tv Suffragists the 19th Amendment CSPAN September 4, 2019 8:01pm-9:22pm EDT
and it's my privilege to welcome many of you back to historic decatur house in the white house historical association for another one of our wonderful lectures. tonight is one of the annual national heritage lectures that we do in partnership with the us capital historical society and the us supreme court historical society. we have our wonderful colleagues from both here tonight and my friend jane campbell who is the president of the national historical society. on june 4, 1919 the 19th amendment was passed and sent to the states for ratification. the suffragists used the white house as a backdrop to challenge an equity and bring attention to their cause. tonight we look forward to hearing more about their successful efforts to secure women's rights to vote.
before i introduce our speaker i have a couple of other introductions and things i would like to share. first of all we have guests smith college, the washington club of smith college. stand up. >> [ applause ] they are special guests tonight and we are honored to have them. i would also like to tell you a little bit about the white house historical association. for those of you who have been with us before you know i love to talk about our wonderful mission that began in 1961 by jacqueline kennedy. remember she was only 31 years old when her husband was inaugurated president of the united states. at that young age she had the vision and foresight to know that what she and pres. kennedy needed than others would need over the course of time. that would be to have a private partner who are nonpartisan, nonprofit, accepting no government funding whatsoever but all the resources we raise go toward education programs to tell the stories of white house
history going back to 1792. tonight is a part of that education outreach program. we also provide resources directly to the white house to maintain the museum standard of the state for, ground-floor and nonpublic historic rooms that mrs. kennedy envisioned maintaining. we have done that with every president and first lady since the kennedys and we are honored to do so. tonight our format would be, i will introduce our wonderful speaker and following her remarks, ann compton who you know is a wonderful friend of ours , and wonderful friend of yours, will have an interview session. don't worry, this podium is going to be removed and set aside so you can have an unobstructed view of their conversation. we have been very good friends with her for very years and she has been very supportive of us as an organization as she has many things here in washington.
you know her as a former reporter and white house correspond. she was the first woman assigned to cover the white house for network television. she worked for abc news for 41 years, retiring in 2014. but you really have it retired completely because you are very involved and active and engaged. with us, the miller center, and other endeavors. her career spans 10 presidential campaigns. she traveled to all 50 states, six continents and of the many interesting anecdotes of stories about her years covering the white house and the president, is the compelling story of her being with president bush, george w. bush on september 11, 2001 is the only broadcast reporter to travel around the country with him. it will soon be coming up on the 20 year anniversary and will want to do something special to talk about the white house on 9/11.
we think ann for her friendship and being with us to take this series of lectures forward. we will have another one and sent timber on the role of nixon and the white house. this is the 50th anniversary of the nixons coming into the president presidency. i think she is really an unheralded first lady in terms of her legacy with the white house and what she contributed in terms of artifacts, really american artifacts, to the white house collection. we will be celebrating that with a lecture in september. and then in october, exciting news. our dear friend has a new book that's going to be out in october. for the first time ever he is finally unlocking his recipe box and sharing the recipes from his service to five american presidents from jimmy carter to george w. bush and
the wonderful confections that he created as the executive white house pastry chef. jennifer pickens who you may know as the author of white house christmas will have a new book on ceremonies so we will have a conversation with both at our event in october so stay tuned for news on both of those occasions. and now for our prime event. you are in for a treat tonight, to talk about this very important and timely event on our nation's history. we have rebecca roberts as our speaker. she has been, i understand, many things in her life and career and not limited to just these. she has been a journalist, a producer, a tour guide, a forensic anthropologist, and event planner, a political consultant, a jazz singer, a
radio talkshow host, and currently she is curator of programming for planet word, a museum. she has also found time to be the mother to 2 twin boys, a wife, and a great keeper of the family in line. on top of all of that she's an author and has written a wonderful book on the subject we will learn about tonight in this part of american history. and, white house history. so welcome to the podium, rebecca and ann can have a conversation at the end. >> let's set the record straight, i actually read-- not
to brag but the twins have a little brother. the suffrage movement really dates from seneca falls and through ratification of the 19th amendment. in the interest of brevity and focus i'm not going to cover all 72 years. i'm going to more or less ignore the 19th century and really just focus on the final push for the amendment. if you have questions about other parts of the movement or other players i'll be more than happy to answer them when we go to q and a. i like to start with this image from the 1913 suffrage march. i'd like to use it because it's the only imaging color. the great thing about 20th- century history is the photographs but they are of course black-and-white. this program shows you how extraordinarily colorful everything was. all of the contemporary accounts talk about that as well.
but also the colors are deliberate. almost everything the suffrage movement it was really deliberate. not only do they represent things but purple is a rich, saturated color. gold less so, why does the absence. these show up really well. that's all on purpose. also, if you want to see the artifacts in all of their beautiful colorful glory,-- has all of the original banners. because we are in the centennial year there are a bunch of terrific exhibits. there's one at the archives, the library of congress, and the smithsonian american history museum. you can see these artifacts and their glory because we are lucky enough to be the town where they are curated. this marks the 1913 march, the
first civil rights march. there have been parades but this idea of taking a cause to the core of central washington was-- idea and started at the capital and marched all the way down pennsylvania avenue to the executive branch. that was absolutely symbolic. it was the day before woodrow wilson's inauguration. does that sound sound familiar? a women's march down the-- of washington as a reminder to-- as a reminder that he ignored women's voices and those parallels are obviously very very strong. let me make sure this is actually advancing if it's not on i have no way of knowing that. this is obviously the capital.
