At the end of 1913, Paul reported to the NAWSA that the committee had raised and expended over $25,000 on the suffrage cause for the year.:377
Paul and Burns persuaded NAWSA to endorse an immense suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., to coincide with newly-elected President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration the following March. The NAWSA leadership turned over the entire operation to the committee. They organized volunteers, planned, and raised funds in preparation for the parade with little help from the NAWSA. Affiliates of NAWSA from various states organized groups to march and activities leading up to the march, such as the Suffrage Hikes.
Committees and recruitingEdit
Once the board approved the parade in December 1912, they appointed Dora Lewis, Mary Ritter Beard, and Crystal Eastman to the committee, though they all worked outside of Washington. All money Paul collected had to be directed through the NAWSA, though she did not always comply.
Paul arrived in Washington, D. C. in December 1912 to begin organizing the event. By the time the Congressional Committee had its first meeting on January 2, 1913 in its new Washington, D. C., headquarters, more than 130 women showed up to start work. Using the list of former committee members, Paul found few still alive or in the city, but she did find assistance.
Among local suffragists, she was aided by attorney Florence Etheridge and teacher Elsie Hill, daughter of a congressman. Kent, the former committee chair, was instrumental in opening doors in Washington to Paul and Burns. From the NAWSA, Paul recruited Emma Gillette and Helen Hamilton Gardener to be treasurer and publicity chair, respectively. Belva Lockwood, who had run for President in 1884, also attended the initial meeting. Paul recruited Hazel MacKaye to design professional floats and allegorical tableaux to be presented simultaneously with the procession.
The timing of March 3 was important, because incoming president Woodrow Wilson would be put on notice that this would be a key issue during his term, and Paul wanted to put pressure on him to support a national amendment. It also ensured that the procession would enjoy a large audience and publicity.:364 Many factors deterred Paul regarding her selected date: District suffragists worried about the weather; the superintendent of police objected to the timing; even Paul herself was concerned about the need to attract a large number of marchers in a short time frame and get them organized. Fortunately, Washington had congressional delegations from all the states and some of their wives could be counted on to represent those states. Likewise, the embassies could provide marchers from distant countries.
In order to maximize the use of funds for publicity and building a national network, the Congressional Committee made it clear that participating organizations and delegations would need to fund their own travel, lodging, and other expenses.:368
Parade route and securityEdit
Just as the timing of the parade was tied to the inauguration, so too, was the route that Paul preferred in order to have the maximum impact on public perception. She requested a permit to march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Peace Monument to the Treasury Building, then on to the White House before ending at Continental Hall. District superintendent of police, Maj. Richard Sylvester, offered a permit for Sixteenth Street which would have taken the procession through a residential area, past several embassies. He later claimed he had thought the suffragists wished to hold the parade at night and the police could not have provided sufficient security if they marched from the Capitol. Sylvester pointed out the rough character of lower Pennsylvania Avenue and the type of people likely to attend the inauguration. Paul was not satisfied with his alternative route. She took her request to the District commissioners and the press. Eventually they relented and granted her request. Elsie Hill and her mother had also put some pressure on Sylvester by appealing to Elsie's father in Congress. Congress had the ultimate responsibility and funding control over the District police department.
The presidential inauguration brought a huge influx of visitors from around the country. Media estimated crowds of a quarter to a half million people. Anticipating that most of these people would come to observe the suffrage parade, Paul was rightly concerned about the ability of the local police force to handle crowd control. Sylvester had only volunteered a force of 100 officers, which Paul considered inadequate. She attempted to get intervention from President Taft, who referred her back to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. The week before the parade, Congress passed a resolution directing district police to halt all traffic from the Peace Monument to 17th Street from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the day of the parade and prevent any interference with the procession. Paul recruited a woman with political connections to intervene. Elizabeth Selden Rogers contacted her brother-in-law, Secretary Stimson, to request cavalry to provide additional security. He first claimed that it was prohibited to use the soldiers for that purpose, but later agreed to place troops on standby in case of emergency.
