tv Suffragists the 19th Amendment CSPAN April 13, 2020 5:36pm-6:54pm EDT
effort leading up to the passage of the 19th amendment and how women gained the right to vote through marching, picketing and persistence. she's the author of "suffragi s "suffragists." relive your history here on american history tv on c-span 3. i'm the president of the white house historical association, and it's my privilege to welcome many of you back to historic decatur house and the white house historical association for another one of our wonderful lectures. tonight is one of the annual national heritage lectures that we do in partnership with the u.s. capitol historical society and the u.s. supreme court historical society, and we have all our wonderful colleagues
tonight and my great friend the new president of the capitol historical society. on june 4, 1919, the 19th amendment was passed and sent to the states for ratification. the suffragists used the white house as a backdrop to challenge inequity and bring attention to their cause. and tonight we look forward to hearing more about their successful efforts to secure womens right to vote. but before i introduce our speaker i have a couple of other introductions and things i'd like to share. first of all we have guests from smith college here tonight, the washington club of smith college. stand up the washington smith college crowd. they're our special guests tonight and we're honored to have them. i'd also like to tell you a little bit about the white house historical association.
and for those of you who have been with us before know i love to talk about our wonderful mission begun in 1961 by first lady jacqueline kennedy. and remember she was only 31 years old when her husband was inaugurated president of the united states. at that young age she had the vision and foresight to know what she and president kennedy needed then others would need over the course of time and that would be to have a private partner who was nonpartisan, private profit, we accept no government funding whatsoever. but all the resources we raise go to our education programs to teach and tell the stories of white house history going back to 1792. but we also provide resources directly to the white house to maintain the museum's standard of the state floor and the ground floor and the nonpublic historic rooms that mrs. kennedy envisioned maintaining. and we have done that with every president and first lady since
the kennedys, and we're honored to do so. tonight our format will be i will introduce our wonderful speaker, and then following her remarks anne compton who you all know is a wonderful friend of ours and a wonderful friend of yours will come up and have an interview session. and don't worry this podium is going to be removed and set aside so all of you can have an unobstructed view of their conversation. anne we have been very good friends with for many years. she's been very supportive of us as an organization as she is of many things here in washington. you know her best as a former reporter and white house correspondent. she was the first woman assigned to cover the white house for network television. she worked for abc news for 41 years, retiring in 2014, but you really haven't retired completely because you're very involved and engaged in things. i know with us and the miller center and many other endeavors.
her career spanned seven presidents, 10 presidential campaigns. she traveled shoo all 50 states, six continents, and of the many, many interesting antecdotes is the compelling story of her being with president bush, george w. bush as the only broadcast reporter who traveled with him and we'll want to do something special to talk about the white house on 9/11. so we thank anne for her friendship and for being with us to take the soaries of lectures forward. we'll have another one in september on the role of pat nixon in the white house. is the 50th anniversary of the nixons coming into the presidency and i think she is really an unheralded first lady
in terms of her legacy with the white house and what she contributed in terms of artifacts, really american artifacts to the white house collection, and we'll be celebrating that with a lecture in september. and then in october very exciting news, our dear friend has a brand new book that's going to be out in october. and for the first time ever he's finally unlocking his recipe box, and he's going to be actually be sharing the recipes from his service to five american presidents from jimmy carter to george w. bush and his wonderful confections he created as executive white house pastry chef for those many years. jennifer pickens you may know is an author of white house christmas, is going to have a new book out on ceremonies at the white house. so we'll have a conversation with the chef and jennifer pickens at our event in october. so stay tuned for news on both of those occasions.
and now for our prime event we're very fortunate and we're in for a treat tonight to talk about this very important and timely happening in our nation's history and on the centennial of this important historic occasion. we have rebecca baugz roberts here tonight as our speaker, and rebecca has been i understand many things in her life and career and not limited to just these. she's been a journalist. she's been a prurs. she's been a tour guide. she see been a forensic anthropologist. she's been an event planner, a political consultant. she's been a jazz singer, a radio talk show host, and currently she is curator of programming for planet word, a museum set to open in 2020. she's also found time to be the mom to two twin boys and a wife and a great keeper of the family in line, and on top of that, all of that she's an author.
and she has written a wonderful book on the subject we're here to learn about tonight and this part of american history and white house history. so with that i will have rebecca come up, and then we'll remove the podium, and rebecca and anne can have a conversation at the end. and you'll be invited to pose your questions as well. [ applause ] >> thank you all so much for having me. thank you, stewart. and just to set the record straight i actually have three sons. not to brag, but the twins have an older brother. the suffrage movement really dates from seneca falls in 1948 and ratification in 1920. i'm not going to cover all 72 years. in fact i'm going to more or less ignore the 19th century and nagt the first decade of the 20th century as well and really
just focus on the final push for the amendment. but if you have any questions about other parts of the movement, other players in the movement, i'll be more than happy to answer them when we go to q&a. so i like to start with this image of the program from the 1913 suffrage march down pennsylvania avenue. and i like to use it because it's really the only image in color. the great thing about writing 20th century history is all the great photographs but of course they're all in black and white. this shows you how colorful it was. but also these colors are really deliberate. in fact, almost everything the suffrage movement did was really deliberate. not only do these colors represent things, but purple is a very rich saturated color, gold less so, white of course is the absence of color. these things show up really well in black and white photographs. that's all on purpose. and also if you want to see the
artifacts of the movement in all their beautiful colorful glory, the belmont hall house has all of the original banners. but also because we're in the centennial year there are bunch of terrific exhibits going on. there's one at the archives, there will be one opening stoon at the smithsonian american history museum. so go out and see all these artifacts in their glory because we are lucky enough to be in the town where they're curated. so this march was the first civil rights march. there had been parades down pennsylvania avenue, but this idea of taking a cause to the core of federal washington was alice paul's idea. and it started at the capitol and marched all it way down to pennsylvania avenue to the white house to the executive branch. and that was absolutely symbolic, and it was the day before woodrow wilson's
inauguration. if that sounds familiar, a womens march down the middle of washington on the same weekend as the inauguration of a president they hadn't voted for in order to remind him he ignored womens voices at his peril from the beginning of his administration. those parallels are obviously very, very strong. so the march -- let me make sure this is actually advancing -- i of course don't have my glasses on, so if it's not on i don't have any way of knowing that. so this is obviously the capitol end of pennsylvania avenue. so they were able to plan this really grand procession. all of these floats, marching bands, working women marched by procession in matching outfits. and the idea is she would get up on her horse at the beginning way down on the capital end of pennsylvania avenue and a bugler
would sound the parade had begun. and a few blocks later that bugler would be picked up by another all the way down to 15th street which has that big plaza out front. but you can see how this is all -- you know, the horses are all spaced perfectly and they all have fabulous hats on, and this is very thoroughly planned. just behind was -- holland on her horse. when the women members of congress chose to wear white to honor the women suffragists this showed up a lot. i also love this image because this shows you what a great publicists alice paul was. she was a labor lawyer, a really accomplished professional, but all of the, you know, breathlessly sexist press of the day never failed to talk about
how pretty she was. they called her the most beautiful suffragists. and alice paul's reaction was if you're going to talk about how pretty she is instead of how smart she is i'm going to stick her on a white horse in a white dress and put her in my parade so this image comes back in suffrage lore. the working women as i i said marched by profession, these were the nurses. the teachers marched together, the writers marched together. they purposely stained their costumes with ink. college women marched by alma mater. we have pictures from some of the other seven sister schools. and the whole idea was this grand procession would end at 15th street at the treasury department where this tableau would go on.
