1913 March 17

Suffragists Meet With President Wilson in White House


Alice Paul and four other suffragists met with newly inaugurated President Woodrow Wilson on this day to urge him to support women’s suffrage. (See the suffragist march on March 3, 1913.) The 10-minute meeting was not successful, however, and he declined to support a suffrage amendment to the Constitution.

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, largely for political reasons. The Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted in all state and federal elections, including the election for president, 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.

Read: Katherine Adams and Michael Keene, Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign (2008)

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

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

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

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