Countering anti-suffrage sentimentsEdit
Paul strategically chose to emphasize beauty, femininity, and traditional female roles in the procession. Her chosen theme for the procession was "Ideals and Virtues of American Womanhood". These characteristics were perceived by anti-suffragists as being most threatened by giving women the vote. She wanted to show that women could be all those things and still intelligent and competent to not only vote, but also to fill any other role in society. Attractiveness and professional talent were not mutually exclusive and these ideals were embodied in the parade's herald, Inez Milholland, a labor lawyer from New York who had been dubbed "the most beautiful suffragette". Milholland had served in the same role in a suffrage march in New York the previous year.
The woman's suffrage movement had its genesis in the abolitionist movement, but by the dawn of the twentieth century, Susan B. Anthony's goal of universal suffrage was eclipsed by a near-universal racism in America. While earlier suffragists had believed the two issues could be linked, the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments clearly showed that African American rights and woman's suffrage were separate problems. In 1903, the NAWSA officially adopted a platform of states' rights that was intended to mollify and bring Southern suffrage groups into the fold. The statement's signers included Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Howard Shaw and others. This platform essentially removed the issue of black rights from the table and acknowledged that NAWSA considered (white) woman's suffrage to be the organization's primary goal.
With the prevalence of segregation throughout the country, and within organizations such as the NAWSA, blacks had formed their own activist groups to fight for their equal rights. Many were college educated and resented their exclusion from political power. The fiftieth anniversary of Emancipation also fell in 1913, giving them even further incentive to march in the suffrage parade. Two groups from Howard University, including the new Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, requested to join and Paul assigned them to the college section of the parade, where she and Burns planned to march. The Howard University group included the former president from the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC), Mary Church Terrell.
Paul, like many in the NAWSA, chose expedience over equal rights in planning the parade. She discussed participation with at least one local African American in the District and had reserved space in the parade for the NACWC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). But the Virginia-born Gardener tried to persuade Paul that including blacks would be a bad idea. Paul took Gardener's concerns seriously and considered excluding blacks from the procession. Paul had attempted to keep news about black marchers out of the press, but when the Howard group announced they intended to participate, the situation achieved unwanted publicity. A contemporaneous newspaper account indicated that Alice Paul told some black suffragists that the NAWSA believed in equal rights for "colored women", but some Southern women were likely to object to their presence in the procession. A source in the organization insisted that the official stance was to "permit negroes to march if they cared to". In a 1974 oral history interview, Paul recalled the "hurdle" of Terrell's plan to march, which upset the Southern delegations. She said the situation was resolved when a Quaker leading the men's section proposed the men march between the Southern groups and the Howard University group.
While in Paul's memory, a compromise was reached to order the parade as southern women, then the men's section, and finally the Negro women's section, reports in the NAACP paper, The Crisis, depict events unfolding quite differently, with black women protesting the plan to segregate them. What is clear is that some groups attempted, on the day of the parade, to segregate their delegations. For example, a last-minute instruction by the chair of the state delegation section, Genevieve Stone, caused additional uproar when she asked the Illinois delegation's sole black member, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, to march with the segregated black group at the back of the parade. Some historians claim Paul made the request. Wells-Barnett eventually rejoined the Illinois delegation as the procession moved down the avenue. In the end, black women marched in several state delegations, including New York and Michigan. Some joined in with their co-workers in the professional groups. There were also black men driving many of the floats. The spectators did not treat the black participants any differently.
Spectators arrive in WashingtonEdit
According to the media, the suffrage parade had become the primary draw over the inauguration itself. Special suffrage trains were hired to bring spectators from other cities, adding to the crowds in Washington. The novelty of the procession attracted enormous interest throughout the region. As the parade participants gathered near the Peace Monument around noon, the police began roping off part of the parade route.:9 Even before the parade began, the ropes were badly stretched and coming loose in places.
Jane Walker Burleson on horseback, accompanying a model of the Liberty Bell brought from Philadelphia, led the procession as Grand Marshall, immediately followed by the herald, Milholland, on a white horse. A pale-blue robe flowed over her white suit, and she wore a gold tiara. Her banner proclaimed "Forward into Light", a phrase originated by Pankhurst and later used by Blatch. Immediately behind the herald was a wagon that boldly stated "WE DEMAND AN AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION ENFRANCHISING THE WOMEN OF THE COUNTRY." Next was the national board of the NAWSA, headed by Shaw.
