Thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1913, to demand the right to vote for women. These women came from all over the country. The movement for women’s suffrage had been waging a fierce battle for more than 60 years, and this gathering was its first major national event. It was organized by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association on March 3, 1913. Hundreds of suffragettes, over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades marched with the lawyer and activist Inez Milholland astride a white horse. There were thousands of spectators watching the women march from the U.S. Capitol toward the Treasury Building. By strategically holding the parade one day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, the parade organizers maximized attention on the event. It was a successful strategy.
Inez Milholland rode a white horse named Grey Dawn at the front of the procession. Wearing a white dress, a cape, and a golden tiara with the star of hope on top, she rode the horse rather than sidesaddle. Inez was a famous activist, lawyer, and speaker. She was known as “the most beautiful suffragist.” A very photogenic woman, she rode as the herald of the future and embodied the New Woman of the 20th century. She was part of the generation of suffragists who challenged society’s expectations of being a woman and the limitations that those ideas placed on how women dressed and behaved. Feminists fought for more than just the right to vote and full equality.
Some spectators weren’t as kind as others. As police on the parade route failed to help, some marchers were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked. At least 250,000 people streamed into the streets and blocked the parade route instead of staying on the sidewalk. The police stationed along Pennsylvania Avenue were unable or unwilling to control the crowds. Despite their best efforts, the marchers continued to march. As cars and horses tried to clear the street of people, the crowd would fill back in behind them. The progress slowed and then stopped. Marchers found themselves surrounded by hostile, jeering men shouting vile insults and sexual propositions at them. They were manhandled and spat on. Women reported that police officers looked on bemusedly or told them they wouldn’t be in this situation if they had stayed home. Some women fled the terrifying scene, but most were determined to continue. Some of them cried as they faced the ambush. When they could, they ignored the taunts. To defend themselves, some held banner poles, flags, and hatpins. By the end of the day, over 100 women had been hospitalized for injuries due to the incident. The U.S. Army troops cleared the street an hour later so the procession could continue. Despite this, the women did not give up; they completed the parade. They were the subject of significant news stories and congressional hearings due to their experiences. Historians later credited the 1913 parade with re-energizing the suffrage movement.
Lucy Burns, of New York City, who with Alice Paul established the first permanent headquarters for suffrage work in Washington, D.C., helped organize the suffrage parade of Mar. 3, 1913, and was one of the editors of The Suffragist. Leader of most of the picket demonstrations, she served more time in jail than any other suffragists in America. Arrested picketing June 1917, sentenced to 3 days; arrested Sept. 1917, sentenced to 60 days; arrested Nov. 10, 1917, sentenced to 6 months; in Jan. 1919 arrested at watch fire demonstrations, for which she served one 3 day and two 5 day sentences. She also served 4 prison terms in England. Burns was one of the speakers on the "Prison Special" tour of Feb-Mar 1919.
She died after stepping out in front of King George V's horse at the Derby at Epsom. On this day every year, up to the late 1960s, suffragettes would visit Morpeth on the 'Emily Davison Pilgrimage'. In 1915, her friend Mary Leigh, far left in the photograph with her head bowed, started the 'Emily Davison Club', and the 'Emily Davison Lodge', whose aim was: 'to perpetuate the memory of a gallant woman by gathering together women of progressive thought and aspiration with the purpose of working for the progress of women according to the needs of the hour'.