This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the March 3, 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. Among the women who marched were sorority/fraternity women. Pi Beta Phi Carrie Chapman Catt was one of the speakers.
Pi Beta Phi’s former Grand President Emma Harper Turner was one of the marchers joining the George Washington University collegians and alumnae. Goucher College collegians and alumnae were in full force, too, as the campus in Baltimore was within easy traveling distance. Edna L. Stone, an alumna of the Pi Beta Phi chapter there, wrote an account for the Arrow of Pi Beta Phi. Several Kappa Alpha Theta members from the Goucher chapter also marched. Marching in the parade was one of the first activities that the founders of Delta Sigma Theta did after creating the sorority at Howard University.
Alpha Chi Omega, Myra Jones, who would later serve as Alpha Chi’s National President, wrote in the April 1913 Lyre of Alpha Chi Omega, “For months before it took place it was the subject of the liveliest comment by friends and foes alike and of headlines by the press; and for weeks afterward, thanks to those who opposed and ridiculed and jeered, it has enjoyed even greater publicity.” She went on to comment, “No woman who, without protection in this our capital city, struggled though that irresponsible mob, subjected to jeers and insults on every side, can ever again be lukewarm or indifferent on the subject of women’s suffrage.”
Emilie Margaret White, an alumna of the Pi Beta Phi chapter at George Washington University, marched. She was one of those women who was subjected to the jeers and insults of anti-suffrage men who were in town for Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. She graduated with a undergraduate degree in three years, studied twice in Europe and earned a Master’s from George Washington University. Although she was a teacher of Latin and German at Central High School, she marched with the college students. She was a member of Columbian Women, an organization of many of the first women to attend the university who organized to help other women become college graduates. The Columbian Women award a scholarship named in her honor. She later provided testimony to the Senate Committee (her name was misspelled as Emily). As a testament to the strength of character, I am including all of her testimony.
The witness was duly sworn by the chairman
The Chairman. What is your full name?
Miss White. Emily (sic) Margaret White.
The Chairman. Where do you live?
Miss White. 2568 University Place.
The Chairman. You are one of the teachers here?
Miss White. Yes.
The Chairman. You were in the teachers section of the parade?
Miss White. I marched with the college women with the group from the George Washington University.
The Chairman. Were you on the Avenue before the parade occurred?
Miss White. I was, yes.
The Chairman. What time did you reach the Avenue on the 3rd of March?
Miss White. I think it was between half past 1 and 2. I arrived at the Capitol about 2.
The Chairman. Where did you first reach the Avenue at the Treasury Building?
Miss White. Yes, at the Treasury.
The Chairman. You reached there at about what time?
Miss White. I should judge about half past 1 or a quarter after 1.
The Chairman. And you came from there down the Avenue?
Miss White. Yes.
The Chairman. What condition did you find the Avenue in?
Miss White. At Fifteenth Street the people seemed there were many people standing there in crowds but they were behind the ropes on the sidewalk. Beyond Twelfth Street I did not notice the Avenue. The car was very crowded and I did not notice it again until I reached the Capitol.
The Chairman. So you cannot say what the condition was?
Miss White. No.
The Chairman. You saw ropes along the curbing?
Miss White. I saw them as far as I observed the Avenue.
The Chairman. And the crowd packed behind them?
Miss White. Yes.
The Chairman. What time did you start in the parade?
Miss White. I think it was 20 minutes past 3 that our section started.
The Chairman. When you reached the Peace Monument what was the condition?
Miss White. The people were all standing behind the ropes and the police seemed to be in control of them.
The Chairman. Were there police there?
Miss White. Yes there were police.
The Chairman. Do you remember how many policemen you saw about the Peace Monument?
Miss White. I remember two at the place I observed them.
The Chairman. Were they in uniform
Miss White. They were.
The Chairman. What were they doing?
Miss White. They were pushing back the crowd.
The Chairman. I understood you to say the crowd was all behind the ropes.
Miss White. The crowd was pushing forward and they kept them back there.
The Chairman. Were they walking then in front of the crowd on the Avenue close to the curb?
Miss White. I am referring now to the place at the Peace Monument at the curbing along there.
The Chairman. Yes.
Miss White. They walked in a very small radius.
The Chairman. That was around the monument?
Miss White. Yes
The Chairman. What about the street?
Miss White. The Avenue up to between Third and Four and a half Street was well cleared.
The Chairman. Were all the people there practically behind the ropes?
Miss White. I think so. No, they were not behind the ropes. They were out in the street and they were pushing forward toward the car tracks.
The Chairman. Were there any policemen along there.
Miss White There was one policeman in uniform and one in plain clothes dress and an officer. The officer was ordering the other two men to push back the crowd and they were doing it just as well as it was possible to do at that point.
The Chairman. You say at that point, where do you mean?
Miss White. Between up in the first two squares beyond the Peace Monument.
The Chairman. Were there no policemen walking up and down the Avenue to keep the crowd back?
Miss White. I saw these three in just two squares.
The Chairman. They were not walking up and down the Avenue were they?
