1917 March 4

Suffragists Picket President Wilson’s Second Inauguration


An estimated 1,000 suffragists, demanding a constitutional amendment that would grant them the right to vote, picketed the White House on this day, marking President Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration. The demonstrators were not deterred by the freezing rain. Wilson and his wife left the White House without acknowledging their presence.

Militant suffragist leader Alice Paul would lead an increasingly aggressive campaign of picketing the White House throughout the year 1917. They would be back within a month, picketing Wilson speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war on April 2, 1917. The campaign led to attacks by anti-suffragists, arrests, and beatings in jail (October 20, 1917; November 15, 1917). Increasingly embarrassed by the campaign, and feeling he had to do something to recognize the contributions of women to the World War I effort, President Wilson reversed his position and publicly supported a suffrage amendment on January 9, 1918.

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).

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

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/

Learn more at the National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/woman-suffrage/kaiser-wilson.html

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