Part 1 | The Vote | American Experience
One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, The Vote tells the dramatic culmination story of the hard-fought campaign waged by American women for the right to vote, a transformative cultural and political movement that resulted in the largest expansion of voting rights in U.S. history.
CROWD (chanting): Sisterhood is powerful!
Join us now!
Sisterhood is powerful, join us now!
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WALTER CRONKITE: 50 years ago today,
the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
gave women the right to vote.
On this anniversary,
a militant minority of women's liberationists
was on the streets.
CROWD: Free ourselves!
REPORTER: So remember, men, if you come to work tomorrow
and your secretary refuses to do the filing,
and then go home and find
that your wife has refused to do the cooking,
don't blame them.
Remember, you gave them the vote 50 years ago.
NARRATOR: It had been the opening act in what proved to be
an epic struggle for equality--
a crusade carried out by millions of women
over the better part of a century
to secure for themselves the right to vote,
and thereby participate in America's democracy.
MARCIA CHATELAIN: To be disenfranchised is to be told
that you do not matter,
because the right to vote
is about the power that governs your possibilities.
MICHAEL WALDMAN: The right to vote is the heart of democracy,
and if half the countrydoesn't have the right to vote,
you're nowhere near being a democracy.
PAULA GIDDINGS: Women would go out canvassing,
and the men would be terrible to them.
They'd say, "Are you trying to wear the pants in the family?"
And, "This is male territory,"
and, "How dare these women begin to come in
and make a difference."
MARTHA JONES: This struggle is going on
at the same time that the nation is resolving the Civil War.
So to introduce women is to disrupt a political culture
that is built on exclusion,
that is built on the notion that politics
is a white man's business.
ELAINE WEISS: It's a civil rights battle.
We don't think of it like that,
but it truly is a great civil rights battle.
Suffragists have to change the idea
of what women's role in society will be.
What is her claim on citizenship?
ELEANOR SMEAL: The textbooks when I went to school
said women were given the vote.
We weren't given anything.
We took it.
NARRATOR: On June 29, 1909,
a 24-year-old American student named Alice Paul
made her way through the streets of London
and joined a contingent of some 200 other women
headed for the Houses of Parliament.
Once there, they planned to insist on an audience
with the prime minister
and press him for the right to vote,
a fundamental exercise of citizenship,
known as suffrage,
that was then denied to women
in most of the world's democracies.
ALEXANDER KEYSSAR: The right to vote is fundamental.
It's a key ingredient in letting people have equal voice
and equal power.
It gives you a way to protect yourself.
And the opposite of it-- not having the right to vote--
in some political sense, leaves you helpless.
NARRATOR: When Alice Paul had arrived in England two years earlier,
she'd had no thought
of joining the crusade for woman suffrage.
She'd come, as she put it,to "see something of the world,"
and had enrolled in a graduate economics class
at the University of Birmingham,
the first woman ever to do so.
Then, one day on campus,
she'd spotted a notice about an upcoming lecture.
The name was one she knew.
along with her mother, Emmeline,
was a co-founder of the Women's Social and Political Union,
Britain's notoriously militant suffrage organization.
J.D. ZAHNISER: Alice Paul had followed the Pankhursts
with her mother in the newspaper.
They were getting a lot of newspaper coverage in America,
and a lot of people were excited about what they were doing--
things that were so controversial
that American women could not imagine
them happening in America.
JAD ADAMS: There have been votes in the House of Commons
since the 19th century
in favor of women's suffrage,
but there's no real progress taking place.
And so, in anger at this political stagnation,
they actually start doing things
which will get them sent to prison.
ELLEN DUBOIS: They started with mass demonstrations--
demonstrations of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people
demanding the right to vote.
TINA CASSIDY:They were passing out pamphlets on the street.
They were standing on literal soapboxes
on the street corners of London
and explaining why women deserved the right to vote.
At the time, standingon a soapbox on a street corner
was something that only men did.
(woman speaking indistinctly, crowd clamoring)
ZAHNISER: They would go to political meetings
and they would interrupt politicians,
which was considered extremely rude.
And they were literally dragged out of these meetings.
Nothing like this had ever been done before.
The idea was to really get enough attention
in order to draw the members of Parliament,
but also the public,
into the cause of suffrage.
NARRATOR: So aggressive were the women of the Pankhurst army
that a British journalist had concocted
a twist on the term "suffragist" to identify them,
derisively dubbing them "suffragettes."
DUBOIS: Ridicule is one of the great weapons
against women's assertion,
and that's what was going on
with calling suffragists "suffragettes."
It minimized them.
It turned them into asmall version of what they were.
NARRATOR: No amount of mockery in the press, however,
had prepared Alice Paul for what happened
at Christabel Pankhurst's lecture.
There were lots of male students
from the University of Birmingham there,
and they were hooting and hollering
and singing songs and throwing things.
Someone threw a mouse, a dead mouse.
And it was total pandemonium.
ZAHNISER: Alice witnessed Christabel Pankhurst,
who was no slouch on the speaking platform,
essentially being shouted down and being unable to speak.
NARRATOR: Paul would remember it as a turning point.
PAUL (dramatized): I became from that moment very anxious
to help in this movement.
You know if you feel some group that's your group
is the underdog,
you want to try to help-- it's natural.
And when I saw this outbreak of hostility,
I understood everything
about what the English suffragists were trying to do.
MARY WALTON: Alice Paul was a Quaker.
Quakers believe that everyone is equal in the eyes of God,
regardless of gender, regardless of race,
regardless of religion.
ZAHNISER: Quakers believed in educating boys and girls equally,
and so she had never experienced the reality of inequality.
And she began to realize
that there was a whole other world out there
where women were not necessarily treated equally.
NARRATOR: Some months after the lecture,
Paul had written to her mother back home in New Jersey,
"I have joined the suffragettes."
Now she was marching with them to Parliament
to demand for British women the right to vote.
WALTON: Emmeline Pankhurst leads the deputation
up to the gates of Parliament.
And suddenly, they're stormed by police.
Women are thrown to the ground and they're trampled.
PAUL (dramatized): The scene was one awful nightmare.
The police grabbed the suffragettes by the throats
and threw them flat on their backs
over and over again.
Finally, when the police could not drive the women back
or control the scene,
the suffragettes were arrested.
♪ (crowd clamoring)
NARRATOR: In all, 112 women were hauled off to the police station,
"half-fainting," one observed,
"and their clothes torn to pieces."
Alice Paul was among them.
It was the first time Paul had been arrested.
But having become, as she said, a "heart-and-soul convert"
to the cause of woman suffrage--
a cause now reaching its crescendo--
this arrest would by no means be her last.
In the United States,
the suffragettes' so-called "siege" of Parliament
was met with incredulity and scorn.
This was not, newspapers made plain,
the way that women should behave.
By 1909, it was a familiar refrain.
More than six decades had passed
since the clamor for woman suffrage first was raised,
most loudly at a convention inSeneca Falls, New York, in 1848.
Some 300 people had come that July
to discuss the rights of women,
and had listened as 32-year-old abolitionist
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
decried the lack of them,
provocatively comparing her condition,
as a free married woman with children,
"We assemble to protest against a form of government
existing without the consent of the governed,"
"to declare our right to be free as man is free."
DUBOIS: At the time of Seneca Falls,a woman had no legal existence.
she was "absorbed into the person of her husband."
Now, that would be fine
if there were women who weren't married,
but adult women were overwhelmingly married women,
and they had no legal standing.
WALTON: Married women could not sign a contract.
If they worked outside the home,
they couldn't keep their paycheck.
It went to their husbands.
If they dared to divorce,
husbands retained custody of the children.
The doors of public universities were closed to them.
There were just many, many ways
in which they were second-class citizens.
NARRATOR: The Declaration of Sentiments adopted by the convention
had been modeled on the Declaration of Independence.
And included a list of resolutions
outlining the rights to which women, as citizens,
should be entitled.
WEISS: Seneca Falls is the first
very public demonstration and announcement
that women are asking for a whole series of rights
that they feel they've been denied.
And it is considered really radical.
They're fighting for education.
They're fighting for the right to own property.
They want to be full adult American citizens.
