August 26 is Women’s Equality Day! Today we celebrate the anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote.
It was a hard-won fight, and some of their more spectacular feats make us wonder how anyone was brave enough to go toe-to-toe with the suffragettes. They were the hardest of hardcore. Here’s what we mean.
One. Million. Signatures.
Way before social media, the suffragettes were able to collect more than a million signatures in pen and ink, all through hand-to-hand contact. They displayed them as they marched down Fifth Avenue in New York with 20,000 supporters and an estimated half-million people in the crowd in 1917.
They see your charity marathon and raise you 200 miles.
To push the vote in New York in 1912, there was a 12-day, 170 mile “Hike to Albany.” The next year, the suffragettes’ “Army of the Hudson” marched 225 miles from New Jersey to Washington, D.C.
Pickets and prison time.
The National Women’s Party made history by creating the first-ever picket of the White House. The “Silent Sentinels” and their banners were present six days a week from January 1917 to June of 1919. Over 1,000 women participated in these protests, and many were arrested, refused bail, and made to serve time in solitary confinement, where they experienced beatings and force-feeding when they went on hunger strikes.
Words burned in effigy.
The suffragettes set “watchfires” as protest outside the New York City Opera while President Wilson was speaking there. Activists transcribed his words as he spoke them and then publicly burned the paper in the fires outside—symbolically condemning the hypocrisy of his words about international freedom while women were denied the right to vote.
Your big-name benefit concert pales in comparison.
The 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession was reported to include nine bands, four mounted brigades, three heralds, twenty-four floats and more than 5,000 marchers. The march concluded at the Department of the Treasury, where they then put on a play with ideas like Hope and Justice personified by women in flowing gowns.
We’ve come a long way since 1920, but the fight for the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes is by no means over. Honor the suffragettes’ fight by pledging to vote on November 4.
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota