1919 February 9

Suffragists Burn Effigy of President Wilson in Front of White House


Suffragists demanding passage of a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote continued their protests in front of the White House. On this day, they burned an effigy of President Woodrow Wilson and also threw copies of his speeches into the fire. They declared him responsible for the possible defeat of the suffrage amendment in the Senate the next day, which in fact happened by a one-vote margin.

The first “watch fire” in front of the White House occurred on January 1, 1919. Sailors and soldiers attacked the protest and overturned the urn which held the fire. Similar protest fires, with the burning of Wilson’s speeches, occurred over the next two weeks.

The suffragist protests at the White House  had escalated in 1917, under the leadership of Alice Paul (see the events of January 10, 1917; October 20, 1917). President Woodrow Wilson finally reversed his position and announced his support of a constitutional amendment on January 9, 1918, but mostly for political reasons.

On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment granting women equal voting rights in federal elections was ratified, and women voted in all state and national elections, including the presidential election, for the first time on November 2, 1920.

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

Watch newsreel footage of the 1913 suffrage march in Washington: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8B8Zh48938

Read: Ellen DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)

Read Paul’s Oral History interview: http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt6f59n89c/

Watch the film about Alice Paul and her protests: Iron Jawed Angels (2004) (with Hilary Swank as Alice Paul)

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