1913 December 8

President Wilson Declines to Endorse Women’s Suffrage


A delegation of 94 suffragists, led by Anna Howard Shaw of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), met with President Woodrow Wilson in the White House on this day to discuss women’s suffrage. Wilson told them that he would not support women’s suffrage because it had not been  mentioned in the 1912 Democratic Party Platform. At the meeting, he refused to give his personal view on the topic. Even while governor of New Jersey (1910–1912), Wilson had avoided taking a public position on the issue.

After Wilson assumed the presidency, in March 1913, suffragists began picketing the White House to demand a constitutional amendment that would grant women the right to vote. A delegation of suffragists led by Alice Paul met with Wilson in the White House on March 17, 1913, but failed to persuade him to support a suffrage amendment. Picketing of the White House intensified in 1917. See the pickets at his inaugural on March 4, 1917; the inflammatory “Kaiser Wilson” picket sign on August 11, 1917; and Alice Paul’s arrest on October 20, 1917. These militant tactics were strongly opposed by moderate women’s suffrage activists.

The protests and political considerations caused Wilson to reverse his position and endorse the proposed suffrage amendment on January 9, 1918. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted in all state and national elections, including the election for president, for the first time on November 2, 1920.

Watch a documentary on a 1913 suffragist parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8B8Zh48938

Read Alice Paul’s biography: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)

For Wilson’s complete record on civil liberties, see: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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