August 17, 2022

The 1913 Suffrage Parade: A Major Turning Point in Winning the Vote 

After the passage of woman suffrage amendments by western states, the national suffrage movement floundered.   It was Alice Paul that gave the national suffrage movement a new burst of energy. By drawing attention to the inequality of American women with more dramatic public activities, Alice Paul infused the movement with enthusiasm and determination for the cause.   After convincing the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) board to create a permanent congressional committee to push for a federal constitutional amendment, she planned a massive suffrage parade in Washington, D. C., the day before Woodrow Wilson’s Inauguration.   

Alice Paul and her congressional committee wanted an outpouring of support for the parade to convince Woodrow Wilson, the incoming president, and members of Congress that it was time to approve a suffrage amendment to the Constitution so that women in all states could vote as soon as the amendment was ratified.   They made plans for widespread participation in the parade itself, with bands, banners, floats, and thousands of marchers from the state and countries around the world.  As March 3 approached, Tennessee suffragists made their plans to go to Washington, and newspapers across Tennessee covered the details of the pre-inaugural event.   

Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville sent delegations to participate in the parade.  The Knoxville Equal Suffrage League’s delegation included Lizzie Crozier French, Ada Fanz, and Katie Price. A week before the parade, the Knoxville Sentinel reported that there was “more interest in the suffrage parade than in the inauguration ceremonies.”   Lizzie Crozier French received detailed instructions for the Tennessee delegation to get in place among the state delegations from Jane Walker Burleson, one of the parade’s grand marshals.  Tennessee’s suffrage battle cry was “Our hands are tied but our tongues are free.”   

On March 3,  the day of the parade, The Sentinel’s  front-page story  described the parade as  “The Crowning Glory Politically of Woman is Shown.”  Written shortly before the parade began, the article described the thousands of enthusiastic spectators that lined the route.  “Precision and business-like methods marked execution of the plans for the parade” as the marchers gathered.”   “Trumpeters stationed at intervals in the distance stretching from the peace monument at the foot of the capitol to the Treasury were ready to sound the ‘advance’ as the parade began.”   (The writer was struck by the number of “elderly women” that gathered among the delegations to march: “Younger women before the start wearied of the long wait, but their elders were stoical.”)   

The next day’s paper told a different story, however, and described the hostility that the marchers encountered after the parade began.  Before the day ended, unruly ruffians decided to have some fun at the expense of the dignity of the parade by harassing its participants with obscenity and abuse as they marched along.  The Sentinel reported that suffragists had to “practically fight their way foot by foot up Pennsylvania Avenue” in a  scene that was “nothing less than riots.”  The attacks on the parade participants led to great indignation across the country which turned out to be useful for the cause.  (Ada Fanz and Sara Rutherford, authors of the “Enfranchisement of Women” column for the Knoxville Sentinel chastised all anti-suffrage organizations for not issuing  a statement condemning the rioting.) 

  In spite of the disruptions, the efforts paid off.  The parade generated enthusiasm and interest in woman suffrage across  Tennessee and the rest of the country.   At the end of the year, Paul’s congressional committee separated from NAWSA and became the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.  In 1916,  it changed its name to the National Woman’s Party. Although many NAWSA members saw the Woman’s Party as “radicals” when they decided to picket the White House during the war,  as a way to get President Wilson to endorse the suffrage amendment,  the Woman’s Party tactics did draw attention to President Woodrow Wilson’s hesitancy in supporting woman suffrage. (After all,  Wilson had three daughters and a strong-willed wife who could not vote.)   When the war ended, Congress finally passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.  In the end, it was the work of both the Woman’s Party and NAWSA  that got the amendment passed in Congress and ratified by the necessary thirty-six states. 

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Wanda, In case you need some filler…… 
a little suffrage humor….. 

When a rumor spread that opponents of woman suffrage planned to release hoard of mice during the parade, one Tennessee newspaper ran a cartoon,  showing how the determined suffragists planned to overcome this attack.