The day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade took place in Washington, D.C. to demand the attention of the incoming administration and advance the cause of suffrage. Organized primarily by Alice Paul, 8,000 women marched on Washington on March 3, 1913.
Alice Paul is an often overlooked figure in American suffragette history. She’s no longer as common a name as Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her early feminist contemporaries weren’t always very fond of her, for that matter. Many found her “too radical,” especially after her return from training with the British suffragettes, where she was arrested multiple times. But Alice Paul knew how to get things done.
At the end of 1912, at a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention, young Alice Paul championed the cause of a women’s march on Washington, timed to coincide with the incoming administration’s inaguration. She felt strongly that it would lead to an increased awareness within the federal government that women and their demands for sovereignty were not going away.
NAWSA agreed to the march as long as Alice Paul ran the parade committee herself, raised all the funds necessary for the march, and convinced enough women to attend. When she relocated to DC in January 1913 to begin coordinating the march, she discovered her “committee” was mostly just herself & a couple of friends she’d convinced to join her. No office. No money. No womanpower.
In just three months, she established a base of operations, rallied thousands of women to the cause — winning over NAWSA’s official support, raised the impressively hefty sums necessary for permits, programs, etc., secured the parade route, and generally got the job done.
The morning before Wilson’s inaguration saw the streets of Washington filled with America’s women — housewives, lawyers, mothers, teachers, students, nurses, activists, etc. They marched for Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the way, they were harassed, spit upon, tripped, shoved, and outright assaulted by throngs of male spectators lining the streets attempting to block the women’s progress. The police stood by and did nothing to prevent these attacks on the marchers. One police officer is recorded as basically saying to injured & bleeding women that if theyd just stayed home, this never would’ve happened.
By the end of the day over 200 marchers were treated for various degrees of injury in area hospitals, half of whom required hospitalization. The egregious treatment of the marchers triggered Congressional hearings and the unstoppable momentum of women’s rights in American continued to build towards suffrage & sovereignty.
On January 21, 2017, continuing over a century of American feminist tradition & struggle, the women will once again take to the streets of Washington, D.C. in anticipation of a new round of battles with an incoming president. As of this writing, the Women’s March will also take to the streets of over 600 other locations across the country & around the world.
We have come a long way since Alice Paul. NAWSA did little to advance the suffrage claims of American women of color; at the 1913 march, they were instructed to march at the back. The 2017 marches are unabashedly intersectional. We will see women of all races, religions, classes, abilities, orientations, relationship statuses, educational backgrounds, careers, and more, take up the cause of sovereignty for themselves and for each other. I am so proud of American feminisms and how far we have come. I am prouder still, now and in the challenging days to come, of our blossoming awareness and ardent commitment to the work ahead — to just how far we still have to go.
It is 104 years later and the women are still coming — still in pursuit of constitutional equality. Still committed to our quest for sovereignty.
So, do not underestimate us, Mr. Ryan, Mr. McConnell, Chief Justice Roberts, Mr. Pence, and Mr. Trump.
Beat us down. Spit on us. Assault us. Attempt to block our way. They’ve tried that before. For over a century, we’ve continued to advance our cause.
We do not give up. Like our mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers before us, we teach our daughters and our granddaughters and our great-granddaughters not to give up either.
Rest assured that as long as our government continues to threaten our sovereignty, we will never stop coming.
The women will always keep marching.
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. She is also a current resident of Heartwood Cohousing in Colorado & a homeschooling mother of three. Kate hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, priestesses labyrinth rituals, and facilitates workshops on an assortment of women’s spirituality topics. During 2017, she will present at the SOA’s annual online conference, AvaCon, & at the second annual Ninefold Festival next autumn. Kate is a contributing writer at One World Herbal Community and is also published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.