A century ago today, more than 5,000 women—and some intrepid men—marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital in what was billed as the Woman Suffrage Procession. The following is a guest post by Audrey Fischer, editor of the Library of Congress Magazine.
It had been 65 years since the first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and it would be another seven years until the 19th amendment was ratified, giving women the right to cast their ballots. Every year since 1869, a delegation of women came to Washington to present petitions asking that women be enfranchised, to no avail. Their efforts had not sparked debate in the halls of Congress.
Just back from working with the militant British suffragists in 1912, Alice Paul, head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), thought the American women’s suffrage movement needed a jolt and set about organizing the event. The timing—the day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration—wasn’t lost on the media savvy Paul.
The story of what came to be known as the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 is told thoroughly in a wonderful essay by Sheridan Harvey, former women’s studies specialist in the Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, which appears in “American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States.” It was adapted for an online presentation of the guide, “A Gateway to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States.”
Harvey’s essay demonstrates how one might research a topic such as the woman suffrage parade in the resources of the Library of Congress.
For example, the Manuscript Division houses the papers of women’s suffrage movement leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt.
The records of NAWSA and other women’s rights groups are housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Printed ephemera such as the official program from the 1913 parade are also housed in the Rare Book Division.
The Serials and Government Publications Division holds newspaper accounts of the parade as well as cartoons and drawings that appeared in the press. This artist’s sketch by Winsor McCay for the New York Evening Journal shows the order of the procession. It was reported that the delegation of librarians was led by the Library’s own Harriet Hifton of the U.S. Copyright Office.
The Prints and Photographs Division holds many photographs from the historic event such as this one and this assemblage of images of the suffrage movement in America. Many of these images have been digitized and are accessible on the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog and on the Library’s Flickr photostream.
Sounds of the suffrage movement can be researched in the Music Division through sheet music of the era and by listening to works like “Songs of the Suffragettes” and radio interviews with the movement’s leaders, housed in the Recorded Sound Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
More resources on the woman suffrage parade can be found on the Library’s website and on the Women’s History Month website. The site is a collaborative effort between the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as “a tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.”
Finally, the anniversary and the subject of women’s suffrage has captured the imagination of two of our fellow Library of Congress bloggers, who offer their own unique perspectives:
- Teaching with the Library of Congress
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Suffragist March of 1913 with Primary Sources
- In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress
Centennial of the 1913 Suffrage March