they were able to plan this really grand procession. all of these floats, marching bands, working women marches by professionals in matching outfits. the idea was she would get up on her horse at the beginning, get down on the capital end of pennsylvania avenue and a bugler would sound. a few blocks later the call will be picked up all the way down to 15th st. to the treasury department which has that big marble plaza front. we will get to the tableau in amo. you can see how the horses are spaced perfectly and have fabulous hats on. just behind was mill holland especially at the state of the union when
members of congress chose to wear white to one of the suffragists. the image shut up a lot as an example of separatists in white. i love this image because it shows you what a great publicist she was. i didn't know she was a labor lawyer. she was a really accomplished professional and all of the overtly sexist press of the day never failed to talk about how pretty she was and called her the most beautiful separatist. she said if you're going to talk about how pretty she is instead of how smart she is i'm going to put her in a white dress on a white horse and maybe get a little coverage out of it. this image comes back. working women by profession, these are the nurses, the teachers march together, they purposely stayed in their costumes. college women marked by alma
mater. we have pictures from some of the other sister schools and the whole idea was this grand procession would and at 16th st. at the treasury department. >>-- was a fascinating artform that involves some sort of tortured allegory where people would pose and this is columbia summoning the virtues. the virtues were like-- in involved children in togas and was a whole thing and had very little to do with suffrage. but boy did it look great in pictures. it is still the cover 100 years later and absolutely strategically planned to be that way. there was a grandstand in front of the treasury set up for the inaugural parade set for the
next day. there was a live audience but that was not the main audience. the ideal is that this would be published in newspapers all around the country the next day. it was march 3, a little chilly in early march in washington. they were barefoot on the steps of the treasury but the tableau gets the signal to start, they perform their beautiful tableau and they stand there in dignified silence and the plan was that the parade would process in front of them. then they would join back together and end up at home or the tableau would perform again to rousing approach applause from the audience and would be a great day so the tablet goes ahead and there's no praise. and they are maintaining pozen's , no parade. there's no way of knowing where the parade is or why it was
held up. it's getting a little cold on the treasury steps. they wait as long as they can and finally have to go inside the treasury department. where's the parade? that's why. for orientation, this picture was taken at 12 streetwear freedom plaza is now. you are looking back towards the capital . it is a 6 lane rd. with broad sidewalks and was absolutely shoulder to shoulder crowded. i don't know how much detail you can see but it is all men. they were there for the suffrage parade. they were there for the inauguration. the suffrage parade was a sideshow and they were very poorly behaved. they would trip women, sit on them, yelled names, the police did nothing to stop them and in some cases joined in the
tripping and name-calling. you can't get a parade through that crowd. she realized her perfectly planned parade was--. she drove the car up and down the parade route to zigzag through the crowd to get them up and it didn't work. the crowd poured right back in behind her. finally they literally called in cavalry. they had mounted officers standing by at fort myers and came in and rode horses into the crowd, enough so that the parade could fight their way down. instead of the tableau performing in triumph, all the women show up filthy, furious, cold, angry, horrified that this massive crowd of jerky men have completely ruined what
should have been this meticulously planned, triumphant day. paul realized from the beginning it was the best thing that could have ever happened. a lovely parade would be in the news for a day and a near riot would keep the movement in the news for weeks. that's exactly what happened. there was a congressional hearing, and to notice how good these women were at manipulating the press, i'm not entirely sure what i should be pointing this at to make a change. over here? i love these headlines. the language is so spectacular. woodrow wilson inaugurated but instead he gets half in the other column says women's beauty bewilder the capital.
