Suffragists March to Greet President Wilson
An estimated 8,000 suffragists, dressed in white and organized by Alice Paul, marched the day before Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration in support of women’s suffrage. The march was led by Inez Milholland Boissevain riding a white horse. Angry, anti-feminist groups tried to disrupt the parade at several places. The attacks prompted a Congressional investigation into the lack of police protection. A small group of suffragists later met with Wilson at the White House, on March 17, 1913, in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would grant women the right to vote.
Alice Paul intensified her militant campaign for women’s suffrage in 1917, by steadily picketing the White House. Her militancy alienated the more moderate women’s suffrage activists. She and her allies picketed the White House on January 10, 1917, and the Congress on April 2, 1917, while President Wilson gave his famous speech asking for a declaration of war. Paul was arrested for picketing on October 20, 1917, and in jail she and other suffragists conducted a hunger strike, bringing news headlines that embarrassed the president (see November 15, 1917.) The militant efforts worked, and President Wilson finally endorsed a constitutional amendment granting suffrage on January 9, 1918. The Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted in all federal and state elections for the first time on November 2, 1920.
Alice Paul is also famous for drafting and introducing the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have granted equality to women (July 21, 1923). The ERA was voted on several times in the 1940s and 1950s, but never secured the required number of votes for a proposed Constitutional amendment. In a very different political climate, it passed Congress on March 22, 1972, and was sent to the states for ratification. After quickly securing a number of state ratifications, however, it ran into fierce neo-conservative opposition and died.
Watch a documentary of the march: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al_7f4bCfK8
Watch newsreel footage of the march: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8B8Zh48938
Read Paul’s biography: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)
Read Paul’s Oral History interview: http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt6f59n89c/
Read a Memoir of the March: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/aw01e/aw01e.html