EVANSTON — The June event celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment will be a reenactment of a 1900s Suffragette Parade at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 15. The 19th Amendment committee encourages all men, women and children to meet in the Uinta County Library parking lot between noon and 1 p.m. Floats, bicycles, walkers, musicians and observers are welcome.
The parade will go down Center Street, turn on 9th Street in front of the Courthouse, left on Main Street and end at the Strand Theater. The Evanston City Council will provide drinks after the parade, and a free film on the suffragettes and leader Alice Paul will start at 2 p.m. in the Strand.
Alice Paul was a Quaker born on Jan. 17, 1885, in New Jersey. She attended Swathmore College and for a time lived in England, where she was active in seeking voting rights for women. When she came back to the U.S., she became active in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
On March 3, 1913, the first suffragette parade went up Pennsylvania Avenue. Riding on a white horse, Inez Milholland led over 5,000 suffragettes, 20 floats, nine bands and four mounted brigades. Paul, who emerged as a leader in the movement and NAWSA, strategically planned the parade to be held one day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, knowing thousands of people would be in D.C.
The marchers were harassed and violently attacked. The police did little to stop the violence and more than 100 women were hospitalized, but the marchers persisted and finished the parade.
In January 1917, NAWSA staged its first of many picketing protests in front of the White House. Many women were arrested and put in Virginia’s Occoquan Workhouse, which had a reputation for unsanitary conditions and cruelty. The women were beaten and force fed through feeding tubes after Paul and other women went on a hunger strike in protest. Paul was viewed as the ring leader and was sent to a psychiatric ward.
In November 1917, the women experienced what was later labeled the Night of Terror. Guards beat, choked and stabbed the women. Some were knocked unconscious or thrown into concrete “punishment cells.”
The bad publicity was so great that President Wilson finally urged Congress to pass the amendment as a “war measure.” However, it was another two years before the amendment was passed.
On June 4, 1919 (41 years after its introduction), Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” On Aug. 18, 1920, it was finally ratified by the required three-fourths of states.
Paul led the National Women’s Party, which she had organized when NAWSA refused to promote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), thinking it was premature. The ERA reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
First introduced in 1921, and every Congress since, the ERA was passed by the House in 1971 and the Senate in 1972; however, many states failed to ratify or attempted to rescind their ratification. Wyoming voted for the ERA. It was defeated primarily by the anti-feminists and the religious right.
Paul continued her fight for the ERA and worked for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until her death on July 9, 1977.
When proclaiming Women’s History Month in 2016, President Barack Obama said, “In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, women have never given up on the promise of America — that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach.”