a fascinating art form that involves some sort of tortured allegory where people would come out and pose and this allegory is columbia summoning the virtues. and the virtues were like peace and prosperity and involved children and live doves and it was all a thing. and it had very little to do with suffrage, but boy did it look great in pictures. this is still the cover of my book 100 years later, and again absolutely strategically planned to be that way. there was a grandstand in front of treasury setup for the inaugural parade the next day. so there was a live audience for this tableau, but that was not the main audience. the idea was this would be published in newspapers all around the country and the next day. so it was march 3rd. it's a little chilly early march in washington. these children were a little
chilly on the steps. the tableau gets the signal to start, they perform their beautiful tableau, and then they stand there in dignified silence, and the plan was the parade would process by in front ofand they would up at dar hall where they would perform and triumph. where the tableau would perform again in triumph to a rousing applause from the audience and it would be a great day. so the tableau goes ahead and there is no parade. and the tableau finishes and they're maintaining their poses, no parade. they have no way of knowing where the parade is, why it is held up. it is getting a little cold up there on the treasury and finally they go into the treasury department and why hasn't it come down pennsylvania avenue. that's why. so for orientation, we're standing -- this picture is taken at about 12th street, where freedom plaza is now, that tower that dominated now,
the trump hotel and looking back towards the capitol. it is a six-lane road with really broadside walks and it was absolutely shoulder to shoulder crowded. and i don't know how much detail you could see, there is a lot of hats in that picture. it was all men. they weren't there for the suffrage parade. it was a side show and they were very poorly behaved. they tripped the woman and spit on them and yelled names. the police did nothing to stop them, in some cases the police joined in the spitting and the tripping and the name calling. and you can't get a parade through that crowd. alice paul realized that her perfectly planned parade was about to go south. and she drove a car up and down the parade route to try to sort of zigzag through the crude to get them back up and it didn't work at all. the crowd poured back in behind her as soon as the car went by.
finally they literally called in cal cavalry and they rode their horses into the crowd enough so the parade could fight their way down. so instead of the tableau performing at d.a.r. hall in triumph, all of the women show up at d.a.r. hall, filthy, furious, cold, angry, horrified that this massive crowd of these jerky men have completely ruined what should have been this meticulously planned triumphant day. alice paul realized it is the best thing that ever could have happened. that a lovely parade would be in the news for a day and the near riot would keep the suffrage movement in the news for weeks. that is what happened. there was a congressional hearing, the police chief almost lost his job. and again to notice how good the women were at manipulating
the press. so not entirely sure what i should be pointing this at in order to make it change. over here. okay. so this is "the washington post" the next day. and i love these headlines. the language is so spectacular. if you could read it. this headline should be woodrow wilson inaugurated the 28thpresident. instead wilson gets half and the other column says women's beauty grace and art bewilder the capitol, miles of fluttering femininity present entrancing suffrage appeal and there is a photo of the tableau. so this is not a particularly well planted story from the national women's party. this is how the men covered the parade without any guidance from the women. so it all is talking about how pretty it all was and, oh, by the way there was some bad behavior. this is a much better example, the chicago daily tribune.
so again woodrow wilson not the headline. this column here mobs of capital defy police and hoodlums hurl caustic remarks at the marchers and this paragraph down here the lead has 17 superlatives and the biggest crowd, the widest street, the angriest mob, the most beautiful girls. all through. and it is terrific press. but also look at the editorial cartoon. there is little pencil neck woodrow wilson thinking he gets the spotlight on the day of the inauguration, but ta-da, there is the suffragist sort of bright eyed literally stealing the spotlight from him. so the 1913 march was sort of the turning point for the final push to actually get the amendment through congress. and in addition to being a great publicity ploy, it was a
reintduction of the federal amendment into the strategy. so i'll race through a little bit of political history. feel free to ask questions later because i'm going to go real fast. the original suffragists and you know their name, elizabeth katie stanton, lucy anthony, susy stone, they were abolitionists and they came to suffragist because they wanted on ol is done without the vote. there were major women's rights advocates across the board. when -- after the civil war the reconstruction amendments were passed and they enfranchised black men but no women. there were people like lucy stone and julia ward howe who said we're abolitionist and we'll take this and we'll fight for women next and there were people like elizabeth katie hanson and susan b. anthony who said if we don't
get this now and we can't support the 15th amendment if it doesn't include women. so it was a huge split. and they started tearing -- formed competing organizations and tore each other down in the press. but also they continued on two separate avenues for getting passed. with the stanton and anthony fashion pushing the federal amendment and the stone howe blackwell faction pushing a state by state strategy. because the reconstruction amendments had been hailed as former overreach by the former confederacy so this was considered safer. it is not crazy to go state by state. if enough states pass suffrage you have more men supporting it that it becomes inevitable. the amendment has languished just after the civil war. so the 1913 march on the white horse, there was a big old banner that said we demand a
constitutional amendmenten franchising the women of this country and that is called the great demand banner and you could see it at belmont paul. in addition to the march being a great publicity ploy was an announcement that the federal amendment was back and this was going to be a major strategy going forward. so it was really alice paul who was pushing this switch to the amendment and also these much more public tactics. and she had -- she was very young. only in her early 20s at the time of the parade and she had become a follower of anna line pankhurst. the suffrage movement had the low and steady movement within the lines and then they have the pankhurst, mother and daughter, were totally radical and very, very militant.
