ON 3 MARCH 1913, over 5,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for a march to win public support for women’s right to vote. The National American Woman Suffrage Association spearheaded the movement, demanding constitutional amendments.
The procession, which included trumpeters, began near the Capitol—the meeting chamber of the United States Congress—and carried on to the Treasury Building along roads strewn with rose petals. The lawyer Inez Milholland led the march on a white horse. Around a hundred women and children displayed a tableau with allegorical figures such as Charity, Liberty and Justice, hoping to draw attention to “those ideals toward which both men and women have been struggling through the ages and toward which, in co-operation and equality, they will continue to strive.” The New York Times declared the march “one of the most impressively beautiful spectacles ever staged in this country.”
Though successful, the event was not uncontroversial. When African American suffragists announced their intention to join the march, several white Southern suffragists threatened to boycott it. Ultimately, the march was segregated. In 1974, the feminist and activist Alice Paul, who organised the parade, claimed that it had been largely peaceful. But other contemporary accounts claim that male onlookers tripped and shoved women, and shouted out insults. Over 100 injured marchers were reportedly rushed to the hospital. The author Helen Keller, who had intended to speak, declined. She explained later that the crude remarks and jeers of male onlookers had left her “exhausted and unnerved.”
Seven years later, the United States passed a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.