March 3, 1913 – Woman’s Suffrage Parade

Just one hundred years ago, women were still not permitted to vote. On March 3, 1913, women marched on Washington, D.C. in protest.

300px-Official_program_-_Woman_suffrage_procession_March_3,_1913

The parade was the idea of Alice Paul, a 28-year old Quaker from New Jersey, who had been to Britain to help the suffrage movement there, and now brought its militant ideas back to America. The march was scheduled for the day before the installation of the new president (Woodrow Wilson) to take advantage of the thousands of spectators expected for the inauguration.

The parade included nine bands, four mounted brigades, more than 20 floats, and over 5000 marchers. The marchers encountered hostile crowds, however.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

According to the Library of Congress website devoted to the parade:

“Women were jeered, tripped, grabbed, shoved, and many heard ‘indecent epithets’ and ‘barnyard conversation.’ Instead of protecting the parade, the police ‘seemed to enjoy all the ribald jokes and laughter and part participated in them.’”

However, this treatment backfired since the press coverage and public outcry benefitted the suffragists.

Suffrage was still denied, however, and Alice Paul and her colleagues formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916, turning to more aggressive tactics.

In January 1917, the NWP staged the first political protest to picket the White House. In July, picketers were arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic.” Some, including Paul, were convicted and incarcerated at either the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia or the District of Columbia Jail.

In a protest of the conditions in Occoquan, Paul staged a hunger strike, after which she was then moved to the prison’s psychiatric ward and force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. [She survived the experience and among other achievements, went on to author a proposed Equal Rights Amendent in 1923; begin the World Woman’s Party (WWP) headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1938; lead a coalition that was successful in adding a sexual discrimination clause to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and live to the age of 92.]

Alice Paul in 1917 and in the 1970s

Alice Paul in 1917 and in the 1970s

Finally in January, 1918, Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure”, and strongly urged Congress to pass the legislation. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting.

As recounted on a website dedicated to Alice Paul:

“Three-fourths of the states were needed to ratify the amendment. The battle for ratification came down to the state of Tennessee in the summer of 1920; if a majority of the state legislature voted for the amendment, it would become law. The deciding vote was cast twenty-four year-old Harry Burn, the youngest member of the Tennessee assembly. Originally intending to vote “no,” Burn changed his vote after receiving a telegram from his mother asking him to support women’s suffrage.”

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10 Responses to March 3, 1913 – Woman’s Suffrage Parade

  1. cbjames says:

    I enjoyed reading your history posts this morning. I know it’s a good story, and kind of a nice ending to the tale, but don’t you think Harry Burn gets more attention than he really deserves?

    When I point out to my students today that when my grandmothers were born, women were not allowed to vote. It wasn’t all that long ago.

  2. bookingmama says:

    I guess we have come a long way! Extremely informative post!

  3. sandynawrot says:

    She was pretty young to have such courage! Good for her, and very cool that this march happened on my daughter’s birthday!

  4. It’s always hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that women couldn’t vote when my father was born.

  5. Charlie says:

    Fascinating, though quite shocking at times. The raw eggs thing is particularly nasty, very disrespectful. 100 years really doesn’t seem so long ago.

  6. softdrink says:

    Hah, Harry Burn did what his momma told to do.

  7. Crazy. It’s weird to think that when my great-grandpa (WHO IS STILL ALIVE!) was born that women couldn’t vote! Such a different time.

  8. Beth F says:

    Excellent post. Now if only we could shake young women out of complacency — much more work to be done until we’re truly equal.

  9. I’m a DC local and this weekend, there were a bunch of women who recreated the march! I saw it on the news and there was a really great quote from one of the women about how sometimes it’s not enough to merely say that you support a cause, sometimes you have to stand up and get out to show that you support it. I think that’s definitely something important to remember!

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    It is hard to believe this was only 100 years ago. Boggles the mind really.

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