Suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)
This program can also be purchased with an optional morning walking tour:
The Woman Suffrage Procession of March 3, 1913, was the first civil rights march to use the nation’s capital as a backdrop. Despite 60 years of relentless campaigning by suffrage organizations, by 1913 just 6 states allowed women to vote. Then suffragist Alice Paul came to Washington, D.C.
Paul planned a grand spectacle on Pennsylvania Avenue the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration—marking the beginning of a more aggressive strategy on the part of the suffrage movement.
Riding atop a white horse in a flowing white cape and gold crown, lawyer and activist Inez Milholland led more than 5,000 suffragists and supporters—along with more than 20 parade floats, 9 bands, and 4 mounted brigades—down the city’s major ceremonial avenue. Some of the marchers were attacked and injured, bringing new attention to what had become a flagging campaign.
The parade also marked the beginning of more aggressive tactics to gain the vote. Over the next several years, groups of women protested and picketed outside the White House, burned the president’s speeches, and gave fiery speeches of their own as they campaigned nationwide. Some were arrested, thrown into jail, and force-fed when they started hunger strikes.
The suffragists were nonetheless clearly heard: Their strategies finally led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Join author Rebecca Boggs Roberts as she traces the heroic struggle of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party as they worked to earn the vote.
Before joining Smithsonian Associates as a program coordinator, Roberts was program director of Congressional Cemetery, where she began her interest in the city’s suffragist history. Her new book, Suffragists in Washington, D.C. (The History Press), is available for signing.