Friday, January 19, 2018

CENTENNIAL | Suffrage Marches, January 20

To find out about suffrage centennial events, consult the centennial website maintained by Marguerite Kearns and others.

The year 2017 celebrated the passage of votes for women in New York State.

In 2018, votes for women passed in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

Monday, January 8, 2018

INEZ | Memorial March, January 20

Inez Milholland leads Woman Suffrage parade on Fifth
Avenue, New York City, May 1913, a month before
she met her husband-to-be, Eugen Boissevain.
If you live in upstate New York, please consider going to the second Adirondack Women’s March, planned for Saturday, January 20, 2018. 

The organizers promise that it will be a combination of "rally, march and community celebration," showing solidarity with women around the world. 

"We will stand together to protect the civil rights, safety, and health of all people. We call on defenders of human rights to join us at this peaceful, non-partisan event." It is free and is billed as non-partisan.

The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the grave of Inez Milholland at the top of the hill, in the Lewis Cemetery. The program will include a welcome address, poems, songs, and grave ceremony. Participants are encouraged to bring signs, flags, and/or flowers to lay on Inez’s gravesite. 

After the program, the march will proceed down the hill to the new Inez Milholland roadside marker, at the corner of Route 9 and Fox Run Road. It will continue up Route 9 to Lewis Veterans’ Park, and back past the Lewis Town Hall to the Lewis Congregational Church parsonage. 

At the parsonage, refreshments will include soup, bread and hot drinks. A program of sing-alongs, memories of 2017, and inspirational thoughts for the future is planned. The Town of Lewis will open its town hall from 11 2 p.m. so marchers can view the town exhibit about Inez and the Milholland family. 

Her father John E. Milholland amassed a fortune providing underground mail services via pneumatic tube, but he lost much of it when Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1916, because of his Lincoln-Republican attacks on Wilson and his Postmaster-General, whom he accused of racism. He was the founding Treasurer of the NAACP.

There will also be two showings of “Forward Into Light,” the short film produced by Martha Wheelock about the life of Inez Milholland, at 10:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. in the church parsonage. A Q&A, moderated by Kathy Linker and Sandra Weber, will follow each showing. 

Area Women’s March events are also planned for Glens Falls at noon and Plattsburgh at 3 pm. At a memorial for Inez in 1916, speakers praised her advocacy for feminism, for civil rights for blacks, and for humane treatment of inmates. "Inez hated inequality, shams and hypocrisy," says the announcement of the march. "She loved truth."

She also loved commitment. A century ago, the people of Lewis and Essex County decided to rename Mt Discovery, to call it Mt Inez. The maps were never changed. Isn't this change overdue?

A friend of the organizers said: “What Inez showed us was that it is possible to have a glorious time and stand like iron for truth.” The memorial march on January 20 is organized by Sandra Weber and David Hodges. For more information, visit the Women’s March website, or email Sandra Weber at

Friday, November 24, 2017

INEZ | Her New Roadside Marker in Lewis, NY!

November 24, 2017 – A new marker for Inez Milholland Boissevain has been erected in her childhood home, Lewis, N.Y.

Three cheers for the Pomeroy Foundation for creating this and other physical markers for the women who persevered in campaigning for their right to vote.

The eldest of the three children of John E. Milholland and his wife Jean Torrey Milholland, Inez was born in New York City, in a neighborhood that is now called Brooklyn Heights.

The Lewis newspaper in 1916 supported
changing the name of "Mt Discovery" to
 "Mt Inez". The maps were never changed.
It's not too late to do that.

She spent her summers and other vacations in the huge property that her her father purchased in Lewis, and learned to ride a horse there – a skill that defined the iconic image by which she is best known today.

The mountain on the Milholland property, Mt Discovery, was supposed to have been changed to Mt Inez but the maps haven't reflected the change. It's harder to do that than they thought. The name change would be an even better marker than a roadside sign. Maybe the Pomeroy Foundation can help with that? There are other pointless names in the United States that could be changed to those of neglected American women.

Inez is the only woman in the American suffrage movement who is considered to have given up her life for the cause. She died like a soldier on the battlefield at the age of 30 in 1916, collapsing in October that year while on a grueling speaking tour with her sister Vida, and dying six weeks later in Los Angeles.

