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Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Sunday, March 3 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Woman Suffrage March on Washington by brave women demanding the right to vote. The fight for women’s rights didn’t begin in 1913; in fact, the movement had over 50 years of history prior to this momentous event led by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Two prominent women in American history—Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—were introduced by abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson in 1851 during an anti-slavery gathering in Seneca Falls, and from there they began their friendship and partnership. At the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, Stanton wrote in The Declaration of Sentiments, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice…”

In letters between Stanton and Anthony, Stanton described the challenges she faced in her personal life. Women’s suffrage weighed on these women; the political issue affected their everyday lives, and family and friends began opposing the movement. Nothing would stop them from moving ahead two decades to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, aimed at promoting amendments to the Constitution that would ultimately give women the right to vote.

On March 3, 1913, led by American suffragist activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, men and women from across the country met in Washington, D.C. to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of women’s rights. Taking place the day before President Wilson’s inauguration, this historic march and subsequent demonstrations across the country succeeded in bringing national publicity to the issue through protests and speeches, proving that women deserved an equal place in politics. But they faced angry opposition from a faction of Americans  — mostly but not all male — who resisted social progress for women. What came of this opposition was an all-out war on feminism.

Women marching in the Washington parade were physically assaulted, spit on, hit, and heckled by spectators. Accounts detailed police ignoring edicts from Major Richard Sylvester, D.C.’s Chief of Police, who gave orders to protect those marching. Men who supported the movement were targeted as well. A report from Major General Anson Mills, who marched with some of his men, said in a New York Times article, “Crowds of hoodlums sneered at my division in the parade and made insulting remarks. The police made no effort to rebuke them. They were ruffians whom I had never seen before and who seemed to be strangers. I think they were Baltimore hoodlums. They charged us with being henpecked. They indicated their determination to send us home by breaking up the parade. The crowd was lolous [sic] and made vicious attempts to break up the ranks of the marchers, with practically no interference from the police.”

A separate article featured in the Times from March 4, 1913 details, “At times fighting its way, the suffrage procession passed through a narrow channel with walls of spectators on either side. They effect of the parade was spoiled, the marchers were greatly inconvenienced, and at times were subjected to insult and indignity. Many persons were injured. The leaders of the suffragists are very indignant, and their sentiments are shared by many members of Congress. Many men here who do not believe in the suffrage cause say that the treatment given to those who marched yesterday was an insult to American womanhood and a disgrace to the Capital City of the Nation.”

From groups who resisted the movement came unrelenting assaults on women’s femininity—painting them as either lesbians or unattractive, lonely women incapable of finding husbands. Such misogynist propaganda infiltrated the news, portraying suffragists completely unfairly. Opponents claimed that women should remain out of politics and find a man to speak for them, since allowing women into the political process would be detrimental to the state.

Despite the fear-mongering, proponents of woman’s suffrage were able to draw the attention of members of Congress, and with the support of President Wilson gained momentum. Susan B. Anthony would never see the result of her efforts, but the Nineteenth Amendment, drafted by her and Stanton, was finally ratified in 1920.

From Seneca Falls to the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA, to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association by Anthony and Stanton, women’s rights have come a long way. Yet today women’s issues are still hotly debated—abortion, access to birth control, the Violence Against Women Act (which finally passed in the House on Thursday)—with profound implications for the future of women in the United States.

To see photos from the 1913 Woman Suffrage March, click here


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Copyright 2013 The National Memo

11 Responses to 100 Years Of Women’s Rights: From Suffrage To Equal Pay

  1. Our young adult women in their early 30’s and 20s don’t seem to get worked up over women’s issues because most have not ever been denied the right to birth control or abortion services. They do not have the personal memories of female friends being butchered by an illegal abortion like the women of my generation do. For most of them there is nothing personal in the Right’s fight against abortion, birth control, or any of the many women’s rights that are under attack. They have grown up assuming they could go to college, own property, get married only when they want to, and vote. Most never even think those right would be taken away. Sometimes I think of my 22 year old pre-med granddaughter and wonder what she would do if suddenly she was denied birth control, or someone came and told her she could not be a doctor because she is woman. My guess is this Country would see a Civil Rights movement that would make earlier ones pale in comparison. Her generation is spoiled, Tec savvy, demanding and feels entitled to those rights and is not afraid to fight for what they want until they get it. And if this should come about, you can bet there will be as many men fighting as women. The Right will never win this fight in the long run; women and others have had freedom long enough not to give it up easily.

    • On the other hand when the states started pushing their laws against women a lot of women stood up and made noise. I think it is okay to let the young take over, they can handle it I think.

      • I agree when they are pushed they make lots of noise. I think they will do an even better job than those of us who came before. We were fighting for rights we didn’t have. They will be fighting for rights that are taken away from them.

  2. The GOP’s War on Women means that things have come “full circle”…

    When women FINALLY got the right to vote in 1920, they flocked to the Republican Party for essentially one reason: the GOP were “The Drys”…for years, women had advocated against alcohol and wanted Prohibition…they got it in late 1919. This new voting bloc allowed the GOP to control politics throughout the Roaring Twenties…of course, when the GOP’s Reverse Robin Hood fiscal policies crashed the stock market in 1929 and launched the Great Depression, women turned on the GOP, as just about everybody else did…

    Fast forward to now, where the GOP’s white male Conservative power structure consider everybody in the party unlike them to be “Useful Idiots”, including women. Look at the House vote to reauthorize (finally) the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)…while no female GOP senators voted against it, six female GOP House Reps did, including two from the state of Washington. Wow. When the people in the GOP considered by the power structure to be “Useful Idiots” finally have the light bulb switch on in their heads and realize that they’re considered “Useful Idiots”, especially women, the death of the Republican Party will be significantly hastened.

    • I guess you’re right. I mean, after all, how else could you explain the appeal of Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin. I guess for the Republican Party they do serve a useful purpose, after all, everybody needs their village idiot.

  3. The reason to repeal Civil Rights always goes right to the heart of the issue: money. Free labor means huge profits. No employee rights means no obstacles to profit. Add to this the huge landfills of tax cuts, tax breaks and lobbying in the billions to stack the cards against women and minorities and you see the profits just piling and piling and piling up.

    Take away Civil Rights, voting rights and women’s rights and men have access to limitless profits they hope they can take with them to their graves if necessary. See the insanity in their greed yet?

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