The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade

Less than a century ago, women in the United States were not guaranteed the right to vote. Many courageous groups worked hard at state and local levels throughout the end of the 19th century, making some small gains toward women's suffrage. In 1913, the first major national efforts were undertaken, beginning with a massive parade in Washington, D.C., on March 3—one day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Organized by Alice Paul for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the parade, calling for a constitutional amendment, featured 8,000 marchers, including nine bands, four mounted brigades, 20 floats, and an allegorical performance near the Treasury Building. Though the parade began late, it appeared to be off to a good start until the route along Pennsylvania Avenue became choked with tens of thousands of spectators—mostly men in town for the inauguration. Marchers were jostled and ridiculed by many in the crowd. Some were tripped, others assaulted. Policemen appeared to be either indifferent to the struggling paraders, or sympathetic to the mob. Before the day was out, one hundred marchers had been hospitalized. The mistreatment of the marchers amplified the event—and the cause—into a major news story and led to congressional hearings, where the D.C. superintendent of police lost his job. What began in 1913 took another seven years to make it through Congress. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment secured the vote for women.

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