eventually alice paul's faction of the american movement became called militant. they had nothing on the british movement. these women were started by throwing bricks through windows and escalated to try to set the prime minister house on fire and they burned down the botanical gardens and smacked police men in the face to get arrested. they were not playing around -- at all. in fact, i think -- i love this. this is a british paper that the headline said trouble expected in london tonight. suffragets and women will break into the house. everyone expected it. the other thing is an ad from a glazyer saying if suffragets break your windows, call me to put them back in. (laughs) it was the edinburg paper so it has this scottish, they may break windows but the wee boy.
and the word is suffragist. the british press made fun of the british suffrage movement by calling them suffragette. and like nasty women, and deplorables, generations later they co-opted the title and wore it with pride. everybody is a suffragette refers from the british movement. there is your lesson for the day. so with these lessons from the british movement, and alice paul was arrested and went to jail and force fed in british jail and she absolutely participated in these guerrilla tactics. when she moved back to the u.s. in 1910 she wanted to use some of those tactics to breathe new life into the american movement which was really languishing. stanton and anthony the founding mothers were dead by then and this split had lost
everybody time and energy. so she, alice paul, worked with the national american women's suffrage association. the two factions after the civil war had finally come back together. and formed this overriding major group. carrie chatman and anna shaw were the leaders and they let alice paul set up a washington office like ngo's do. this is across the square from where we are now. it has a light yellow facade. one of the facades preserved by jackie kennedy and now the court structure rises up behind it. originally it was the congressional office, the lobbying arm of the national american woman's suffrage association and from the beginning alice paul went rogue and she started publishing a competing newsletter and went
out and sought her own money and finally the national american women's suffrage association kicked her out and told her they were already nervous about her tactics and said if you're going to pursue this pank hurst modelled aggressive stance, you can't do it under the umbrella of the national. so they split. they stayed at cameron house and called themself the national women's party. so throughout 1914, 1915, they continued to push for an amendment and they had a parade and big booth at the world's fair in san francisco in 1915 and a cross country road trip, it was still shocking to see women drive. where they gathered petition signals -- signatures across the country. they had some success with some publicity but not a whole lot of success getting support for the federal amendment. the national was continuing to push the state by state
strategy and they were having very little success there. by the 1916 election every -- there were ten states that allowed women the right to vote. almost all of the big empty states out west. so wyoming was first. montana, idaho. and they had like 11 people living in them. so they were enfranchising everybody to maximize the political power. so but in 1916 every state that had suffrage on the ballot voted it down. woodrow wilson, who was a real enemy to suffrage. he was against it for so many reasons. he kept coming up with new ones. he had lots of reasons to be against suffrage. and he was re-elected in a landslide. so 1916 wasn't successful for the movement, they felt like the tactics weren't working. and then at the end of 1916,
anna mulholland from the white horse collapsed on stage and shes had anemia and nobody realized how sick she was and he she was giving a speech on stage in california and she never recovered and died in the hospital were a few weeks later. her sister said the final words, mr. president, how long must women wait for liberty? maybe they were. it is a great line. but she is, as you might imagine, immediately became a martyr to the cause. she literally died in the cause and that image of her on the white horse, this looks like a holly card. she was almost sainted. you could see the original painting of this at the belmont hall. that was the aebdsend of 1916. as 1917 dawned, they haven't gained a sing state, twisted a single voter, we still have
this president who is not interested in helping us sway anybody in congress. we need to do something new. and at the beginning of 1917, they came up with the idea of picketing the white house. i promise if you go to the white house there will be pickters there. there always are. feel free to remind them it was alice paul's idea. (laughs) this is the first time anybody had done this. check out the visuals. the women in the dark coats against the white house, that banner that said mr. president, how long must women wait for liberty. inez mull hol hand's maybe bast words in dark letters on a light background. this is all made for the pictures. and pictures are great. so at the time live in the space there was sort of a curiosity. people were interested in the white house pickets. that is interesting.
