Archive: March2017

Inez Milholland – Suffragette

Inez Milholand in the Parade, March, 1913

Inez Milholand in the Parade, March, 1913

Inez Milholland – 1896 – 1916

January 21, 2017, women around the world marched en masse to retain the hard-earned constitutional rights granted them through centuries of struggle. Though it was the largest demonstration in United States history; it was not the first. For centuries, women have marched starting in the late 1880’s when they sought the rights to vote, own property, and hold elected office; in other words, for suffrage. In the United States, the suffrage movement joined forces, in some cases, with abolitionists. Women, like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, considered themselves both suffragist and abolitionist. While the Isle of Man (rather ironically) was the first nation to grant women the right to vote in 1881, followed by New Zealand, and Australia in 1893 and 1894 respectively, the fight for women’s suffrage throughout the rest of the world would take decades.

One of the women to join that cause was Inez Milholland, a wealthy, well-educated, and traveled young woman. Attending Vassar College in 1905, her outgoing personality quickly elevated her to campus royalty. Inspired by her participation in a London suffrage march lead by famous suffragist, Emmaline Pankhurst, and having met the woman herself, Inez brought that fire back to Vassar, establishing her own campus group, Vassar Votes for Women Club. While her spirit and popularity gained her many followers, not everyone, however, was quite as taken. Vassar President, Taylor, forbade her from holding the meetings on campus claiming it was no place to talk about women’s issues. She moved the club’s meetings, therefore, to a cemetery near the campus. Using her English suffrage connections, Inez invited Harriot Stanton Blanch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to help motivate the “lackluster” U.S. suffrage movement. By the time Milholland graduated four years later, her fame had spread across the nation, as she had broken up a parade for then President Taft, by yelling, “Votes for Women” through a megaphone from the second story of a building along the parade route.

By 1912, she had attained a law degree from New York University and taken a job at a law firm where she specialized in labor and civil rights cases. If her professional success gained her acclaim, it was her appearance, leading the famed Washington, D.C. Suffrage Parade of 1913, while on a white horse and draped with a sash, rosette, and long white cape, that made her the face of the U.S. Suffrage Movement. She married a Dutch coffee importer in the following year, but when war broke out in 1914, she left her husband, and law firm to become a war correspondent abroad. It was a short-lived position, as she was kicked off the front lines for failing to remain unbiased in her reporting. Once back home, she refocused her efforts on the suffrage movement by joining a group of suffragists lecturing around the country. She had, however, an infection in her tonsils, which had been left untreated. The infection, having grown, caused her to collapse on stage while giving a lecture in Los Angeles, California. She was taken to the hospital there but never left. Inez Mulholland died just three days later, on November 25, 1916, at the tender age of 30. At the time, she became a martyr for the suffrage cause, but once women gained the vote, her notoriety faded into the past.

The recent marches here, and around the world, have not only sparked a unity among men and women around the cause of women’s and human rights but have brought back the names, faces, efforts, and accomplishments of those who have marched before us and, in that, we are reminded that there is strength in numbers and much that can be attained when we work together.

Women gained the vote in:

1881 – Isle of Man
1893 – New Zealand
1894 – Australia
1913 – Russia & Finland
1917 – Canada
1918 – Britain
1920 – United States (19th Amendment to Constitution)
1931 – Spain
1944 – France
1946 – Italy
1952 – Greece
1971 – Switzerland

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