To add to the visual impact, Paul dictated a color palette for each group of marchers. The rainbow of colors represented women coming into the light of the future out of the darkness of the past. To add drama between groups of marching women, "Paul recruited 26 floats, 6 golden chariots,10 bands, 45 captains, 200 marshals, 120 pages, 6 mounted heralds, and 6 mounted brigades".
The first section had marchers and floats from countries where women already had the vote. The second section had floats depicting historic scenes from the suffrage movement in 1840, 1870, and 1890. Then came a float representing the state of the campaign in 1913 in a positive tableau of women inspiring a group of girls. A series of floats depicted men and women working side by side at home and in a variety of professions. They were followed by one with a man holding a representation of government on his shoulders while a woman with hands tied stood helpless at his side.
A float depicted nurses, followed by a marching group of nurses. Groups of women representing traditional roles of motherhood and homemaking came next, in an effort to change the image of suffragists as being sexless working women. There followed a carefully orchestrated order of professional women, beginning with various nursing groups, the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the PTA, before finally adding in non-traditional careers such as lawyers, artists, and businesswomen.
After a float depicting the Bill of Rights came a banner that showed the nine suffrage states in bright colors with the remaining states in black, a theme that was also graphically depicted using women dressed similarly. They carried a banner suggesting that vote-less women were slave to men with the vote, quoting Abraham Lincoln: “No Country Can Exist Half Slave and Half Free”. Another Lincoln quote was feature at the top of the official program: "I go for all sharing the privilege of the government who assist in bearing its burdens, by no means excluding women". Women from the suffrage states displayed their colorful organization banners on chariots that preceded each group.
One prominent group featured in the procession was the pilgrims led by "General" Rosalie Jones. The brown-caped hikers covered more than two hundred miles from New York City to Washington in sixteen days. Their journey received considerable press coverage, and a large crowd assembled to greet them upon their arrival in the city on February 28.
Simultaneous with the procession, an allegorical tableaux unfolded on the Treasury Building's steps. The pageant was written by dramatist Hazel MacKaye and directed by Glenna Smith Tinnin. These scenes were performed by silent actors to portray various attributes of patriotism and civic pride, ones that both men and women strove to emulate. The audience would recognize the presentation style from similar holiday events around the country. MacKaye set each scene using women clad in toga-style costumes and accompanied by symbolic parlor music that would also be familiar to the audience.
The act began with a relay of trumpet calls from the Peace Monument to the Treasury Building. The first scene featured Columbia who stepped forward on stage to the strains of the "Star-Spangled Banner." She summoned Liberty, Charity, Justice, Hope and Peace to join her. In the final scene, Columbia placed herself as guardian over all these others and they assembled to watch the approaching procession of suffragists. By creating this stunning visual drama, Paul differentiated the non-violent militancy of the American suffrage movement from the window-smashing escapades of British suffragettes.
- Dr. Nellie V. Mark served as marshal of the professional women of Maryland in the Maryland portion of the parade.:475
- Jeannette Rankin, from Montana, marched under her state's sign; she returned to Washington four years later as a U.S. Representative.
- Charlotte Anita Whitney, who later became a political figure in her home state of California, served as NAWSA's 2nd vice president and marched with the officers.
- Mary Ware Dennett, of New York, also marched with the NAWSA board as corresponding secretary.
- Susan Walker Fitzgerald, NAWSA recording secretary from Boston, later went on to serve in the Massachusetts legislature.
- Katherine Dexter McCormick, NAWSA treasurer, became a notable philanthropist and major funder of birth control research.
- Harriet Burton Laidlaw, 1st auditor on the NAWSA board, was from New York and a political activist on many issues.
- Abby Scott Baker, a D. C. resident and activist, organized the floats and marchers in the section for foreign countries.
- Dorothy Bernard, born in South Africa, had an acting career in California, and organized the group of actresses in the procession.
- Jane Delano, chair and founder of the American Red Cross Nursing Service, organized the nurse's group.
- Lavinia Dock, a pioneer in nursing education, assisted Delano with the nursing section of the parade.
- Fola La Follette, Broadway actress from Wisconsin and lifelong activist, led the actress group in the march.