miles of-- present enchanting suffrage-- and there's a picture of the tableau. it was not a particularly well planted women. this is how the men cover the parade without any guidance from the women so it's talking about how pretty it was and oh by the way there was some bad behavior. this is a better example. woodrow wilson not the headline. this column mobbed the capital, guards powerless, hoodlums hurl caustic remarks at marchers. this paragraph, the lead has 17 superlatives the. the biggest crowd, the angriest mob, the most dutiful girls. it is terrific press but also look at the editorial cartoons. there is little pencil neck
woodrow wilson thinking he gets the spotlight on the day of his inauguration but ta-da, there's a separatist literally stealing the spotlight from him. the 1913 march was sort of the turning point for the final push to actually get the amendment through congress. in addition to being a great publicity ploy it was a reintroduction of the federal amendment of the strategy. i'm going to race through a little bit of political history here. feel free to ask questions about it later because i'm going to go really fast. the original separatists, they were abolitionists. some of them came to suffrage because what they really wanted was abolition and could not get that done without the vote. there were people who are major advocates across the board. went after the civil war the
reconstruction amendments were passed and they enfranchised black men but no women, that caused a major rift. there were people like lucy stone and others who said we are abolitionists. we will take this. it's important that black men get to vote, we will fight for women next. there are people like susan b anthony who said please stop telling us to wait our turn. if we don't get this now it's going to be another generation and we can't support the 15th amendment if it doesn't include women so it was a huge split. they tour each other down in the press, but also they continued on two separate avenues with the fashion push in the federal amendment and pushing a state state strategy in part because these reconstruction amendments has been hailed as federal overreach
. a state i state strategy was considered safer but it's not crazy to go state i state. if you know states pass suffrage you have enough men representing women that an amendment becomes inevitable. so it languished after the civil war. this 1913 march just behind, there was a tanner that said we demand a constitutional amendment and that is called the great demand--. this march in addition to being a great publicity ploy was an announcement that this was really going to be a major strategy going forward. it was really paul who was pushing to switch the amendment and public packets. she was very young. she was only in her early 20s
at the time of the parade. -- has become a follower and the british suffrage movement had its slow and steady coverage and then the--. and they were totally radical and very militant. eventually alice paul's faction recalled militant and nothing on the british movement. they started by throwing bricks through windows and escalated to trying to set the prime minister's house on fire. i understand they earned down the-- and the botanical gardens. they smacked-- in the face on purpose to get arrested, they were not playing around. in fact, i think i have-- i love this. this is the british paper. the headline says trouble expected in london tonight. suffragettes determined to
force their way into parliament move in after dark. women will certainly will break into the house. everyone expected it. the other thing is an advertisement saying if suffragettes write your windows, call me to come put them back in. it's got this great scottish made break windows but i'm the we boy who can put them in. by the way suffragists, suffragettes, the word is suffragists. the british press made fun of the british suffrage movement by calling them suffragette. it was meant to be derisive. and like nasty women in deplorable generations, the british women co-opted the title and wore it with pride. most properly everyone is a suffragist, suffragette refers to the british movement specifically. there's your lesson for the day.
-- went to jail, she absolutely participated in these guerrilla tactics. when she moved back to the us in 1910 she wanted to use some of those tech ticks to breathe life into the american movement which was languishing. most of the founding mothers were dead by then. the split had really lost everyone time and energy. she worked with the national american women's suffrage association. the factions after the civil war had come back together and formed this overriding major group. they let-- set up a washington office just like a lot of nonprofits and trade associations have a washington office right here on lafayette square.
is across the square from where we are now. it's one of those that was preserved i jackie kennedy and know the port structure sort of rises up behind it. originally it was the congressional office, the lobbying arm of the american women's suffrage association and that was their headquarters. but almost from the beginning she went rogue and started started publishing a competing newsletter and-- her money and finally the organization kicked her off. they were already nervous about her tech x and said if you are going to pursue this aggressive stance you can't do it under the umbrella of the national. so they stayed at karen house and eventually called themselves the national women's party. throughout 1914 and 1915 they continue to push for a federal
amendment, to have pretty public events, parades, a booth at the world's fair in san francisco, a cross-country road trip. it was shocking to see women drive. where they gathered signatures across the country. they had some success with some publicity but not a lot of success with getting support for a federal amendment. meanwhile the state by straight state-by-state strategy was pushed and having little success by the 1916 election. there were 10 states that allowed women the right to vote. almost all of the big empty states. wyoming was first, montana, idaho, and they had 11 people living in them franchising everyone to maximize political power. in 1916 every state that had suffrage on the ballot voted down. woodrow wilson who is a real
enemy to suffrage was against it for so many reasons he kept coming up for new ones. he had lots of reasons to be against it and was reelected in a landslide. so 1916 was not at all successful for the movement. they felt that their tactics weren't working and then at the end, holland literally collapsed on stage. she had pernicious anemia and no one really realized how sick she was. she was giving a speech in california and fainted on stage and never recovered. she died in the hospital a few weeks later. her sister in the audience said her final words were mr. pres., how long must women wait for liberty? maybe they were. it's a great line. but she immediately became a martyr to the cause.
she literally died for the cause and that image of her on the white horse almost looks like a holy card right? so that was the very end of 1916. as 1917 donned, the national women's party thought nothing we are doing is working. we haven't gained a single state or twisted a single voter. we still have this president who is not interested in helping us sway anyone in congress. we need to do something new. they came up with the idea of picketing the white house in 1917. i promise if you go to the white house right now there will be picketers there. there always are. feel free to remind them it was alex paul's idea. this is the first time anyone had ever done this. and again, check out the visuals. women and dart coats against the white house, the banner
that says mr. pres. how long must women wait for liberty? or maybe last words in this very simple font. dark letters on a white akron. this was all made for pictures. and pictures are great. so at the time, they were a curiosity. people were interested in thought it was interesting. this is january and february 1917. it was really cold but people decided to come by and sometimes women would come to washington to participate. there was a college day and again i looked for college pictures, new york had a rainy terrible day, it was new york day, and they stayed out there throughout january and february 2019 and they stayed out there throughout january and february 1917 every single day. there are stories of bringing bricks for the woman to stand on, and one women had a virchow
and pass it around and everyone got to wear it for 20 minutes. it was just sort of a curiosity at first even though this was completely new. every so often you hear the women chained themselves to the white house. everything they are doing is totally legal standing in front of the right house is not against any law. they didn't really want to keep it up. first of all was hard to recruit people to it but-- to set bail after a while so the intention was that at the second inaugural, they would have one picket and meet with wilson. so unlike in 1930, 1913, march 1917 this was one of those gross early rainy days in washington where the rain is coming in sideways and the wind is bitter but they were out there. there's a great news account holding these wooden poles and-- dripping down through the
freezing name. so they try to go down to meet with pres. wilson and they are barred. security says you can't come in here. they go down to the-- and was barred, so what do they do now? the keep marching around the white house and circled the property for five times. finally they go back to cameron house and say we are going to keep the pickets up. if you won't even meet with us we are going to keep going with these. they keep it up throughout the spring of 1917. by the end of april-- and world war i. now what do you do. do you keep criticizing the president in a public way while we are at war? you know public opinion will turn against you. people are going to think your traders.
