Friday, October 5, 2012

Lining up to Vote

A black and white photograph of a parade moving through a crowded street.We have a small, sobering collection of material related to the May 4, 1912, Woman Suffrage Parade in New York City. Sobering at first because it makes you realize that women were not allowed to vote in most states just 100 years ago, but also for the way events transpired that day.

The parade started off well as the women followed the organizers' suggestions:
Be punctual. Reach point of formation by 4 p.m. Wear white if possible. Low heeled boots. Appearance of the parade depends on each marcher. Head erect. Shoulders back. Keep step. Eyes to the front. Remember you are marching for a principle. OBEY YOUR MARSHAL.
A black and white photograph of a parade moving through a crowded street.
Crowds press parade
But as the parade progressed, the organizer's discipline and rigid sense of order (they arranged the marchers by occupation and created a strict class hierarchy) were challenged by unruly mobs. Police protection for the marchers broke down and pressed the parade to a single file march. In a first-hand account, march organizer Alva Belmont described the event as "disheartening,"
The lines were constantly allowed to be broken into by rowdies and small boys and the policemen who were stationed at the corner of 41st Street and Fifth Avenue were entirely incompetent and the management at Carnegie Hall was simply disgraceful.
The parade devolved into a near riot, and organizers met with the Police Commissioner the following week to protest the police's inaction.

You can see the file with correspondence, photographs, and flyers from the march, by asking for MS-1107.

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