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Sep 30

Women's Suffrage - Woodrow Wilson in 1918

Posted on September 30, 2019 at 1:24 PM by Jamesan Gramme

On this day in history, 101 years ago, the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, made a speech that would forever impact women’s rights.

When Wilson was elected in 1912, Suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) organized a march to Washington, D.C. with the following purpose: "to march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.” The protest would take place March 3, 1913, just as many Americans were filing to the nation’s capital to see Wilson’s inauguration the next day. The march or parade as it was also called held several prominent speakers, such as Helen Keller.

Unfortunately, many of the marchers were tripped, shoved, and assaulted, with even some police participating in harassment. By the end, 100 women were hospitalized, but their mistreatment helped to amplify the event. It led to major news stories and even Congressional Hearings, although it would be seven more years before their goal was finally achieved.

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Women's Suffrage March, 1913. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In the meantime, President Wilson would only express what historians note as “lukewarm” sentiments towards female suffrage; However, his tune seemed to have drastically changed by September 30th, 1918. Appealing to Congress, Wilson spoke of the great impact women had made in industries and along the home front, while America’s men were overseas during World War I.

“We have made partners of women in this war…Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege, and right?”

Thomaston Times, July 27, 1917.

Another factor said to have impacted the President in this change was the treatment of White House picketers in June, 1917. The women, who had been standing outside the White House gates for months, were taken into custody for obstructing traffic. Once in custody, they received beatings, faced unsanitary conditions, and were force fed after they had pledged a hunger strike to oppose their arrest. After hearing of these conditions, Wilson made his fateful remarks to Congress. Although the bill died in the Senate, Congress finally passed the 19th amendment in 1920, granting women the right to vote. Although Georgia never officially ratified this amendment until 50 years later, in 1970.

So, where does Upson fit in during this time? It should be noted that the women of Upson County were actively doing their part to support the war effort. In fact, it was the women of Thomaston who organized the first Red Cross Chapter here in the county in 1917. Additionally, the local DAR chapter had a largely successful “sweater fund” which collected donations for sweaters, socks, medical supplies, and other essentials which were sent overseas.

Thomaston Times, June 22, 1917.

As stated in this 11/20/1920 issue of the Thomaston Times, local women were finally able to vote for the first time on December 13, the following month. However, see the list of conditions required for voting. All “non-white” ladies were completely excluded. Unfortunately, African American women were not granted the right to vote until many years later when the 24th amendment was passed in 1964.

Thomaston Times, November 20, 1920.