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“Fine Dignity, Picturesque Beauty, and Serious Purpose”:

The Reorientation of Suffrage Media in the Twentieth Century

Emily Scarbrough, Author

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Inez Milholland

In 1913 Inez Milholland rode a pure white horse down the streets of Washington D.C. in a long, white dress. “The most beautiful suffragette,” as she was known, led a parade of thousands of suffragists in a very public display of woman’s desire to vote. These women argued that the vote would not force women to become masculine, but rather to elevate society with their own purity. Inez Milholland was a lawyer, a suffragist, a woman who proposed to her own husband, but when the public saw her riding down Pennsylvania Avenue, she was not mannish. Suffragists reshaped the way that they presented themselves to the public in a way that was much less threatening to gender roles.
Milholland became a central figure to the public movement. Her beauty made suffrage much more approachable, but her role as a lawyer and speaker proved to suffragists that she was more capable than simple attractiveness. She combined traditional understandings of gender roles with the fierce independence of a twentieth century women. In essence, Milholland came to represent the "New Woman." A woman who touched on the nature of womanhood, but sought to push the boundaries of woman's roles. 
Inez Milholland became even more central to the woman's suffrage movement in 1916. After giving a lecture, Milholland suddenly took ill. She died at thirty years old. The most beautiful suffragette perished and the last words she ever uttered on a suffrage platform were "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?" Her words became a rallying cry and she became a martyr for the suffrage cause.
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