this is january and february 1917. it is really cold out there. but people would come by and sometimes women would come to washington to participate and there were theme days, there was a college day where again i looked for smith college pictures. there is new york day. it looks like new york got a rainy, terrible day. and they stayed out there throughout january and february of 1917. and there are bringing warm bricks to stand on and one woman had a fur coat that she passed around and they all got to wear the fur coat for 20 minutes. and it was curiosity. and even though it was new. they said the women chained themself -- everything is totally legal. standing in front of the white house with a sign isn't against
the law. they didn't want to keep it up. it was hard to recruit people to do it but all tactics get stale after a while. so the intention was that at wilson's second inaugural they'd had one grand picket and meet with wilson. unlike in 1913, march of 1917, this is one of the gross early spring days in washington. where the rain is coming in sideways and the wind is just bitter and but they were out there. there is a great news account of describing they're holding these wooden poles that had wood stain on them and the stain dripping down the women's wrists in the freezing rain. so they go out and march around the white house and they try to go into the white house to meet with president wilson and they're barred. the security said mm-hmm, can't come in here. so they go around to the 15thstate gate and barred, tried the ellipse and barred. so what do you do now. they circled the property four or five times. finally they go back to cameron
house here on lafayette square and say well we're going to keep the pickets up. if he won't meet with us, we're not stopping. we're going to keep going with the pickets. so they keep up throughout the spring of 1917. by the end of april, u.s. is now involved in world war i. now what do you do? right? do you keep criticizing the president in this very public way? while we're at war. you know public opinion is going to turn against you. people are going to think you're traitors. they decided, yeah, you know, if president wilson is going to be out there saying this war is important to make the world safe for democracy, while continuing to be the biggest strumbling block to enfranchising half of his own voters, yeah, they're going to pick it up. and they leaned in. this said president wilson are deceiving russia. they say we are a democracy,
help us win a world war so that democracies pay survive. we the women of america tell you america is not a democracy. 20 million american women are denied the right to vote. president wilson is the chief opponent of the national enfranchisement, make this nation free and tell our government it must liberate the people before it could claim free russia as an ally. again, this message is not for the people walking by. this is for photographs and newspaper coverage. today this would be a tweet. that is the whole idea. public opinion does in fact turn against the women. someone tearing down the russian envoy banner. the police never did anything to stop this kind of stuff. what do the women do? they go ahead and call president wilson kaiser wilson.
20 million american women are not self-governed, take the beam out of your own eye. now they're calling the president a kaiser while we're at war with germany. finally the president has had enough. tells the police force, get them off my sidewalk. i don't care what you have to do. they're not breaking any laws. so the police arrested them for a made-up charge for obstructing the traffic on the sidewalk. which is not a thing, right. and haul the women into jail and say, $5 fine or a night in jail. assuming all of the women is going to say here is my $5, i can't possibly go to jail, i'll never do it again, every single one of the woman say bring it. i'll go to jail. there are 30 more women who will pick up the pickets tomorrow. so that whole crew gets arrested. $5 fine, four nights jail. fine, four nights in jail. i got no problem with that. there is more women who will do it. so this escalated so crazy
throughout the summer and fall of 1917 that these women are getting sentenced to 60 days in the work house for standing on a corner with a sign. which is not, in fact, breaking any laws. but they kept calling the bluff of the sentencing judge and they kept choosing the jail time. and they took the pankers tactics of demanding political prisoner status and when it was denied, going on a hunger strike. some of them were force fed here in d.c. jail which is just as horrible as it sounds, it involves forcing a tube down your throat and yanking the tube out and women got their teeth pulled out if they closed their mouth against the tube and they're not breaking any laws. they're demanding a voice in democracy. the national -- the major women's suffrage association was horrified by all of this, right. that the national women's party was being this tacky. but it kind of worked for both of them, right.
kerry chapman capp said i'm not that crazy, you could meet with me. i'm a reasonable human being. it worked for her. and if it had just been the national women's party this would have just been a side show. you needed the real work of lobbying and organizing at the same time. so finally in the fall of 1917, i'm sure you've heard the story, a bunch of women were sent down to the work house in virginia and the warden down there decided that he had had enough and he ordered the guards to pick the women up bodily and that workhouse for the most part, women were sent into the communal area where they stayed together but there were punishment cells, individual cells. and the warden ordered his guards to pick the women up and drag them through the dark to these punishment cells which were unlit and unheated and open toilets and rats and everything horrible you could imagine. and the women were physically
picked up, the guards picked them up and hurled them into these cells. so several of them smack their heads against the cinder block, one woman passed out and her cell mate thought she was dead, had a heart attack. lucy burns starts calling out the role of the women who were arrested in the dark to see if they're answer and who is okay. the warden yells at lucy burns and they chain her with his arms above her head in this dark freezing cell all night long. for standing on a corner with a sign, all right. this becomes known as the night of terror. word gets out about this sort of treatment. and public opinion starts to turn back in favor of the women. the other thing that happened in fall of 1917 is new york passed suffrage. which was hugely important. most populous state. finally, even some of the most recalcitrant members of congress thought gosh it looks like women are going to vote. maybe they should vote for me.
(laughs) so as 1918 dawned there was some momentum around a federal amendment. the president still not on board. so these are -- i don't show these pictures since we're here on lafayette square. this is the lafayette statue, right in front of the white house on the far side of lafayette square. throughout the spring of 1918, they would hold the -- the national women's party would hold protests at the lafayette statue. at once point they were kicked out of cameron house, the next building over before they moved up massachusetts avenue, they bought cameron house and expanded into it. so they moved to this side of the square, to the jackson place side. so they would stand at the lafayette statue and every time the president would give a speech, they would burn it and set them on fire. they did that in front of the white house as well. that banner said president
wilson is deceiving the world when he appears as the prophet of democracy. president wilson has opposed those who demand democracy for this country. he is responsible for the disenfranchisement of millions of americans and we in the world know this, the world will find him out. these were called the watch fires. women were arrested for lighting a fire after dark and other completely made-up things throughout 1918. by fall of 1918 there is midterm, right. and there are a couple of votes in congress that don't quite make it there. it passes the house, not the senate, passes the senate not the house. doesn't quite get there. 1918, a new congress is elected and enough pro suffragists are elected because new york passing suffrage that 1919 looks like it might actually happen. so almost exactly 100 years ago in june of 1919, the 19th amendment finally passes both
the house and the senate. so now it goes to the states for ratification. this is alice paul. she made a flag where every time a state ratified she would sew a star on. and there were 48 states and you needed 36. so a bunch of states passed it right away. wisconsin, michigan, illinois. a bunch of states voted it down over the summer of 1919. almost entirely in the south and almost entirely for overtly racist reasons. they were not interested in enfranchising a single new black voter. they were systematically dismantling black male voting lights with jim crow laws and they wanted no part of new black voters. so momentum kind of stalls. by spring of 1920, 35 states have ratified.
