March is Women’s History Month!

 One Hundred Years Ago

Women Marchers Attacked at Inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1913

“This (suffrage) movement is a remarkable story of America’s greatest bloodless revolution, a revolution that resulted in the greatest bestowal of democratic freedoms in the history of the United States,” writes Coline Jenkins, in the forward of Tom Mach’s book Angels at Sunset. Jenkins, a descendent of suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton, feels that more attention should be placed “on the hardships and tenacity exhibited by women and men in their quest for these rights and privileges.”

Perhaps you noticed in last year’s Anthony exhibit at the museum noting women marchers  being attacked at President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913. 

When Wilson arrived in Washington, DC, on March 3, he expected to be met by crowds of people welcoming him for his inauguration as United States President the next day.  But, very few people came to meet his train.  Instead, hundreds of thousands of people were lining Pennsylvania Avenue, watching the Woman Suffrage Parade. Organizers of the parade, led by suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, planned the parade for the day prior to Wilson’s first inauguration in hopes that it would turn attention to their cause:  winning a federal suffrage amendment, gaining the vote for women.  Five to eight thousand suffragists marched from the U.S. Capitol past the White House.  Most of the women, organized into marching  units walking three across and accompanied by suffrage floats, were in costume, most in white.  At the front of the march, lawyer Inez Milholland Boissevain led the way on her white horse.  In another tableau, Florence F. Noyes wore a costume depicting “Liberty”.               

 Of the estimated half million onlookers watching the parade instead of greeting the President-elect, not all were supporters of woman suffrage.  Many were angry opponents of suffrage, or were upset at the march’s timing.  Some hurled insults; other hurled lighted cigar butts.  Some spit at the women marchers; others slapped them, mobbed the, or beat them.                                                         

The parade organizers had obtained the necessary police permit for the march, but the police did nothing to protect them from their attackers.  Army troops from Fort Myer were called in to stop the violence.  Two hundred marchers were injured.  The next day, the inauguration proceeded.  But public outcry against the police and their failure resulted in an investigation by the District of Columbia Commissioners and the ousting of the police chief.       More than that, the sympathy generated even more support for the cause of woman suffrage and women’s rights.  In New York, the annual woman suffrage parade in 1913, held on May 10, drew 10,000 marchers, one in twenty of whom were men.  Between 150,000 and 500,000 watched the parade down Fifth Avenue.    










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