NARRATOR: Of the 11 resolutions put forward by Stanton,
only one was considered so controversial
that it failed to pass unanimously:
Resolution Nine, which demanded for women the right to vote--
a right that had engendered equal controversy
among the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution.
KEYSSAR: One of the remarkable things about the history of democracy
in the United States
is that the Constitution, in its original form,
said nothing about the right to vote.
When the founding fathers talked about "we, the people,"
they were talking about adult, white males,
and really, adult white respectable males.
They had different views
about how broad the franchise should be.
So instead of hammering out a consensus view,
they punted and left voting rights to the states.
In most states, the notion was
that in order to have the franchise,
you had to be independent insome economic and social sense.
And women had very fewopportunities to be independent.
NARRATOR: Opposed by Stanton's husband--
and by her father, who threatened to disown her--
woman suffrage found its first male champion
in Frederick Douglass, who had escaped enslavement
to become a leader of the abolitionist movement.
From the abolitionist ranks also came
the first generation of suffragists:
Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth,
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,Sarah Remond, Susan B. Anthony--
women for whom the two causes at first were entwined.
(guns firing, men shouting)
When the conflict over slaveryfinally exploded into civil war,
the suffragists set their own agenda aside
to help secure rights for those who'd been enslaved,
expecting, as Stanton put it,
that "when the Constitutional door is open,
"we will avail ourselves
"of the strong arm and the blue uniform
"of the black soldier
to walk in by his side."
Their rallying cry now was, "Equal voting rights to all."
Instead, under pressure from congressional Republicans,
the party of Lincoln,
Stanton and her friends were asked in 1869
to support the 15th Amendment,
which extended federal protection for the franchise
only to African American men.
WEISS: The suffragists truly believe,
perhaps naively, that once the war is over,
all eligible citizens are going to get the vote.
They are shattered when they're told
that the nation cannot handle two great reforms at once.
They can't swallow black men getting the vote
and women getting the vote at the same time.
Frederick Douglass says,"I believe in women's suffrage,
"I always will,
"but the black man needs it first.
My people are being killed."
NARRATOR: The question of compromise, once introduced,
quickly became a wedge.
"If you will not give the whole loaf of justice
to the entire people,"Susan B. Anthony told Douglass,
it should be given "to the most intelligent
and capable portion of women" first.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was less civil.
"Think of Sambo," she fumed,
"who never read the Declaration of Independence
"or Webster's spelling book,
making laws for educated, refined women."
JONES: Stanton and Anthony have constructed the debate
around the vote as one that positions white women
against African American men.
And Stanton in particular has made the argument
that she will not see former slaves,
the sons of slaves,
enfranchised over elite, educated women.
These are ideas that are not uncommon.
But now racism is sort of in a full-throated way
part of the deliberations.
NARRATOR: In the end, the fragile coalition
forged by the Civil War
was shattered by the terms of the peace,
and causes once regarded as compatible
had been set in opposition,
to be prioritizedone over the other if expedient.
As Frances Ellen Watkins Harper noted ruefully,
"When it was a question of race,
"I let the lesser question of sex go.
"But the white women all go for sex,
letting race occupy a minor position."
JONES: People will go
in one direction or another out of this debate--
men and women, black and white.
There are those who say, "We should remain
committed to our ideals."
Then there's others who say, "This is politics,
and we need to compromise."
And that has consequences far beyond any encounter
in the vestibule of a meeting hall.
This is mapping, right,
political culture for the nation--
for women, but for the nation.
NARRATOR:By the time African American men
began to cast ballots and hold office in the South,
in the early 1870s,
the first generation of suffragists
had split over strategy.
Some sought to secure women the vote
by petitioning for changes to state constitutions,
believing voter eligibility a matter
more properly determined by the states.
The rest joined Stanton and Anthony in their quest
for a federal remedy,
and tried to push through
what they hoped would be the 16th Amendment,
barring the infringement of voting rights
on the basis of sex.
But aside from a school board election here
and a municipal election there,
the ballot remained elusive.
Most people thoughtthat women's demand for the vote
was something of a joke back in the 19th century.
It was so, seemed so far-fetched.
WEISS: Women were considered too emotional,
not intelligent enough.
They were supposed to be in the domestic sphere.
So the first job of the suffragists
was really to completely change attitudes
of millions of Americans
and convince very reluctant men
that this is an important idea.
Because only men could decidewhether women deserved the vote.
NARRATOR: Even after the two factions joined forces in 1890,
under the umbrella
of the National American Woman Suffrage Association,
the only place the cause gained any real traction
was in the newer states of the West,
where population was sparse
and women's votes were regarded as an asset.
The first state in what came to be known
as "the suffrage column"
was Wyoming, which joined the Union in 1890
with its women already fully enfranchised.
It was followed over the next six years
by three more Western states.
Then, the forward march stalled.
KEYSSAR: By the late 19th century,
in white middle-class and upper-class American society,
there was a shrinking faith in democracy.
In the North, a lot of people are saying,
"Well, you know, democracy's not an unalloyed blessing.
"We have all of these immigrants coming in.
"They don't speak English.
"They're not very smart.
I don't think we should let them vote."
In the South, of course, the politicians were busy
disenfranchising African Americans
who had been enfranchised during Reconstruction.
DUBOIS: The 15th Amendment
didn't say people have the right to vote
regardless of race, color, orprevious condition of servitude.
It said states can't deny people the right to vote.
Southern states realized,
well, they wouldn't deny the right to vote by race.
They'd deny it if your grandfather was a slave.
That's not specified in the 15th Amendment.
KEYSSAR: So the dominant movement is to take voting rights
away from people.
And that is something which the women's suffrage movement
runs up against at the end of the century.
NARRATOR:As states across the South moved to bar black men from voting
by means of grandfather clauses, literacy tests,
poll taxes, and brute force,
the National Association,with Susan B. Anthony's assent,
adapted to the prevailing mood.
African American women who had been prominent in the movement
and Southern chapters permitted to refuse black members.
In 1894, Anthony even went so far
as to ask Frederick Douglass to keep away
from a suffrage convention in Atlanta
for fear of alienating potential supporters.
GIDDINGS: Frederick Douglass is the onewho stands up and says to women
who are ambivalent about calling for the vote,
"Well, you must work for suffrage."
So to say to him
that he's not welcome in the South, in Atlanta,
is a, is a terrible thing.
And Anthony probably actually believed that, as she said,
"When we get the vote, when white women get the vote,
we'll make everything okay for everybody."
But it certainly encouraged
the continuing segregation and discrimination.
JONES: African American women are going to continue
to work toward women's rights.
They're interested in the vote.
But they are also using those ideas
to transform and control their institutions
in fraternal orders, in benevolent societies.
They're going to build, by the 1890s,
an African American women's club movement.
And within that, they are also going to be
claiming women's rights in their own terms.
CHATELAIN: These are sisters who are divided because of racism
and because of white supremacy,
and they're asking each other
to concede on the issue of rights.
And it will impact
every single attempt to bring women broadly together
in action for a better society.
NARRATOR: By the close of the 19th century,
the National Association was comprised mainly
of white middle-class women,
but was no more effective for being so.
Between 1896 and 1909,
suffragists across the country submitted
more than 160 legislative measures for consideration,
yet managed to put the question of woman suffrage
directly to voters
only six times,
four of them in Oregon.
All six referenda were defeated.
The federal amendment, likewise, went nowhere.
Suffragists referred to the period
as "the doldrums."
Even Susan B. Anthony could not escape
the pervasive sense of impotence.
As she lamented in 1906,
four years after Stanton's death and just weeks before her own,
"I have struggled for 60 years for a little bit of justice
and will die without securing it."
SMEAL: At the beginning,
women were not supposed to be interested in public affairs.
We were supposed to know nothing about what's outside the home.
We were only supposed to know what was in the home.
You were supposed to have many children.
You weren't supposed to complain.
(chuckles): Make everything look easy.
You know, they'd all eat together,
and then the men would go into the library
or some other part of the house
to talk about the real things of society.
You didn't want to bother
the pretty little woman's head, right?
You know what I compare it to?
I compare it to when you're little kids
and you're building a tree house.
And they put up a sign, "No girls allowed."
