Seeing Suffrage: The Six Hats – and three pictures

This picture I like to call The Six Hats.

The photo shows Jane Burleson, the grand marshal of the Washington suffrage parade, standing with five other marshals sometime before the parade began at 3 p.m. on March 3, 1913. Burleson is standing third from the right along with parade marshals (left to right according to what’s on the picture itself) Mrs. Russell McLennan, Althea Taft, Louise Bridges, Alberta Hill and Miss F. Ragsdale.

What is immediately striking to modern viewers about this pictures is the hats the women are wearing.

In 1913, no woman went outside without a hat, and at that time the fashion was to have a large hat that was decorated elaborately. But once we get past the hats in this wonderful photo, it offers us some great information about the parade itself.

The photo is taken in front of the Garfield Memorial, on the southern side of the western front of the U.S. Capitol building. Both the memorial and the Capitol are clearly visible in the background. A policeman on the left and a number of spectators are also visible. At the moment this photograph was taken, it must have been slightly overcast because shadows are visible, but they are not well defined. There is movement and excitement in the photograph, especially when you understand the context. Something is about to happen — and from our perspective a century later, we know what it is.

The women themselves — and not just their hats — are the most interesting part of the picture, of course. They have posed for the picture and are looking straight at the camera, which may be as much as 30 feet away. The women range in age apparently from twenties to fifties (Mrs. McLennan seems to be the oldest), and they appear to be relaxed and enjoying themselves, despite the building excitement.

This is the picture that will appear in the print version of Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape.

Below are two pictures that won’t appear in the book because they would seem repetitious, but they add to our understanding of the people and context of the picture.

 

This photograph was taken by the same photographer who took the first photo, but it was snapped a few seconds after the posed picture. When I first saw it, I thought it was taken before the first picture, but the man on the right, who seems to be walking toward the group is closer than in the first photo.

The women in the group are not posing, and a couple of them are not paying any attention to the camera. On the left, Mrs. McLennan and Althea Taft are chatting with each other, and June Burleson is adjusting her hat, or possibly beginning to take it off. Louise Bridges, the tallest of the group, is most aware of the camera, but her smile makes her look most relaxed and at ease.

 

The third photo of this must have been taken at about the same time as the first photo was snapped, but it is at a different angle and obviously taken by a different photographer. It is a bit closer to the group than the other pictures. The man to the right is obscured, but the shadow he casts is very clear, and he seems to be standing rather than walking. All of the women are smiling.

One picture of these women is good, but the three, taken together, tell us much about them and about the day of the parade.

 

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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