Today in Herstory: National Woman’s Party Begins ERA Campaign

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


July 21, 1923: The National Women’s Party’s campaign for a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women and men has officially been kicked off!

This was the second and final day of the N.W.P.’s convention, which has been celebrating the 75th anniversary of the women’s rights convention held here in Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848.

The true beginning of this new campaign actually dates back to February 16, 1921. At the National Woman’s Party’s first convention since the winning of the vote six months earlier, Nora Blatch Barney, granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called for “absolute equality” and the delegates enthusiastically endorsed turning that ideal into a legal guarantee as the group’s post-suffrage goal.

A committee of lawyers was quickly formed to come up with something that would ban all forms of discrimination based on sex. On December 11th of that year they submitted a first draft of a Constitutional amendment: “No political, civil or legal disabilities or inequalities on account of sex, or on account of marriage unless applying alike to both sexes shall exist in the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

A considerably more streamlined text was submitted to the convention today by the amendment’s author, Alice Paul, then unanimously approved: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” Her resolution, as she read it from the pulpit of the local Presbyterian Church to the assembled delegates, said:

Whereas, only one point in the equal rights program of 1848, that of equal suffrage, has been completely attained; and whereas, the National Woman’s Party, as stated in its declaration of principles, is dedicated to the same equal rights program as that adopted on this spot seventy-five years ago, be it resolved, that in order to bring the complete equal rights ideal to the victory that was won for suffrage we undertake the following program: The securing of an amendment to the United States Constitution stating men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

Equal Rights (Lucretia Mott) Amendment author Alice Paul.
Equal Rights (Lucretia Mott) Amendment author Alice Paul.

In speaking for the resolution, Alice Paul said:

We began the campaign for equal rights a year ago. In one State we obtained without difficulty a law establishing equal guardianship and in another State a law making women eligible for jury duty. If we keep on this way we will be here in another seventy-five years celebrating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the 1848 convention. I think we ought to start immediately on another campaign similar to that which won suffrage. We should demand a Constitutional amendment of Congress and the President. We are not safe until we have equality guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

We tie up this amendment to the 1848 movement. It is easier to get support for something with tradition behind it and which has grown respectable with age than for something new-born from the brain of the Woman’s Party. We are going to call this amendment the Lucretia Mott Amendment, because to Lucretia Mott more than to anyone else the feminist movement in the United States owed its start.

This was not the only stirring speech to the delegates. For instance, in last night’s opening address to the convention, Alva Belmont said:

In Seneca Falls we stand on consecrated ground, the birthplace of women’s emancipation when 75 years ago women came together to tell the world that slavery could no longer hold half the race. The Woman’s Party today is working for nothing more than the complete fulfillment of the demand for equality made here in 1848.

In three-quarters of a century complete equality has been won only in the vote. Discriminations continue to exist in education, in industry, in the professions, in political office, in marriage, in personal freedom, in control of property, in guardianship of children, in making contracts, in the church, and in the double moral standard. We have carried out only a part of the command. The fight must go on. Let every woman here consecrate herself to toil to the end that women as well as men shall be free in the United States.

The day ended with a pageant consisting of a fifty-voice choir, 300 banner-bearers, and fifty more participants costumed in the same manner as those who were here in 1848, playing the parts of the original participants in re-enacting the highlights of that previous convention. It was a fitting tribute to the pioneers of 75 years ago and clearly inspirational to those who must now go out and finish the fight begun so well and so long ago.

Today in Herstory: Suffragists, Across Divides, Continue Political Efforts

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


July 16, 1920: Both factions of the suffrage movement were quite busy today.

Alice Paul of the National Woman’s Party met with Democratic Presidential nominee Governor James Cox of Ohio, while Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, left New York for Tennessee to coordinate N.A.W.S.A.’s ratification campaign there. Both women, sensing that victory is finally within reach, are now putting maximum pressure on anyone who can help deliver the 36th and final State needed to get the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment into the Constitution in time for women to register for the November elections.

Alice Paul and the other National Woman’s Party members with her were quite demanding of Governor Cox at today’s meeting, and got the reassurances they sought from the long-time active supporter of suffrage that he would do everything he could to help:

I give to you without any reservation the assurance that my time, my strength and my influence will be dedicated to your cause as our combined councils might suggest, with a view to procuring a favorable result in Tennessee.

Following the meeting, Alice Paul told reporters:

We are glad that Governor Cox appreciates the responsibility of carrying out the party platform. His statement this afternoon indicates that he realizes the unprecedented opportunity offered the Democratic Party to enfranchise the 17,000,000 women of the nation by giving the 36th suffrage State.

Alice Paul is, of course, more interested in deeds than words, so she concluded by saying: “We shall look for immediate action by Governor Cox.”


Republican Presidential nominee Warren G. Harding’s statement day before yesterday, in which he finally got around to urging Republican legislators in Tennessee and North Carolina to ratify the suffrage amendment wasn’t sufficient for the usually-diplomatic Catt. She expressed disappointment that after doing so much for the cause, Republicans are now failing to provide the final State ratification needed. As she left for Nashville, she said:

It’s not enough for Senator Harding to make an effort to secure the 36th ratification. It is not enough to point to past performances. The Republican Party must finish the task. We now pin our faith on Tennessee and North Carolina prospects. It is true that the Republican Party has a record of nearly five times as many ratifications as the Democratic, but without the 36th State that record is like a tail without a kite. Apparently it is Democrats who must supply the kite.

Both Tennessee and North Carolina are Democratic States, and their legislatures will be called into special sessions in less than a month to vote on ratification of the proposed 19th Amendment. There has been great frustration among suffragists for many months over the fact that the Republican governors of Vermont and Connecticut have refused to call their legislatures back into session to vote on the measure, since it’s quite likely that it could quickly pass in either one.

The National Woman’s Party has expressed sentiments similar to those of N.A.W.S.A. regarding Senator Harding’s late entry into the battle for the ballot. The fact that Republicans have provided 26 of the 35 States that have ratified, and get half-credit for three more, in which one party controls the House and the other the Senate, isn’t enough:

Thirty-five States are worth nothing at all to us without the thirty-sixth. The bitter opposition we have encountered in the last few States and the delay since Washington, the thirty-fifth State, ratified on March twenty-second, indicate clearly that political leaders also know well the difference between a ‘good record’ and ratification.

Senator Harding says that only one Republican State has rejected the amendment. He fails to mention the Republican States of Vermont and Connecticut, where Republican officials have refused to permit any action whatever on the amendment.

He says that it makes no difference to him whether a Democratic or a Republican State completes ratification. It certainly makes no difference to the women of the nation, but Senator Harding cannot evade his responsibility in such a phrase.

Just over three weeks remain until special sessions of the legislature open in Tennessee (August 9th) and North Carolina (August 10th). Time to register for the November elections is running out for women in many States where they are not eligible to vote until the proposed 19th Amendment is ratified. Registration deadlines have already passed in two States (Georgia and Mississippi) so unless special legislation is enacted in those States, women will still not be able to vote in all 48 States this year even if the Anthony Amendment is ratified.

Now is the time for the parties to prove the sincerity of their convention resolutions in favor of nationwide woman suffrage by working to assure a “yes” vote on ratification by their members in the Tennessee and North Carolina legislatures next month. It will be by their success – or failure – to place a permanent and explicit guarantee of woman suffrage in the U.S. Constitution that the parties will be judged for many years, and not by easily passed and quickly forgotten party planks, or campaign rhetoric by Presidential candidates.

Today in Herstory: Seven Suffragists Invade Manhattan’s Financial District

Founding Feminists is the FMF’s daily herstory column.


July 10, 1908: Harriot Stanton Blatch and six young suffragists invaded Manhattan’s financial district earlier today, and had much better success with its inhabitants than they did with the police.

Before even arriving at the first stop, the one-vehicle automobile procession down Broadway attracted a good deal of attention as a small crowd of newsboys, messenger boys and brokers’ clerks followed along behind the suffrage-yellow “Equality League of Self-Supporting Women” banner, held up by two of the machine’s passengers, attorneys Madeleine Zabriskie Doty and Helen Hoy.