they decided yeah, you know? if pres. wilson is going to be out there saying this war is important. franchising half of his own voters? yes we are going to keep them up. they leaned in, this is the russian envoy is the pres. wilson and envoy route are deceiving russia saying we are a dimock some-- to win a world war so democracies may survive. we the women of america tell you america is not a democracy. president wilson is the chief opponent of national franchise been. help us make this nation really free. tell the government it must liberate its people before it can claim free russia as an ally. this is not for people walking by. this is for photographs and newspaper coverage. today this would be a tweet.
public opinion does in fact turn against the women. the police never get anything to stop this kind of stuff by the way. what do the women do? they go ahead and call president kaiser wilson. have you forgotten your sympathy because they were not self governed? now they are calling the president a-- while we are at war in germany. finally he says get them off the sidewalk. police started arresting them for a completely made up charge of obstructing the traffic on the sidewalk. not a thing. they called the women into jail and set a five dollar fine or a
night in jail. assuming all the women would say here's my five dollars i can't possibly go to jail i'll never do it again, every women says bring it. i'll go to jail. there are 30 women who will pick up tickets tomorrow so that whole crew gets arrested. a five dollar fine, 4 nights in jail. this escalates so crazily that these women are getting threatened-- sentenced to 60 days in the workhouse for standing on a corner with a sign which is not in fact breaking any laws but they kept calling the bluffs of the judges and kept choosing jail time. they took the tactics of demanding political prisoner status and when that was denied as it always was going on a hunger strike. it's just as horrible as it sounds by the way, involving forcing food down your throat and pouring liquid in.
someone got their teeth broken if they closed their mouth against it. they are demanding a voice and democracy. the national, the major women's suffrage association was horrified by all of this that the national women's party was being this tacky. it kind of worked for both of them. they could say i'm not that crazy alice paul president wilson, you can meet with me. i'm a reasonable human being. if it had been the national women's party than this may have been a slideshow. you needed the work of lobbying and organizing. a bunch of women were sent down to the workhouse and the warden decided he had had enough and ordered the guards to pick the women up bodily.
for the most part they were sent into this communal area where they stayed together but there were punishments cells, individual cells, and the warden ordered them to pick women up and drag them to the dark to these punishments cells that were unlit and unheeded and everything horrible you can imagine. the guards picked them up and carried them into these cells. several smacked their heads against cinderblocks, one woman passed out, her cellmate thought she was dead and had a heart attack. lucy burns starts calling out the role of the women who had been arrested in the dark to see if they will answer to see who's okay. when she refuses, the chain her with her arms above her head in this dark freezing cell all night long for standing on a corner with a sign. this becomes known as the night
of terror. women-- word gets out about this treatment and public opinion starts to turn back in favor of the women. the other thing that happened is new york past suffrage which was hugely important. the most popular state. finally even some of the most workhouse members of congress thought it looks like women are going to vote, maybe they should vote for me. so as 1918 donned, there was some momentum around the federal amendment. the president, still not on board. i don't usually show these but since we are right here i want to show them. these are right in front of the white house on the far side of the square. throughout the spring the national women's party would hold protests and were finally kicked out of the house, the cosmos club. the cosmos club--
the national women's party moved to this side of the square. they would stand at the lafayette statue and every time the president gave a speech about democracy which was every 10 or 15 minutes, they would burn it, burn the words and set them on fire in front of the white house as well. the banners as president wilson is deceiving the world when he appears as the prophet of democracy. president wilson has opposed those who demand democracy be as responsible for the disenfranchisement of millions of americans and we in america know this. the world will find him out. these were called the watchfire's. women continue to be arrested for lighting a fire after dark and other completely made up things. by all of 19 eight team, there are a couple of votes that don't quite make it there.
it doesn't quite get there. 1918 a new congress is elect did and enough pro suffragists are rested in part because of things like new york passing suffrage. 1919 looks like it might actually happen. almost exactly 100 years ago in june 1919, the amendment finally passes both the house and the senate but now it goes to the states for ratification. she made a flag were every time a state ratified they would so a star on it. there were 48 states at the time. a bunch of states passed right away. a bunch of states voted it down over the summer of 1919. almost entirely in the south and almost entirely for overtly racist reasons. they were not interested in franchising a single black voter.
