Thursday, August 25, 2016

BIRTH | Aug. 6–Inez Milholland is 130 (Updated Aug. 25, 2016)

Inez Milholland Boissevain (1886-1916)
This day in 1886, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was born Inez Milholland Boissevain, who gave her life working to persuade President Wilson to support a U.S. constitutional amendment recognizing the right of women to vote.

Women won the right to vote at the Federal level in 1920, four years after she died.

Milholland was a graduate of Vassar College and NYU Law School who also fought for the rights of working-class women, spoke out for racial equality, and worked for prison reform.

At Vassar, her suffrage meetings were banned from the campus, so she held them across the street at a Poughkeepsie Cemetery.

For six years, she was involved in the drive for Votes for Women in New York, memorably lobbying state lawmakers and leading annual suffrage parades up Fifth Avenue.

In 1913, she fought for the inclusion of black college women in the Woman Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., and she famously led it the wearing a cape and crown atop a white horse.

Inez and Eugen Boissevain, 1913
In July 1913, she married Eugen Boissevain (my mother's uncle) in London, asking her friends to keep it a secret. However, someone called the newspapers and it was front-page news the next day. A New York Times editorial called her "the fairest of the Amazons".

In 1916, she became a “Flying Envoy” on a speaking tour of the western states on behalf of the National Woman's Party. In October 1916, after the rhetorical question, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty,” she collapsed before a large audience in Los Angeles, Calif. She died a month later of pernicious anemia.

On Christmas Day, an unprecedented memorial was held for her in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, the first woman to be honored there.

The following  month, suffragists from the National Woman's Party presenting memorials of Milholland's death were rebuffed by President Wilson. They then began picketing the White House and carried her last words on many of their banners. The picketing led to arrests, imprisonment, hunger strikes, forced feeding, national outrage and a change in President Wilson's mind (not his first). The 19th Amendment was ratified by the last required state (Tennessee) in August 1920.

Inez Milholland Boissevain personified the goal of Votes for Women.

No comments:

Post a Comment