Harriot Stanton Blatch on the left, with Rose Schneiderman on the right.
Harriot Stanton Blatch on the left, with Rose Schneiderman on the right.

When they reached Bowling Green Park, Blatch decided this was the perfect place to begin looking for converts. Telling the chauffeur to park along the curb, then standing up is her seat, she said: “You will not come to our meetings, so we have decided to come to you. All we ask is your attention while we tell you what it is we want, and why we should have it.”

But a police officer then rode up on his horse and asked for Blatch’s permit to hold a meeting. She told him she didn’t think she needed one, as she had a right to free speech. The officer disagreed with the first, and to him, the most relevant part of her statement. Since her missionary zeal compelled a thorough exploration of this previously unpreached territory anyway, Blatch agreed to move on, still accompanied by newsboys, messengers and clerks, plus a number of adults from the crowd.

Going even farther south, the suffragists eventually stopped in an alley near State and Pearl Streets, which soon became packed with listeners. This time it was 26-year-old Rose Schneiderman – in a pink dress, which the crowd definitely liked – who was chosen to do the speaking. Blatch kept an eye out for the law, and Florence Bradley distributed literature while Adelma Burd held up banners saying “COME, LET US REASON TOGETHER” and “VOTES FOR WOMEN.”

After receiving a number of greetings from members of the audience, such as “Hello, Pinkie!” Schneiderman addressed the crowd, as well as the many brokers in neighboring buildings who poked their heads out of windows to listen. She began by saying:

You say that men are far above women … (shouts of ‘Hurrah! Hurrah!’ from the crowd) … but we say that one is just as bad – I mean good – as the other, and therefore they should have equal rights in everything. Are the laws enforced in this country? No! You men have made a pretty bad job of it.

The crowd seemed to agree on that last point and shouted its approval.

Mary Coleman went next, but just as she said: “In this free or supposedly free Republic …” a man in one of the upper floors of a nearby building got out the megaphone he uses to call orders down to curb runners, and tried to drown her out with hoots and catcalls. This made the crowd get even noisier. But after a while Coleman was able to be heard above the din and said:

Listen to me! You can hear hoots anywhere. Are things as they should be in this country? If they were, would we have [William Jennings] Bryan out in Denver declaring against all sorts of things? Would we have Socialists shouting against our social order?” She finished by saying: “All we women want you men to do is to take us out of our swaddling clothes and free our minds.

Blatch then spoke, and asked her listeners if they knew “… why we have the poorest city governments in this country of any civilized nation in the world?” Intuitively knowing the correct answer at this point, the crowd shouted along with her: “Because we don’t let women vote!”

The success of this rally, and absence of police, encouraged the invaders to push on, this time to the northeast. But they had apparently used up their day’s supply of luck, as attempted gatherings in front of the New York World (Pulitzer) Building and at City Hall Park were immediately broken up by police. Still, it was quite an adventure, especially for the younger – but now a bit more experienced – members of the group. Though there are few “sure things” in the financial district, it’s a good bet that equal-suffrage supporters will be back, with or without permits.

Today in Herstory: Democratic Nominee for President Urges His Paty to Reconsider Suffrage

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


July 7, 1920: To the surprise of many long-time suffragists and veteran political observers, it’s starting to look as if it may be Democrats, not Republicans, who will be responsible for the final step needed to put woman suffrage into the Constitution.

Governor James Cox of Ohio, who officially became the Democratic nominee for President yesterday on the 44th ballot, began his first full day as his party’s nominee by sending a telegram to the head of the Democratic State Committee of Louisiana urging reconsideration of that State’s recent rejection of the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment.

He said that:

… the Legislature owes it as a duty to the Democratic Party to ratify at once.

Ohio Governor James Cox, the newly-named Democratic Presidential nominee.
Ohio Governor James Cox, the newly-named Democratic Presidential nominee.

It was only due to the overwhelming support of Republicans (91.3% in the House and 81.8% in the Senate vs. only 59.8% House support and 54% support in the Senate by Democrats) that the Anthony Amendment got the 2/3 supermajority required in Congress. Of the 35 States which have ratified thus far, 26 are controlled by Republicans, 6 by Democrats, and in three, one party controls the House and the other the Senate. Of the 9 States which have rejected ratification, 8 are Democratic. So, this is a very welcome, if belated, show of support.

Alice Paul was quite pleased with Governor Cox’s enthusiasm, and noted that:

By taking action on the day following his nomination to secure ratification by a Southern State, Mr. Cox is making an excellent beginning. He is evidently striving to make the suffrage plank of his platform an actuality. If his efforts continue with sufficient vigor there is little doubt of ratification by at least one of three possible Democratic States – Louisiana, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Of course, the entire ticket needs to be working for the cause, and the National Woman’s Party intends to meet with the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York. Though not well-known nationally – or even to Governor Cox – Secretary Roosevelt was described by his running-mate today as a “vigorous, upstanding, courageous and progressive Democrat.”

Suffragists are not giving up on Senator Harding and the Republicans, however. It was announced this evening that Harding will meet with a delegation of National Woman’s Party officers on July 22nd, the day he is given formal notification of his Presidential nomination. He has been somewhat non-committal on the issue of suffrage over the years, but did vote in favor of the Anthony Amendment on October 1, 1918, when it was before the Senate, but did not pass. Harding has not been active in his support of suffrage, but that’s something the National Woman’s Party intends to change, and as President Wilson can attest, the N.W.P. can be quite assertive.

In other encouraging news about ratification, Governor Bickett of North Carolina announced that he will call a special session of the legislature for August 10th, and that he has telegraphed President Wilson that he will urge a favorable vote on ratification of the Anthony Amendment.

As might be expected, the “antis” are becoming ever more desperate as they see their chances to stop ratification slipping away. Today, Charles S. Fairchild filed suit in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on behalf of the American Constitutional League, seeking an injunction to restrain Secretary of State Colby from signing the proclamation of ratification if a 36th State approves, and to keep Attorney General Palmer from immediately enforcing what would then become the 19th Amendment. Fairchild contends that West Virginia and Missouri ratified illegally, and that there are only 33 valid ratifications, with three more needed, not just one. But according to the National Woman’s Party:

We are convinced that, as in the Ohio referendum case, that validity of the action of the various State Legislatures in ratifying the suffrage amendment will finally be upheld by the courts. Anti-suffragists are evidently grasping at straws in their attempt through court proceedings to lengthen the suffrage struggle and to force the expenditure of more money and time by suffragists for the success of their cause.

The grounds cited for the injunction petition are matters already passed upon by the Attorney General and the Legislatures of the States concerned, and in the case of Tennessee also by the Acting Attorney General of the United States. By filing certificates of ratification with the Secretary of State these have completed in the manner prescribed by the Constitution the process of ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and we believe that the court will uphold the validity of their action.

So, with the Louisiana Legislature in regular session now, and about to reconsider the Anthony Amendment, and the Legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina to meet in special sessions in August, that final, 36th ratification – and the end of a generations-long struggle – may be anywhere from just a few days to a few weeks away!

Today in Herstory: Suffragists Sentenced to Three Days in Jail for Picketing the White House

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


July 6, 1917: Three days in jail was the sentence Judge Mullowney reluctantly imposed today in Washington, D.C.’s Police Court on eleven of the suffragists who took part in a “Silent Sentinel” picketing of the White House on July 4th.

They were given a choice of paying fines or going to jail, and all chose prison. The judge first offered to release them on personal bond if they would agree to stay away from the White House for about six months and “not bother the President” during these “abnormal times” which began with our entry into the war three months ago.

But none of those convicted on false charges of “blocking traffic” on the wide Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk thought they were guilty of anything, nor were they willing to surrender their right of free speech. So after acknowledging that “I know it’s not going to make you quit marching in front of the White House” and even volunteering to pay their fines, the judge said: “Well, it’s no use to ask you to make any promises. I know you won’t do it. So I’ll have to give you the same as I gave the others last week – $25 fine each or three days in jail.” Then off to the District Jail they went.

Cartoonist Nina Allender's view of the July 4th demonstration as drawn for the National Woman's Party's official publication, "The Suffragist."
Cartoonist Nina Allender’s view of the July 4th demonstration as drawn for the National Woman’s Party’s official publication, “The Suffragist.”