you only need one more. five have voted it down. and of the eight left, five won't bring it to a vote. and that -- those were all very specific reasons about governors not wanted to call specials and blah, blah, blah. a lot of inside politics which i'd be happy to go into if anybody is interested. there is a crazy battle in delaware which everyone thought would be the 36th state and it loses in delaware. so now the last two states are north carolina and tennessee. north carolina votes it down. it is all down to tennessee. it is the summer of 1920. it is august in nashville. it's really hot. everyone shows up in nashville. all of the pro-suffragists, the entire national press corp, all of the catholic church, the civil war veterans, the liquor lobby, they're all staying at the same hotel. they're all in the hotel in nashville. the pro-suffragists wear a yellow rose in their lapel and one legislator who wore both to
confuse you and the liquor lobby is there and they set up what they call the jim beam suite where they are getting them too drunk to vote and dirty politics where members would get a phone call saying you need to get back to memphis your son is sick and their son was fine and this goes on for a week in august and no one has a good whip count. no one knows how this is going to go. the state senate passes it down. it is all down to the state assembly. there was a vote that could be seen as a proxy and its to table something and you could see it as an indication of how the real vote is going to go. it is a tie. we're down to the last house of the last state. it is a tie. a tie is a loss for suffrage. you have to win to win. so the actual day arrives and there are red and yellow roses and they've been in the same
hotel together for a week and people are hanging all over the gallery of the state house and they call the roll and one guy changes his vote. harry burn. no one had harry burn in the yes column. he was in his 20s.he was the youngest member of the legislature. his mentor in the legislature was an absolute died in the will women are too stupid and fragile to handle the vote kind of anti-separatist and he changes his vote to yes. b. at the beginning of the alphabet, people realize that early in the role somebody changed their vote. did you hear harry burns say yes? did harry burn change his vote? it only takes one to win at this point. why did harry burn change -- who is harry burn. (laughs) the entire national press corp shows up, mr. burn, why did you change your mind. you're responsible for suffrage, you just enfranchised half of the voting american public and what changed your mind. it turns out his momma told him to. (laughs) so he had in his
pocket a letter from his mother fed burn that said hoorah and vote for suffrage and don't keep them in doubt. and he said to all of the reporters, because my mom wrote me this letter and i really think that a mother's advice is the best thing for a son to follow. so mother of three sons, embroider it on a pillow. but that is how close it came, right. finally alice paul was able to embroider the 36th star on the flag and she unfurled it right out here and that is how close american women came to not getting the 19th amendment passed in the summer of 1920. it is an amazing story. and with that background ann and i are going to talk a little bit and we'll take your questions. so thank you very much. (applause) >> well, do any of
those political tactics sound familiar? (laughs) rebecca, what was it about the women in that particular time who were able to pull together the strategy and the effectiveness. these were smart, educated and incredibly inventive woman who wouldn't take no for an answer. >> they really were. and i'm continually impressed the more i learn with how savvy they were. i think we have a tendency to think that history is linear and progressive and that every generation does a little bit better than the generation a little bit more and pushed out
of the envelope a little bit more and these women were doing it a hundred years ago. and they couldn't introduce legislature or vote for it while female. so they could do everything up to actually making it happen. and it's amazing to me now, especially because so much of the history is taught in kind of a condescending way. look at the cute dresses and banners. they effected the largest historical change in american democracy. >> it was a revolution. >> it was a bloodless revolution. they did it with their brains. and they did it on their own. and they did it with no power. by definition they had no power. and they made it happen. it took a long time. and there were a lot of defeats along the way. but it is an unbelievably impressive radical feat. and what made them able to do it that final push, i think,
some of it was a new generation, all of the things that we see in social movements now, younger voters more tolerant of all kind of social issues, think there were more educated women. i think that there were more opportunities for women to have a public life. so a lot of the objection to women voting was that it would tear down the house, the home would be destroyed because women would abandon the domestic sphere for the public sphere. and as more women were in the public sphere already that was less shocking. and then i think the leadership that emerged, i mean, the original ladies were really impressive and radical. but these final -- this final group, and i don't want to take anything away from -- they were
brilliant strategists. kerry tut in particular. so the fact that they were there to lead it through to the end. >> there is an interesting story of when the actual amendment went through, wasn't it kerry chapman was not invited, nor was alice paul in part because -- were they good friends? >> no. (laughs) >> you could imagine within the effective ranks they -- it was said they detested each other. and so whoever was hosting the kind of signing and everything decided we just won't invite either one of them to come here. but the idea they were all able to pull in that same direction. you think what we know or at least what i remember in history classes, when you get past the victorian, edwardian era and industrial revolution and we're in the new century is there is a progressivism and a kind of movement, a sense of --
communications are getting better. technology is getting -- as it was. but it is the political tactics that now really show that even throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, it is -- thesekind of skills. talk a little bit about my favorite slide is the newspaper -- i'm a reporter and a dear friend of her parents both reporters cokie and steve roberts since i've known since you were born. when you look at the front page of the -- of the washington paper on inauguration day, and president-elect wilson has to share the front page with a bewildered editors who don't know what to -- >> flutter and femininity. >> they had to push against so much to get that -- how could they be so media savvy?