NARRATOR: On election day in 1909, in New York City,
a 53-year-old suffragist named Harriot Stanton Blatch
defied convention by daring to enter a polling place
on the Upper West Side.
Having researched state law and found
that it did not prohibit non-voters
from serving as poll watchers,
she'd gotten herself credentialed.
By day's end, she'd seen to it
that two drunken election officials
were forcibly removed by police.
Elsewhere in the city,
on the Lower East Side and in the Bowery,
other women were following Blatch's lead.
DUBOIS:The polls are in tobacco shops.
They're in saloons.
They're in places where men are very comfortable,
where they carouse, where their political bosses
can lubricate them with a drink here and there.
WALDMAN: It was a big party, it was raucous,
it was drunk, it was often violent.
Turnout among men was very high.
It was like a festival and a spectator sport
all at once.
And well-bred women showing up in that environment
would not have been a very welcome sight.
(trolley bell ringing)
NARRATOR: To New Yorkers,
Blatch's coordinated invasion of the polls
offered a preview of what election day might be
should women get the vote,
and, as Blatch noted,
the expected calamity had not come to pass.
"We have lifted the veil," she crowed.
"We have entered the Holy of Holies,
and yet the republic is still going on."
DUBOIS: I call Harriot Stanton Blatch
the first second-generation feminist.
She was a member of one of the first classes at Vassar.
She had lived in England and was friends with the Pankhursts.
And then she had the confidence and the legitimacy
of being Elizabeth Stanton's daughter.
She realized that whereas, when her mother
had first pressed for the right to vote,
women were largely domestic creatures.
Now, a half-century later,
women had really moved into the public arena.
NARRATOR: Amid the staggeringtransformation of American life
in the 19th century--
from rural to urban,
agricultural to industrial,
enslaved to free--
the cause of women's rights gradually had advanced,
improving their legal status, expanding their opportunities,
and allowing many to slip the bonds
of the domestic sphere.
By 1900, fully one-fifth of the paid labor force was female,
with millions of women-- many ofthem immigrants and unmarried--
working for wages in factories, textile mills, shops.
Thousands more were off to college.
Diplomas in hand, they delayed marriage and motherhood
in ever greater numbers,
to pursue a profession
or to join one of the countless progressive reform movements
that were remaking American society.
So ubiquitous were they in the cities,
with their streamlined, corset-free style of dress,
their modern ideas and ambitions,
they had given rise to a kind of icon known as "the New Woman."
WARE: The New Woman is young, she's in her 20s,
she's had some college.
She can move,
partly because she's not wearing so many clothes.
And there's just a kind of spirit to her
of curiosity and embracing the future.
She sees possibilities for herself
that her mother never had.
NARRATOR: The fresh terrain was nevertheless
littered with obstacles:
fields that remained stubbornly closed to women,
especially African Americans;
hazardous working conditions and unequal pay;
male bosses and colleagues
who were by turns dismissive, hostile, and predatory.
For women who worked outside the home,
the vote now was essential.
CHATELAIN: Women at the dawn of the 20th century were impatient
for the change that they were realizing in their own lives.
Women are able to circulate ideas.
They're meeting in clubs.
They're getting more opportunities
for formal education,
and they're seeing themselves as fully-formed adults,
DUBOIS: The fact that women lacked the right to vote
in the 20th century
was a totally antiquated phenomenon.
And Harriot Stanton Blatchwas determined to resolve that.
Her vision is to bring working-class women
into the suffrage movement
and to link them to middle-class professional women.
So she puts these two groups of people together
in an organization that she calls
the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women.
Blatch sees this organization as a way
to seize control of the New York movement,
which had become quite paralyzed,
and to move it forward.
NARRATOR: The Equality League was open to any woman
who earned her daily bread, Blatch said,
"From a cook to a mining engineer,
and we have both of them."
Affluent, married,her one daughter already grown,
Blatch had never had to earn her own living.
She was, she joked, the only "parasite"
in the Equality League.
But she believed wage-earning women
were the key to finally winning the ballot.
WARE:You start to get a broader range of activists
involved in the movement.
And they know how to go out onstrike, they know how to picket.
And there's that willingness
to be confrontational in order to win one's goals
that then they bring to the suffrage movement.
NARRATOR: It was a lesson learned from the Pankhursts.
As Blatch told The New York World,
the question of votes for women had to be pushed
out of the parlor and into the streets.
BLATCH (dramatized): We have ceased to put much energy
into discussing the pros and cons of democracy
with doubting women in the chimney corners,
and have instead gone out on the street corner
to appeal to men-- to the voters.
NARRATOR: Every hour spent perched atop a soapbox,
being heckled by crowds and sometimes pelted with stones,
heightened the movement's visibility
and helped to broaden its base of support.
Before long, an auxiliary organization
called Men's League for Women Suffrage
had been formed,
alliances with African American women--
members of the Equal Suffrage League of Brooklyn--
and high-society women persuaded
to lend not only their checkbooks,
but also their considerable influence.
By the fall of 1909,
the cause had become actually fashionable,
and when Blatch brought her friend Emmeline Pankhurst
to the U.S. for a lecture tour,
the throngs at Carnegie Hall were such
that more than a thousand people had to be turned away.
"Mrs. Blatch's whole idea,"one of her campaigners recalled,
"was that you must keep suffrage every minute before the public
"so that they're used to the idea and talk about it,
"whether they agree or disagree.
I think she was quite right."
KEYSSAR:There was very little experience with women
participating actively in political life.
And nobody quite knew what it would look like,
and that also made it possiblefor, for people-- meaning men--
to project their anxieties about it, you know, onto this.
What would happen?
There's a notion that if women were permitted
to participate in elections,
it would destroy the family.
They genuinely fear that familial relations
would be disturbed and interrupted,
that women would be sullied by participating
in the rough and tough arena of politics.
There was a fear of the unknown.
WARE: It's not just about casting a ballot.
It is this window on how people feel
about what women's roles should be in public life.
And if you look at the cartoons which show women
just looking like the devil, and with hooves,
and smoke coming out of their ears...
They were demonized.
(crowd murmuring in background)
NARRATOR: While the militantMrs. Pankhurst stirred up crowds
all along the eastern seaboard in the fall of 1909,
journalist Richard Barry was in New York,
marinating in the question of votes for women.
Having noted the sudden, unexpected flurry of activity
in the state's suffrage movement,
the highbrow monthly "Pearson's Magazine"
had commissioned Barry
to conduct a major investigation.
So far, he'd dutifully attended one of Pankhurst's lectures,
interviewed to his mind
the bombastic Harriot Stanton Blatch,
and endured more street-corner speeches than he'd cared to.
The angle he was following now promised to be more congenial:
women who were opposed to woman suffrage.
Respectable, upstanding women,
such as Mrs. Grover Cleveland,
former first lady of the United States,
who agreed that men and women's roles,
as her husband once put it,
"had been assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."
And Mrs. Gilbert Jones,
daughter-in-law of the founder of "The New York Times,"
who acknowledged that there'd been much progress for women
over the previous 50 years,
but hastened to point out
that all of it had been achieved without the ballot.
And Mrs. Nathan Meyer, champion of women's education
and founder of Barnard College,
who saw no reason for the female of the species to vote,
and highly doubted such a vote would make any difference.
So vehement was Meyer on the point
that she'd stopped speaking
to her sister Maud,an ardent and active suffragist,
WEISS: These are women who truly believe
that women should not have the vote.
Some are social conservatives who are educated themselves,
but really feel that this is a change in the social order
which is not healthy.
Some are religious conservatives who believe
that woman's suffrage goes against the will of God.
WARE: Very often, the anti-suffrage women were arguing
from a position of real class and racial privilege,
and the vote was not something that they felt was important.
SUSAN GOODIER: They're protected in a world where they could
knock on the door of the judge or the legislator
and say, "Now, dear, I would like such-and-such."
They might be able to get it.
So this indirect influence,
and this is often one of the terms you'll actually hear,
"Indirect influence serves us well.
We don't need the vote."
NARRATOR: According to Barry's lengthy report,
there were perhaps as many womenorganized against woman suffrage
as there were women organized in favor of it,
meaning legislators routinely were treated
to the "remarkable spectacle," "Pearson's" editor noted,
"of two groups of women each begging them
to refuse the prayer of the other."