Those serving time tonight for exercising their Constitutional right to peacefully protest outside the White House gates are: Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis, Gladys Greiner, Margaret F. Whittemore, Vida Milholland, Helena Hill Weed, Iris R. Calderhead, Frances B. Green, Elizabeth Stuyvesant, Joy Young and Lucille Shields.

Hazel Hunkins, who was not carrying a banner, but snatched one back from a member of the crowd who stole it, then returned it to the picket who had been carrying it, will get a separate trial. Kitty Marion, who was distributing copies of a suffrage publication to the crowd when she was assaulted by Charles Morgan, will be tried along with him tomorrow, both charged with “disorderly conduct.”

The Independence Day event began about noon, when the first six demonstrators – followed by about 2,000 spectators – marched out of the National Woman’s Party’s headquarters toward the White House. Helena Hill Weed carried a banner saying: “GOVERNMENTS DERIVE THEIR JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED.” Since it was already public knowledge that the pickets would be there to defy a police ban on picketing along the White House fence, another large crowd had already gathered in that location to watch the confrontation.

Upon nearing the White House gates, a struggle between picketers and police ensued, and one by one, the National Woman’s Party’s purple, white and gold standards, and the “offensive” banner quoting the Declaration of Independence, came down amid the cheers of the crowd as arrests were made. A second assault on the objective was made outside the West Gate shortly afterward by another contingent, with Joy Young holding up a banner asking: “MR. PRESIDENT, WHAT WILL YOU DO FOR WOMAN SUFFRAGE?” The earlier scene was repeated again.

Regardless of consequences, National Woman’s Party pickets are determined to protest as often as necessary to bring President Wilson’s hypocrisy to public attention. He has vigorously and repeatedly crusaded in favor of democracy around the world, but refuses to support the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment which would bring democracy to tens of millions of voteless American women. As the highest-ranking member of the Democratic Party, which controls both Houses of Congress, Wilson could certainly use his considerable influence to gain a few more Democratic votes, which combined with the overwhelming Republican support that already exists, would achieve the two-thirds majority of House and Senate needed to send the Anthony Amendment to the State legislatures for ratification by three-fourths (36 of 48).

Of course, more conservative methods of achieving “Votes for Women” are endorsed by suffragists like Carrie Chapman Catt and organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Their efforts clearly help the cause of equal suffrage as well, but some militant action is also vital to victory. So the courage and determination of Alice Paul’s “Silent Sentinels” should be praised, and their efforts supported until the Anthony Amendment is safely and permanently in the U.S. Constitution.


INFLATIONARY NOTE: $25 in 1917 = $464.46 in 2015.

Today in Herstory: Republican Party Officially Endorses ERA in Party Platform

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 26, 1940: “We favor submission by Congress to the States of an amendment to the Constitution providing for equal rights for men and women.”

With that simple sentence, the Equal Rights Amendment took a giant leap forward today, as it became certain that the Republican Party will become the first of the two major parties to include an E.R.A. plank in its platform when it’s formally adopted by convention delegates.

Just six months after the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment was officially proclaimed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on August 26, 1920, the National Woman’s Party endorsed “absolute equality” as its next goal, and began the process of drafting legislation to bring it about.

On July 21, 1923, while celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention of 1848, the N.W.P. formally endorsed a Constitutional amendment and a specific text (“Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction”) and officially launched the campaign to have it adopted.

On December 10, 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment (also known as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment”) was formally introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Charles Curtis, Republican of Kansas. Three days later, Representative Daniel Anthony, also a Kansas Republican, introduced the House version of the resolution. Representative Anthony was a nephew of Susan B. Anthony, who voted a strictly Republican ticket when she “illegally” cast her first, and as it turned out last, ballot in 1872.

The E.R.A. has been the subject of many Congressional hearings since the House Judiciary Subcommittee first took it up in February, 1924. It was given a favorable recommendation by both the House and Senate Judiciary Subcommittees in 1937, with the Senate Judiciary Committee reporting the measure to the full Senate in 1938 on a 9 to 9 tie vote.

The battle for the adoption of an E.R.A. plank in this year’s G.O.P. platform was ably led by the National Woman’s Party, whose founder, Alice Paul, wrote the amendment’s text. Though the N.W.P. was originally its only supporter, the E.R.A. now enjoys the endorsements of 16 national and 150 State and local organizations of women. Among the E.R.A.’s supporters are the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, which endorsed three years ago, and five State Federations of Women’s Clubs (though the General Federation of Women’s Clubs is opposed, as is the League of Women Voters.)

The chief concern of those who oppose the E.R.A. is that it will wipe out so-called “protective” legislation for women, laws which the National Woman’s Party sees as “restrictive,” and which make it harder for women to compete with men for jobs. A rival, much less comprehensive plank, was submitted last week to the Platform Committee by Jane Todd, which read: “The right to work for compensation shall not be abridged or denied by reason of race, religion, sex, economic or marital status.” This plank would have applied only to the workplace, and was aimed at prohibiting employers from either refusing to hire – or from firing – married women, a long-standing phenomenon that became much more widespread after the Depression began in 1929.

Though representatives of the League of Women Voters called the Platform Committee’s decision to submit the E.R.A. resolution rather than the Todd resolution to the full convention “the shock of the century,” Doris Stevens, of the National Woman’s Party, said: “Perfectly splendid. The party could do no less than recommend the guarantee of full rights under the Constitution to women everywhere.” Stevens gave special thanks to Alfred M. Landon of Kansas, the 1936 Republican Presidential nominee, who reversed his position on the E.R.A. of four years ago, and to former Senator George Wharton Pepper of Pennsylvania for his strong support as well.

With one party’s endorsement now certain, the battle will move to the Democratic Convention next month. Then it’s back to Congress to get the approval of 2/3 of the House and Senate, followed by a nationwide campaign to get 36 of 48 State legislatures to ratify. That’s no small task, but if in just 19 years things can progress from a general proposal for “absolute equality” legislation at a National Woman’s Party convention on February 16, 1921, to a specific Constitutional amendment that has been endorsed by numerous national, State and local organizations, and now has the approval of a major political party, the E.R.A. is clearly a powerful idea that’s unstoppable in the long run !

Today in Herstory: Men-Only Bar Forced to Open Its Doors to Women

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 25, 1970: A major victory today for equal access thanks to the National Organization for Women!

A year and a day after N.O.W. activists Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow filed a Federal lawsuit against McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan over its policy of banning women, a judge has ruled that the bar’s 116-year “tradition” of discrimination must end.

In issuing his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Walter Mansfield noted that he had considered the plea of the bar owner’s attorneys:

It may be argued that the occasional preference of men for a haven in which they may retreat from the watchful eye of wives or womanhood in general, to have a drink or pass a few hours in their own company, is justification enough; that the simple fact that women are not men justifies the defendant’s practices.

 Faith Seidenberg
Faith Seidenberg

But after acknowledging the argument, he ruled that it was not persuasive:

McSorley’s is a public place, not a private club, and … the preference of certain of its patrons … bear no rational relationship to the suitability of women as customers. Outdated images of bars as dens of coarseness and iniquity, and of women as particularly delicate and impressionable creatures in need of protection from the rough and tumble of unvarnished humanity will no longer justify sexual separatism. Without suggesting that chivalry is dead, we no longer hold to Shakespeare’s immortal phrase, ‘Frailty, thy name is woman.’

The judge then praised the plaintiffs for “wisely choosing to stage this battle of the sexes in a courthouse rather than resort to militant tactics.”

The two Syracuse women who filed the suit expressed great satisfaction at the result. Attorney Seidenberg said: “I’m ecstatic,” and announced that her next target would be a second protest at the Rainbow Lounge of the Hotel Syracuse, where unescorted women are still barred. Law student DeCrow said the decision was “proof that the women’s revolution is indeed being won in the 70s.”

The bar owner feels differently, of course, and intends to dig in his 19th Century heels while being dragged into the 20th Century. When a woman tried to enter a few hours after the ruling, she was told by the owner’s son that “we don’t serve women,” and that “it will stay that way until all possible appeals are lost” and even then “until all necessary facilities are installed.”

