The fight for birth control, the right to vote, and everything in between
The Women’s March on Washington erupted over the weekend to the tune of 500,000 protesters with boots on the ground in the nation’s capital. Estimates came in from Los Angeles at around 750,000. And there were protests around the world: Paris, London, Mexico City, and in more than 600 other cities. Marchers walked for women’s rights and human rights, including gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights. In all, it’s been reported that some 3.3 million people took part in what is rounding out to be the largest day of protest in U.S. history. But this isn’t the first time women have marched for equality for all.
Smithsonian.com has put together a fantastic list of past suffragettes who’ve paved the way for the kind of demonstrations we saw happen over inauguration weekend. The publication’s examples show us that fighting for rights isn’t new, but also that it can be complex and fraught.
The website also shows us that biased arguments against women marching are also not new. Inez Milholland had to use her youth and beauty in 1913 to help advance the women’s vote movement and as women suffered from charges against her “respectability” and “unfemininity.” Milholland fought for women’s suffrage to her last breath. She literally collapsed on stage at the age of 30 in 1917 and, according to the Smithsonian, her last words were, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
There were so many others who paved the way, as well. Alice Paul is the woman responsible for the original women’s march on Washington in 1913.
As a member of NAWSA, the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, Paul and her friends Lucy Burns and Crystal Eastman put forth an audacious plan: a parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to coincide with President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. The parade featured the aforementioned Milholland astride a white horse, majestically trotting at the front. It did not end well. They were heckled and eventually pounced upon by male bystanders.
The suffragettes of the past dealt with physical violence, jailing, forced feedings, and torture on their quest to for equality. But from Ida B. Wells to Sojourner Truth, the women’s movement is informed by those who gave their lives for the rights of women.
For a more comprehensive list, check out Smithsonian.com.