Today in Feminist History: A Suffrage Parade! (April 20, 1912)

April 20, 1912: What a busy day it’s been at two Manhattan suffrage offices, as the day of the big parade approaches!

It’s just two weeks away, so a lot of work still needs to be done before somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 marchers are expected to take to the streets in the largest and most elaborate woman suffrage pageant ever presented.

Suffrage parades began four years ago, when about two dozen brave members of the Progressive Woman Suffrage Union defied custom – and police – by marching a few blocks up Broadway on February 16, 1908. In 1910 the idea was tried again, with the number of marchers increased to 400. Last year the rapid growth continued, and 3,000 stepped off.

Thanks to annual repetition, favorable publicity, and official city permission making the idea seem less radical, more and more people and organizations are now taking part. The victory in California on October 10th, when it became the sixth and by far the largest equal suffrage State has also helped to re-energize our movement, so there’s no telling how large this year’s parade may actually turn out to be. 

Today the Women’s Political Union was packed with women in white suits, tri-color sashes and the new 39-cent “Votes for Women” parade hats they will all be wearing. Well, almost all. Harriot Stanton Blatch, president of Vassar’s Class of 1878, W.P.U. President, and daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, will be wearing a mortar board and college gown when she leads the parade. A few other officers will be dressed in the same manner.

Meanwhile, at the Woman Suffrage Party’s new headquarters, up to 50 women have been hard at work making large “five dollar banners” for thirty-seven and a half cents. Sixty-three banners are in production, one for each Assembly District in the city. Large black letters are being cut out, then sewn on to “suffrage yellow” banners.

Today’s work commenced very early this morning, and only now, at 6 p.m., does it seem to be finishing up. The W.S.P.’s new and bigger headquarters certainly comes in handy for occasions like this, and each of the seven rooms and ten closets is being fully utilized.

As May 4th gets closer, volunteers are especially needed by the Women’s Political Union, 46 East 29th Street (Telephone: Madison Square 9880), and the Woman Suffrage Party, 30 East 34th Street, so drop in if you can. There is a wonderfully friendly, optimistic atmosphere in both locations, and if the parade gets the kind of unprecedented turnout that’s hoped for, volunteers can not only say they marched, but that they had the opportunity to meet many well-known suffrage leaders, and did some of the hard work that helped make this landmark event such a success !


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.