The bar obviously has no women’s restroom, but Judge Mansfield suggested that providing one should not be a problem, or an excuse to postpone compliance. Therefore, if all appeals by the bar owner are rejected or lost, there should be no great delay in women being able to tread on the bar’s sawdust floor, enjoy McSorley’s 35-cent glasses of ale and two-for-50-cent beers with their popular Liederkranz and onion sandwiches, and warm themselves next to its pot-bellied stove by the time the weather turns cool this Autumn.


UPDATE: After Mayor Lindsay signed a New York City law prohibiting discrimination in public places on account of sex, McSorley’s finally realized it would be fighting too many battles on too many fronts, and couldn’t win, so on August 10, 1970, the bar began admitting women. Things didn’t go smoothly on that first day, however. Many of the male patrons were as unhappy with the change in policy as the bar owner, and someone poured a stein of beer over N.O.W. activist Lucy Komisar’s head. But soon things settled down, and many of today’s patrons are probably unaware that women were ever prohibited, or that there was such a fight over it.

Inflationary Note: 35 cents then = $2.15 now; 50 cents = $3.06.

Today in Herstory: NYC Bar Refusing Service to Women Will Face a Federal Suit

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 24, 1969: As a result of being refused service at one of New York City’s “men only” bars in January, Karen DeCrow and Faith Seidenberg, members of the National Organization for Women, filed a Federal suit today.

They contend that being barred from McSorley’s Old Ale House, solely on account of their sex, is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Karen DeCrow
Karen DeCrow

The atmosphere inside the pub was even colder than the weather outside on that winter’s evening five months ago. A large bell was rung as an alarm when DeCrow and Seidenberg stepped in. The male patrons clapped and stomped their feet, while the waiters hooted. Both women sat quietly at a table and politely asked for service, but without success, with the refusals becoming increasingly hostile. Finally, a sympathetic man at the bar tried to buy drinks for the women. Some of the patrons then picked him up and roughly threw him through the swinging doors and on to the curb, his head striking the doors in the process. Not wanting to be the cause of any more violence, the women left, determined to fight the issue out in court.

This is not the first bar or restaurant in the city to be targeted by N.O.W. for discriminating against women. On February 12th, Betty Friedan and a few other women unsuccessfully tried to dine in the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel, and were told women were not served there until 3 p.m. on days the stock exchange was open, and that the same rule applied to the adjoining Oak Room Bar.

The struggle for equal access to all public accommodations is going on nationwide, with plenty of other actions so far this year. On March 25th, N.O.W. staged a sit-in at Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills, California, protesting its prohibition on unaccompanied women – but not men – drinking at the bar. The management’s assumption is that any woman not accompanied by a man is probably a prostitute intent on soliciting a customer, though management apparently doesn’t assume that an unaccompanied man is looking for a prostitute.

On March 8th, N.O.W. members staged a sit-in at a bar in Colchester, Connecticut, to protest a state law that prohibits women from being served liquor at a bar. On February 19th, Los Angeles N.O.W. members Judith Meuli, Lana Phelan, Ruth Ehrlich and Ila Johnson staged a successful sit-in at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge in California. Amid considerable press attention, they were served, so policies can change if publicly challenged.

Eliminating such forms of public accommodations discrimination has been a goal of N.O.W. from the beginning. On November 11, 1966, less than two weeks after its organizing conference, N.O.W. wrote a letter to Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark, saying in part:

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation, also should be amended to prohibit such discrimination against women. Although sex discrimination in public accommodations has not been so widespread as race discrimination, it is more common than discrimination based on religion and national origin – both of which are specifically prohibited by Title II. The exclusion of women from numerous public restaurants, for example, continues as an insult to women and a handicap to their participation in the business world.

Today, one more salvo against blatant discrimination was launched, as the battle for equal access continues.

Today in Herstory: Suffragists Arrested, Detained for Protesting Outside the White House

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 22, 1917: After enduring bitter cold, snow, rain, heat, humidity and attacks by unruly mobs over the past five months of picketing President Wilson by standing along the White House fence, two members of today’s contingent of “Silent Sentinel” suffragists encountered a new challenge: arrests.

What was printed on the large banner that National Woman’s Party officers Lucy Burns and Katharine Morey were holding, which was considered so outrageous and offensive that it would cause their freedom of speech to be denied, and clearly ridiculous charges of “blocking traffic” on the wide sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue to be brought? The following words:

‘We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts – for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their Government.’ President Wilson’s War Message, April 2nd, 1917.

Katharine Morey being taken to the police station.
Katharine Morey being taken to the police station.

Apparently there is no law against embarrassing the President by pointing out the hypocrisy of his vigorously promoting democracy around the world while doing nothing to enfranchise millions of women in his own country, so “blocking traffic” had to do for an offense.

Seven police officers (six male, one female) singled out and surrounded Burns and Morey. Lucy Burns told the officers her banner was private property, and that they had no right to touch it. The woman officer then asked Burns if she wouldn’t rather give up the banner peaceably than be arrested. Burns replied that she had a right to stand there. Both picketers were then arrested and driven off to police headquarters while some in the hostile crowd cheered, and others seemed to show support and admiration for the pickets’ courageous stand.

It is believed by National Woman’s Party leaders that President Wilson, as the highest-ranking member of his party, could significantly decrease the number of Democratic votes blocking the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment in Congress if he used his full influence, so picketers have a good reason to continue to prod him into action, despite the consequences to themselves.

With almost daily clashes now between banner-bearers and those who strongly object to anything that seems critical of our wartime President, the cause of suffrage is getting unprecedented coverage in the press. This delights those who think more militant tactics are called for, but not traditional suffrage groups who worry that the public can’t tell the difference between the two factions of “Votes for Women” advocates. Officials of the National American Woman Suffrage Association long ago stated their firm opposition to picketing the President, and the New York State Woman Suffrage Party regularly issues strong condemnations of the protesters. So criticism of the White House pickets is coming from all sides, and must especially sting when it comes from fellow suffragists.

But the militants feel that their tactics are as correct as their cause. Even after all these decades of work, women have won full voting rights in only 11 of the 48 States, plus limited suffrage in some others, and it could take many more decades to finish the job of nationwide enfranchisement of women by continuing with traditional methods.

The National Woman’s Party is not interested in endlessly repeating the process of working for years to get a suffrage referendum on a State ballot, then trying to lobby vast numbers of male voters, only to have equal suffrage rejected at the polls because of stereotypes about women, fear that women voters would ban alcohol, or myths about the adverse effects equal suffrage would have on the family, and other such propaganda devices extensively used by anti-suffragists backed by unlimited amounts of money from the liquor industry. Instead, the N.W.P. intends to concentrate its efforts on the President, then certain members of Congress, with the goal of getting the Anthony Amendment approved by 2/3 of the 435-member House and 96-member Senate, then sent to the States for approval by simple majorities in both houses of 36 State Legislatures.

Two critical parts of Alice Paul’s ratification strategy are to make sure that the struggle for woman suffrage is constantly kept in the public eye, and to show that suffragists are a powerful force, with single-minded dedication to a goal, who will not let up until that goal is finally achieved. If court dates and prison sentences are now in the future for National Woman’s Party members, they appear willing to accept that as the price of progress. As long as they continue to have the courage to go with their convictions, the time until final victory will be shortened considerably by their personal sacrifices.

One indication that the National Woman’s Party will never sound “Retreat” was given earlier this evening, when it was announced at N.W.P. headquarters that there will be a full contingent of pickets along the White House fence tomorrow, with new banners to replace those destroyed by mob actions or confiscated by police.

Today in Herstory: Susan B. Anthony Will Be Sentenced for Voting in November

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 18, 1873: Susan B. Anthony has been found guilty of having “illegally” voted in last November’s General Election.

She was not convicted by a true jury of her peers, because women cannot serve on juries. Nor was she able to eloquently make her own case to the all-male jury, because the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution when the District Attorney said that as a woman “she is not competent as a witness in her own behalf.” Her conviction did not come about after secret deliberations by an unbiased jury because Judge Ward Hunt, after hearing the evidence, directed the jurors to find her guilty. Even a defense motion to poll the jurors individually after they delivered their verdict was denied. Only the final act of this farce now remains, with sentencing scheduled for tomorrow.