Where the vast majority of American women
stood on the matter was anyone's guess.
But Barry believed most agreed
with the impeccable logic of Mrs. Selden Bacon.
"A woman can no more do a man's work," she'd told him,
"than a man can do a woman's."
GOODIER: Anti-suffragists believed
they were protecting women.
That their power came from something other than the vote.
And that women would lose something
in this sordid world of politics.
(waves crashing, seagulls squawking)
(ship horn blowing)
NARRATOR: In January 1910,
Alice Paul bid farewell to her fellow suffragettes
and to England,
and set sail for home.
When she'd left the United States
two-and-a-half years earlier, she'd been unknown--
an ordinary American girl,
albeit plucky and privileged enough
to indulge her curiosity about the world.
But thanks to her time with the Pankhursts,
she was returning a minor celebrity.
The first news story hadappeared the previous November,
in a widely reprinted itemlifted from the national wires.
Miss Alice Paul, identified as an "earnest young woman"
from Moorestown, New Jersey,
a Swarthmore graduate,
and a "very valued member" of the Pankhurst organization,
had been sentenced to a month
in London's infamous Holloway Jail.
"Reliable reports,""The Fort Wayne News" remarked,
"are to the effect that she will
"have to suspend her Christmas stocking
from a steel slat in a six-by-four cell."
It was Paul's third time behind bars.
Like her fellow suffragettes,
and as per the Pankhursts' evolving strategy,
she'd broken every pane of glass in her cell
and declared herself a political prisoner.
WALTON: When they were arrested, they wanted to be treated like men.
Men advocating for political causes had certain rights
because they were designated political prisoners.
They could receive mail.
They could read newspapers.
They could write letters.
The women were turned down, and to protest this,
they just refused to eat.
ZAHNISER: No one wanted to have a woman die in jail
because she had gone on a hunger strike.
And the image of women wasting away for want of a basic right
was something that the Pankhursts realized
was a good idea,
first of all, to get their protesters
out of jail more quickly,
but also, this was a way to get more media attention.
NARRATOR: Contrary to expectation, however,
Alice Paul and the other hunger-strikers
were not released.
Instead, British authorities force-fed them.
CASSIDY: Force-feeding is horrific.
They would stick a rubber or glass tube
down the woman's throat or up through her nose,
and then they would take a funnel
and pour a mixture of eggs and milk through the funnel
into the tube and down into her digestive tract.
NARRATOR: Paul withstood the ordeal twice daily
for the duration of her prison term,
some 55 times in all.
"One feels," she wrote to her mother,
"as though one were an animal about to be vivisected."
PAUL (dramatized): While the tube is going through the nasal passage,
it is exceedingly painful,
and only less so as it is being withdrawn.
I never went through it withoutthe tears streaming down my face
and often moaned from beginning to end,
and sometimes cried aloud.
CASSIDY: The only way you can endure something like that
is to believe that you're right,
and that you're doing it for a cause bigger than yourself.
And Alice Paul really believed in what she was doing.
NARRATOR: When reports that Paul was being force-fed
reached the United States,
they provoked an outcry--
not sympathy, but condemnation
of the suffragettes' wanton disregard for the law.
CASSIDY: Americans felt a little superior.
"Well, thank goodness, our suffragists
aren't behaving like that."
DUBOIS: The assumption was that it wasn't going to be necessary
in the United States.
The poor British, they had a backward government
that was bullying them,
and they had to press to give them equal rights.
But that wasn't true of democratic America
in the Progressive era.
Women wouldn't have to go that far.
(ship horns blowing)
NARRATOR: By the time Paul's ship docked in Philadelphia,
her notoriety was such that a swarm of reporters
showed up to greet her.
"Will you take part in the movement here?" one asked her.
"I didn't know there was any movement here,"
Paul replied disingenuously.
"But if it becomes necessary to fight to win,
I believe in fighting."
CASSIDY: Alice Paul came back from England
knowing that this was going to be her life's cause.
There was nothing that she thought she couldn't do.
NARRATOR: When the suffrage movement finally scored a victory
in November 1910-- the first in 14 years--
it caught most everyone by surprise.
Four states held referenda
on woman suffrage that fall.
In three, the measures failed by wide margins.
Voters in Washington state, meanwhile,
approved theirs by nearly two-to-one.
WARE: The Washington victory was important.
It was very important,because it had been a long time.
All of a sudden, it begins to seem possible.
There's almost a sense of, "Oh, gee,
this really can happen."
NARRATOR: By now, some 100,000 women were dues-paying members
of the National Association,
up from just 9,000 a decade before.
Tens of thousands more belonged to the pro-suffrage
National Association of Colored Women,
to local Equality Leagues, Franchise Associations,
and Votes for Women clubs.
Winning the ballot in Washington state
renewed their collective hope,
reinforced their sense of purpose,
and propelled the boldest among them
into the streets of America.
WEISS: There's this real pent-up frustration.
And they're saying,
"Look, we've pleaded long enough.
"We've been patient long enough, this is ridiculous,
and let's go make a scene."
NARRATOR: The next year, in California, they turned out in force,
an estimated 10,000 strong,
to sell woman suffrageto the male voters of the state.
With just three months until the election,
they feverishly plastered posters
in shop windows and on billboards,
peddled suffrage buttons and suffrage tea,
and distributed more than three million pieces of literature.
In Los Angeles, Hispanicactivists translated at rallies.
San Francisco's Chinese women canvassed their communities,
while in Oakland, members of the Colored Women's Suffrage Club
monitored polling places.
By the time their efforts delivered California,
the sixth so-called free state,
to the cause in 1911,
votes for women had become, as one journalist observed,
"the three small words which constitute
the biggest question in the world today."
WARE: There is a kind of quickening that starts to happen.
There are new tactics and there are new strategies
and there are new recruits,
and things really just begin to, to pop.
NARRATOR: Week by week, all across the country,
in New York, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, and Maine,
suffragists pressed to make the next free state their own.
And week by week, all across the country,
women flocked to the cause.
WARE: Women started doing things like dressing in white
and putting on a suffrage sash,
and marching in a parade.
It's not like you just sort of check off a box and say,
"I'm a suffragist now."
It affects a lot of things.
If you're married, it's going to affect your marriage,
because all of a sudden, your husband has a wife
who may not be there at the end of the day to cook his dinner.
And she may be heading off to a rally
or standing on a street corner handing out leaflets.
And he may think this is a great thing,
or he may think it's awful,
but he's part of that conversation.
And if you're someone who really goes all in,
it basically becomes a job.
These are real people, andthey're making this their lives,
and there's this kind of snowball effect
that is happening.
NARRATOR: As the summer of 1912 was winding down,
58-year-old Harriet Taylor Upton was gearing up
for a special election in Ohio--
a state referendum on woman suffrage,
the first of six to be held in the U.S. that fall.
Never in Upton's 20 years in the movement
had there been such a chance for progress,
and as the president
of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association,
she intended her home state to lead the charge.
Already, she'd put 50 campaign volunteers in the field,
as well as a roster of popular speakers,
and had tasked them with canvassing voters
at picnics, county fairs, family reunions.
State politicians and the local press
generally agreed the suffrage measure, Amendment 23,
was likely to carry,
perhaps by as many as 40,000 votes.
Then, copies of an anonymous and alarming handbill
began to circulate,
suggesting that,if women were permitted to vote,
Ohio would join the growing list of states
that had shuttered their saloons
and deprived their citizens of beer.
It was a charge
that had dogged the suffrage movement for decades,
not least because it rang true.
SMEAL: I don't think that many people realize
that Susan B. Anthony was a leader
in the temperance movement.
The temperance movement
was all about men's behavior, by the way.
It was not just alcohol, it was the abuse of alcohol
and the beating of women by drunken men.
They would also spend
an inordinate amount of money on it,
and on pay day, they'd go to the bars,
and what would be left for the wife and the kids?
So there was a whole movement to restrict alcohol.
NARRATOR: Perhaps nowhere was the link
between temperance and woman suffrage
more established than in Ohio,
the birthplace of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
The largest women's organization in the country,
the WCTU had led the crusade to ban alcohol
since the late 19th century,
and endorsed votes for women
as a "weapon for home protection."
