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5,000 Women March for Equality: 1913

5,000 Women March in a Woman’s Suffrage Demonstration , Beset By Crowds

An Article in The New York Times, March 4, 1913

 Demonstration at Capital Badly Hampered and Congress Is Asked to Investigate.

Authorities Denounced by Dr. Shaw — Wonderful Allegory Tells Story of the Ages.Crowds at 15th & Penna. Ave. before the Suffragette Parade, March 3, 1913 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs LC-USZ62-37942 [View Image]
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Crowds at 15th & Penna. Ave. before the Suffragette Parade, March 3, 1913 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

WASHINGTON, March 3 — In a woman’s suffrage demonstration to-day the capital saw the greatest parade of women in its history. In the allegory presented on the Treasury steps it saw a wonderful series of dramatic pictures. In the parade over 5,000 women passed down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some were riding, more were afoot. Floats throughout the procession illustrated the progress the woman’s suffrage cause had made in the last seventy-five years. Scattered throughout the parade were the standards of nearly every State in the Union. It was an astonishing demonstration.

It was estimated by Gen. John A. Johnson, a Commissioner of the District of Columbia, that 500,000 persons watched the women march for their cause. Imagine a Broadway election night crowd, with half the shouting and all of the noise-making novelties lacking; imagine that crowd surging forward constantly, without proper police restraint, and one gains some idea of the conditions that existed along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the Treasury Department this afternoon. Ropes stretched to keep back the crowds were broken in many places and for most of the distance the marchers had to walk as best they could through a narrow lane of shouting spectators. It was necessary many times to call a halt while the mounted escort and the policemen pushed the crowd back.

A Woman in Command.
There was delay at the start of the parade at the Peace Monument. The Grand Marshal, Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson, the wife of an army officer and a splendid horsewoman, finally gave the order to march. In every side street near the Capitol were organizations waiting to fall in line. Weather conditions were ideal. The sun shone brightly and it was just cold enough to make walking enjoyable. The waiting paraders took up the march with zest.

It was when the head of the procession turned by the great Peace Monument and started down Pennsylvania Avenue that the first indication of trouble came. Hearing the bands strike up, the crowds on both sides of the avenue pushed into the roadway. At once the police authorities knew that they had not made proper plans for keeping the spectators in restraint.

Looking down the avenue the paraders saw an almost solid mass of spectators. With the greatest difficulty the police were keeping open a narrow way. As far as the eye could see, Pennsylvania Avenue, from building line to building line, was packed. No such crowd had been seen there in sixteen years.

Automobiles to Clear Way.

Commissioner Johnson at once ordered nine automobiles, flying white and blue police flags, to clear the line of march. Slowly these went ahead, the crowds falling back before them. Women screamed, and at times there was frantic struggling by those seeking to get out of the way. After the automobiles had passed the crowd surged back again. The marchers were pushed about, and at Fourth Street had to come to a halt. Commissioner Johnson asked some members of a Massachusetts National Guard Regiment to clear the way. They laughed, and one militiaman told the Commissioner that he had no orders to act. At Fifth Street the crowd again pressed in and progress was impossible. Officers of the Thirteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard, were appealed to, and they agreed to do police duty. So did some of the members of Gov. Sulzer’s staff.

Even then it was possible to keep open only a narrow pasageway -sic-, and through this the suffragists passed, four abreast. There were other delays along the way. It was nearly nightfall when the last of the marchers reached the grounds back of the White House, where the parade was disbanded.

Through all the confusion and turmoil the women paraders marched calmly, keeping a military formation as best they could. The bands played and hundreds of

Suffrage Parade 3/3/13 [Inez Milholland Boissevain]. Photograph, March 3, 1913. George Grantham Bain Collection (LOT 11052-2). Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-77359. [View Image]
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[Inez Milholland Boissevain]. Photograph, March 3, 1913. George Grantham Bain Collection (LOT 11052-2). Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-77359.yellow banners fluttered in the wind. The marchers smiled on their friends. The taunts of the curious they disregarded. Two New York women shared in the honors of the day. One was Miss Inez Milholland and the other was Gen. Rosalie Jones, who with her hikers occupied a place near the end of the line. Miss Milholland was an imposing figure in a whte -sic- broadcloth Cossack suit and long white-kid boots. From her shoulders hung a pale-blue cloak, adorned with a golden maltese cross. She was mounted on Gray Dawn, a white horse belonging to A. D. Addison of this city. Miss Milholland was by far the most picturesque figure in the parade.