is it because they were on the outside pushing through? >> isn't that amazing. i mean not only where they media savvy, they had no allies within the paper. there weren't female reporters. at least not routinely. there were a few here and there. so they -- "the washington post" was fairly sympathetic. "the new york times" was anti-suffrage, unapologetically anti-suffrage all the way through. and their coverage is really brutal. but one of the things the women did that was so smart, so the day of the 1913 parade, all of the women came from all over the country to participate and before they left town they each wrote a first person account of their mistreatment at the hands of the mob and send it to the hometown paper. so the springfield, illinois, paper would say mrs. george thurman was man handled at this crowd and it became a
local story. so it was the ability to make -- turn the story in their favor when it all went south because that is not the story they thought they would be publicizing and to get maybe unsympathetic reporters to cover it in a sympathetic way. and there was plenty of critical stress too. but they were good at stays in the news. and as world war i dawned when there was a lot of big news dominating the front pages, that is what the pickets were all about. >> the war comes along and you have a president who actually had a showing of birth of the nation in the white house. the early movie that glorified the klan and he thought it was just a wonder of movie. so you not only had the women radicals, but you had a political establishment that didn't feel they needed to give anything. >> yeah. woodrow wilson does sort of
emerge as the villain of the story. he really does. so i am hesitant to judge a historical figure from contemporary norms but his own contemporaries were pro-suffrage. teddy roosevelt had a suffrage plank in his platform. so it wouldn't be out of the question for a presidential candidate to be prosuffrage. and he was so craven about it. i haven't thought about suffrage which is the lamest excuse ever and tried i'm the leader of the democratic party and there is not a platform, a plank -- he had written the platform. but that is his excuse. then he tried it is a state's rights issue which is racist. that is really just i don't want to tell the south they have to enfranchise black women. and then finally the only excuse of his that i give him a little bit of sympathy for was i really need to pay attention to world war i right now so at one point he said he would only pay attention to war measures. but he came up with so many
road blocks and it was really just basic sexism at the end of the day. and since he managed to also be anti-semitic and racist and sexist, i don't have a lot of nice things to say about woodrow wilson. (laughs) >> when you think about how this era is taught in schools, when i grew up the big wars, the big depression, the big things that shook and shaped american -- do the suffragists get the credit they deserve? >> not even a little bit. i'm hoping that is changing. i think that the white hot spotlight of the centennial will change it right this minute. but in terms of ongoing curriculum, i think if you asked an average american who had taken a history to come up with a suffragist and they would come up with susan b. anthony and she was terrific but she was dead by the time it
actually passed. and i don't think people learn this history anywhere near well enough. and it is not even just that we should learn more women's history and have role models for girls and all of that. you're just learning it wrong if you don't learn this it is actually inaccurate history. american history if you don't it is actually inaccurate understand the biggest american history if you don't understand the biggest political movement of the political movement of the 20th century. 20th century. >> we are going to open this >> we are going to open this to your questions but i want to your questions but i want to bring you forward, rebecca. to bring you forward, because here we sit in a rebecca. year where we have just had a because here we sit in a presidential election where year where we have just had a presidential election where for the first time ever one for the first time ever one of the major party candidates of the major party candidates was a who, in fact, got -- won the popular vote. we live in a time right now where there is a half a was a woman, in fact, got -- won the popular vote. we live in a time right now where there is a half a dozen women are declared dozen women are declared candidates for the candidates for the presidency. presidency. and do women vote? and do women vote? oh, yes. women vote. oh, yes. better than 50%. >> yeah. women vote. better than 50%. >> and new york has lost its >> yeah. number one place, california >> and new york has lost its number one place, california is
the biggest. texas is second. is the biggest. texas is second. and new york has lost out and new york has lost out to florida as the third to florida as the third largest state. largest state. and the number of women and the number of women who vote in all of those who vote in all of those places makes a difference. why -- what should we places makes a difference. why -- what should we draw from what we see now, the place that there are draw from what we see now, the place that there are women always in the cabinet, women always in the cabinet, in many places of leadership, in many places of leadership, yet still isn't it kind of a story to -- my gosh, the yet still isn't it kind of a first woman something or story to -- my gosh, the other. first woman something or other. we still have a -- a hard we still have a -- a hard time pulling away from that time pulling away from that secondary role. >> i think it's changing unbelievably quickly. in just one election cycle we've gone from the first woman nominee of a secondary role. major party to the fact that there are so many women running for the democratic nomination that it is not even a remarkable thing about them. it is now the second sentence about them, right. and think i that all of the
cabinet positions and in government it is going to change pretty fast. i think the fortune 500 ceo's and board members is changing more slowly. but i feel like every day there is a new stat that women outnumber men in medical school and women outnumber men with graduate degrees. women are poised to take her place with 50% of the power, there just needs to be more men giving it up a little bit. but i think that is all a legacy of the this movement. so when the 19th amendmentfinally passed, the national -- the big organization became the league of women voters. so they immediately recognized that their next role was to make women educated parts of the democracy. because voting is a habit. and there was just all kind of logistics about how do you register and where do you go
and is it safe and all of those things that take a little while to become ingrained in the voting populous. and it has been a hundred and it has been a hundred years now. years now. you know, as you say, you know, as you say, women voters now outweigh men voters and there is a huge wave of female candidates women voters now outweigh men voters and there is a huge after the election and that wave of female candidates is going to be more the norm after the election and that going forward. is going to be more the norm >> one more question from going forward. >> one more question from me. me. what a remarkable location we're sitting in right now. what a remarkable lafayette square, called location we're sitting in president's park, i forget right now. when they made the change. lafayette square, called but the statues out there president's park, i forget representing the -- the when they made the change. heroes, that the homes here but the statues out there like decatur house with his representing the -- the heroes, that the homes here like decatur house with his wife susan, the cameron house which was -- i forget, wife susan, the cameron house cameron was a senator i think. senator cameron from pennsylvania.