Anthony’s test of whether the 14th Amendment confers the vote upon women began on Friday, November 1st of last year when she, three of her sisters, and a number of other women went into a barber shop in the Eighth Ward of Rochester, New York, to register to vote for the 1872 General Election. Though it took an hour of debate with the Registrars – and the threat of suing them personally if she was refused the right to register – they finally did allow it. Four days later she came back to cast her vote.

As she explained in a letter written to Elizabeth Cady Stanton on election night, November 5th:

Dear Mrs. Stanton:

Well, I have been and gone and done it! Positively voted the Republican ticket – straight – this a.m. at 7 O’clock, and swore my vote in at that. Was registered on Friday, and 15 other women followed suit in this ward, then in sundry other wards. Some 20 or 30 other women tried to register, but all save two were refused.
All my three sisters voted – Rhoda De Garmo, too. Amy Post was rejected and she will immediately bring action for that – similar to the Washington action. Hon. Henry R. Selden will be our counsel; he has read up the law and all of our arguments, and is satisfied that we are right, and ditto the Old Judge Selden, his elder brother. So we are in a fine state of agitation in Rochester on the question.

I hope the morning’s telegrams will tell of many women all over the country trying to vote. It is splendid that without any concert of action so many should have moved here so impromptu.

Haven’t we wedged ourselves into the work pretty fairly and fully. And now that the Repubs have taken our votes – for it is Republican members of the Board – the Democratic paper is out against us strong, and that scared the Dems on the registry board. How I wish you were here to write up the funny things said and done. Rhoda De Garmo told them that she wouldn’t swear or affirm, ‘but would tell the truth,’ and they accepted that.

When the Dems said my vote should not go in the box, one Repub said to the other: ‘What do you say Marsh?’ ‘I say put it in!’ ‘So do I,’ said Jones, and ‘we’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all winter.’

Mary Hallowell was just here. She and Sarah Wills tried to register but were refused; also Mrs. Mann the Unitarian minister’s wife, and Mary Curtis, Catherine Stebbins’ sister. Not a jeer, not a word, not a look disrespectful has met a single woman.

If only now all the woman suffrage women would work to this end, of enforcing the existing Constitutional supremacy of national law over State law, what strides we might make this very winter! But I’m awful tired; for five days I have been on the constant run, but to splendid purpose, so all right. I hope you voted too.


Susan B. Anthony.

11225278_10204878352302141_6005628592770978731_nA warrant for Anthony’s arrest was issued on November 14th after a Democratic poll-watcher named Sylvester Lewis fled a complaint. She was charged with voting in a Congressional Election “without having a lawful right to vote and in violation of Section 19 of an Act of Congress.” The Enforcement Act carries a penalty of up to $500 and three years’ imprisonment. Arrest by a U.S. Deputy Marshal followed on November 18th.

At a hearing on November 29th, before United States Commissioner William C. Storrs, she was questioned by her lawyer and able to state that she believed she had the right to vote, as authorized by the 14th Amendment, and therefore was not guilty of willfully and knowingly casting an illegal vote. Storrs nevertheless decided that there was enough evidence for the case to proceed. On January 24th, a 20-man Grand Jury returned an indictment against her.

After her indictment, Anthony went on a speaking tour which proved so successful that in May, when the trial was supposed to begin, it was moved out of Monroe County because both the judge and the prosecutor agreed that there were probably not 12 local residents who would vote to convict. Anthony then went on another speaking tour, this time in Ontario County, where the trial was now to be held in the county seat of Canandaigua.

The trial began yesterday in a packed courtroom, with former President Fillmore among the spectators. Prosecutor Richard Crowley presented testimony from Inspector of Elections B.W. Jones that Anthony had cast a vote. Anthony’s defense attorney, Harry Selden, then called himself as a witness and testified that he had told her that “the laws of the Constitution of the United States authorized her to vote, as well as they authorize any man to vote.” Since as a woman she was denied the right to testify, this was the only meaningful evidence given that she had believed what she was doing was legal. Though the prosecution brought out the fact that Selden had told her this after she had registered, it was still before she had voted, and illegal voting was the offense with which she had been charged.

Selden then gave three hours of testimony which noted that the “crime” with which Anthony was being charged would have been considered an honorable and praiseworthy act if done by a man; that the 14th Amendment prohibits abridging “the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States,” and therefore she cannot be denied the right to vote by New York State; and that even if one disagrees with these arguments, the fact that she believed she was acting lawfully means she did not, as the act requires, deliberately commit an illegal act, and therefore is not guilty.

District Attorney Crowley spoke for two hours, but apparently everything beyond the minimal legal formalities were unnecessary. Immediately following the end of testimony, Judge Hunt took a piece of paper out of his pocket and read a previously prepared statement to the jury and courtroom:

The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and by voting Miss Anthony was in violation of the law … Miss Anthony knew that she was a woman, and that the Constitution of this State prohibits her from voting. She intended to violate that provision; intended to test it perhaps, but certainly intended to violate it … There was no ignorance of any fact, but all the facts being known she undertook to settle a principle in her own person. She takes the risk, and she ought not to shrink from the consequences.

Everyone will be back in court again tomorrow, when Anthony hopes to make a statement before sentencing, and we will find out whether she shall face imprisonment or a fine, and if a fine, whether she will pay it.

Today in Herstory: The International Council of Women Convenes in Berlin

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 17, 1904: It’s been quite a day here in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall, as delegates of Women’s National Councils from as far away as New Zealand assembled for an International Council of Women, the first such gathering since they last met in London five years ago.

Today, Martha Carey Thomas had the opportunity to address some of the current myths about women and education, then Susan B. Anthony, Reverend Anna Howard Shaw, and Carrie Chapman Catt told women around the world about the benefits which have resulted in the four U.S. States with equal suffrage.

Martha Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College since 1894.
Martha Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College since 1894.

The myth that higher education is unhealthy or too difficult for women was demolished by Thomas, the current and second President of Bryn Mawr College. Speaking on “The University Education of Women in the United States,” she challenged theories such as that of Paul Broca, who believed that the brains of women were too small to intellectually compete with those of men. Then she attacked the popular notion that women were too weak for the rigors of college life by citing statistics showing that more men than women broke down from overwork in American colleges.

Thomas also noted that contrary to the assumptions of many, college women were just as interested in marriage as those who did not go to college. She then went on to attack the theory of Edward Clarke, who said that studying diverts blood from a woman’s reproductive organs to her brain, and can render her infertile. Thomas cited statistics showing that college educated wives actually had a higher number of children than those who did not attend college.

Catt said that the improvement in the character of the legislators in the four States where women can now vote (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho) has been observed by everyone. As an example of specific legislation, she said that in Colorado, where women were enfranchised by male voters approving a Statewide suffrage referendum in 1893, the past 11 years have seen lawmakers pass the best laws in the world in regard to the protection of children. She then went on to address a popular myth in regard to the emancipation of women. Though opponents of woman suffrage allege that it is destructive to the family, Catt noted that the divorce rate in Wyoming, where women have had the vote since 1869, is lower than in other Western States where only men are eligible to vote..

The gathering is proving to be a great success, and has enabled many international friendships to be made, as well as campaign strategies to be shared. So, such events should occur on a regular basis until worldwide woman suffrage – and then total equality for women – is achieved.

Today in Herstory: Eleanor Roosevelt Wants a Woman President

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 16, 1937: One day a woman will be elected President! That’s the assurance of the woman who currently lives in the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt.

She expressed that view this evening in answer to a question from Constance Eberhardt, selected as being representative of recent high school graduates, and given the chance to talk with the First Lady on an NBC radio program.

But while Roosevelt thinks that a woman will win the Presidency, it won’t be any time soon. She said she is sure that:

 … there will be a woman President some day, but that day is not yet here. We women still have to prove ourselves, and at the present moment I do not think the country as a whole would have enough confidence in a woman, and without that confidence and cooperation she could not do a good job. Before we have a woman President we will have to have more women Governors of the States, more women in the Senate, and in Congress. The women who have served in those capacities have done good jobs, but they are far too few to create the confidence necessary.

