Long be­fore pink hats, fe­male protesters, some on horse­back, marched in D.C. for women’s rights.

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On March 3, 1913, the day be­fore Woodrow Wil­son’s in­au­gu­ral pa­rade, a pair of women mounted two horses near the U.S. Capi­tol. Jane

Burleson was astride a dark horse, Inez Mil­hol­land atop a white one. They were about to lead a pro­ces­sion of 5,000 sup­port­ers of women’s suf­frage. If the route was straight­for­ward — 15 blocks up Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue — the day would not be.

For many of the thou­sands of tourists who had come to Washington to cel­e­brate the new pres­i­dent, the women’s march was a cu­ri­ous sideshow. For some, it was a provo­ca­tion.

To­day we might call them coun­ter­protesters. No sooner had the suf­frag­ists set off when crowds surged from the side­walks and into the av­enue, blocking the marchers’ way. Pho­tos from the time show that it was a mostly male crowd: bowler hats as far as the eye could see.

“Those men be­haved badly,” said Re­becca Boggs Roberts, au­thor of a new book, “Suf­frag­ists in Washington, DC: The 1913 Pa­rade and the Fight for the Vote.”

Said Roberts, “They tripped the women, spit on them, yelled things.”

That in­cluded some of the po­lice­men who were sup­pos­edly there to keep or­der but joined in the jeer­ing.

Iron­i­cally, march or­ga­nizer Alice Paul was de­lighted by the re­sponse. The young suf­frag­ist knew that just as well-be­haved women sel­dom made his­tory, well-ex­e­cuted pa­rades rarely made head­lines. Paul had de­clined a sug­ges­tion from the District’s po­lice chief that the march be held on a safer thor­ough­fare — 16th Street NW, for ex­am­ple.

“Alice Paul said: ‘I don’t want safe. I want to march where men march. I want all of the sym­bol­ism of go­ing through the heart of fed­eral Washington,’ ” Roberts said.

The pa­rade came at a time when suf­frage ef­forts seemed mori­bund. The move­ment had been around for nearly six decades with pre­cious lit­tle suc­cess. Paul and the Na­tional Amer­i­can Woman Suf­frage As­so­ci­a­tion wanted to shake things up. They bor­rowed some of the con­fronta­tional style of their coun­ter­parts in Eng­land, where Paul had stud­ied.

Some, but not all. Two weeks be­fore the pa­rade, suf­frag­ists in Eng­land had set off ex­plo­sives in an un­oc­cu­pied coun­try house that was be­ing built for Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Lloyd Ge­orge.

U.S. suf­frag­ists didn’t want to go that far, but, Roberts said, “just be­ing out in pub­lic and speak­ing your mind was a pretty rad­i­cal thing for gen­tly bred women to do in 1913.”

Months of plan­ning went into the pa­rade. Floats were con­structed. Ora­tions writ­ten. Marchers were or­ga­nized ei­ther by home state or pro­fes­sion. (The writ­ers who par­tic­i­pated wore match­ing out­fits that they’d stained with ink.)

Though the women were united in their de­sire for equal rights, there were un­for­tu­nate di­vi­sions. A soror­ity from Howard Univer­sity wanted to march with the col­lege women, but Paul and her com­mit­tee feared that if the mem­bers were al­lowed to, South­ern par­tic­i­pants would drop out in protest. The black women were in­structed to march at the back of the pa­rade.

This didn’t stop jour­nal­ist Ida B. Wells, who marched with the del­e­ga­tion from Illi­nois.

“I have to say, the racial legacy has some highly em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments as seen from a 21stcen­tury lens,” Roberts said.

If the marchers weren’t quite woke when it came to race, they were mod­ern in other ways. They un­der­stood the power of mes­sag­ing and would have rec­og­nized the im­pulses that led hun­dreds of thou­sands of pinkhat­ted demon­stra­tors to de­scend on Washington 104 years later to protest Pres­i­dent Trump’s treat­ment of women.

“Alice Paul would have loved so­cial me­dia,” Roberts said. “All those quo­ta­tions on [suf­frag­ists’] ban­ners? Those are tweets.”

The sign that was car­ried at the head of the pa­rade in 1913 was cer­tainly sim­ple and di­rect: “We de­mand an amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States en­fran­chis­ing the women of this coun­try.” Just 103 char­ac­ters long, leav­ing room for hash­tags.

Cre­at­ing a walk­ing tour of suf­frag­ist graves in Con­gres­sional

Ceme­tery in­spired Roberts to write the book. Given her lin­eage, it was prob­a­bly in­evitable. Her mother is jour­nal­ist Cokie

Roberts. Lindy Boggs, the for­mer diplo­mat and Demo­cratic con­gress­woman from Louisiana, was her grand­mother.

“You don’t come from a ma­tri­ar­chal fam­ily like mine without a healthy re­spect for women’s his­tory,” she said. “My grand­mother was born in 1916, be­fore women got the vote, and ended up a mem­ber of Congress. She moved through these changes but al­ways made the point that you owed some­thing to the gen­er­a­tion that came be­fore us.”

In the end, a cavalry de­tach­ment from Fort Myer helped to clear the street. Even so, it took about three hours for the suf­frag­ist marchers to reach the Trea­sury Build­ing on that frigid March day. Seven years later, Amer­i­can women could vote.

(For in­for­ma­tion on Roberts’s up­com­ing talks, go to


Suf­frag­ist Inez Mil­hol­land is seen dur­ing the Na­tional Amer­i­can Woman Suf­frage As­so­ci­a­tion pa­rade on March 3, 1913, when 5,000 sup­port­ers of women’s suf­frage marched up Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue.

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