they wanted no part of it. so by spring of 1920, 35 states ratified. five voted down, and of the eight left, five will bring it to a vote. those are all very specific reasons about not wanting to call special sessions and a lot of politics which i would be happy to go into if anyone is interested. there's a crazy battle in gent delaware that everyone thought would the 36th state and everyone loses. so now the last two are north carolina and tennessee. neither looked like a great prospect right? carolina votes it down. it's all down to tennessee. the summer of 1920, it's august in nashville, it's really hot.
all of the separatists, all the into separatists, the entire national press corps, the civil war veterans, the liquor lobby. they were all at the same hotel. the suffragists wear a yellow rose antiwear is red, there was one legislator who were both just to confuse you, the liquor lobby is there to set up the gym been sweet where they are getting the legislators too drunk to vote, unbelievable dirty politicking where members would get a phone call saying you need to get back to memphis, your son is sick. this goes on for like a week in august and no one knows how it's going to go. the state senate passes it so it's down to the state assembly. a couple of days before the actual vote there was a vote could be seen as a proxy.
you could sort of see it as an indication of how it's going to go. it's a tie. we are down to the last house of the last state. a toy is a loss for suffrage right? so the actual day arrives, there were yellow and red roses, we've all been in the same hotel together for a week. one guy changes his vote. harry burns. no one had him in the yes column. he was in his 20s, the youngest member of the legislator legislature, his mentor wasn't absolute-- too fragile to handle the vote anti-separatist but he changes his vote to yes in and it takes a little while for people to realize that early in the role someone changed their vote. did you hear harry burns say yes? did he change the vote?
who is he? the entire national press corps shows up. mr. burns, why did you change your mind? mr. burn you just think it hit-- single-handedly-- what changed your mind? turns out, his mother told him to. [ laughter ] he had in his pocket a letter from his mother that said in part, vote for suffrage and don't keep them in doubt. and he says to these reporters, it's because my mother wrote me this letter and i really think that a mother's advice is the best thing for a son to follow. as a mother of three sons, and brighter that on a pillow. that is how close it came. finally he was able to embroider the 36th star on the
flag. she unfurled it from the balcony of the headquarters right out here and that is how it goes. how close american women came to not getting the 19th amendment passed. it is an amazing story, and with that, ann and i will talk a little bit and take questions . [ applause ] >> to any of those-- to any of those sound familiar? rebecca, what was it about the women in that particular time who were able to pull together your feet-- the strategies and
effectiveness? these were smart, educated, and incredibly inventive women who wouldn't take no for an answer. >> they really were and eric and was can-- i'm continually impressed with the more i learn of how savvy they were. i think we have a tendency to think that history is linear and progressive and every generation does better than the one before and maybe pushes the radical envelope a little more, and these women were doing it 100 years ago. they cannot introduce legislature or vote for it while female. they could do everything up to actually making it happen. it is amazing to me now especially because so much of this history is taught in kind of a condescending way. look at the cute dresses and banners? they affected the largest historical change in american democracy. it was a revolution.
it was a bloodless revolution. they did it with their brains and they did it on their own and they did it with no power. by definition they had no power and they made it happen. it took a long time and there were a lot of defeats along the way but it is an unbelievably impressive radical feet. what made them able to do that final push i think, some of it was a new generation, all the things we see in social movements now. younger generations being more tolerant. i think there were more educated women. i think that there were more opportunities for women to have a public life so a lot of the objections to women voting was that it would tear down the house, the home would be destroyed because women would abandon the domestic sphere for
the public sphere. and as more women were in the public sphere already that was less shocking. and then i think leadership that emerged, the original ladies were really impressive and radical but these-- this final group-- and i don't want to take anything away from-- were brilliant strategists. the fact that they were there to lead it through to the end. >> there's an interesting story of when the actual amendment went through. -- was not invited, nor was alice paul in part because, were they good friends? no. [ laughter ] can you imagine within the ranks, it was said they detested each other so whoever was hosting the siding and everything just said we won't invite either one to come here.
but the idea that they were all able to pull in that same direction-- what i remember in history classes when you get past the victorian era in the edwardian era, the industrial revolution, we are into this new century where there is a progressivism and a kind of movement. communications are getting better, it's the political talk six that now really show that even throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, it's these kinds of skills. my favorite slide is the newspaper. i'm a reporter and a dear friend of her parents,-- and steve roberts since i've known
since you were born. when you look at the front page of the washington paper on inauguration day and president- elect wilson has to share the front page withwith the bewilde editor who doesn't know what's going on, they had to push against so much to get that. how could they be so media savvy? is it because they were on the outside pushing through? >> isn't that amazing. >> not only were they media savvy, they had no allies within the paper. there were not female reporters routinely. the "washington post" was fairly sympathetic, but the "new york times" was unapologetically anti-suffrage all the way. the coverage is really brutal, but one of the things the women did was so smart.
all of these women would come from all over the country to participate. the national women's party got them each to write a first- person account of their mistreatment and send it to their hometown paper. the springfield, illinois paper would say mrs. george thurman's was manhandled and it became a public story. it was the ability to turn the story into favor when it all went south. and, to maybe, get unsympathetic reporters to cover it in a sympathetic way. they were really good at staying in the news. there were a lot of men dominating the front pages. that's what the pickets were all about. the war comes along, and you have a president who actually had a showing of birth of the
nation in the white house, the early movie that glorified the klan. he thought it was a wonderful movie. you not only have the women radicals, but you have a political establishment that didn't feel they needed to give anything. >> woodrow wilson does sort of emerge as the villain of the story. he really does. i am hesitant to judge a historic figure by contemporary norms, but in the 1912 election, teddy roosevelt had a suffrage plank in his platform. it would not have been out of the question for a presidential candidate to be pro suffrage. he was so craven about it. he started with i haven't thought about suffrage, which is the lamest political excuse ever. then he tried i am the leader of the democratic party, and there's not a plank in the
platform for it. and that was really just i don't want to tell the self they have to franchise black women. then finally, the only excuse i give him a little sympathy for, which i needed to pay attention to world war i, but hopefully only war measures. he came up with so many roadblocks, and it was really just basic sexism at the end of the day. since he was also anti-semitic and racist, and sexist, i don't have a lot of nice things to say about woodrow wilson. >> [ laughter ] >> when you think about how this era is taught in schools, when i grow up, the big wars, the big depression, the big things that shook and shaped america. do the suffragists get the
credit they deserve? >> not even a little bit. i hope that's changing. i think the hotspot will change it right this minute, but in terms of ongoing curriculum, i think if you asked an average american to name a suffragist, they would come up with susan b. anthony. susan b. anthony was terrific. but she was dead by the time it actually passed. i don't think people learn this history anywhere near well enough. it's not just that, you know, we should learn more women's history and have these role models for girls, but you are actually just learning it wrong if you don't learn this history. it's actually inaccurate american history if you don't understand the biggest political moment of the 20 century. >> we are sitting in a year where we've had a presidential
election where, for the first time ever, one of the major party candidates was a woman, who, in fact, won the popular vote. we live in a time right now, where there is half a dozen women who were declared candidates for the presidency. do women vote, yes. women vote better than 50%. new york has lost its number one place, california. texas is second biggest. and florida is now the third. the number of women who vote in all of those places makes a difference. what should we draw from what we see now? women are always in the cabinet in many places of leadership. still, isn't it kind of a story? my gosh, the first woman something or other. we still have a hard time
pulling away from that secondary role. >> i think it's changing unbelievably quickly. in just one election cycle, gone from the first woman nominee of a major party to the fact that there are so many women running for the democratic nomination but it's not even remarkable. and i think all of the cabinets, and in government, it's going to change pretty fast. i think the fortune 500 ceos, and board members is changing more slowly, but i feel like every day, women outnumber men in medical schools, women outnumber men with graduate degrees. women are poised to take their place with 50% of the power. there just needs to be more men giving it up. i think that is all a legacy of
this movement. when the 19th amendment finally passed, the big organization became the league of women voters. they immediately recognized that their next role was to make women educated parts of the democracy. because voting is a habit, there was just logistics about how do you register? where do you go? is it safe? all of those things. those take a little while to become ingrained in the voting populace. it's been 100 years now, you know? as you say, women voters now outnumber male voters and their is huge female candidates. i think that will be more the norm than the exception going forward. >> one more question from me on what a remarkable location we are sitting in right now. lafayette square, president's park. the idea that the statues out
there represent the heroes, that the homes here, like decatur house, with stephen decatur and his strong wife susan, cameron house, which was, i forget. cameron was a senator, i think. senator cameron from pennsylvania had a gorgeous younger wife, i am told. who was having an affair with her neighbor henry adams. but the idea that this park -- and i can say this because i was married at st. john's church. my four children were all baptized there. two of them were married there. i had been covering the white house for over seven presidents. i was the youngest get on the staff. i had to go over every week and cover the president of the
united states going to church. it was the only church i new in town. what is it about the real estate, of the white house, that the suffragists realized was kind of their pot of gold? >> none of it was an accident. the cameron house headquarters originally, if you were going to set up a d.c. office for a political movement and wanted to have access to federal power. of course, they moved to the lafayette statue. they directly drew the connection with the marquis de lafayette. that was not just the most convenient statue at the white house. that was the symbolism of him. also, at the base of the statue, there is this naked female allegorical character reaching up to lafayette, and she is supposed to be america. they stood in front of female america with the marquis on the plains.
we've all seen these pictures of suffragists in front of the white house. just having a female in that space in the 19-teens was progressive already. it was president wilson's back yard. they were very deliberate about making sure they stood in his way almost literally. >> and of course, a century, or more of protests have been on that sidewalk. >> i think people basically live there. >> we would love to take your questions. we will try to get to as many as we can. we have a couple of microphones. why don't we start with one over here. do we have one over here? come on down here. let's give a microphone right here. we will start here, if that's
all right. and then over here. as you want to ask questions, please catch the eyes of our microphone handlers. we will get as many questions as we can. welcome. >> thank you so much for a remarkable evening. it is really a privilege to be in this space. a question to rebecca. rebecca, who could you point as your role model? and what did you learn from that role model? what do we need to learn from the role model to move forward? get a female president in the white house? get more females in the senate? and just have a tide turnover? we have to do something together. >> did you all hear the question? from the suffrage movement, i kind of pick and choose the best aspects.
