1914 Suffrage Parade: Celebration and Call to Action

By Miranda Ridener – Loyola University Chicago, Masters in Public History Program, Fall 2019

On May 2, 1914 women and men took to the Chicago streets to parade in support of woman’s suffrage. The Illinois Equal Suffrage Association organized the parade under Grace Wilbur Trout’s presidency. The parade highlighted the national suffrage movement and coincided with other state suffrage organizations’ actions. Even though women had already won the right to vote for some offices in Illinois in 1913, Illinois suffragists continued their fight for full suffrage within their own state as well as for national suffrage. The parade was a chance to celebrate voting in Illinois, to encourage women to exercise their newly won rights and register to vote, and to call for activism in support of full national suffrage.  

Grace Wilbur Trout wearing a sash, holding an American flag, marching north on South Michigan Avenue, May 1914, Chicago History Museum – DN-0062630. https://explore.chicagocollections.org/image/chicagohistory/7/

The Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, which planned the 1914 Suffrage Parade, formed in 1869, organized by both men and women. Throughout the state, association members organized speeches, lobbied politicians, and partnered with labor organizations. The Association was part of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the parade was part of national suffrage efforts [1].

An article on March 26, 1914 in the Chicago Tribune announced the parade – “Women Decide on Great Parade.” The article provided the date, May 2, reasons for the parade, and the projected path, as well as detailing the protection available for the marchers. The parade route would be down “Michigan avenue from Peck court to Randolph street” [2]. The article noted that “mounted policemen will be asked to protect the marchers from the crowds” and a “special squad of women” would also stand guard “should the police fail to afford sufficient protection” [3]. For suffragists to note that the police might not protect them suggests that the activists in Illinois knew there was still a suffrage fight ahead. They were also recalling the events a year before, in March 1913, when a suffrage parade in Washington D.C. had gotten out of hand (more here).


Miss Lillian Westerlund, Miss Magdalen Alexander, and Miss Marion Nelson wearing hats designed for the 1914 Suffrage Parade.
 Source: Hats for May 2nd Parade, Chicago Daily Tribune, April 25, 1914.

The next step in the parade organization was selecting the attire. Two days after the previously mentioned article, another piece came out, “Hat for All Ages, Suffrage Issue.” This article mentions that “the parade hats, which have caused more confusion, discussion, and anxiety than any other one detail of the parade, are again serving to disturb plans for the demonstration” [4]. The design for the hats was displayed in the Chicago Tribune almost a month later. However, these hats were not the only attire requirement.

A subsequent article, “Forbid High Heels in March,” outlined the attire the parade participants were to wear as well as marcher protocol: “Marchers should be requested to wear loose, easy shoes with low heels and wide comfortable skirts. Ultra-fashionable skirts are impossible for a marching step. It is especially recommended that all marchers dress in white” [5]. Other instructions in the article forbade talking and directed marchers to keep their heads facing forward.

In addition to establishing guidelines, it was essential to recruit marchers. The Illinois Equal Suffrage Association gathered parade participants by reaching out to other groups. They did this in two ways. Members of the Association asked other groups they were in and put out calls in newspapers. For example, according to the Cook County Socialist Party Records, Josephine Conger Kaneko recommended that socialist women join the parade [6]. An example of the second approach is in an article from The Daily Chronicle of De Kalb, Illinois: “Extending an invitation to all women and men of Illinois to join in the demonstration, Mrs. Grace Wilbur Trout today announced details of the monster suffrage parade which will be held in Chicago … “we are going to march together in the same caps and carrying the same flags.” [7]

Image of girls and young women carrying flags, marching in a line, leading a contingent of suffragists along South Michigan Avenue. Women’s suffrage parade, girls and young women carrying flags, May 1914, Chicago History Museum – DN-0062620. https://explore.chicagocollections.org/image/chicagohistory/71/0k26n/

The unification Trout hoped for did not last long. The day of the parade, the Chicago Tribune released an article discussing the absence of NAWSA leaders Jane Addams and Louise DeKoven Bowen from the march due to a dispute between the national and Illinois state associations. However, after the parade, Addams and Bowen both stated that their national office positions were the reasons for not participating in the Illinois parade and they thought “the parade was a great success” [8].

The parade was deemed a success by the organizers as well. Trout recalled that “over 15,000 women marched down Michigan Boulevard” [9]. The white outfits, matching hats, and flags made a statement. Illinois women had won limited rights to vote in their state, but the fight for full state suffrage was not over. Furthermore, Illinois women could not stop at their state lines, and their parade showed they were not ready to give up the quest for national suffrage.

Notes

[1] “Illinois And The 19Th Amendment (U.S. National Park Service”, Nps.Gov, Last modified 2019, https://www.nps.gov/articles/illinois-and-the-19th-amendment.htm

[2] “Women Decide on Great Parade: Ruled out of Grant Park, They Will Gather There to Start Demonstration.” Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1914.

[3] “Women Decide on Great Parade.”

[4] “Hat for All Ages, Suffrage Issue: Leaders of May 2 Parade Want Uniform 10 Cent Headgear Becoming Both to Fat and Thin Followers.” Chicago Tribune, March 28, 1914.

[5] “Forbid High Heels in March: Leaders Also Want No Hobbles and Gossip in May 2nd Parade.” Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1914.

[6] Typescript of Regular Meeting of the Cook County Delegate Committee, April 12, 1914, Box 1, Folder 3, Cook Count Socialist Part Records, University of Illinois Chicago Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections, Chicago, Illinois.

[7] “Suffrage Fold to Have Parade: Big Demonstration Will Be Held in Chicago on May 2.” The Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, Illinois), April 23, 1914.

[8] “Suffrage ‘War Clouds’ Gone and Hatchet Buried: Miss Jane Addams and Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen Hold Peace Conference.” The Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1914.

[9] Grace Wilbur Trout. “Side Lights on Illinois Suffrage History.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 13, no. 2 (1920):169.

Sources

Primary

Trout, Grace Wilbur. “Side Lights on Illinois Suffrage History.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 13, no. 2 (1920): 145-79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40194491.

Typescript of Regular Meeting of the Cook County Delegate Committee, April 12, 1914, Box 1, Folder 3, Cook County Socialist Party Records, Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Secondary

“Illinois And The 19th Amendment (U.S. National Park Service)”. Nps.Gov, Last modified 2019. https://www.nps.gov/articles/illinois-and-the-19th-amendment.htm.

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