Thursday, February 28, 2013

INEZ | Famed Parade Leader Forgotten

This iconic poster is based on the painting that
hangs in the lobby of the Sewall-Belmont
House in Washington next the Hart Senate
Office Building, was above the mantelpiece. 
February 28, 1913–The Washington Post yesterday, has a story on Inez Milholland from the perspective of the great contrast between her huge contemporary fame and the memory of her contribution to woman suffrage. 

Inez, Suffragette

The story is well told by Lonnae O'Neal Parker, who correctly calls Inez a "suffragette". 

Among the comments (28 when I last looked, several of them mine), one said "suffragette" was the wrong word and "suffragist" was correct. But in fact "suffragette" was not a word that either Inez or Alice Paul shrunk from. It connotes a willingness to be active ("in your face" we might say today) in pursuit of Votes for Women.

Inez trained with the self-styled Pankhurst suffragettes in England, when her father John E. Milholland had a house in London while he tried to get business for his pneumatic tubes from the British Post Office. Alice Paul was also with the suffragettes in London when she was recruited to take over NAWSA's then-moribund Congressional Committee.

The suffragettes were not embarrassed by standing on street corners and shouting "Votes for Women." Dignified ladies preferred to work behind the scenes, but the suffragettes said they had waited long enough for this low-profile approach to bear fruit. They took to the streets.

The parade in Washington was organized by the Alice-Paul-run Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The Committee later broke away from NAWSA and became the independent National Woman's Party. 

Both groups played a part in obtaining votes for women and hostility between the groups is unfortunate and unnecessary.

The long-term lobbying of NAWSA was important, but the chain of causation that led to final passage of the 19th Amendment can only be traced via the National Woman's Party. 

The parade 100 years ago is what emboldened the radicals to break off and pursue their own attention-getting campaign. Google "Inez Milholland Boissevain" (her married name) and for a "forgotten woman" you will find a lot of gigabytes of information about her.

No Memorial to Inez

One of the commenters said that there should be a statue to Inez Milholland in Washington. Several people thought this was a great idea. It could be located in one of the squares along Massachusetts Avenue west of the Capitol, where it crosses the grid.

Stanton Square is the other direction, a few blocks east of the Capitol. The square itself is named after Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War during the Civil War. Maybe no one would object if the name of the square was shared between him and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The square was the location of the first campaign headquarters of two-term President Barack Obama.

The statue in Stanton Square is not of Stanton but rather of Nathanael Greene, a soldier in George Washington's army after whom is named Greensboro, NC–birthplace of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). 

It is in good condition, i.e., not a candidate for rider replacement. But maybe the National Park Service could come up with a candidate for redeploying one of the many handsome warhorse statues in Washington, DC. They would need to find one where the horse is solid but the rider is worn out by rain, or is by a mediocre sculptor and does not have a family or an institution to object vociferously to replacing the rider.

Iron-Jawed Angels

Another commenter on the Washington Post story recommends the movie Iron-Jawed Angels, wthe première of which I saw in Philadelphia. It tells the 19th Amendment story from Alice Paul's point of view. Alice Paul was a behind-the-scenes organizer, and a good one. She knew that Inez Milholland was the perfect woman to put in front of the public as the figurehead of the parade of the National Woman's Party. Inez would capture the affection of both men and women. Inez was happy to play that role.

But when Inez got sick in 1916 on her national campaign with her sister Vida, she should have stopped. Instead, spurred on by Alice Paul, she carried on until her collapse and death. In the movie, Paul is stricken with remorse.

We need another movie, from the perspective of Inez Milholland and the inspiration she was for the rest of the woman's movement. It would be a more interesting movie! In Iron-Jawed Angels (2004), Inez was played by Julia Ormond, who was then 39, nine years older than Hilary Swank, who played Alice Paul. Actually, Inez was younger than Alice Paul, not to mention rated "the fairest of the Amazons" by The New York Times editors, who normally don't get into rating the fairness of women.

Picketing the White House 

The picketing of the White House in 1917, started because President Wilson dissed a delegation of women from the National Woman's Party who appealed to him with 250 memorials of inez Milholland Boissevain's death. The emotional reaction is hard to understand unless you appreciate the contrast between the affection people had for Inez and the President's ivory-tower lecture to the delegation on its ignorance of political reality.

The National Woman's Party was then across Lafayette Park. The angry, fuming women left the White House and immediately started picketing in front of the White House gates, calling themselves the Silent Sentinels. The ignorance of political reality was more on the President's side than on the side of the National Woman's Party.

This phase is called the Turning Point by the Turning Point Suffrage Memorial group, which wants to create a memorial to the suffragists at the Workhouse (prison) in Lorton, Virginia, where the women were brought when President Wilson signaled his impatience with the picketing. In prison, the women - including Inez's sister Vida Milholland - went on a hunger strike and were force-fed, and that is when the tide of public opinion turned in favor of the suffragists. In changing his mind, Wilson referred to the good work of women in the war effort, but when the 19th Amendment was passed the New York Times gave credit both to the good ladies of NAWSA and the more radical women (young and old) of the NWP, giving one the silver pen and the other the gold inkstand.

Remembering the 1913 Parade, 100 Years Later

The parade on Sunday is sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta, a black sorority at Howard University. Back in 1913, when they asked the National Woman's Party if they could be in the parade, the initial response was that it would be awkward because the southern membership of NAWSA would be upset. 

Inez Milholland got wind of this and talked to Alice Paul about it and the sorority was allowed to march, but they were put safely towards the back of the parade. The National Woman's Party became very brave by 1917 but in 1913 they were just the Congressional Committee of NAWSA, which itself was a merger of two suffrage groups (NWSA and AWSA, if I remember correctly) that had split over tactics when it appeared that non-white men would be added to the electorate before white women. Former slave Frederick Douglass was a key advocate in 1848 for the first Women's Convention to go for votes for women. But when during the Civil War it came to a choice between enfranchising black men or white women, he could only go one way.

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