alice paul was incredibly savvy, impressive, and bold. she also really punted badly on some race issues. when the delta sigma theta university from howard wanted to march in the parade, she told them they had to march in the back. they didn't. ida bee wells was also told she had to march in a segregated section, but she just went in with the illinois delegation. you want your heroes to be perfect, and they are super not. i would take her boldness. she is someone i would admire more than i would like. i don't know that i would want to have dinner with her. she was terrifying and really serious. cherrie catman was born with grassroots organizations in every state and continued to mayoral debate women to build on those. if you could kind of take the
best of them, personally, i also have a role model in my grandmother, lindsay boggs, who represented downtown new orleans in congress. when she was in the house, there were very few women in the house, and one of her political mottos was, you can get anything done you want as long as you don't want the credit for it, which is pretty radical, right? and also very female. so, she was born before women got the vote. she was born in 1916 and became the senior member of the u.s. house of representatives, and the ambassador to connecticut, so the fact that she lived this history and was able to exploit it for her own good will always be a role model. >> and watch her daughters and granddaughters. >> yes. it was very mccorkle for us.
>> let's pass this microphone on for the next question. >> thank you for the wonderful lecture. what was the reaction in old washington, the town, the hotels, to this massive group of thousands of, dare i say it, nasty women, coming to town for something untoward? >> for the parade or the movement? >> the march. what was the reaction in town? >> it was interesting leading up to the march. the police chief, richard sylvester was very nervous about this parade. he knew that his police force was going to be stretched thin. also, the end of pennsylvania avenue where the national theater is now was from roe, so all of the bars were there. he knew that women were
marching in the streets, which was already pretty shocking, plus drunk men in town for the inauguration, plus a police force made equal bad news. he kept saying, why don't you march down 16th street? alice paul kept saying, no. the whole point is to go down the corridors of power. i think washington didn't know how to make it through. the groups had always been based in new york. on the actual day of the parade, you saw the reaction. the crowd was terrible. and then, as more and more of these publicity stunts started to happen in town, i think those of us who are locals, you know, are equivalent was baffled. plenty were supportive. plenty were appalled. i think they sort of represented the national opinion in the microcosm, but the women
weren't run out of town on a rail or anything, and washington has always been a town where women could make their mark. going back to the early days at the turn of the 19th century, there were women who were able to start businesses here, and have more power than other places because there wasn't this kind of legacy history. certainly, people fled to the capital during war. there are roles for women when men are fighting. i think washington has always been an interesting place for women's history. >> we have a question right here. >> thank you, both of you. can you address the role of edith wilson, and how she felt about all this? >> edith wilson is such a fascinating character. president wilson's first wife ellen died during his first term. he married edith wilson, who was a socialite, and she was
anti-suffrage. occasionally, a theory will be floated that maybe, he came around because of her influence. there is no evidence for that. any public statements she made were anti-suffrage. his daughters were more sympathetic, but edith was not. by the end of his second term, wilson had had a stroke. edith wilson was running his administration much more than i think we will ever know, and i don't think there is some cache of papers that will show us how powerful edith wilson was. i think that will always remain a secret, but she was the power behind the throne for definitely the last year of his administration, and there is no reason to think she is the one who finally said, actually, women should vote. that would be a great story. he really came around to the
lukewarm degree that he came around at all for total political expediency reasons. he realized it was going to happen and he thought the democratic party should get some credit for it. >> next question. >> thank you both so much. i was wondering, once the 19th amendment passed, how did women outside of washington react, and were they eager to register to vote? i am just curious how that process happened. >> the reason there was that big push in the summer of 1920, and all of that focus on tennessee, was so women would have the vote in time for the 1920 presidential election. when the amendment was finally passed, there was celebration in the streets. there was jubilation all around. how that actually played out in women's voting behavior was a disappointment. some states perfectly made it
hard for women to register in time for the election but even where women could, it's a habit. they hadn't necessarily done that before. they didn't know what to do. they felt like it wasn't their place. there is no good data on voting by gender in those years, but anecdotally, women did not turn out in enormous numbers, and more importantly, they did not vote substantially different from the men in their socioeconomic class, so there is a bunch of handwringing editorials in the years after 1920 about women are just voting the way their husbands and fathers tell them to. yeah, or another interpretation could be that there race and socioeconomic class, and geographic location dictated their priorities more than their gender, and a shared that with the men in their lives. women didn't start voting
differently from men until the 80s. >> i was going to say, now the gender gap is something measurable, and politically significant. >> but that an artifact of the last 35 to 40 years. >> question right here. >> it is so brilliant the way you layout alice paul's strategy in the white house and congress, but clearly the actual strategy to get women's suffrage was a state or congressional strategy, so the decision to target the white house was really a political and publicity strategy. i wonder if you could talk about that because they wanted wilson, but that is not where the real power of the decision came from. >> that's absolutely true. the targeting of wilson only had so much actual political effect. it had tons of publicity affect. at the same time, and i don't want to imply that the national branch was doing the whole work and the national women's party was doing the publicity stunts. they also had this unbelievable
lobbying effort. they had a card file that became quite famous, where they kept two dozen cards on every member of congress, and they listed how he had voted on suffrage issues, if his wife was a suffrage, updated with quotations he had he's a golfer. get someone to play golf with him, or he is a drunk, so get him a drink. they are amazing. while all of these attention grabbing things were going on, there were also quiet bending of years for members who actually had the power. >> interesting point, too because that's a little more invisible. you make the political statement, and catch the
nation's attention. you can't get the spotlight, but you have to work behind the scenes. >> you are still doing that long, hard work. >> early suffragists were pro abolition, many of them, and also temperists. >> the temperance movement was the way a lot of women came to suffrage. a lot of women wanted temperance and realized they wouldn't get it without the vote, so they became suffragists as a sidebar to getting temperance. at first, the suffrage association was very useful to the suffragists. they learned how to be field organizers, raise money, be field organizers. the temperance movement was much better organized and historically more dug in. eventually, you know, when you associate yourself with another movement, you inherit their enemies, too.