- Lillian Wald, founder of community nursing and involved in the founding of the NAACP, led the nurses section.
- Ellen Spencer Mussey, a D. C. attorney who later founded the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia, led women lawyers in the procession. She secured legislation in Congress to give women in D. C. equal rights to their children.
- Mary Johnston, of Virginia, was a popular writer of historical fiction. She spoke at the rally at Continental Hall after the parade.
- Estelle Willoughby Ions, a composer from Louisiana, led the musicians section.
- Elizabeth Thacher Kent, worked to pass suffrage legislation in California, and was also an environmentalist. She contracted and organized the bands for the procession.
- Julia Lathrop, Chief of the U. S. Children's Bureau, was the first woman to head a federal bureau, appointed by President Taft. She marched with the banner for Women in Government Service.
- Annie Jenness Miller, clothing designer, advocate for dress reform, prominent lecturer, and building contractor, organized the grandstand committee.
- Genevieve Clark Thomson, who later ran for Congress from Louisiana, led the Missouri delegation.
- Harriet Taylor Upton, who became the first female to serve as vice-chair of the Republican National Committee, led the delegation from Ohio.
- Florence Fleming Noyes, a dancer who played the role of Liberty, choreographed the entire tableaux.
The parade was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and at the starting signal, the tableaux at the Treasury Building would begin as well. The trumpet call starting the procession did not sound until 3:25 p.m. At the lead were several police escort vehicles and six mounted officers in a wedge formation. By the time Burleson reached 5th Street, the crowd completely blocked the avenue. At that point, the police escort seemed to vanish into the throng. Milholland and others on horseback used the animals to help push back the crowds. Paul, Burns and other committee members brought a couple automobiles to the front to help create a passage for the procession. Clearly the police had done little to open the parade route as they'd been ordered to do by Congress. Sylvester, who was at the train station awaiting Wilson's arrival, heard about the problem and put out the call to the cavalry unit on standby at Fort Myers. However, the mounted soldiers did not arrive on the scene until around 4:30 p.m. They were then able to usher the parade to its completion.
Male and female spectators surged into the street, though men were in the majority. There were both hecklers and supporters, but Burleson and other women in the procession were intimidated by the hostile chants in particular. The Evening Star (Washington) published a rave review and highlighted only positive responses to the parade and pageant, but certain details make it clear that the article was largely written ahead of time. The crush of people led to trampling. Over 200 people were treated for injuries at local hospitals. At one point, Paul sympathetically acknowledged that the police were overwhelmed and not enough of them had been assigned to the parade, but she soon changed her stance in order to maximize publicity for her cause. The police did actually arrest some spectators and fine them for crossing over the ropes.:174
Prior to the cavalry's arrival, other people began helping with crowd control. At times the marchers had been forced to go single file in order to move forward. Boy scouts with batons helped push back spectators. A group of soldiers linked arms to hold people back. Some of the black drivers from the floats also stepped in to help. The Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania national guards stepped in, too. Eventually, boys from the Maryland Agricultural College created a human barrier protecting the women from the angry crowd and helping them progress forward to their destination.
Rally at Continental HallEdit
The final act was a meeting at the Memorial Continental Hall (later part of the expanded DAR Constitution Hall). Speakers were Anna Howard Shaw, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mary Johnston, and Helen Adams Keller. Shaw, reflecting on the failure of police protection, stated that she was ashamed of the national capital, but she praised the marchers. She also recognized that they had a media coup at their disposal. Blatch had used a similar security failure in New York in 1912 to the suffragists' advantage.
Alice Paul's responseEdit
Though at first she sympathized with the overwhelmed police force at the parade, Paul quickly capitalized on the verbal abuse the marchers had endured. She blamed the police for colluding with violent opposition to the non-violent demonstration. She asked participants to write affidavits about negative reactions they'd experienced, which Paul used to request Congressional action against Chief Sylvester. She also used these statements to generate press releases in Washington and around the country, garnering additional publicity for the suffrage procession. The resulting publicity also brought in additional donations that helped Paul cover the event's entire cost of $13,750.