10173673_10204868217208770_7617585556448030752_nTwenty years after Jeannette Rankin, Republican of Montana, became the first woman to take a seat in Congress, and seventeen years after women were Constitutionally assured of their right to vote on the same basis as men, there are already many “firsts” in the record books, and gains continue to be made. In the new 75th Congress there are five women in the House and one in the Senate, bringing the number who have ever served to twenty in the House and three in the Senate.

The first woman to serve in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia. She was appointed on October 3, 1922, to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Senator Thomas E. Watson. Between the time of her appointment and Congress reconvening on November 21st, Walter F. George won a special election, but postponed his swearing-in for a day so Felton could be a Senator for 24 hours. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas was appointed a Senator in 1931, taking her late husband’s seat, then won a full term in 1932 and is expected to run again in 1938. Rose McConnell Long of Louisiana, widow of Huey Long, was appointed to fill his Senate seat, and served from January, 1936 until January, 1937.

Two women have served as State Governors, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming and Miriam “Ma” Ferguson of Texas. Both were elected on November 4, 1924, with Ross being sworn in first. However, there have been no women governors since Ferguson’s second two-year term (1933-35) ended.

Though electing a woman President may be a distant goal, the diplomatic corps is already open to women. As the First Lady noted during her radio interview: “We have sent women as diplomats to two foreign countries already.” Former Member of Congress Ruth Bryan Owen Rohde, daughter of three-time Democratic Presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, was Minister to Denmark from 1933 to 1936. Florence Jaffray Hurst Harriman, an active suffragist during the battle for the vote, was recently appointed as our Minister to Norway.

Even the President’s Cabinet is no longer an all-male institution, because Frances Perkins has been serving as Secretary of Labor since 1933. With so many barriers broken in just the past two decades, it can’t be many more until the last and most difficult political barrier, that of the Presidency, falls!

Today in Herstory: NAWSA Releases Pro-Suffrage Film

Founding Feminists is the FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 15, 1912: Always eager to take advantage of any opportunity to promote the cause, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (N.A.W.S.A.) has made the first pro-suffrage motion picture.

The two-reel epic, suitably entitled “Votes for Women,” was shown for the first time today to an audience of suffragists gathered at the Bryant Theater on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

The new film will go nationwide on the 26th, and features a number of prominent suffragists cast as themselves. Among the best known players are Jane Addams of Hull House; Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, President of N.A.W.S.A.; Inez Milholland, Mary Beard and Harriet May Mills. All turned in fine performances.

That the drama was made at all is a tribute to suffragist creativity and quick thinking. N.A.W.S.A. was suddenly given the opportunity to use this relatively new medium, but only if its members could write their own script and be ready to perform it at 11 a.m. the next morning. As always, suffragists rose to the occasion, in this case employing the writing talents of Mary Ware Dennett, Harriet Laidlaw and Frances Maule Bjorkman, all of whom appeared in the film.

The story they came up with revolves around the actions taken by settlement workers, in concert with suffragists, to reform the uncaring owner of a run-down tenement, who also happens to be a State Senator whose vote is crucial to suffrage legislation. Not having votes, the women must resort to “indirect influence” on the Senator. They do this through his fiancee, who they win over first.

When his fiancee falls ill with scarlet fever after she begins helping the women working in the tenements to improve living conditions, the Senator suddenly sees the consequences of his neglect, and becomes a model landlord, as well as an enthusiastic supporter of suffrage. The lesson of the film is that if women had the power of the vote, they could do far more to bring about needed reforms through direct influence at the polls than through the inefficient methods of indirect influence which they must now employ.

After the Senator’s conversion to progressive ideals – and suffrage – he is thanked by Shaw and Addams, then given an enthusiastic reception at the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage by James Lees Laidlaw, Max Eastman and many other men who work for equal suffrage in real-life. Scenes of last month’s unprecedented and stunning turnout of at least 15,000 marchers in a suffrage parade down Fifth Avenue closed the film. This especially delighted the audience, most of whom had participated in the spectacle, but had only been able to see their own contingent on May 4th.

Congratulations are in order to N.A.W.S.A. for using this innovative means of spreading the word, and to Hal Reid for his excellent direction. Thanks will also be due from future generations who may now have the chance to see today’s suffrage workers in action during this exciting stage of the struggle for political equality.

Today in Herstory: Theodore Roosevelt Comes Out in Support of Suffrage

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 12, 1912: Teddy Roosevelt has just endorsed woman suffrage! Better yet, he plans to work at the Republican National Convention in Chicago next week to get a suffrage plank in the party’s platform.

Until today, he had been unwilling to make a definitive statement of his views on the subject. When pressed by Maud Malone at a recent campaign stop, the former President would only say that if there could be some sort of referendum in which women could express their views, he would favor woman suffrage if a majority wanted it.

But according to long-time suffrage advocate Judge Ben Lindsey of Colorado, who visited Roosevelt today at Sagamore Hill, near Oyster Bay, Long Island, he now fully endorses equal suffrage as a result of the work women voters have done in the Western States to promote good government. “Colonel Roosevelt told me that he was convinced by this record that woman suffrage would be of advantage to our country … and that he had definitely decided to incorporate a suffrage plank in the platform.” This statement has now been confirmed by Roosevelt himself.


Having so popular a figure as Theodore Roosevelt in support of woman suffrage is a major coup in and of itself. But should he become the Republican nominee for President, then be elected in November, it would mean having someone in the Oval Office who could use his considerable influence (what he has referred to as the “Bully Pulpit”) to lobby Congress for passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. If passed by 2/3 of both the Senate and House, then ratified by 3/4 of the States, it would allow women in all States to vote on exactly the same basis as men.

Though politics is always unpredictable, Colonel Roosevelt will be going to the convention with an especially strong claim on the nomination. For the first time, some of the delegates will have been chosen by rank-and-file members of the party in “primaries” instead of State conventions tightly controlled by party leaders. Of the thirteen States that held primaries, Roosevelt won nine – eight by large margins – for 290 delegates. “Fighting Bob” LaFollette won two States and 36 delegates, with incumbent President William Howard Taft also winning two States and 124 delegates. The number needed to win is 540.

But delegates in the other 36 States were chosen in the traditional manner by State conventions, and the Taft-controlled Republican National Committee will rule on all disputes, including those over delegates. Since no one appears to have the majority needed for nomination, the outcome is far from certain. This should make for quite a battle, and the rhetoric is already escalating. Roosevelt has described Taft as a “puzzlewit” and Taft has referred to Roosevelt as a “honeyfugler.”

No matter how the battle for the Republican nomination comes out, or who is elected on November 5th, suffrage has just made a substantial advance. All suffragists should celebrate the conversion to our cause of this prestigious American who has served as President (1901-1909), Vice President (1901), Governor of New York (1899-1900), Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1897-1898) and, of course, as a Colonel in the “Rough Riders” during the Spanish-American War.

Today in Herstory: Alice Paul Attacks the Republican Party on Suffrage

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 11, 1920: Alice Paul escalated the war of words outside the Republican National Convention today.

When National Woman’s Party pickets first stood outside the gates of Chicago’s Coliseum three days ago, most carried their party’s purple, white and gold standards, while some held up huge banners of an “educational” nature. Passersby were informed that it was a Republican legislature in Delaware that had recently rejected ratification of the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment, and it is Republican governors who are refusing to call special sessions of the Vermont and Connecticut Legislatures. In both those States it is believed that a majority of legislators are eager to provide the 36th and final ratification needed for victory, but because their regular sessions are over, and they’ve adjourned, neither one can meet until next year unless called into special session by the governor.

Alice Paul outside the Chicago Coliseum earlier today.
Alice Paul outside the Chicago Coliseum earlier today.

Today, however, the message printed on all the large banners held by Alice Paul and the other N.W.P. members was simple, uniform and explicitly partisan: “VOTE AGAINST THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AS LONG AS IT BLOCKS SUFFRAGE.” This is not a new tactic for the National Woman’s Party. Four years ago it attacked Democrats with banners saying: “VOTE AGAINST WILSON – HE OPPOSES NATIONAL WOMAN SUFFRAGE,” and satirized his campaign slogan of “He kept us out of war” with banners reading “VOTE AGAINST WILSON – HE KEPT US OUT OF SUFFRAGE.”

