100 Years of the Women's Vote

1913 Woman Suffrage Procession

In the second decade of the 20th century, suffragists began staging large and dramatic parades to draw attention to their cause. One of the largest demonstrations was a march held in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1913. The date of the march was strategically selected to occur the day before Woodrow Wilson's first presidential inauguration. More than 5,000 suffragists from around the country paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the Treasury Building.

The Woman Suffrage Procession was the first large, organized march on Washington for political purposes and was organized by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

The Procession set a precedent for future protest marches, but was not without controversy. According to the NAWSA, all women and men were welcome to march. Facing pressure, however, Paul attempted to exclude black women from participating because she feared white women would not march alongside them. Ultimately Paul allowed women of color to join the procession at the rear. Some women of color -- such as anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and lawyer Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians -- blocked the attempt to racially segregate the parade by walking alongside white women. 

Both supporters and anti-suffrage groups came out to watch the parade. During the Procession, local police failed to keep the crowds off the street, who began to block the marchers and hinder their progress. Although the Procession drew a number of supporters, the marchers were also subjected to heckling from spectators. As tensions mounted, riots broke out, with over 200 people eventually treated for injuries. Citizens and on-lookers tried to break up the riots, and eventually the cavalry was called in. Due to their failure to properly secure the parade route and control the crowds, local police later faced a congressional inquiry as a result of their mismanagement of the event. 

As a result of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession, smaller, regional parades took place around the country. In 1917, Paul and other women from the National Women's Party began to regularly stand in protest in front of the White House. Known as the "Silent Sentinels," they stood outside the White House six days a week, silently protesting. The first group to ever protest in front of the White House, nearly 2,000 women participated over a two-year period. Hundreds of women were arrested, with some even beaten, jailed, and subject to other injustices by U.S. authorities. 

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