who had a gorgeous younger wife i'm told. which was -- i forget, (laughs) cameron was a senator i who was having an affair with her neighbor henry adams. where do we get -- >> henry adams got around. >> and i could say this because i was married at think. saint john's church, my four senator cameron from pennsylvania. children were baptized there who had a gorgeous younger wife i'm told. and two were married there. who was having an affair with her neighbor henry why was i -- because adams. where do we get -- >> henry adams got around. >> and i could say this covering the white house for because i was married at over seven presidents, i was saint john's church, my four the youngest kid on the children were baptized there staff. and two were married there. i had to go over every week and cover the president why was i -- because covering the white house for of the united states going to church at saint john's. over seven presidents, i was it is the only church i the youngest kid on the knew in town when my future staff. i had to go over every week and cover the president of the united states going to church at saint john's. it is the only church i knew in town when my future husband bill -- but what is it about the real estate of the white house that the suffragists realized was kind of their pot of gold. >> none of it was an accident,
right. so the cameron house headquarters originally if you're going to set up a d.c. office of a political movement and want to have access to federal power, that is a pretty good spot. and then of course they moved across to jackson place. the lafayette statue, they directly drew the connection with the marquee delafayette. that is not the most convenient statue of the white house that was the symbol of him. at the base of the statue there is a naked female character reaching up to lafayette and she's supposed to be america. so they stood in front of female america with the marquee. and you saw those pictures. with all -- we've all seen pictures of the suffragists in front of the white house just having a female in that public space in the 19-teens was pretty transgressive already. and it was president wilson's backyard. they weren't -- they were very deliberate about making sure they stood in his way, almost literally. >> and a century plus of protests have been out on that
sidewalk. and we've covered them. >> i think those anti-nuclear people basically live there. >> still do. we would love to take your questions. we'll try to get to as many and we have a couple of microphones. why don't we start, one microphone over here. do we have a microphone on this side. come on down here. if you could give a microphone right here. we'll start here if that's all right and end over here and as you want to ask questions please catch the eyes of aur microphone handlers and we'll get in as many questions as we can. welcome. >> good evening and thank you so much for a remarkable evening and it is a -- a priv lick--a privilege to be in this space. and question to rebecca, rebecca, who could you point as your role model and what did
you learn from the role model and what do we need to learn from a role model to move forward and get female president in the white house and get more females in senate and just have a tie turnover. because we have to do something together. please. >> so did you all hear the question? so from the suffrage movement, i kind of pick and choose the best aspects of each of these women. so alice paul was incredibly savvy and impressive and bold. she also really punted badly on some race issues. she -- when the delta sigma theta wants to march in the 1913 parade she told them they had to march in the back. they didn't. they marched where they wanted to march. ida b.
wells who had to march just went on in with the illinois delegation. so you want your heroes to be perfect and they're super not. so i would take sort of her boldness, i think she's someone i would admire more than like. i'm not sure i would want to have dinner with alice paul. kerry tutman cat was very funny and very organized. she was the one who had the grassroots organizations in every state and continued to motivate women to build on them. and so if you could kind of take the best of them. personally i also have a role model in hi grandmother lindy bogs who was a member of congress, she represented doungs downtown new orleans in the house. and there were very few women in the house. and one of her political mottos was you could get everything you want to get done as long as you don't take the credit for it. when you think about it, it is pretty radical and also very female. so she was born before women got the right to vote. she was born in 1916 and went on to become a senior member of
the u.s. house of representatives an then the ambassador to the vatican. and so the fact that she lived this history and was able to exploit it for her own good ends is -- will always be a role model. >> and watch her daughter and granddaughters. >> yes. it is very matriarchal crew. >> a question right over here and then pass this microphone for the next question. good evening. >> thank you for the wonderful lecture. what was the reaction in old washington, the town, the hotels, to this massive group of thousands of dare i say it nasty women coming to town for something untoward and never -- >> for the parade or the
movement in general? >> the march and what was the reaction in town. >> yeah, so it was interesting leading up to the march. so for instance, the police chief richard sylvester was really nervous about this parade. he knew that his police force was going to be stretched thin because the inauguration was next day and that end of pennsylvania avenue where the national theater is now, that was rum row. so all of the bars were there. and he knew that, you know, women marching in the street, which was already pretty shocking plus drunk men in town for the inauguration, plus stretched thin police force might equal bad news. and he kept saying things like, why don't you march down 16thstreet. you could still end at the white house. and alice paul kept saying no. the whole point is to go down the corridors of power. so washington, i think, sort of didn't know what to make of it. they hadn't been the headquarters of suffrage. the groups had always been
based in new york. and then on the actual day of the parade, you saw the reaction. the crowd was terrible. and then as more and more of these publicity stunts start happening here in town, i think sort of those of us who are locals, our equivalence of a hundred years ago, wee kind of baffled. plenty were supportive. plenty were appalled. i think they represented the national opinion in microcosm. but the women weren't run out of town on a rail or anything. and washington has always been a town where women could make their mark. i mean going back to the early days of the city at the turn of the 19th century there were women who were able to start businesses here and have more power than other places because there went this kind of legacy
history because it was a planned town and certainly wars because people fled to the capitol during the wars and there are roles for women when men are off fighting. so i think washington is always historically been an interesting place for women's history and the suffrage movement. >> we have a question right here. >> thank you. both of you. my question is can you address the role of edith wilson and how she felt about all of this? >> edith wilson is such a fascinating character. so president wilson's first wife ellen died during his first term. and he married edith wilson who was a socialite. and she was anti-suffrage. occasionally a theory will be sort of floated that maybe he came around because of her influence. there is no evidence for that. any public statements she made was anti-suffrage. his daughters were a little more sympathetic. but edith was not. now by the end of the second term, wilson had a pretty devastating stroke. and edith wilson was running his administration much more
than i think we will ever know. and i don't think there is some cache of papers somewhere that will show us how powerful edith wilson was. i think that will always remain a secret. but she was the power behind the throne for definitely the last year of his administration. and there is no reason to think that she's the one who finally said, actually, women should vote. i know it would be a great story. he really came around to the luke warm degree he came around at all for totally political expediency reasons and he thought the democratic party should get a little bit of the credit for it. >> next question over here. >> yes.
thank you both so much. and i was wondering, once the 19th amendment passed, how did women outside of washington react and how were they eager to register to vote or i'm just curious how that process happened. >> yeah. so the reason there was that big push in the summer of 1920 and all of that focus on tennessee was so that women would have the vote in time for the 1920 presidential election. and when the amendment was finally passed and church bells tolled and there was jubilation all around. how that actually played out in women's voting behavior a disappointment. some states purposely made it hard for women to register in time for the election. but even the states where women could, again, it is a habit. they hadn't necessarily done this before. they didn't know what to do. it felt a little bit like it wasn't their place so there is no good data by voting by gender in those years but anecdotally women did not turn
out in enormous numbers. and more important they did not vote substantially differently from the men in their socioeconomic class. there so there are a bunch of a hand wringing editorials in the years after 1920, women are just voting the way their husbands and fathers tell them to. yeah, or another interpretation could be that their race and geography predicted those more and they shared them with the men in their lives. women did not start voting differently from men until the'80s. >> and now the gender gap is something measurable. >> huge. >> and politically significant. >> that is an artifact of the last 35, 40 years. >> question right here. >> well, it is so brilliant the way you way out alice paul's strategy in the white house and congress. but clearly the actual strategy to get women's suffrage was the state strategy or a congressional strategy.
