PIONEER OF WOMEN’S INAUGURAL MARCHES – INEZ MILHOLLAND – IS NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CITIZENS MEDAL FROM OBAMA
When women march in Washington on January 21, 2017, they are following in the footsteps of forerunner Inez Milholland. Riding a white horse, Inez led the historic, commanding, and impressive 1913 march to demand women’s right to vote. Now is also the time to award Inez Milholland the Presidential Citizens Medal for her sacrifice and commitment to women’s equality. Milholland was nominated for the medal in 2015.
The 2017 march will be the second historic women’s march in the U.S. Capitol linked to a presidential inauguration. The first was the great woman suffrage demonstration on March 3, 1913, just before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. The leading mounted herald of that spectacular Votes for Women march, which included between 8,000 to 10,000 participants, was Inez Milholland (1886-1916). Her dynamic and youthful Joan of Arc image was featured in newspapers across the nation. Three years later, Milholland died during an intense suffrage campaign at age 30 and became the nation’s suffrage martyr.
The year 2016 is the centennial of Milholland’s death. The National Women’s History Project (nwhp.org) has been sponsoring a year-long centennial observance. The release of a new film, “Forward into Light,” by Martha Wheelock of Wild West Women has spread the story of Milholland’s ultimate sacrifice to thousands of individuals, schools, libraries, and community groups across the nation (InezMilholland.org).
Leading up to the 2017 women’s march, activists and observers from around the nation and in other parts of the world will be watching to see if President Obama awards Inez Milholland a Presidential Citizens Medal before he leaves office. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier of California nominated Milholland in November 2015 for the award and over one thousand individuals and organizations have registered their support for the nomination on a petition to the President.
Filmmaker Martha Wheelock noted, “We gather strength by viewing current events in the larger context of American history. By observing the centennial of Inez Milholland’s death, we are writing her back into history. By recognizing Inez as the mother of women’s marches in the nation’s capitol, we honor our rich national history and her legacy.”
Sandra Weber, author of “The Woman Suffrage Statue,” which was published this year by McFarland & Company, also emphasized the connection between the 1913 march and the 2017 one. Both marches were organized to mobilize support for women’s rights. “The objective is to find the strength and courage to take up the struggle, to consecrate oneself to the cause of human rights, to never turn back, to go forward with new devotion and new faith,” Weber said. In her book, Weber cites Inez Milholland as an important catalyst in the later suffrage movement.
Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association in Lorton, Virginia, has joined with the National Women’s History Project in California and other groups and individuals across the nation in a growing network building toward 2020, the centennial of American women winning the right to vote.
The present, past and future come full circle as these organizations join hands during the final days of the Obama administration. They are expressing support for Inez Milholland to receive a Presidential Citizens Medal.
“The Presidential Citizens Medal is symbolic and it will offer tangible recognition of the long and difficult struggle of American women and their male allies to tip the balance toward equal voting rights,” noted Molly Murphy MacGregor, executive director and co-founder of the National Women’s History Project. The NWHP sponsored the yearlong Inez Milholland Centennial campaign, whose co-chairs Marguerite Kearns and Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr. have prepared a petition and final support documents for presentation to the White House.
“One hundred years ago, while on the campaign trail in the west, Inez Milholland predicted that ‘Victory is in sight.’ A century later, Americans are still coming to terms with how the dream of equality has not yet been realized,” noted Los Angeles filmmaker Wheelock. She has distributed “Forward into Light,” her documentary about Inez, free during this centennial year. The DVD is available through InezMilholland.org. A petition supporting the nomination and more information are available at http://www.InezMilhollandCentennial.com.
RECENT BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
PUBLIC RADIO COVERAGE: http://wamc.org/post/petition-supports-ny-suffragist-presidential-citizens-medal
Article by John Tepper Marlin “A Suffrage Warrior”
Article by Sandra Weber in History News Network