Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the beginning of the book:

 

Jane Burleson glanced at her wristwatch as she sat, ramrod straight, on her horse. The seconds, then the minutes, were ticking away.

Burleson was an impressive figure. Tall, beautiful, regal. In command.

Behind her was Inez Milholland, dressed in a white flowing gown and seated on a light-colored horse named “Grey Dawn.” Milholland had been designated by the press as the “most beautiful suffragist.” When she passed in front of the crowd, you couldn’t help but look.

But Burleson led the parade. She was the grand marshal. She was the one the crowd would see first.

Her watch ticked relentlessly on. It was after three o’clock. The parade should have already started, and she was supposed to start it. But the signal hadn’t arrived.

Burleson gazed around. What she was seeing did not please her. Lots of people were milling about. The day was clear and crisp, slightly cool but not uncomfortable. That part was fine, but there was too much disorder. She was used to military parades. The wife of an Army officer, she knew how these things were supposed to happen.

Where was the signal?

She looked around again. In front of her was the Peace Monument, the official beginning of the parade. To her right was the U.S. Capitol Building, dominating the eastern horizon. Behind her at least 5,000 marchers, bands, floats, horses. They were waiting on her. She knew that if they didn’t move soon, whatever order there was left would dissipate.

She saw a policeman standing nearby and asked him to see that the lines of marchers behind her closed up.

He scowled at her and said something she couldn’t hear. He didn’t move.

She asked again, commanded even. He did nothing.

As a society woman, as the wife of an army lieutenant, she was used to giving orders. She was used to being obeyed. Besides, Richard Sylvester, chief of the Washington police, had told her that his force was at her command. All she had to do was tell them what she wanted.

She invoked Sylvester’s name. It did no good.

“I will not budge from here,” he said. “I have my orders.”

“I am going to report you to Major Sylvester for insolence and impudence, for he said you were to obey my orders.”

“Report — oh, oh, go ahead and report,” he said and turned away from her.

Bystanders who heard the exchange began to hoot and shout. Clearly, they were with the policeman and didn’t mind seeing a bossy woman get her come-uppance.

Burleson turned her horse and rode away. It was not a good start, and things would get worse.[1]

 

 

Inez Milholland shortly before the beginning of the procession

Inez Milholland had been here before.

She was no stranger to crowds, parades and photographers. She was the star of the show, as she had been for two previous suffrage parades in New York City. As she had been the night before at the Columbia Theatre in Washington when she spoke to the packed auditorium and helped raise $5,000 — nearly 40 percent of the entire expenses of the parade — for Alice Paul’s Congressional Committee.

Now at the base of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., in flowing white robes on a light-colored horse, she attracted a small crowd of her own, mostly men.

Her long flowing dark curls contrasted sharply with her white gown.

She had been told to wear yellow, one of the parade’s official colors. But white was her color, and that’s what she wore.[2]

Milholland knew her value as a symbol, but she was more than that,. She had more suffrage experience than most of the women around her. At Vassar she had organized suffrage meetings expressly against the wishes of the administration. In London, she had spoken at the first outdoor suffrage march. In New York she had participated in garment worker strikes and rallies.

And, just three days before, she learned that she had passed the New York bar exam and could now practice law. She looked forward to using her skills to advance the cause of social justice.

But today, she was a symbol — a role assigned to her by Alice Paul. It was Alice’s show, and Milholland was glad to be the star.

 

Alice Paul could not enjoy the day or feel much sense of triumph. There was simply too much to do –  too much to see about, too many questions to answer, too many problems to be fixed.

Now, it was past three o’clock.

Some things wouldn’t get done. It was time for her to climb into a car that would be part of the beginning of the parade.

Still, she must have felt some sense of satisfaction as she looked around. She could see the colors — green, yellow, purple, white. She could see, in her mind’s eye, what was about to take place a mile and a quarter away on the plaza of the U.S. Treasury Building.

It would be a pageant – a tableau – of unsurpassed beauty and grace, professionally produced and dazzling in its visual effect.

And as the pageant unfolded, thousands of women would be marching by, women from every walk of life, from every part of the nation. The entire afternoon would be one that no one could ignore. The thousands of people who saw it would never forget this day.

Alice Paul knew that the nation had to see suffrage. People had to get the idea of women voting in their heads. She had chosen the time and the stage –  the nation’s capital city on the day before the inauguration of a new president.

Three months before, all this had simply been an idea held by Alice Paul and a few of her companions. Now it was about to happen.[3]

End of excerpt


[1] United States Senate. Suffrage Parade. Hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on the District of Columbia, part 1, March 4-17, 1913, 494-495 (retrieved from Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=-YsEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=Jeanette%20Richards&f=false), hereafter Suffrage parade hearings.

[2] Linda J. Lumsden. Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004, 84.

[3] See Mary Walton. A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 1st ed.; and Christine Lunardini. From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights : Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, 1912-1928. New York : New York University Press 1986.

 

 

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