I have written a play about Inez. A 15-minute movie about her life was created last year. The connections are being made between the huge ceremony on Christmas Day in her honor and the anger of the  delegation of women to President Wilson the following month that he dissed. 

Buy a large-size durable poster of Inez
 for $30 from Boissevain Books LLC.
The picketing of the White House that started in January 2017 began with the memory of Inez Milholland Boissevain.

This blogsite is filled with recent efforts to recognize her contribition to the gaining of recognition of women's right to vote in New York State and the nation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

SUFFRAGIST SONGS | Valerie diLorenzo

L to R: Amanda Borsack Jones, John Tepper Marlin and
Valerie diLorenzo. A rousing show.
November 19, 2017 – Valerie diLorenzo brought the mostly female crowd to their feet today after she smoothly belted out 15 songs dedicated to votes for women.

The event, titled "Ladies of Liberty", celebrated the 100th anniversary of the right of women to vote being recognized by the male voters and government of the State of New York.

The musical director was Amanda Borsack Jones. An East Hampton native, she accompanied Valerie on the piano, provided occasional background music for the commentary between songs, and sang the alto part for some of the songs.

The full audience at the Southampton Arts Center joined in singing four songs that were included in the program. I thought "The Right of Every Woman" (sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") was especially effective, and also "Claim Our Liberty" (to the tune of "My Country 'Tis of Thee").

Among the series of solos, especially memorable was "You Don't Own Me".

Valerie is a versatile singer and raconteur, comfortable at the microphone. She has sung the national anthem for the Mets for more than 15 seasons. Her list of singing and acting credits is long.

It was a fun evening and after the event I got to spend some time with friends:
  • The Fensterers, musician Janet and singer Victoria, who recently got married.
  • Cathy Peacock, who helped organize the event.
  • Other officers of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons.
I'm hoping that the last of the one-time competitive friction between the predecessor of the League, NAWSA (the National American Woman Suffrage Association), and the National Woman's Party can be ended. 

I thought The New York Times expressed it well in a contemporary editorial when they said that the "gold pen" of credit for getting the 19th Amendment passed goes to NAWSA and the "silver inkstand" of credit goes to the mostly younger people who created the more activist authority-challenging NWP.

The story of how Woodrow Wilson changed his mind about supporting the Anthony Amendment needs to be told whenever its passage is celebrated.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

INEZ | Interview with Francesca Rheannon

Suffragists confront President Wilson in 1917,
when access to the White House was easier!
This is the anniversary year of the Silent Sentinels from the National Woman's Party who protested in front of the White House.

The daily picketing was precipitated by Wilson's lack of response to memorials presented in January 1917 to the memory of Inez Milholland Boissevain, who died in November 1916.

For Women's Equality Day (August 26) this year, I was interviewed by Francesca Rheannon about my play about Inez – Take Up the Song – in the context of the American suffragist movement that originated in London in 1840.

Francesca interviews writers for airing by NPR stations across the United States, from Ames, Amherst and Anchorage to Viroqua (Wisconsin). Her syndicated program is called Writer's Voice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

BIRTH | Oct. 22 – John Reed

Russian Versions of Reed's Works,
in English and Russian.
October 22, 2017 – This day in 1887 was born in Portland, Oregon, American journalist John Silas “Jack” Reed.

He's best known as the author of Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), his eye-witness account of Russia’s 1917 "October" Revolution.

He is included in this Inez Milholland blog because:
  • He was an older contemporary of Inez's brother John ("Jack") Milholland at Harvard. Both of them tried out for the Harvard football team.
  • He was a part of Inez Milholland's circle of radical feminists and pacifists.
  • His famed trip to Russia in 1917 was financed, according to their friend Max Eastman, through an appeal to Alma Vanderbilt Belmont and others by Inez's widower Eugen Boissevain.

Reed was from a wealthy Portland family. His mother, Margaret Green Reed, was the daughter of a man who owned Oregon's first gas works, first pig-iron smelter, and the City of Portland water works.

At Harvard, Reed tried out for football but did not make the team (unlike Inez's brother Jack, who became the team's well-publicized designated drop-kicker). While a student, Reed attended meetings of the Socialist Club headed by Walter Lippman and became an admirer and friend of Lincoln Steffens, the famed muckraker. His favorite professor was English Professor Charles Townsend "Copey" Copeland (1860-1952), who recommended that his students interested in a writing career get involved in real-life gritty working experiences as a way of generating something to write about.

