The event was organized by the suffragist team of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns (no, I did not say Burns and Allen), who secured endorsement from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but were required to raise funds to support the project elsewhere.
The parade was to take place the day before the inauguration of President-elect, Woodrow Wilson and the reason given was: “to march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.”
In short, they hoped to draw attention to the fact that it was time for a federal amendment supporting the right of women to vote.
It was to be a gala turnout and a peaceful one, led by Inez Millholland, a labor lawyer. The parade was comprised of nine bands, more than twenty floats, four mounted brigades, and 5,000 suffrage delegates from around the world. The parade was to begin on Pennsylvania Avenue, and events were planned to cap the event – a pageant at the Treasury Building, and Helen Keller was to speak at Constitution Hall (yes, I did say speak).
Who Knows What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men? The Shadow Knows!
Much as I’d like to take a sharp left turn to a more pleasantly nostalgic subject – note the reference to an old radio program – I won’t. Like a lot of people, I tend to view the past through rose-colored glasses. Simpler times, right?
Apparently the mere thought of five thousand women with a mission struck fear in the hearts of American men. After traveling just a few city blocks, the marchers found themselves blocked by an assemblage, most in town to attend the inauguration. The men were not hampered by the local police; on the contrary, they were often abetted by Washington’s Finest who happily joined the festivities by heckling and harassing the marchers.
The parade continued, the marchers often having to pass single file through the crowd of men until things got out of hand. The marchers were physically assaulted, and according to reports, it took two ambulances six hours to locate and remove one hundred injured marchers.
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson responded to a belated request from the chief of police – Stimson authorized the use of a troop of cavalry from nearby Fort Myer to help control the crowd.
Ahem – take one more look at the photos – seriously, just a troop? That’s what, 120 mounted men or thereabouts?
Newspapers the next day were outraged by the humiliation and injury suffered by the marchers – just so much fuel for the fire being fanned by Alice Paul. It seems to me that Alice learned her lessons well during the time she spent in England with those militant suffragettes – a workable formula – passive resistance, met with predictable violence, drawing syndicated newspaper attention to further engage the moral outrage of the average citizen.
Do you see a pattern here?
A heartfelt thank you goes out to Barbara Brackman, who manages to spark my curiosity and fire my imagination every single week.