Interest in the Hikers.

All in brown at the head of her hiking suffragists marched Gen. Rosalie Jones. The army of the Hudson marched behind the New York delegation, which traveled here by train. Carrying her yellow pilgrim staff and a great bunch of roses, Gen. Jones walked in front of the line of women who accompanied her on the hike from New York to Washington. Every one wanted to see the hikers and Gen. Jones. “Which is Gen. Jones?” was the question that was asked a thousand times by curious ones before the parade was over.

Told History of Suffrage.

The parade, a brilliant spectacle, told the story of the advance made by the cause of suffrage. Every one of the seven divisions had a separate chapter. One of the best places from which to view the parade was at the Peace Monument. Here, with no crowd to interfere, the watcher could see the divisionse -sic- forming for the parade. Behind Mrs. Burleson, Grand Marshal, and Miss Inez Milholland, the herald, rode Mrs. Ruhlin, Mrs. Lucy Neill, and Mrs. Morrill in white corduroy riding habits and wide-brimmed plumed hats. They were the outriders of the women’s cavalry. Then came a wagon bearing the sign “We Demand an Amendment to the United States Constitution Enfranchising the Women of the Country.”

The officers of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association came next. They were led by Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, the President, wearing the hood of her degree and college gown.

The first section marched under the banner “Women of the World, Unite!” and was led by the Marysville, Mo., band of thirty-five women in trim blue uniforms. Every one wore the yellow color of the suffragist cause. The floats of the first division represented countries where women have suffrage and countries where suffrage hopes to obtain a foothold. On one of the floats rode nine month old Mei Scheng P. Wu. Baby Wu sat contentedly on the lap of her mother. Mrs. Wu is the wife of Ching Wu, formerly attached to the Chinese Embassy in this city. Both mother and father are students of the George Washington University. Mrs. Wu wore an embroidered gown of pale blue, and Baby Wu a white robe embroidered with little golden dragons. Twenty nations were represented in the division.

The floats of the second section told the story of the fight for woman’s suffrage from 1840 to the present day. Women in 1840, as represented on the float, were very humble, and the three or four men representing “male supremacy” seemed rather ashamed of themselves. There was a great contrast in the float called “Today.” This carried a number of good-looking girls in college gowns, under the leadership of Miss Hazel Roberts. On this float there were no men. In the second section there was a troop of women cavalry from Baltimore.

A man led the horse of the herald of the third section. Women in various callings of life were portrayed. There were the women farmers, sturdy looking country lasses. The float bearing the sign “in the Home” showed what serious work housekeeping is. Another float showed women “In Patriotic Service,” and another “In Education.” There were floats for all the occupations in which women are active. Behind each float marched delegations of women.

The clergy was represented by six sedate, rather elderly women in black gowns, and following came marching in the educational division thirty-two colored women from the Howard University, Washington, in gowns and caps. In the workers’ division two women held a banner which said, “We want to protect our children.” Then came a float representing the interior of a sweatshop. The business women marched 400 strong in blue. The writers’ delegation followed. They wore white gowns. Artists were in pink, and musicians in red. There were women lawyers and women physicians and actresses in line, including some of the most prominent in their professions.Tableau presented by the Women's Suffrage Association, on the U.S. Treasury ...[View Image]
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Tableau presented by the Women’s Suffrage Association, on the U.S. Treasury …

Women in the Government service led the fourth section, and in this section were teachers, social workers, and librarians. Women of the same occupation wore gowns of like color.

In the fifth section were the marchers not in uniform. Here walked many women who did not have the courage or desire to put on one of the colored uniforms. This division contained, perhaps, “just wives.”

Hobson a Marcher.

In the sixth section marched State delegations. Representative R. P. Hobson of Alabama, and Butler Ames of Maryland, were in line. There were representatives of the States where equal suffrage is in effect. Here marched the National Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, about seventy strong, headed by James Lees Laidlaw.