Miss White. They were pushing the people back. They were doing it with physical force.
The Chairman. At that particular place.
Miss White. At that particular place.
The Chairman. Did they keep the crowd back very well there?
Miss White. They did pretty well on those two squares.
The Chairman. Were these policemen close together?
Miss White. Yes they were right together.
The Chairman. Working right together?
Miss White. The three. The two men under orders from the officer.
The Chairman. What was the officer doing?
Miss White. He was walking along up the square and ordering the men to keep them back and he was himself trying to keep them back.
The Chairman. In front of the crowd?
Miss White. Yes.
The Chairman. Did they seem to keep the crowd back pretty well?
Miss White. They did pretty well in that one place.
The Chairman. Did you have plenty of room for marching there?
Miss White. In those two squares.
The Chairman. Did you march four or five abreast?
Miss White. Four abreast.
The Chairman. What was the condition after Fourth Street?
Miss White. Between Third and Four and a half Streets the crowd surged out so that we marched with our arms overlapping and it grew worse until we got to Seventh Street where the crowd was so dense that it was then necessary to fall out and march in double file.
The Chairman. Were there any policemen there after you got past Third Street?
Miss White. Yes. I saw a number of policemen in uniform and a great number of plain clothes men.
The Chairman. What were they doing?
Miss White. They seemed to be making no effort whatever to keep the crowd back.
The Chairman. Were they just standing in the crowd?
Miss White. They were standing in the crowd and laughing and joining in with the crowd.
The Chairman. And the crowd was getting closer and closer all the time?
Miss White. It was crowding so it was very difficult to walk I was afraid there might be violence at that point when we got to Seventh Street.
The Chairman. You saw no policemen from Third to Seventh Streets making any efforts to keep the crowd back?
Miss White. As I remember, no.
The Chairman. No mounted police along there?
Miss White. I saw no mounted police until we got in front of the New Willard Hotel.
The Chairman. What was the condition from Seventh Street on?
Miss White. I should say from Seventh Street to Twelfth Street the march was equally difficult. Twice in that time we had to fall out and march in double file. The crowd were pressing around just as closely as they could and once a man started to cross over between the line of march but changed his mind and went back and there was no policeman there to prevent him at all.
The Chairman. Then did anything happen along there that you think you ought to tell the committee about?
Miss White. I have here a signed statement from one of the captains of the High School companies. Shall I give it to you? It is what he heard and I heard myself another thing.
The Chairman. You may tell what you heard.
Miss White. I heard a policeman when the crowd pushed forward very hard he made no effort whatever to push them back. He said with a laugh, ‘Stop pushing or you will get me into this procession.’ I heard another I am not sure it was a policeman. It was either a policeman or the man next to him.
Senator Pomerene. Can you identify that first policeman?
Miss White. I cannot.
Senator Pomerene. Or give us any means of identifying him?
Miss White. I have no means of identifying him.
The Chairman. Was he in uniform?
Miss White. Yes, in uniform in regular uniform. This other one as I say I am not sure was a policeman. It may have been the man next to him who in an attempt to imitate a woman’s voice said ‘Stop pushing please,’ but made no effort to stop the pushing.
The Chairman. What is the substance of the statement you have? Of course it is not evidence but perhaps it will lead us to some evidence.
Miss White. One policeman went up to this boy as he stood at Fifteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and he said ‘Why do you not kid the women more?’
The Chairman. What is the name of the boy?
Miss White. J.E. Hoover.*
The Chairman. Do you know where he lives?
Miss White. I do not know.
The Chairman. He is the high school captain?
Miss White. Yes.
The Chairman. Of what school?
Miss White. Central High School.
The Chairman. He was not one of the Boy Scouts was he?
Miss White. No he was not.
The Chairman. You do not know whether he took the number of this policeman’s badge?
Miss White. He did not, he said.
The Chairman. Are there any other facts you desire to call to the attention of the committee?
Miss White. I think that is all I have to say.
The Chairman. Did you see any personal indignities offered to anybody in the parade?
Miss White. No I did not.
Senator Dillingham. You say, Miss White, that the police were laughing with the crowd. What were they laughing at?
Miss White. They were laughing at the remarks the crowd made. I happened to be marching next to the young lady who carried the George Washington University banner and that was made the butt of many remarks. The police seemed to enjoy the remarks as much as anybody in the crowd. They laughed with the others.
The Chairman. That is all.
* J.E. Hoover is J. Edgar Hoover. He graduated from Central High School in 1913 and was the class valedictorian. He entered George Washington University that fall as a law student in the night school, in the days before an undergraduate degree was required for law school.
© Fran Becque www.fraternityhistory.com
My friend and Kappa Alpha Theta’s staff archivist, Noraleen Young, has a wonderful post about the parade: http://www.kappaalphatheta.org/alumnae/blogs/fraternity_blog.cfm?entryId=EA9B6E39-C29B-B023-E6D084DF682978C6&?WT.mc_id=fraternityblog-womenssuffragemarchcentennial-02282013-TWT&from=twitter