Needless to say, no political party welcomes criticism, so there was some heckling of the protesters today by delegates as they passed by on their way into the convention. But there was nothing like the near-riot in 1916 when a mob attacked the party’s anti-Wilson banner-bearers outside a Chicago auditorium where the President was speaking, or the repeated attacks by crowds on the “Silent Sentinels” who picketed Wilson by standing along the White House fence each day from 1917 to 1919.

According to Alice Paul, if the Republican Party does not deliver the 36th State, this week’s protests will be just the beginning. No matter who the Republican Presidential nominee may turn out to be, he will be trailed and picketed at all speaking engagements, and undergo hostile questioning at every meeting open to the public. All Republicans running for Congress this year will be vigorously opposed, in the same way all Democrats were opposed in 1916.

As to why Republicans – who have provided the vast majority of votes for passage and ratification of the Anthony Amendment – might suddenly be reluctant to have ratification occur before the November elections, Paul has a couple of ideas. Though the party as a whole has always been far more supportive of suffrage than Democrats, some very prominent Republicans are outspoken anti-suffragists. The party may fear the defeat of these powerful lawmakers if women in their States can vote in the upcoming elections. Republicans also seem concerned that most women may favor immediate entry of the U.S. into the League of Nations, something President Wilson and the Democrats have championed, while Republicans, led on this issue by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, have blocked. If women feel strongly enough about the League, a large “women’s vote” in November could put another Democrat in the White House on March 4th to replace outgoing President Wilson.

But to Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, the reasons why the Republicans are suddenly failing to do their part to enfranchise millions of women are irrelevant. Showing Republicans that it’s in their party’s best interests to finish the job of ratifying the proposed 19th Amendment is her concern:

The winning of the thirty-sixth State has not been accomplished. More pressure from the Republican Party must be exerted to win it. We hold the Republican Party responsible for the delay in ratification. We are not concerned with the party’s record during the past on the suffrage issue. It is now blocking suffrage in Vermont and Connecticut where legislatures are ready to ratify and are not allowed to convene by their Republican governors. In no Democratic State does a similar situation exist.

We intend to continue to show the Republican Party the effect of the obstruction of suffrage on its political future. When Republican leaders become convinced that party expediency is involved in suffrage ratification, women will be enfranchised.

Today in Herstory: President Kennedy Signs the Equal Pay Act into Law

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 10, 1963: Almost two decades of effort by women’s groups paid off today when President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.

Nineteen ceremonial pens were used, which he gave to those who had worked hardest for the bill’s passage. He called the practice of paying women less than men for the same work “unconscionable.” The new law will take effect next year, be enforced by the Labor Department’s Wage & Hour Division, and apply to workers presently covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

To establish that an employer has violated the law, it must be shown that different wages are being paid to men and women, that the employees are doing substantially equal work on jobs requiring the same skill, effort and responsibility, and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.

Twenty-two States already have equal pay laws on their books, but discrimination is still widespread. In one recent survey of employers, about a third admitted they had separate pay scales for male and female office workers. Since the Fair Labor Standards Act and Equal Pay Act do not cover all workers, and the law does not deal with equal pay for “comparable” work, and does not ban any form of gender bias by an employer except in regard to salary, the battle for total equality and equal opportunity in the workplace is not yet over. But women’s groups justifiably hailed today’s development as a major advance toward workplace equality for women.


President Kennedy told those who were invited to the White House to witness the signing of the bill:

I am delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity – for the average woman worker earns only 60 per cent of the average wage for men – this legislation is a significant step forward.

Our economy today depends upon women in the labor force. One out of three workers is a woman. Today, there are almost 25 million women employed, and their number is rising faster than the number of men in the labor force.

It is extremely important that adequate provision be made for reasonable levels of income to them, for the care of the children which they must leave at home or in school, and for protection of the family unit. One of the prime objectives of the Commission on the Status of Women, which I appointed 18 months ago, is to develop a program to accomplish these purposes.

The lower the family income, the higher the probability that the mother must work. Today, one out of five of these working mothers has children under three. Two out of five have children of school age. Among the remainder, about fifty per cent have husbands who earn less than $5,000 a year – many of them much less. I believe they bear the heaviest burden of any group in our Nation. Where the mother is the sole support of the family, she often must face the hard choice of either accepting public assistance or taking a position at a pay rate which averages less than two-thirds the pay rate for men.

It is for these reasons that I believe we must expand day-care centers and provide other assistance which I have recommended to Congress. At present, the total facilities of all licensed day-care centers in the nation can take care of only 185,000 children. Nearly 500,000 children under twelve must take care of themselves while their mothers work. This, it seems, to me, is a formula for disaster.

I am glad that Congress has recently authorized $800,000 to State welfare agencies to expand their day-care services during the remainder of the fiscal year. But we need much more. We need the $8 million in the 1965 budget for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare allocated for that purpose.

We also need the provisions in the tax bill that will permit working mothers to increase the deduction from income tax liability for costs incurred in providing care for their children while the mothers are working. In October the Commission on the Status of Women will report to me. This problem should have a high priority, and I think that whatever we leave undone this year we must move on in January.

I am grateful to those Members of Congress who worked so diligently to guide the Equal Pay Act through. It is a first step. It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.

We have some of the most influential Members of Congress here today, and I do hope that we can get this appropriation for these day-care centers, which seems to me to be money very wisely spent, and also under consideration of the tax bill, that we consider the needs of working mothers, and both of these will be very helpful, and I would like to lobby in their behalf.

INFLATIONARY NOTE: $5,000 in 1963 = $38,660 in 2015; $800,000 = $6,185,595; $8,000,000 = $61,855,948.

Today in Herstory: Two Victories Have Been Won Against Workplace Gender Discrimination!

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 9, 1970: Two long overdue developments today, one in regard to an Executive Order by a former President, and another about a Task Force appointed last year by the present Chief Executive.

Though it certainly took a while, guidelines have finally been issued specifying what kinds of sex discrimination in the workplace were barred by President Johnson’s Executive Order issued on October 13, 1967. The order required equal opportunity and equal treatment of women by contractors and subcontractors when they do business with the Federal Government, but it didn’t say exactly what constituted illegal treatment.

The new guidelines were issued by the Labor Department at a White House briefing, and they ban a number of common practices. Newspaper “Help Wanted” ads may no longer specify whether the employer is looking to fill the position with a man or a woman, unless it can be shown that gender is a “bona fide occupational qualification” for the job. It is also now illegal to penalize women for taking time off to give birth, or to bar mothers of young children from being hired unless fathers of young children are similarly banned. Specific job classifications may no longer be made off-limits to women, and separate seniority lists based on sex are unlawful. Enforcement can begin immediately, and will be the responsibility of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance.

Unfortunately, establishing these guidelines is the only part of the 33-page report by the President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities that President Nixon accepted. The report itself was completed and submitted on December 15th, but was suppressed by the White House until today, though some parts of it have leaked out.

The Task Force, announced with great fanfare by President Nixon on October 1st of last year, and headed by Virginia R. Allan, gathered information about sex discrimination in the U.S., and made recommendations about how to end it in its report entitled “A Matter of Simple Justice.”

The President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. The Task Force was chaired by Virginia R. Allan, and the report signed by Elizabeth Athanasakos, Ann R. Blackham, P. Dee Boersma, Evelyn Cunningham, Ann Ida Gannon, Vera Glaser, Dorothy Haener, Patricia Hutar, Katherine B. Massenburg, William C. Mercer, Alan Simpson and Evelyn E. Whitlow.

In a cover letter accompanying the report and sent to the President, Nixon was asked to use his influence on behalf of “the more than half our citizens who are women and who are now denied their full legal and Constitutional rights.” The Task Force noted that “an abiding concern for home and children” should not cut women off from “the freedom to choose the role in society to which their interest, education, and training entitle them.” The letter also said that: “The United States, as it approaches its 200th anniversary, lags behind other enlightened and indeed some newly emerging countries, in the role ascribed to women.”

Among other things, the Task Force recommended establishing a permanent Office of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities, whose director would report directly to the President, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, having the President send a special message to Congress calling for new laws against gender bias, and increased assistance in regard to child care for women who work outside the home.