WALTON:This activated the liquor lobby.
These are the distilleries, the breweries,
the farmers who grow crops
for alcohol, alcoholic products,
So whenever a vote came up in a state for suffrage,
the liquor lobby poured money in to defeat it.
WEISS: They would do things like,
a bar would have a sign up on election day and say,
"Vote against the women's suffrage amendment
and you get a free beer."
They don't want national prohibition,
and if women had some political power, that might happen.
NARRATOR: Aware that the association with temperance
had become a liability,
Harriet Taylor Upton had done her best
to create some distance.
"Let me explain that the suffrage association
is not a temperance organization,"
she'd insisted in an official statement that summer.
But in a state where brewing was a major industry,
such reassurances struck many voters
as too little, too late.
On September 3, 1912, Ohio Amendment number 23 lost,
with nearly 58% of the electorate
voting against it.
Two days later, the womansuffrage referendum in Wisconsin
failed in precisely the same manner,
as did the one in Michigan in November.
KEYSSAR: As women link suffrage rights to social reform,
whether it means for women who are working
in the garment industry
or the temperance movement to ban alcohol,
major economic interests
who are tied to industries that are profiting from this
begin to oppose women's suffrage.
WARE: There's money involved, there's power involved,
and women are threatening them.
And a lot of people really didn't want things to change.
NARRATOR: By the close of 1912, the map told the tale.
Against three victories for woman suffrage that fall
were the three defeats
at the hands of the liquor industry.
After 64 years of struggle,
women were still without full voting rights in 39 states,
and outside of the West lay entrenched resistance.
To the east, economic concerns and political machines
blocked the progress of the cause.
To the south, it was the scourge of racism.
JONES:The rise of white supremacy andthe imposition of Jim Crow order
has created a political terrain
in which white men control political power.
So to introduce womenis to reintroduce this question
of the suffrage, of its universality,
of its core relationship to a democracy.
And that gets you a little too close, then,
to the problem
of African Americans and the vote, as well.
KEYSSAR: The fear was that it would reopen demands
on the part of black males to vote,
and there was a further concern, too,
which was often voiced--
it was quite a remarkable statement--
which was that, "If men try to vote and get unruly,
"we can go in and beat them up.
"We can use force against them.
"That would be unseemly to do against black women.
"So we really don't want to permit them to be enfranchised
and then have to figure out new modes of repression."
NARRATOR: When the women of the National Association convened
in Philadelphia late in November,
the suffrage map was hanging across the balcony
at the back of Witherspoon Hall,
a nod to the movement's progress,
But to Alice Paul, who was among the delegates from New Jersey,
it read more as an indictment.
WALTON: She saw how difficult it was to get a change
in a state voting law.
First of all, the state legislature
had to approve it-- all men.
Then it had to go to the voters-- all men.
And she thought it would be much easier and much faster
to have a federal amendment
which would give all women in this country the vote.
NARRATOR: Although Paul had been given permission
to raise the issue at the convention,
she expected to meet with resistance
from the National Association's leadership,
not least from president Anna Howard Shaw,
who had let the federal suffrage amendment languish
throughout the eight years of her tenure.
An ordained minister, Shaw had been the only woman
in a class of 43 at the Boston School of Theology,
and had felt, as she later said, "the abysmal conviction
that I wasn't really wanted there."
After completing her education in 1886, at the age of 39,
she'd joined the suffrage movement.
Alice Paul had only just been born.
BETH BEHN: Alice Paul is not of the generation that understands
the impact of Reconstruction,
that understands the deep racial divides
that are foremost in the minds of older suffragists.
So it's not a coincidence
that the National walks away from a federal amendment
at the same time that Southern states
are pushing back on any federal intervention
into who's voting in the South,
and, in fact, drawing
a very hard state-rights' stance.
So the National is cognizant of that--
in some ways, complicit in that--
and decides to focus on state referenda.
NARRATOR: Paul was convinced the landscape had changed.
With more than a million female voters in the West,
woman suffrage had become for the first time
a factor in national politics.
In the recent presidential election,
candidate Theodore Roosevelt's insurgent Progressive Party
had even adopted a plank endorsing votes for women.
"Now was the moment to revive the push
for the federal amendment,"
Paul told the women of the National Association,
"and to do so in a way that could not be ignored."
(people talking in background, drum beating)
ZAHNISER: Alice was thinking
about staging a parade along the lines
of the spectacular parades
that the Pankhursts had in London.
And she wanted to bring one of those to Washington, DC,
the premier focus of power in the United States.
WALTON: As it happened,there had been suffrage parades,
three in a row,
organized by Harriot Stanton Blatch in New York.
(crowd talking in background, drum beating)
And Anna Howard Shaw had marched in those parades.
And it turned out thatAnna Howard Shaw loved a parade,
and she liked this idea.
NARRATOR: By the time the convention delegates
began boarding trains
back to their respective dots on the map,
Alice Paul had been named chairman
of the National Association's
long-dormant Congressional Committee
in Washington, D.C.,
and given leave to plan her parade.
To maximize the event's impact,
she intended to hold it on March 3,
the day before President-elect Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.
CASSIDY: Press from across America was going to be there
and there were going to be lots of spectators there.
So it was a captive audience, and she knew that it would be
a really powerful message to all of America.
NARRATOR: It was now November 27,
just 13 weeks before inauguration day.
Paul rushed home and started packing her bags.
ZAHNISER: We think these days
that national protests in Washington are routine,
but they were almost non-existent in 1913.
There had been one previous protest, in 1894,
when Jacob Coxey brought veterans of the Civil War
to protest their lack of pension payments.
They marched across the Capitol grounds
and were promptly arrested,
and that was the end of the protest.
NARRATOR: As the curtain opened on 1913,
the nucleus of the woman suffrage movement
already had begun to shift to the nation's capital,
where the Congressional Committee's new office
on F Street
soon buzzed with so much activity
that one reporter dubbed it a "suffragists' beehive."
Alice Paul had arrived in town in early December
with her friend and co-chairman, Lucy Burns,
a fellow veteran of the Pankhurst army.
Brooklyn-born to a close-knit Irish Catholic family,
Burns, at 33, was Paul's opposite
in nearly every respect-- exuberant, outgoing,
easy with a laugh.
To her would fall the task of recruiting volunteers
and rousing crowds on street corners.
Paul, meanwhile, spent most of her time at the office,
in a chilly back room behind a desk
that once belonged to Susan B. Anthony.
ZAHNISER: Alice Paul was much more comfortable
as the stage manager, as the director,
than she was as the star.
She nevertheless had an emotional intensity
that seemed to encourage people to follow her.
NARRATOR: With a single-mindedness that bordered on mania,
Paul wrangled a permit to stage the parade
on Pennsylvania Avenue,
the symbolic conduit of American political power.
She prevailed upon suffrage leaders everywhere
to loan their floats, banners, chariots,
and oversaw a revolving staff of volunteers--
as many as 20 a day--
who solicited donations,
arranged lodging for out-of-town marchers,
and kept up a steady drumbeat of anticipation in the press.
ZAHNISER: We're beginning to see really a golden age
of magazines and illustrations,
newspapers beginning to use more photographs.
And Alice Paul recognized that this
represented something that she could use.
WALTON: There was news every day about some new person
who was joining the parade.
And her headquarters became
a mandatory stop for reporters
on a daily basis.
"What's new, Alice?
What do you have to tell us?"
Alice's goal was to have suffrage in the papers
18 inches in front of the reading public.
NARRATOR:In February, Chicago journalist Ida Wells-Barnett--
better known by her maiden name, Ida B. Wells--
decided she would be amongthe marchers in Washington, DC.
Born into slavery
just months before the Emancipation Proclamation,
Wells, at 50, had dedicated much of her adult life
to exposing racial injustice in the South,
where the disenfranchisement of African American men
had been accompanied by shocking brutality.
DUBOIS: The country had gone through the most radical of changes.
It had taken a group of people who were considered subhuman
and made them into the equals of proud, white men.
And the political class, the elite,
reacted violently to that.
NARRATOR: In 1892 alone, well over a hundred African Americans
had been lynched,
among them one of Wells' closest friends,
a doting father and the co-owner
of a thriving grocery cooperative in Memphis.