as the 18th amendment became more and more likely and prohibition looked like it would happen, the suffrage unit pulled themselves away from temperance because they didn't want to make enemies, but it's really hard to amend the constitution, as it should be. you don't really want to support another amendment getting there before you. there was a lot of back and forth. there was a lot of overlap. the union temperance officially supported suffrage. there were a lot of women who became politically active through temperance and the move to suffrage, but ultimately, by the final count down, the suffrage movement was trying to backpedal that association. >> do i have time for one more question? please. you get the last word. >> you mentioned race. i was interested to see if you
had done any exploration of women of color in this movement, and if you could comment on some of the divisions between white women suffragists and women of color. >> yes. this is an area of scholarship i think you will see a ton more coming out in the centennial year. there is a lot more focus on paying attention to african- american suffragists with this centennial celebration. there should be because they have largely been written out of this history, specifically within the national women's party. after the 1913 march with segregation, there continued to be ongoing debates about how to welcome african-american suffragists or not, and there were some pretty ugly chapters in there. there were overt appeals on a state-by-state strategy of going to southern states and saying, we will overwhelm the
black vote. it's your best way to ensure white supremacy. it wasn't subtle. they said those words. women's suffrage is the way to ensure white supremacy. there were women like mary church terrel, who had like six masters degrees and spoke 10 languages, and was unbelievably impressive, so the white organization found her nonthreatening. she would get invited and then say you need to pay attention to race. and there were women like ida bee wells, who was not generally welcome at those meetings, but started african- american suffrage association. so, for the most part, there were separate movements. there were suffragist clubs that
were black, and clubs that weren't welcoming of black women. some would occasionally say we share all of your discrimination as women, plus we are black, and you have to pay better attention, but again, you want your heroes to be perfect. it is not part of the movement that you can be part of as a 20th century american woman. >> let me bring this to a conclusion by asking you one more question from the purple sashes to the pink pussycat hats. what should americans who want to level the playing field for women even more now, what should they draw? what important lesson or two can they draw from 100 years ago that will make a substantive difference now?
>> i think any political activist could move from the suffragist movement because they were successful, and, so whether your cause is that or something else, there is a lot of tactics you can steal from them. but specifically in terms of the contemporary women's movement, i think this idea of the radical and the mainstream balancing each other out, and making each other look good in contrast, embracing that each has a role to play, i think the idea of paying attention to how things look, in an instagram world. paying attention to how things work goes a long way toward shortcutting your message. i also think that declarative sentence that we demand a constitutional amendment, subject, verb, object, is pretty easy to get behind. it has a clear goal and a clear
end point. it's very easy to explain and understand. i think the contemporary women's movement demands a lot of things, but sometimes, the message can get muddied with all those different voices. >> so it really comes down to branding and messaging. please, thanked rebecca roberts. >> [ applause ] >> thank you very much rebecca roberts, and for all of you joining us tonight. for our viewers on c-span, if you want to know more about the subject or other matters relating to white house history, our website www.whitehousehistory.org is an excellent resource. as we close, i would like everyone to please exit through the courtyard. there are three doors. we have a medical situation here. we will exit through decatur
house and onto lafayette park. thank you so much and have a good evening. >> [ applause ] we are featuring american tv history programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan 3. lectures and history, american artifacts, real america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage on our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. thursday night on american history tv, the 50th anniversary of the woodstock music festival.
washington journal looks back at the 1969 woodstock music and art fair. a three-day rock concert that attracted nearly a half million people to a dairy farm in upstate new york. historian david farber joined us to talk about the social movements of the 60s leading up to the event. we also talked to festival cocreator artie cofield. he described how the three-day rock concert ended up in buffalo, 60 miles from the town of woodstock. that's thursday night starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on cspan 3. c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up thursday morning, president chris brown discusses proposals to prohibit gun violence, and ken chapman talks
about recent surveys of issues that are pivotal for conservatives in 2020, and the republican party's future agenda. drug policy alliance director cassandra frederick on the history of the war on drugs. watch cspan's washington journal live 7:00 eastern thursday morning. join the discussion. curator karen porter gave american history tv a guided tour of the national archives exhibits, marking the centennial of the 19th amendment. >> i am karen porter. i am going to show you around the rightfully hers exhibit today. before we head into the gallery, i wanted to talk about this one in particular out in the lobby in front of the entrance. it has a photograph of