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Woman Suffrage: 1913

Woman Suffrage: 1913

February 1913. "Woman suffrage -- hikers arriving in Washington from New York." Today marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Over the next few days we'll post some more suffrage photos. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


African Americans in 1913 Washington DC

After more than 50 years of Reconstruction policies under northern Lincoln Republicans, African Americans in 1913 DC had created a vibrant white-collar middle class. More than 22,000 black Americans worked for the Federal government as clerks, messengers, solders and laborers. In the neighborhoods around Howard University, black doctors, lawyers and professors fueled a cultural renaissance many years before the more well known Harlem revival. Many aspects of the city government, including the police, were integrated.

It surprises many people to find out that this relatively integrated environment suffered a catastrophic setback with the election of "progressive" Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia before the Civil War to parents who supported the Confederate cause. He remained an unapologetic racist to the end of his life. Wilson and his supporters moved quickly to remove blacks from most of the highest paying jobs. The Washington city government moved equally as fast to pass "race" codes instituting the worst of the Jim Crow laws from the deep south. By 1919 with the return of the WW I solders - black and white - Washington, DC had become a tinder box ready to explode which it predictably did suffering the worst race riot in its history.

Male Gawkers

Do you suppose they're waiting for lady Godiva to ride by?

Just Wondering

Any speculation on the purpose of the tire chains on the taxi when there is no snow on the ground?

[Chains are for traction on icy roads. - Dave]

Gaumont Weekly

Interesting to see the Gaumont Weekly truck ahead of the parade. No doubt filming for its weekly newsreel.

Black and White

I was a bit surprised to see a black police officer in 1913 Washington, but apparently there were black officers on the force well back into the nineteenth century. (There seems to be some confusion over exactly how far back: I've found dates ranging from 1861 to the 1890s.)

It's also an interestingly integrated crowd: six and a half years later, the summer of 1919 would see major racial rioting focused on that stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Love these crowd photos

Toward the lower left, a woman in the street, dressed in black, is pointing her umbrella aggressively at a man a few feet away. She clearly has an "issue" with him. His back is to the camera and his arms, while bent, seem a little high to be in his pockets. I wonder what HIS expression and body language was saying/showing.

A few feet on the right of the aforementioned woman is a man that appears to be in the process of nonchalantly picking another man's pocket or ... something. The potential pocket-pickee is facing the same woman with his hand up in possible agitation, so maybe the potential pocket-picker is just putting out a calming hand ("Let it GO, Dad"). The trajectory of hand looks more like it's headed toward the pocket, though, although one of them would have to move closer for him to actually reach it.

To the right of the streetcar there's a woman who (gasp) is not wearing a hat! She seems pretty happy. A man behind her, OTOH, looks downright angry.

That appears to be a press wagon on the lower right, given the cameras and the pennant.

Women vote today, bars close tomorrow

Interestingly, the passage of the 19th Amendment was very closely tied to the passage of the 18th Amendment instituting Prohibition. The way the politics worked back then, if you were in favor of one, you probably also supported the other.

How you like that body?

The auto with the single headlight is a Franklin. The engine is air cooled--no radiator. No leaking radiators, busted hoses, frozen pipe lines, alcohol, or antifreeze. Just air cooled. What a great idea.

[The car is a water-cooled Renault taxi. The radiator is behind the engine, under the headlight. - Dave]

The fair sex

I always wondered why the suffragettes always dressed entirely in white, but I see now that it really makes them stand out in the crowd.

Safety first

Note the "people catcher" on the front of the streetcar -- so if a pedestrian was hit, he could be saved by landing in the net. Smart people who thought of this.

re: Well done

Despite Mrs. Banks' forceful lyricism, she and Mary Poppins would have to wait eight years longer than their American sisters for universal, unconditional suffrage. Also, kudos to the brothers Sherman for their attention to historical detail:

"Take heart! For Missus Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!"

The Tent and the Camel's Nose.

The next thing you know they'll want to drive cars, work outside the home, own businesses and property -- it will never end. It's an outrage. Manhood is doomed.

[And the next next thing you know, they'll want to outlaw booze. - Dave]

Well done

Cast off the shackles of yesterday
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray

Our daughters' daughters will adore us
And they'll sing in grateful chorus

'Well done, Sister Suffragette!'

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