53. First OFFICIAL Suffrage Parade in New York City

While California suffragists were in the midst of organizing their suffrage campaign (Episode 52), women in New York were pushing forward with their campaign. 

The Women’s Political Union, founded by Harriot Stanton Blatch (Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter), decided it was time to have an official parade. Originally scheduled for October 29, 1910, it had to be postponed until May 5,1911. There had been an unofficial parade with no police permit in 1908 carried out by spunky Maud Malone and a handful of women (WCW 53). The charming group of ladies were marching up Broadway to a suffrage meeting at 23rd street, and attracted 2000 men to join in on the fun!

This parade would be planned, have the right permits, and be publicized well in advance. It is the first one where a unifying dress is suggested in the “Broadside” newsletter. From the second page of the newsletter: “Suggestions: UNIFORMITY IN DRESS will add to the effectiveness of the procession. It is urged that women in the parade wear small hats; white shirt waists; short skirts, white if possible; low heeled walking boots”

The parade route layout was planned and women were organized in groups. Each group was assigned a different meeting point at the starting area. There were nine main divisions. (Note the diversity of work titles listed. This was 1911.)

Group 1: Women in Industry and Trades

Group 2: Women Farmers, Artists, Musicians, Actresses

Group 3: Teachers, College Women, Lawyers, Architects, Engineers, Clergymen, Doctors, Nurses

Group 4: Business Women, Typists, Stenographers, Secretaries, Investigators, Social Workers, Explorers, Athletes

Group 5: Suffrage Pioneers, Homemakers, Office Holders, Watchers, Voters

Group 6: Woman Suffrage Party (Episode 51 Carrie Chapman Catt’s group)

Group 7: Suffrage Clubs belonging to the New York State Woman Suffrage Association

Group 8: Equal Franchise Society (Episode 51 Katharine McKay’s group) and the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage

Group 9: Suffrage associations from other states

Any woman who was not part of any organization but supported suffrage was welcome to join and march with Group 5 as homemakers.

The parade would start at 57th street at 3:45 pm and march down 5th Avenue to Union Square where a mass suffrage meeting would be held at 5pm. 

The banner leading the parade would be emblazoned with lines from the second verse of a popular hymn, “Forward! Be our Watchword,” by Henry Alford (1865). The original lines are “Forward, out of error, Leave behind the night; Forward through the darkness, Forward into light.” and were changed slightly for the banner carried by Inez Milholland who led the famous 1913 parade in Washington D.C. (Episode 62)

According to top suffrage journalist, Bertha Damaris Knobe, there were about 3000 women who participated, five bands, and even 90-year-old Antionette Brown Blackwell was there. The full report can be found in her article for “Harper’s Weekly” (New York) entitled “The March of 3,000 Women” published May 20,1911.

This week’s song pick:
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” Supercut by TheaterMania https://youtu.be/vh4Usgpavjk

#FightForThe19th #SuffragetteCity100

Episode 53 Sources:

Images from Library of Congress (zoom in to read)

Link to Harper’s Weekly summary

Full text and music of hymn by Henry Alford
Back to Top