The delegations from the States where women are working for equal suffrage came next, and then came Gen. Jones and her hikers. Other State delegations followed. Miss Genevieve Clark led one delegation. Then came women in automobiles.

Parade Halts Frequently.

That there were no accidents to the marchers was due to the fact that when the congestion became too great the line halted. This was a matter of frequent occurrence. At Sixth Street an intoxicated man almost fell under the wheels of the float “In 1840.” He was dragged away by a special policeman. A little further on a woman caught in the crush began to scream loudly. A policeman succeeded in making a way for her. She had been crushed in the rush of crowd.

At Ninth Street the crowd surged in on the marchers, and in the excitement a man began to shout, “Thief! Thief!” This cry served to turn the crowd in another direction and the parade continued. Gen. Jones and her hikers were so hemmed in at Seventh Street that the parade lost all military formation. Gen. Jones was forced to ask the Maryland Agricultural College boys, who formed her guard of honor, to come to her assistance.

Gen. Jones was passing Tenth Street when a man broke through the crowd and threw a handful of flowers in her path. He was Major J. M. Shindel, Judge Advocate of the Fourth Brigade, Pennsylvania National Guard of Lebanon, Penn. “Nothing is too good for you,” shouted the enthusiastic Major.

Confusion, cheers, and jeers were the order of the day until the tired marchers disbanded. For a distance of a few blocks near the end the women marched without trouble, for a squad of the Fifteenth Cavalry rode to their assistance. A band of boy scouts also did good service. Just before the Army of the Hudson was disbanded Col. Ida Craft received a gold medal given by the women of Overlea, Md.

Women Appeal to Wilson.

Leaders of the women suffragists were much incensed because the police did not make sufficient provision for holding in restraint the great throngs which hemmed in the paraders. At a meeting held at Memorial Continental Hall the police of the District were denounced. A resolution was adopted calling for a Congressional investigation and asking Mr. Wilson to look into what the suffragists called “a disgraceful affair.” A number of Senators and Representatives, some of whom took part in the parade, to-night promised that there should be a thorough inquiry.

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, addressing the meeting, expressed her indignation over the way women had been treated at the National capital. The parade, she said, had exceeded the proudest expectations of its promoters. Dr. Shaw said that she had marched in suffragist parades in London, in New York, and in California, but she had never seen such a disgraceful exhibition as that of to-day. She demanded that some way should be found of punishing whoever was responsible for mismanagement.

The procession, it was charged, had not gone a block before it had to halt. Crowds, the women said, had gathered about Mrs. Burleson and her aids, and drunken men had attempted to climb upon the floats. Insults and jibes were shouted at women marchers, and for more than an hour confusion reigned. The police, the women say, did practically nothing, and finally soldiers and marines formed a voluntary escort to clear the way.

Mrs. Genevieve Stone, wife of Representative Stone of Illinois, said that a policeman had insulted her. This policeman, she said, shouted: “If my wife were where you are I’d break her head.”

Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of The New York Evening Post, who marched in the men’s section, introduced the resolution which demanded that a Congressional investigation be held. A copy of the resolution is to be given to President Wilson as soon as possible after he takes office.

Miss Helen Keller, the noted deaf and blind girl, was so exhausted and unnerved by her experience in attempting to reach a grand stand, where she was to have been a guest of honor, that she was unable to speak later at Continental Hall.

At one time at the height of the disorder Miss Inez Milholland helped to restrain the spectators by riding her horse into the crowd. A group of hoodlums gathered in front of a reviewing stand, in which sat Mrs. Taft and Miss Helen Taft and a half dozen guests from the White House. They kept up a running fire of comment. Apparently no effort was made to remove them, and the White House party left before the procession had passed.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): 5,000 women march in a Woman’s Suffrage demonstration, beset by crowds. (1913, March 4.)  The New York Times. Retrieved [date accessed] from /?p=10407.

One Reply to “5,000 Women March for Equality: 1913”

  1. […] been seen as a way for a protest movement to spur political action. In 1913, thousands of women marched for the right to vote, a milestone in the campaign that eventually secured women’s suffrag…. The 1993 LGBT march helped build an activist network that won many protections over the years, […]

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