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The Forgotten History Of Women’s Suffrage In The United States

Of the many thousands of women who showed up for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017, likely very few knew about the Woman Suffrage Procession of 1913. So much of suffrage history has been forgotten, the good and the bad.

The 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, taking place this Aug. 18, has brought to light many stories of the struggle for the women’s vote, perhaps none a more troubling object lesson than the 1913 Procession.

Held the day before newly elected Democrat Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office for his first term, more than 8,000 women marched “in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded,” according to the day’s official program. In other words, women demanded the vote.

The front of that same program depicted a young white woman on a white horse at the head of the procession, her hair styled in a sleek bob in Joan of Arc meets “New Woman” flapper fashion. There really was such a woman at the head of the 1913 march: Inez Milholland, who would, like Joan of Arc herself, quite literally die for the cause. There was so much courage involved in the fight for women’s right to vote. There was also racism. When march organizer and suffrage strategist Alice Paul told Black suffragists to march in the back that day, journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells wouldn’t have it.

What follows is an excerpt from my book, She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next.

Daybreak March 3, 1913, was clear and cold, with zero chance of rain or snow. The day before the inauguration of the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, was an excellent day for a suffrage parade.

Ida B. Wells might have sat on her boardinghouse bed that morning pulling on first one pair of stockings, then another. Behind her on the coverlet may have lain the dark shapes of her heaviest skirt and coat, a thick fur muff alongside them. Bright beside those, a curving white hat covered in stars, with matching scarf and pennant. The stars signified states with full suffrage. The other side of the scarf declared in bold black letters: Illinois. Her home state. Wells no doubt assumed she’d be alone in a sea of white women, but she wasn’t afraid to stand out. Her creed, always: “One had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”

Read entire article at Fortune