Coincidentally, the results of a 56-question survey about workplace discrimination were released today by the American Association of University Women. Of the 4,173 women an 3,001 spouses and male workplace colleagues who returned the surveys, 84% of the women and 77% of the men said that they believed women still suffer from discrimination in the workplace. Sixty per cent of men, but only 43% of the women, still think that a woman’s prime role is that of wife and mother.

Clearly, even as the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment approaches, a lot of work still needs to be done to achieve full equality for women.

Today in Herstory: Suffragists Demand Chicago Republicans Do More for the Vote

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


June 8, 1920: One hundred and twenty-five National Woman’s Party members surrounded the Chicago Coliseum on this first day of picketing, holding up large and colorful banners demanding that the Republican Party do more than just pass a pro-suffrage resolution at its national convention this week.

Instead of putting mere words in a party plank, or giving speeches patting themselves on the back for having done far more than Democrats for the cause of equal suffrage, Republicans must do something much more meaningful. Now that the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment has been passed by Congress and won 35 of the 36 State ratifications it needs to become part of the U.S. Constitution, Republicans must provide that 36th State.

Mabel Vernon led 124 other members of the N.W.P. to the gates of the Coliseum, where most pickets carried their group’s purple, white and gold standards, while the rest held up huge banners explaining to Republican Convention delegates – and the press – why it’s now Republicans, not Democrats, who are preventing the Anthony Amendment from becoming the Nineteenth Amendment.



One banner read:

We protest against the continued disenfranchisement of women for which the Republican Party is now responsible. The Republican Party defeated ratification in Delaware. The Republican Party is blocking ratification in Vermont. The Republican Party is blocking ratification in Connecticut. When will the Republican Party stop blocking suffrage?

The banner refers to the fact that the Republican-controlled Delaware Assembly recently declined to even take a vote on ratification of the Anthony Amendment, and then adjourned until next year. A majority of State legislators in Vermont and Connecticut are believed to be in favor of suffrage, but their legislatures are not in session, and cannot meet until their next regular session in 1921 unless called into special session by their Republican governors, who have refused to issue the call. Another banner echoed the same theme: “The Republican Party has the power to enfranchise women. When will it do so?”

Like the N.W.P.’s “Silent Sentinels” who picketed the White House from 1917 to 1919 to pressure Democratic President Wilson into first endorsing, then actively working for nationwide woman suffrage, today’s protesters were deliberate and dignified. There was no heckling or harassment of delegates as they arrived or left. No speeches were made. There was simply a long and impressive line of women carrying powerful messages on banners.

Protesters such as Betty Gram, who came here from Portland, Oregon, proved that this was a nationwide effort. It was multi-generational as well. The pickets ranged in age from very young women to the venerable Reverend Olympia Brown, age 85, holding a banner in the hot sun that asked: “How long must women wait for liberty?”

Though there is no time limit on ratifying the Anthony Amendment, the Presidential election is just five months away. With voter registration deadlines having already passed in Georgia and Mississippi, and approaching in other States where women cannot presently vote, the answer to Reverend Brown’s question, first asked by the late Inez Milholland Boissevain in 1916, should be “no longer.”

Today in Herstory: Suffrage Amendment Set for Ratification

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


May 26, 1919: Despite the frantic efforts of opponents, the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment appears to be on the verge of final passage by Congress, and being sent to the States for ratification.

Only a filibuster, led by Senator Hoke Smith, Democrat of Georgia and Senator Oscar Underwood, Democrat of Alabama, prevented a vote today.

Senator Wesley Jones, Republican of Washington, is trying to get a motion passed to take the Anthony Amendment out of the hands of the Suffrage Committee and on to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. But Senator Smith made a motion to table Jones’ motion. If Smith had been successful, his motion would have prevented a vote for an indefinite, but certainly a very long, time.


Delay is now the main strategy of anti-suffragists, who want to keep women from voting in next year’s Presidential election, even though they know that they can’t keep them out of the voting booth forever. Virtually all State legislatures were in session early this year, so they could have voted on ratification quickly if the new Congress had immediately passed the Anthony Amendment and sent it to the States for approval. But as time has gone by, some legislatures have finished their business and adjourned, and many more will do so. When that happens, ratification can only occur when a State’s governor calls the legislature back into special session, something anti-suffrage governors won’t do at all, and even pro-suffrage governors are reluctant to do because of the extra expenses involved to taxpayers.

Smith’s motion to table was defeated by an encouraging 64 against to 27 in favor, indicating that even if the entire Senate had been present, there are at least 64 votes for suffrage, exactly the 2/3 of the 96 Senators needed. Nineteen Democrats and eight Republicans voted for the Smith motion, with forty-one Republicans twenty-three Democrats against.

Had Senator Jones’ motion been voted upon and passed, the Anthony Amendment wold have been discharged from the Suffrage Committee, and Jones would have then called for an immediate vote by the full Senate. It would have passed 64 to 27, giving it three votes to spare among the 91 Senators present and voting.

Having failed to bury the amendment, opponents had no other tactic left than to filibuster and delay a vote as long as possible. So Senators Smith and Underwood, assisted by a rare anti-suffrage Republican, Senator Wadsworth of New York, took to the floor and talked for the remainder of the session, thus forcing the matter to be put over until day after tomorrow.

If not for the opposition of Southern Democrats, the amendment would have passed long ago, and might already have been ratified by 36 of the 48 States. But despite the frustrations of being within a few votes of the 2/3 majority needed for passage session after session, suffragists have refused to “compromise” with segregationists by re-wording the amendment so that it would enfranchise white women only, or satisfy “States Rights” advocates by eliminating the section that gives Congress the power to enforce it.

But with 64 solid votes in the Senate, and passage by the House already accomplished on May 21st by a vote of 304 to 89, it now appears that this phase of the long battle is drawing to a close, and that the Susan B. Anthony Amendment will soon pass Congress in its pure form, as a worthy tribute to the woman it is named for.

This is the full text of the proposed 19th Amendment, precisely the same today as when it was first introduced into Congress on January 10, 1878, by Senator Aaron Sargent, Republican of California:

Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Today in Herstory: Man Sentenced to Three Months in Prison For Distributing Contraception

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


May 19, 1969: In what seemed like a courtroom scene from another era, Bill Baird was sentenced to three months in prison today for distributing a contraceptive device to an unmarried woman in violation of a Massachusetts law banning “Crimes Against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order.”

The maximum penalty for violation of that law is five years in prison.

11229378_10204695668415158_3026736450309861887_nThe case began on April 6, 1967, when in response to a request by some students, Baird came to Boston University and gave a well-attended lecture on birth control. At the conclusion of his remarks, he gave a package of Emko contraceptive foam to a 19-year-old female student. He was promptly arrested by members of Boston’s Vice Squad, and charged with two separate felonies: exhibiting “obscene” objects (birth control devices) and giving away one of them.

Baird was found guilty on October 17, 1967, though his sentencing was stayed until he could appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. He won a partial victory there 18 days ago, when the Court ruled in “Commonwealth v. William R. Baird” (355 Mass. 746) that it was not illegal to give a lecture on birth control, even if it involves exhibiting contraceptive devices. But the justices voted 4 to 3 to uphold his conviction for distributing any such device to an unmarried individual.

The state’s total ban on birth control, on the books since 1879, was replaced in 1966 by a new statute which allowed physicians and pharmacists to dispense contraceptives – but only to those who were married and over 21.

Though many in the courtroom today had expected nothing more than a symbolic $100 fine to be imposed, the judge declared that Baird was a “menace to society” and sentenced him to three months in the infamous Charles Street Jail. Baird is angry, but prepared to serve his time while appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Four years ago the Court ruled in “Griswold v. Connecticut” (381 U.S. 479) that married couples have a right to birth control, but has not yet ruled on whether single individuals have that same right, so this will be a test case.


UPDATE: Baird began serving his sentence on February 20, 1970. The U.S. Supreme Court did eventually take the case, and on March 22, 1972, ruled in “Eisenstadt v. Baird” (405 U.S. 438) that unmarried individuals have the same right to birth control information and devices as married couples. This landmark decision overturned laws in 26 states.


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