Paul's publicity campaign stressed that the marchers had demonstrated bravery and non-violent resistance to the hostile crowd. Several of the suffragists pointed out in the media that a government that couldn't protect its female citizens could not properly represent them, either. Paul's deft handling of the situation made woman's suffrage one of the most-discussed subjects in America.
Paul also orchestrated a meeting, primarily of political men who were suffrage supporters, at the Columbia Theater. The purpose was to add pressure on Congress to hold hearings about police misconduct. Key participants included activist attorney Louis Brandeis (soon to become Supreme Court justice) and Minnesota Senator Moses Edwin Clapp. She kept her role in organizing the event out of the spotlight.
The Senate Committee on the District of Columbia quickly organized a subcommittee hearing to determine why the crowds at the parade had gotten out of hand. They listened to testimony and read numerous affidavits. Hearings were held March 6–13, and April 16–17. Sylvester defended his own actions and blamed individual policemen for disobeying his orders. In the end, Sylvester was exonerated, but public opinion about him was unfavorable.:371 When he was finally forced to resign in 1915 due to an unrelated incidence, the mishandling of the 1913 parade was seen as instrumental in his ouster.
Alice Paul and the Congressional Union continually hounded President Wilson to push Congress for a federal amendment, beginning with a deputation to the White House shortly after the parade. He responded initially by saying the issue had never been brought to his attention - a demonstrable lie. He assured the women he would consider the matter but never acted on the issue. He asserted that he had no influence over congressional agendas, though his actions revealed that he did so for issues he considered important.
When asked if it had been unwise for her to push Wilson for his stance on woman's suffrage, Paul responded that it was important to make the public aware of his position so they could use it against him when the time came to put pressure on the Democrats during an election. It took until 1918 for Wilson to finally change his stance on the suffrage amendment.
Impacts on the suffrage movementEdit
Paul inaugurated her leadership in the American suffrage movement with the 1913 procession. This event revived the push for a federal woman's suffrage amendment, a cause that the NAWSA had allowed to languish. Little more than a month after the successful parade, the Susan B. Anthony amendment was re-introduced in both houses of Congress. For the first time in decades it was debated on the floor. The demonstration on Pennsylvania Avenue was the precursor to Paul's other high-profile events that, along with actions by the NAWSA, culminated in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution in 1919 and its ratification in 1920.:425–428
Paul's focus on a federal amendment contrasted sharply with the NAWSA's state-by-state approach to suffrage, leading to a rift between the Constitutional Committee and the national board. The committee disassociated from the NAWSA and became the Congressional Union. The Congressional Union eventually became subsumed by the National Woman's Party, also led by Paul, in 1916.
The Woman Suffrage Procession was featured in the 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels, which chronicles the strategies of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and the National Woman's Party as they lobby and demonstrate for the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would assure voting rights for all American women.
Historians have been critical about the movie for several reasons. Director Katja von Garnier created a 21st-century soundtrack and remade the early 20th-century suffragists into "third-wave" feminists that would be more familiar to modern audiences. The depiction of Alice Paul's sexuality in the film had no basis in historic fact; Paul was single-minded in her devotion to winning suffrage for women. There is no evidence she had a sexually intimate relationship with anyone, male or female. The movie even creates a fictional character to play a love interest for Paul, cartoonist Ben Weissman. This suggests that Paul needed the assistance of a newspaperman to get publicity for her activist campaign, when in reality, Paul was a highly talented publicist in her own right.
The film was also portrayed Paul welcoming Ida B. Wells-Barnett with a smile when Wells-Barnett joined the procession from the mass of spectators along the route. This never happened in reality, and was perhaps the director's attempt to soften the event's racist aspect. Paul marched in the college section in her cap and gown, not with the Illinois delegation that Wells-Barnett joined. Wells-Barnett marched with two white Illinois women who had supported her right to march with the state delegation: Belle Squire and Virginia Brooks.
United States ten-dollar billEdit
On April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced plans for the back of the new $10 to feature an image of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession that passed the steps of the Treasury Department where the allegorical tableaux had taken place. It will also honor many of the leaders of the suffrage movement including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul. The front of the new $10 note will retain the portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Designs for new $5, $10 and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The new $10 note will not be ready for circulation until 2026.
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- Media related to Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 at Wikimedia Commons