JONES: Wells confesses that she had always assumed
that the victims of lynching had somehow done a wrong,
even if it wasn't the wrong they had been accused of.
But when her friends,
men who were known to her to be, in her judgment,
sort of beyond reproach,
She understands now, right,
that there is somethingessentially illegitimate, right,
that undergirds racial violence.
GIDDINGS: She sees that something else is happening.
And she's really the first to understand it
in a kind of comprehensive way.
Blacks were progressing so quickly
that they were threatening.
NARRATOR: Having been deprived of the ballot,
Wells told her readers in 1910,
African Americans had been robbed
of their only weapon of defense.
WELLS (dramatized): With no sacredness of the ballot,
there can be no sacredness of human life itself.
For if the strong can take the weak man's ballot
when it suits his purpose to do so,
he will take his life, also.
Therefore, the more complete the disenfranchisement,
the more frequent and horrible
has been the hangings, shootings, and burnings.
WARE: African American women had seen what it meant
to have African American men disfranchised in the South,
and they realize it's very important
for women to have the vote.
They see it as part of a larger struggle for racial justice.
JONES: If you can't vote, you can't sit on a jury.
If you can't sit on a jury,you can't determine what happens
in a local courthouse
when the perpetrators of lynching
are brought before a court.
If you can't vote, you can't be appointed a judge
and sit on the bench and preside
when the perpetrators of lynching
are brought before a court.
These are the mechanics, right?
And Wells knows the mechanics of how Southern courts--
how all courts in the nation--
And so the vote might be sacred,
but the vote is also, um, a true instrument, right,
of political power, political access.
Without access to the polls,
it's difficult to imagine how black Americans
are going to turn what's happening
in another direction.
NARRATOR: Eager to mobilize African American women,
Wells recently had founded the Alpha Suffrage Club,
the first black suffrage organization in Chicago,
and she intended to represent it in Alice Paul's parade.
ZAHNISER:Alice Paul had every expectation
that African American women would march.
African American women hadmarched in the New York parade.
She had already reached out to African Americans,
encouraging them to think about marching.
She was quickly disillusioned that that was a good idea
when some of the Washington women came to her
and said that that simply was not acceptable.
WALTON: It's a very Southern city.
It's a very racist city.
These women come to headquarters.
They're lifelong Washingtonians, and they know the city.
And they tell her,"This can destroy your parade."
NARRATOR:In a letter, Paul confessed bothher quandary and her conclusion.
African Americans would not be excluded from the parade,
but neither would their participation be encouraged.
PAUL (dramatized): The prejudice against Negroes is so strong
in this section of the country
that I believe a large part, if not a majority,
of our white marchers
will refuse to participate if Negroes in any number
formed a part of the parade.
That being the case, as far as I can see,
we must have a white procession, or a Negro procession,
or no procession at all.
The best thing is to say nothing whatever about the question,
to keep it out of the newspapers,
to try to make thisa purely suffrage demonstration
entirely uncomplicated by any other problems,
such as racial ones.
JONES: Alice Paul understands her choices.
She understands the stakes in decisions that she makes.
And the legacies of those sorts of moments,
which, in the name of expediency,
racism is re-imposed and furthered
rather than challenged.
And then we have to remember, like, the whole country
is remarkably troubled,
and racism is a political fact,
and it's a political strategy.
Which doesn't excuse women who use racism,
but it's to say,
why do we expect, silently, perhaps naively,
why do we expect American women
to be distinct from the ideas
that animate American, white American men
in the same moment?
SMEAL: Reformers, people who fight for change,
are always asked to be perfect.
But they're living in a society
where you make accommodations to go to the next step.
Maybe you shouldn't, but...
It's almost impossible to get the whole loaf.
NARRATOR: They called themselves "Pilgrims"--
a band of suffragists, clad in brown capes and heavy boots,
making their way on foot from New York to Washington, D.C.--
a distance of some 260 miles--
to join the march for the vote in the nation's capital.
In the lead was Rosalie Gardiner Jones--
also known as General Jones--
a 29-year-old Oyster Bay socialite
who'd traded what she called her "pink tea existence"
for a life in the suffrage trenches.
She'd recently completed a similar trek
from New York City to Albany,
not merely to petition thegovernor for the right to vote,
but also, as she said, "to meet the people along the way
and talk suffrage to them."
When they set out on February 12, 1913,
the Pilgrims were some 200 strong.
By the end of the first day,
their number had dwindled to a determined 16.
WALTON: It was winter, and they're marching
through ice and snow and slush.
And they have a wagon filled with leaflets.
And their idea isthey will campaign for suffrage
along the way,
and they will hand out these leaflets,
and they will give talks.
And they were followed every step of the way by reporters.
NARRATOR: Over the last two weeks of February,
as the women kept to a pace of up to 20 miles a day,
crowds continually lined their route.
Some, mostly men,
came to jeer.
In Pennsylvania, the hikers were assaulted
with stones and snowballs.
In Delaware, a group of small boys
released dozens of mice into the Pilgrims' path,
reportedly provoking hysteria.
Others, of both sexes, expressed support.
"These suffragettes arecertainly doing the world good,"
"Hearst's Magazine" enthused.
"Not only will we fall in line
"and hike with them for a few miles,
"but we will in sympathy fall in love
with the cause they represent."
Meanwhile, suffragists from all over the country
were likewise headed for Washington.
ZAHNISER: If you were a suffragist, youwanted to go to this big event.
People were commissioning special trains.
Chicago had a train, including Ida B. Wells,
that roared into Washington the night before.
There was an extensive trolley system,
and some women were actually able to get on the trolley
in Portland, Maine,
and transfer on one ticketall the way to Washington, D.C.
Anybody who could get to Washington in any way possible
became very interested in marching
in the first great national parade.
NARRATOR: Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had been expecting
perhaps 2,500 marchers.
By the time Jones and her Pilgrims trudged into town,
on the afternoon of February 27,
there were at least twice as many.
Alberta Hill, who'd come from New York,
summed up their mood:
"I am looking forward to the parade," she wrote,
"with as much interest as alittle girl to her first party."
WARE: Think about what it would be like to march
in your first suffrage parade.
Maybe you had a white dress
that you took out of your closet,
or maybe you wore a special suffrage hat
and a, and a sash.
You're not a bystander anymore.
And even if you felt a little scared and a little nervous,
or maybe a lot scared and a lot nervous,
you're surrounded by other women
who believe in the same thing you do.
And there must have been just this amazing rush
of feeling part of something bigger.
NARRATOR: By mid-morning on March 3, 1913,
the marchers already weregathering on Pennsylvania Avenue
"We went out early," Alice Paul recalled,
"very early, to try to begin to line the people up."
Anna Howard Shaw, the National Association's president,
was there in her doctoral robes,
soaking up the enthusiasm of the crowd.
But as the kaleidoscopic mass
shifted into position for drills,
a fracas broke out
among the marchers from Illinois.
According to the "Chicago Tribune" reporter
traveling with them,
the delegation's chair made a last-minute announcement:
She'd been advised to keepthe delegation "entirely white,"
she said, "due to the objectionsof Eastern and Southern women."
Although African Americans were interspersed
throughout the procession--
among them members of a Howard University sorority--
it was decided Ida B. Wells
would have to march with a contingent in the rear.
GIDDINGS: She was nationally famous.
She had been so much a part of the suffrage organizations,
longer than most of those women who were there.
So she is just, becomes very emotional about this,
not feeling, not in a... a self-pitying way,
but she understands what would happen
if it came out that,
that she was excluded from this group.
NARRATOR: Fighting back tears, Wells addressed the 62 women
of the Illinois delegation.
WELLS (dramatized): If the Illinois women do not take a stand now
in this great democratic parade,
then the colored women are lost.
When I was asked to come down here,
I was asked to march with the other women of our state,
and either I go with you or not at all.
NARRATOR:When the delegation reassembled for the procession,
just after 3:00,
Wells was nowhere to be found.
(people calling in background)
By then, Pennsylvania Avenue was jammed with spectators.
The welcoming party for the president-elect, by contrast,
was strangely sparse.