so the decision to target the white house was really a political and publicity strategy. so i wonder if you could talk about that because that is -- obviously they wanted wilson but that wasn't where the real power of the decision came from. >> no. that is absolutely true. the targeting of wilson only have so much actual political effect. it had tons of publicity effect. at the same time, and i don't want to imply that the national was doing all of the hard work and the national women's party was doing the publicity stunts. the national women's party also had an unbelievable lobbying effort. they had a card file that became quite famous where they kept like two dozen member of cards on every member of congress and listed how he voted on any suffrage issue was his wife as suffragist and what did his wife belong to and little tips about lobbying him. so he's a golfer. go get someone to play golf with him and bend his ear. or he's a drunk. talk to him before 5:00.
you could see these cards. these cards are all at belmont paul. his wife is smarter than he is, talk to her. they're amazing. so they were while all of these attention-grabbing targeting wilson things were going on, they were also quietly bending the ear of members who actually had the power. so it was certainly contemporaneous. >> interesting point, too. because that is a little more invisible. you make the political statement and you catch the nation's attention, you catch the spotlight. but you have to work it -- >> behind the scenes, your still doing the long, hard work. >> next question. hi. >> earlier suffragist were pro-abolition and also temperance. so would you talk a little bit about what happened there. >> so the temperance movement was a major way a lot of women came to suffrage. like abolition there were women who wanted temperance and
realized they wouldn't get it without the vote so they became suffragist as a side bar to getting temperance. and at first, the suffrage association with the temperance movement was beneficial. they learned how to give stump speeches and raise money because the temperance movement was much better organized and historically more dug in. eventually when you associate yourself with another movement, you inherit their enemies too. as the 18th amendment became more and more likely and prohibition looked like it was going to happen, the suffrage movement kind of pulled themselves away from temperance a little bit in part because they didn't want to make enemies of wet voters. but also it is really hard to amend the constitution. as it should be. and so you don't really want to support another amendment getting there before you. so there was a lot of back and forth. there was a lot of overlap. the women's christian temperance union under francis
willard supported suffrage so there were a lot of women who became politically active in the move for suffrage and vice versa but ultimately by the final countdown, the suffrage movement was trying to back pedal that association. >> do i have time for one more question. where is the microphone. please. the last word. >> great. you mentioned race. and i was interested to see if you had done any exploration of women of color in this movement. >> and maybe if you could comment on some of the divisions between white women suffragists and women of color. >> yep. >> yeah, so, this is an area of scholarship i think you'll see a ton more coming out in the centennial year. there is a lot more focus on paying attention to african-american suffragists with this centennial celebration as they have been because they've largely been written out of in history.
within the national women's party, after that 1913 march with the segregation, there continues to kind of be ongoing debates about how to welcome african-american suffragists or not. and there were some pretty ugly chapters in there. there were overt appeals on the state by state strategy of going to southern states and saying enfranchise women, we will overwhelm the black vote. it is the best way to ensure white supremacist. and that wasn't in code. they said those words. women's suffrage is the way to ensure white supremacy. and there were women like mary church terrell who had like six master's degrees and spoke ten languages and was unbelievably impressive so the white organizations felt that she was sort of nonthreatening so they
would invite her tos and she would get there and say you need to pay attention to race. and then there were women like ida b. wells who was not welcome at those meetings but started african-american suffrage associations, the alpha suffrage club and others. so there were, for the most part, separate movements. there were black suffrage clubs and suffrage clubs that weren't super welcoming to black voters. and people like mary church terrell and ida b. wells barnette would occasional say, like, we -- we share all of your discrimination as women, plus we're black and you've really got to pay better attention. but it's not, again, you want your heroes to be perfect. it is not part of the movement that you can be proud of, as a 21st century american woman. and i think we're going to learn much more about it. >> let me bring this to a conclusion by asking you one
more question from the purple sashes to the pink cat hats. what should americans who want to wring the playing field even more level now for women, what should they draw? what important lesson or two can they draw from 100 years ago that will make a really substantiative difference now? >> it's such a great question. i actually think any political activist can learn from the suffrage movement, because they were successful. and so whether your cause is feminism or something else, there's just a lot of tactics you can steal from them, if you want to be a successful activist. but specifically in terms of the contemporary women's movement, i think this idea of the radical and the mainstream balancing each other out and making each other look good in contrast and embracing that each has a role to play, i think the idea of paying
attention to how things look, you know, in an instagram world, we think of that as a modern artifact, but actually, paying attention to how things work goes a really long way towards shortcutting your message. and i also think that that declarative sentence, that we demand a constitutional amendment enfranchising women, subject, verb, object, that's pretty easy to get behind. it's a really clear goal. it's got a very clear end point. it's very easy to explain and understand. and i think the contempt women's movement demands a lot of things, which we have evolve to do, but sometimes the message can get muddied with all of those different voices. >> so it really does come down to branding and messaging. ladies and gentlemen, please thank rebecca roberts wilkins. >> thank you. >> thank you very much, rebecca roberts, ann compton and for all of you for joining us here tonight. for our viewers on c-span who have been watching us, if you want to know more about this
subject or other matters relating to white house history, our website, whitehousehistory.org is an excellent resource. as we close, i would like to ask everyone to exit through the courtyard. there are three doors. we have a little medical situation here and we'll exit directly through decatur house and auto on to lafayette park. thank you so much and have a good evening.