Reed graduated from Harvard in 1910 and after several gritty jobs began in 1913 writing for Max Eastman's anti-war and socialist magazine, The Masses. In 1914 he covered the revolution in Mexico and recorded his impressions in Insurgent Mexico. In 1915 he met the leftist journalist Louise Bryant. He said:
She is coming to New York to get a job with me, I hope. I think she's the first person I ever loved without reservation.
They were married that year. They spent that summer in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, with a group of other writers from Greenwich Village that included Floyd Dell and Theodore Dreiser. Several of them established the Provincetown Theatre Group at the end of a wharf, which inspired another theater on McDougall Street in New York City with the same name. Bryant wrote:
Never were so many people in America who wrote or painted or acted ever thrown together in one place. 
Other writers like Eugene O'Neill and Eugen Boissevain's second wife Edna St. Vincent Millay joined the group in later years.

Arrested often for his coverage of strikes, Reed rapidly became established as a radical leader and helped form the U.S. Communist Party. He covered World War I for Metropolitan magazine and wrote The War in Eastern Europe (1916).

Reed sought money to go to Russia in 1917 to cover what became the Russian Revolution. Eugen Boissevain, now Inez Milholland's widower, spoke with some of their New York City friends, including Alma Vanderbilt Belmont, and, according to Max Eastman, was the key person who put together Reed's funding.

In Russia, Reed befriended Lenin and was an eye-witness to the early days of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Reed wrote back with enthusiastic correspondent reports that generated U.S. headlines.

He returned to to New York and when the U.S. Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party split in 1919, Reed became the leader of the latter. Indicted for sedition (treason), he escaped via Scandinavia to Russia. But in his final years he was disillusioned by the loss of democracy after the Russian Revolution and especially by restrictions on his own travel.

He died in 1920 in a Moscow hospital of scrub typhus, which is associated with poor hygiene and cold weather. He is buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis for Bolshevik heroes, along with Bill Haywood, Chairman of the American Communist Party and a leader of the IWW ("Wobblies") and the Paterson strike, who died in 1928 in Moscow. 

Reed and Haywood are two of only three Americans buried with Soviet heroes (the other is Charles E. Ruthenberg, Cleveland-born co-founder of the Communist Party USA). Russian leaders have seldom expressed admiration for Americans. Usually it is in response to praise in the other direction – other examples that come to mind are Jack London (1876-1916) and Donald J. Trump (1946-present).

Monday, October 2, 2017

WILSON | Oct. 2 – Felled by Stroke

Woodrow Wilson
October 2, 2017 – This day in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke.

It happened after he curtailed an 8,000-mile  national tour to promote U.S. membership in the League of Nations. The trip cost Wilson his health.

Wilson's tour had its parallel in the tour that Inez Milholland Boissevain undertook in 1916 to campaign against Wilson for not supporting the Anthony Amendment.

Both Inez and the President suffered constant headaches during their tours. Both finally collapsed – Inez in October 1916 in Los Angeles, Wilson in September 1919 in Pueblo, Colorado.

Both failed in their mission, but contributed to it, and had their health not given out might have seen their goals achieved. Inez failed to defeat Wilson, although the California vote was so close the results were weeks in becoming final – but her death was the inciting incident in the picketing of the White House, and the Anthony Amendment was passed with Wilson's support in 1919, with ratification as the 19th Amendment the following year.

Similarly, Wilson's campaign for membership in a world body was ended by his collapse, but was achieved after his death in 1945, with U.S. membership in the United Nations.

After his collapse, Wilson returned to Washington, but suffered a massive stroke on October 2. Wilson’s wife Edith blamed it on Wilson's Republican Congressional opponents, because they attacked Wilson personally on issues relating to the League of Nations.

Edith kept quiet the extent of Wilson’s incapacitation. While Wilson lay in bed motionless, Edith is reported to have screened his messages, and sometimes signed her husband's name without consulting him.

In her memoirs she said she acted as her husband's steward. Her husband continued to serve as President and partly regained his health, but remained paralyzed on one side. He did not return to his campaign for U.S. membership in the League, and the United States never joined, since Republican Warren Harding was opposed and he was elected President in 1920. Wilson died in 1924.