WALDMAN: Woodrow Wilson steps off the train in Washington, D.C.
He's just been elected president of the United States.
He's expecting a, a huge welcome.
And there's nobody there.
BEHN: And so he asks, "What's going on?"
And somebody tells him
most of the people are out watching the suffrage parade.
And it's this early indicator of the role
that suffrage is going to play in his term
as he's about to take office the following day.
NARRATOR: Finally, at 25 past 3:00, a blare of trumpets rang out
and the procession's two dozenhorse-drawn floats, nine bands,
four mounted brigades, and thousands of marchers
stirred into motion.
Leading them all was Inez Milholland,
a 26-year-old attorney the press had dubbed
"the most beautiful suffragette."
Lest anyone mistake the purpose of the demonstration,
Alice Paul had displayed it on the very first float,
the so-called great demand.
WALTON: This was very bold.
Women did not demand in those days.
And she was putting Wilson on notice
that the women wanted action.
Alice also wanted it to be a beautiful parade.
It was a narrative of women's progress,
from pioneer days all the way up to present day.
The present day consisted of phalanxes of women
marching by profession.
You had your librarians.
You had your teachers.
You had your nurses.
The message was, "This is the contribution
that women make to society."
NARRATOR: For roughly four blocks,
the parade unspooled along the avenue as planned.
(people murmuring in background)
Then, rowdy onlookers began to break
through the steel cables lining the route.
(people murmuring in background)
WALDMAN: You had 5,000 women marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.
And surrounding them were 100,000 men,
many of them drunk.
And the men began jeering and spitting.
WALTON: They spilled into the path of the parade.
They hurled taunts at the women.
They threw lighted cigarettes at them.
They plucked objects off the floats.
WALDMAN: They assaulted the marchers
and sent a hundred of them to the hospital.
WALTON: The police, they weren't much better.
They turned their back on the parade and they're smirking,
like this is all some kind of big joke.
ZAHNISER: So very quickly, what were marchers marching
four or even eight abreast
became a single file
in a very, very threatening atmosphere.
NARRATOR:Only the arrival of the cavalry enabled the marchers
to complete the route.
One later compared the experience
to being forced through the neck of a funnel.
"I did not know," another recalled,
"that men could be such fiends."
Ida B. Wells took advantage of the chaos,
boldly stepping in with the Illinois delegation
midway through the route.
"Illinois is Lincoln's state," she told a reporter.
"I don't believe Lincoln's state
"is going to permit Alabama or Georgia or any other state
to begin to dictate to it now."
Given the punishing afternoon,
many expected the mood at the post-procession rally
to be grim.
But as one marcher recalled, "To our great surprise,
the leaders were jubilant!"
"If anything could prove the need of the ballot,"
Anna Howard Shaw proclaimed,
"nothing could prove it more
than the treatment we received today."
ZAHNISER: Alice Paul and the National Association leaders
realized they had a media sensation
on their hands.
WALTON: Alice was a public relations genius.
She saw that this parade
on the front pages of newspapers across America
was a better storythan her parade would have been.
And what was that story?
Men bad, women good, right?
It was basic.
WALDMAN: This march overshadowed the inauguration
of the president of the United States,
because these non-violent marchers were attacked
for just trying to fulfill their rights as Americans.
NARRATOR: By the following morning,
the newspapers were in receipt of an open letter,
penned in New York by Harriot Stanton Blatch
and addressed to the soon-to-be- inaugurated president,
BLATCH (dramatized): As you ride today in comfort and safety
to the Capitol,
we beg that you will not be unmindful
that yesterday, the government--
which is supposed to exist for the good of all--
left women, while passing in peaceful procession
in their demand for political freedom,
at the mercy of a howling mob on the very streets
which are being at this moment so efficiently officered
for the protection of men.
DUBOIS: Paul pressed to have a congressional investigation.
And this prolonged the publicity
that the demonstration had gotten.
So instead of being intimidated by the attack,
she used it as an argument to get...
Effectively to get the Congress to begin to move
on the federal amendment.
WALDMAN: The idea of a constitutional amendment
guaranteeing the right to vote for women
was a pipe dream.
It wasn't on the agenda.
And then Alice Paul said, "We're going to do this."
CASSIDY: It put suffrage on the map in a brand-new way.
NARRATOR: The movement's leadership continued to believe
the vote would be won in the states,
but a higher profile for the cause could only help in that.
"The National Association," Anna Howard Shaw told Paul,
"will never cease to be grateful to you all
for the splendid service you have done in its name."
NARRATOR: That spring,
while the controversy over the parade
was still splashed across the nation's front pages,
the Thomas A. Edison Company debuted
its latest film in New York.
The nation's movie houses and kinetoscope parlors
had been awash in films about woman suffrage
for years now,
most of them short comedies about misguided, mannish women
unsuccessfully experimenting with power.
Edison's new entry sought
to turn the popular stereotype on its head.
Entitled "Votes for Women"
and featuring five prominent suffragists,
each delivering a 60-second speech,
the film was part of a series of so-called talkers.
For 40 years,
these six reasonable plaints
have been placed before Parliament...
NARRATOR: But no sooner had suffragist number one
come into view
than the talk was drowned out by hisses, hoots, and jeers.
Newspapers translated the uproar into words.
"Vaudeville audiences are not bashful
about expressing opinions,"
observed "The New York Tribune,"
"and it seemed to be the general opinion
"that those women were not good lookers enough
to deserve a man's vote."
WEISS: It is important to realize how vilified the women were.
The idea is that, if you are a suffragist,
there must be something wrong with you.
You must be a spinster.
You must be unsexed and somehow psychologically unbalanced.
You must just want to be a man.
(people talking in background, band playing in distance)
NARRATOR: Suffragists had expectedbig things from Woodrow Wilson,
who'd been elected on the strength
of his progressive reform platform.
But throughout his first hundred days as president--
and for months beyond--
he'd managed to avoid taking any public position
on the question of votes for women.
BEHN: Woodrow Wilson is a verytraditional Southern gentleman.
And his political interests and leanings
mirror his upbringing.
He's not dismissive of women
or the role that they have to play in society,
but he does believe
that that role is primarily as nurturers,
as upholders of morals and values
and he's deeply concerned
that allowing women to enter the political realm
will disrupt the foundation of society.
CASSIDY: Woodrow Wilson was against women's suffrage.
He never wanted to state that publicly,
and was always very careful
when he spoke with deputations of these suffragists
coming to see him.
He would say, "Oh, well, you know,
"I understand your perspective, and that's interesting.
"I have a lot of other things on my plate right now.
We'll see what happens."
NARRATOR: By the fall of 1913,Alice Paul had long since tired
of the presidential dodge.
When she and Lucy Burns launched "The Suffragist"--
a weekly newspaper meant to track the progress
toward the federal amendment--
they put Wilson on the debut issue's cover,
depicting him as a smug obstacle to the cause.
At home in Pennsylvania, Anna Howard Shaw
perused the issue with dismay.
It was bad enough that Paul and Burns
had published "The Suffragist"
without consulting the National Association,
but to see such an unkind portrayal of the president,
Shaw told Burns,
had made her "sick at heart."
The national suffrage organization
was very hierarchical.
The people in charge believed
that they deserved to be in charge,
young people must come up through the ranks,
and Alice Paul was none of that.
She could see what needed to be done,
and she intended to do it.
NARRATOR: Paul had been raising hackles at the National Association
for months now, ever since the parade.
Just weeks afterward,
she'd personally led a deputation
to President Wilson,
who gave the women ten minutes of his time,
and then shrugged them off,
claiming that Congress was too busy
with tariffs and currency reform
to consider woman suffrage.
"But Mr. President," Paul countered,
"do you not understand that the administration
"has no right to legislate
"for currency, tariff, and any other reform
without first getting the consent of women?"
WARE: It was going to be very hard
to get through to Woodrow Wilson,
no matter what anybody said.
But Alice Paul was confrontational.
and she really sees him as a huge adversary.
She was trying to make him, as president,
deal with this issue.
NARRATOR: Were such audacity not enough,
Paul and Burns also had formed a separate organization,
the Congressional Union,
to push for the federal amendment,
and had even raised their own funds for the endeavor,
diverting them, in Shaw's view, from the National's coffers.
