Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

The Militant Women’s Movement

In 1913, activist Alice Stokes Paul returned to the United States from England where she had been involved with the English militant suffrage movement. With her friend Lucy Burns, she joined the NAWSA's Congressional Committee. In March of 1913, they organized a large-scale women's rights march in Washington, D.C. to coincide with President Wilson's inauguration. The march received an enormous amount of publicity after marchers were harassed and attacked by parade onlookers.

Later that year, Burns and Paul founded the Congressional Union (CU) as a separate organization to forward their work. Immediately, the Congressional Union began to alienate the NAWSA with its radical tactics. In February of 1914, the NAWSA and the CU officially parted ways. The CU, and later the National Woman’s party, pursued a strategy of asking women voters in the West to vote against the Democrats, in order to hold the “party in power” responsible for failing to enfranchise women.

Between 1916 and 1917, the Congressional Union was transformed into the National Woman's Party (NWP). In 1917, members of the NWP began picketing the Wilson White House continuously. The National Woman’s Party was the first group to employ this political tactic. After the start of World War I, picketers, including Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, were arrested on a trumped-up charge of blocking traffic. Imprisoned suffragists were badly treated and suffered severely. While in jail, Paul and others went on hunger strikes and were force-fed through tubes. This led to public sympathy for their cause as suffragists skillfully exploited their jailing in order to gain support for woman suffrage.

The NWP continued its activities, including protesting, picketing, petitioning, lobbying, and public speaking, until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Alice Paul
Alice Paul, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Parade Program
Program for the 1913 Suffrage Parade, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
DC Parade Sketch
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Diagram of 1913 Suffrage Parade, Library of Congress Newspaper and Periodicals Reading Room


Click for pictures of the 1913 DC Suffrage Parade

Click for a picture of the NWP campaigning against Democrats

Click for pictures of the NWP picketing the White House

Click for a picture of a NWP demonstration in Washington, DC

Click for a picture of a NWP "watchfire"


Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Crystal Eastman, Mabel Vernon, Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, Inez Milholland Boissevain, Olympia Brown, Louisine Elder Havemeyer, Anne Henrietta Martin, Sue Shelton White, Maud Younger, Mary Eliza Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jeannette Rankin


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