There were two suffrage parades in New York in 1912. The first was May 4. Participants marched up 5th Avenue from Washington Square to Carnegie Hall, and it is often remembered for the iconic photograph of suffragists in white and a baby carriage in the center. This demonstration was even larger than the previous year (Episode 53). The estimate for the spring parade was about 10,000 to 15,000 marchers.
Suffrage events like parades brought together many smaller suffrage groups. Each organization had their own color combination preferences. Along with the overarching color scheme of suffrage yellow for flowers, feather plumes, decorations, and most women wearing white, many marchers sported the green, white, and purple colors of the New York based Women’s Political Union (Episode 51) who had organized the parade. The horse brigade, which included Inez Milholland, wore straw tricorn hats with a green, white, and purple rosette. (The currently accepted American suffrage colors of yellow, white, and purple will be identified with the National Woman’s Party led by Alice Paul which will be founded in 1913.)
A famous rider in the horse brigade was 16-year-old Mabel Ping Hua Lee. Born in China, her missionary family came to New York when she was 4. Her mother had bound feet but Lee did not. Even as a teenager, Lee was active in the suffrage movement. Lee and Miss Myrtle Jim, another Chinese student, helped organize the delegation of Chinese and Chinese-American women who participated in the parade. Lee would later graduate from Barnard College in 1917 and earn her doctorate in Economics from Columbia University in 1921. (Because she was born in China, Lee would not be able to become a citizen and vote until 1943 when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was finally repealed.)
The African-American women’s brigade wore black dresses with yellow sashes. There was a men's brigade as well; about 800-1000 men marched. The Stuyvesant Square Quakers asked that husbands and wives be allowed to march together as their own group.
A memorial banner for the women who perished in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire (Episode 49) was carried by friends of the workers who died. White words on an all black banner stated “We Want the Vote for Protection”.
The second parade was held in November 1912 was one of celebration for there were several states who were close to granting suffrage. It was the first nighttime suffrage parade. This time, the participants marched down 5th Avenue. There were concerns that a nighttime parade might be dangerous for women without male escorts or that the crowd would be more aggressive. However, a nighttime parade offered the opportunity for a grand spectacle. Suffragists carried 5,000 Japanese-style lanterns ordered from Paris, men who participated wore miners hats with lights, parade marshals had batons fitted with electric light bulbs and automobiles carried searchlights.
Organizers had planned on 20,000 participants but the night of the parade was rainy, cold, and windy. 15,000 people still showed up and marched in the bad weather conditions. The illuminated nighttime parade was considered a great success. According to the “New York Times” (November 10, 1912) 400,000 New Yorkers watched the parade which was described as a “river of fire”.
Marching sometimes came at an unexpected personal cost. Suffragist Almee Hutchenson lost her teaching job for participating in the spring parade. She was dismissed by Father Mathew Taylor for setting a bad example. He felt that the woman’s suffrage movement was the next thing to socialism and he could not condone it.
This week’s song pick:
ASL translator Amber Galloway Gallego’s version of “We Are Family” by the Pointer Sisters
Episode 57 Sources:
More about Mabel Ping Hua Lee
While attending Barnard College, Mabel Ping Hua Lee gave a speech entitled “China’s Submerged Half” discussing suffrage in relation to Chinese women.