But nothing was more troubling
than Paul and Burns' public embrace
of Emmeline Pankhurst, who by now had resorted
to waging what she called"guerrilla warfare" in England.
(explosion roars, siren blaring)
WALTON: Until this point,
the most violent thing they had done
was to throw rocks through windows,
which is kind of a time-honored form of protest in Britain.
Now they're cuttingelectric lines, telegraph lines.
They're slashing seats in trains.
They set fire to golf greens.
No votes, no golf.
WEISS: There were bombs put in mailboxes.
There were bombs at the doorsteps
of members of Parliament.
So there's a lot of fear in the American movement
that that kind of violence might come here.
ADAMS: People in the National felt that Alice Paul
had become a creature of the Pankhursts.
She was going to import
Pankhurst attitudes and approaches
to a situation in the U.S. where these militant tactics
didn't belong at all.
ZAHNISER: Alice Paul and Lucy Burns never thought
that any kind of violent protestwould be successful in America,
but they never distancedthemselves from the Pankhursts.
So they became more and more controversial.
NARRATOR: The last straw was delivered by Lucy Burns,
who advertised a suffrage meeting
by illegally chalking the sidewalk
across from the White House,
and thereby prompted
a much-publicized warrant for her arrest.
Shaw's reprimand came by letter.
"Immediately plead ignorance of the law
and pay whatever fine there is upon it," she instructed.
"You may think we are all a set of old fogies,
"and perhaps we are,
"but it requires a good deal more courage
"to work steadily and steadfastly
"for 40 or 50 years
"to gain an end,
"than it does to do an impulsive, rash thing
and lose it."
By December 1913, tensions were so high
that the National barred reporters
from attending its annual convention.
Just days later, Shaw appointed an entirely new committee
to oversee efforts in Washington,
and ousted Paul and Burns.
The fledgling Congressional Union's "militant" leaders,
Shaw told the press,
"know nothing of American politics."
WEISS: Schisms like this are very common in social movements,
especially reform movements.
We see it in the labor movement.
We see it in the civil rights movement.
There is an impatiencewith the slow pace of progress,
and one group says, "We have to be more radical."
CASSIDY: Alice Paul was very young in 1913.
She was in her mid-20s and she was probably naive.
But sometimes that level of ignorance,
not really knowing how hard the fight is,
is the only reason why you're going to engage in the fight.
(trolley bell rings, people talking in background)
NARRATOR: As the wan winter sun rose on the morning
of February 7, 1915,
readers of "The New York Times"
turned the front pageof the Sunday editorial section
and encountered a lengthy warning
about a grave and imminent danger.
A referendum scheduled for November 2
that for the first time
would put the question of votes for women
directly to the electorate of New York state.
"Every man of voting age must meet the issue courageously,
intelligently, with clear vision,"
the editors urged.
"The grant of suffrage to women is repugnant.
"Without the counsel and guidance of men,
"no woman ever ruled a state wisely and well.
"The defect is innate, and one for which a cure
is both impossible and not to be desired."
It was enough to drive Harriot Stanton Blatch to distraction.
While others dreamed of changing the U.S. Constitution,
Blatch had kept her focus on New York,
and by now, she'd been working for years
just to convince the state legislature
to hold the referendum.
DUBOIS: She understood that education, pleading, petitioning
did not work.
You needed to evidence power.
You could do it by bringing hundreds of women to Albany.
You could do it by having 10,000 women march down Fifth Avenue.
But you needed to show
that there was power and intention,
and you had to force politicians to act.
NARRATOR: The task of converting voters, Blatch knew,
would be Herculean by comparison,
but it had to be done.
Spurred by the furor over the national suffrage parade,
the House of Representatives
recently had putthe federal amendment to a vote
for the first time,
and had proved
that the two-thirds majority required for passage
was well out of reach.
"But if we win the Empire State,"
Blatch told Alice Paul,
"all the states will come tumbling down
like a pack of cards."
DUBOIS: At this point, the federal Constitution
was still closed to women.
So it became the goal to break through
and to have a victory east of the Mississippi.
And there, the big goal was New York.
GOODIER: New York is a state with a very large population,
many members of the Electoral College.
It's such an influential and prominent state.
So for decades,
women suffragists had said, "New York is key."
NARRATOR: The National Association had poured resources
into the campaign,
and over the course of 1915,
mobilized thousands of women across the state.
They stood in shop windows
to make so-called voiceless speeches,
carried a symbolic suffrage torch
to meetings from Chautauqua to Montauk,
and mailed suffrage valentines to everyone they knew.
DUBOIS: They are doing everything to appeal to the emotions.
No longer interested in makingrational arguments for suffrage,
they want to have people care about
and be interested in
and excited about the suffrage movement.
NARRATOR: The fervor was palpable all over the East that year,
as suffragists in New Jersey,Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts
drove toward their own referenda.
WALTON: Thousands of women marched in Boston.
They took a liberty bell across the state of Pennsylvania.
Everybody planted yellow gardens.
You know, and women worked very, very hard.
GOODIER: If women are going to get the right to vote,
they need to convince the most men possible
that they deserve the right to vote.
Every individual man who can vote
needs to be convinced.
NARRATOR: Mindful of what was at stake
for tens of thousands of African American women,
and for voting rights in general,
the five-year-old National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People
put out a special issue of its monthly magazine,
from some of black America's foremost public figures,
who urged African American men to vote "yes."
For Mary Church Terrell, the former president
of the National Association of Colored Women,
it was incomprehensible that any black man should do otherwise.
"The same arguments used to prove
that the ballot be withheld from women,"
she pointed out,
"are advanced to prove that colored men
should not be allowed to vote."
JONES: Black women have a stake in this question.
If one is to be a full citizen, a true citizen--
not a second-class citizen--
one will vote,
have access to the polls.
Keep a people away from the polls,
you will raise the significance of the vote tremendously.
"Why would you keep us away from the polls so long
if it wasn't in fact the route to power?"
NARRATOR: By the fall, everyone was waiting to see
what Woodrow Wilson would do.
Expected to return to his home state of New Jersey
to vote in the referendum there,
the president was inundated with letters,
hundreds of them from anti-suffrage women,
who begged him, as one put it, to "leave us a little longer
"in the quiet of our homes
"to rear our children well and care for our husbands
with undivided interest."
To such women's profound disappointment,
Wilson announced on October 6 that he would vote yes.
DUBOIS: Wilson, because of his reputation as a progressive,
can't publicly say that he's against women
having political rights,
is basically a states' rights man
when it comes to suffrage.
BEHN:He does it as a private citizen in a state-level vote
that doesn't have any national implications,
and, in fact, is explicit, speaking to his Southern base,
that he's not in favor of a federal amendment.
But that is a huge win in the minds
of many of the suffragists,
because now the president has indicated
at least he's personally pro-suffrage.
NARRATOR: On the eve of the New York referendum,
opinion polls were running almost even, for and against.
Harriot Stanton Blatch was cautiously optimistic,
and predicted a win by fewer than 10,000 votes.
Instead, the referendum lost, resoundingly.
A blow made more devastating by similar routs
in New Jersey,Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
WALTON: These were four of the mostpopulous states in the country.
And there was a lot at stake, and they lost every state.
DUBOIS: They failed.
The 1915 campaign was well-run,
but it could not break through.
NARRATOR:"I have never felt so vindictive in all my life,"
Blatch raged to a reporter.
"Never again will I make anappeal to an individual voter."
Just days later, an embattled Anna Howard Shaw
announced she would not be a candidate for re-election
to the National Association's presidency,
and the country's pre-eminent woman suffrage organization
began the search for a new leader
and yet another new path forward.
KEYSSAR: In 1915, things looked very iffy.
The movement was at something of a crossroads.
It had garnered a great deal of support.
Its social base was broader than it ever had been.
But it still faced a lot of opposition.
Figuring out what to do--
should they proceed at the state level,
should they go for a federal amendment--
was a very live issue,
and it was not obvious
that either path was going to work.
WEISS: We don't want,
it seems, everyone participating in our democracy.
And that becomes one of the great themes
for the women fighting for women's suffrage.
Because how can you be a democracy
if half of the nation can't vote?