Are you ready to celebrate? What are you planning to make a difference?
Are you ready to celebrate? What are you planning to make a difference?
Although not completely historically correct, this video featuring Inez Milholland in the 1913 suffrage parade still has many redeeming qualities. The graphics are terrific and the video highlights the amount of work and the associated momentum involved to bring about votes for women on the national level.
Let’s make sure Inez Milholland, the US suffrage martyr, gets the recognition she deserves in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
No woman has served on the Essex County Board of Supervisors since 2013. This resulted in the the group of outgoing lawmakers to set aside a chair for the next woman to join the board. Now, North Hudson Supervisor Stephanie DeZalia, has been sitting in the chair since her recent election. DeZalia, appointed to replace Ron Moore in December 2018, said the chair represented hard work, dedication and sacrifice. The chair was dedicated to suffrage activist Inez Milholland.
Milholland, a Lewis, NY resident, addressed the Essex County Board of Supervisors in September 1911 when she asked them to support the women’s suffrage bills then being considered by the state legislature. New York State women won the right to vote in 1917. Newcomb was the only town in Essex County to vote in favor in the amendment.
DeZalia can take the chair back to her town office, or keep it at its current location at the Old County Courthouse.
Highlights of the finding aid for Inez Milholland’s papers at Harvard University Library.
PLUS MUCH MORE…This is just a representative sampling of the available material.
Between 1910 and 1916, she became a central figure involved in planning, speaking, and raising funds for the drive for Votes for Women in New York State. She chaired meetings, answered opponents’ arguments, lobbied state legislators, and led suffrage parades up Fifth Avenue. Robed as the “free woman of the future,” she became nationally known for her role as a mounted herald leading the great March 3, 1913 suffrage procession in Washington, D.C. that involved thousands of supporters and political figures. Four months later, she married Dutch businessman Eugen Boissevain.
Attracted to law school by a desire to protect women and children, Inez faced rejection by Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard because she was a woman. New York University finally accepted her. Even before earning a law degree in 1912, she advised and supported working women and shirtwaist strikers who had no direct political representation or money for lawyers. She believed that “the way to right the wrongs of civilization and to strike a blow at poverty was by means of concerted and intelligent political action and the making of sound laws.”
THE STORY OF INEZ MILHOLLAND DESERVES TO BE TOLD
One of few women attorneys in New York, Inez specialized in criminal and divorce cases but faced prejudice and other obstacles to securing paying clients. She vigorously participated in a grand jury investigation into conditions at Sing Sing Prison and once raced to win a last minute reprieve for a laborer sentenced to die. Having seen the brutal conditions in prison, she spoke out for reform, opposed capital punishment, and assisted individual inmates with filing appeals and finding jobs.
Like her father, John Milholland, the first treasurer of the interracial NAACP, Inez opposed racial discrimination, supported the rights of workers, and advocated a wide range of reforms including international peace. At the beginning of World War I, she joined Henry Ford’s “Peace Ship,” which unsuccessfully tried to steer the European warring parties into mediation.
INEZ KEPT ON GOING…AND FINALLY THAT LED TO HER PASSING
Woman suffrage, however, is the cause to which she is most closely linked, and the cause to which she gave her final effort. Expanding on her years of experience as a leader in New York City, Inez became a “Flying Envoy” for the National Woman’s Party on an October 1916 election year speaking tour of the west. In city after city in seven western states, she spoke with passion and conviction to women who were new voters: “Now, for the first time in our history, women have the power to enforce their demands and the weapon with which to fight for woman’s liberation.” Barnstorming for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she declared, “Liberty must be fought for. And, women of the nation, this is the time to fight.”
When her health failed during the strenuous tour, Inez put off medical treatment rather than quit. In late October, exhausted and overcome by pain, the young suffragist collapsed while demanding liberty on a stage in Los Angeles. A month later, despite repeated blood transfusions, she died of pernicious anemia, having just turned 30. Fellow suffragists recognized that her leadership, love of democracy, and devotion to women made her a martyr to the cause.
THE GRAVE OF INEZ MILHOLLAND IN LEWIS, NY IS A PILGRIMAGE
Inez was buried in Essex County, New York, and on Christmas Day 1916 the Woman’s Party held an unprecedented memorial for her under the rotunda in Statuary Hall in the national Capitol. She became the first woman to be so honored. A week later, aroused by her sacrifice, suffragists began to picket the White House demanding that President Woodrow Wilson support for the suffrage amendment. Throughout the year, their banners carried her final plea: “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” Inez inspired thousands of suffragists through the final, climactic years of the movement and her memory lived on in the ensuing years.
Inez Milholland Boissevain spent her life seeking justice, equality, and civil rights for American women. Because of her work, and the persistence of tens of thousands of American suffragists from 1848 to 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures women’s voting rights now and for future generations.
IT’S NO WONDER THAT A US REPRESENTATIVE NOMINATED INEZ MILHOLLAND FOR A PRESIDENTAL CITIZENS’ MEDAL!
Inez Milholland was a lawyer specializing in criminal and divorce practice; she zealously advocated a variety of reform causes, including women’s suffrage, abolition of the death penalty, and the rights of working people. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she graduated from Vassar College in 1909, and received an LL.B. degree from New York University in 1912. In July 1913, she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a New York importer, of Dutch citizenship. The resulting change in her citizenship status threatened to exclude Milholland from law practice, and she quickly became involved in attempts to repeal the offending legislation.Proclaiming herself a Socialist, Milholland joined the Women’s Trade Union League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Fabian Society of England. In 1915, as a war correspondent in Italy, she wrote a series of pacifist articles and as a result was expelled by the Italian government late that summer.In 1916, Milholland took part in a garment workers’ strike and was instrumental in securing a last-minute reprieve for Charles Stielow, a West Shelby, New York farmer accused of murder and sentenced to be executed in the electric chair.Concurrently, Milholland was becoming increasingly active in the women’s suffrage movement. She joined the Congressional Union, and, though suffering from pernicious anemia, undertook a speaking tour of the West in support of suffrage. In September she collapsed during a speech in Los Angeles and died ten weeks later, on November 25, 1916. A memorial service was held by her suffrage associates in Statuary Hall, Washington D.C., on Christmas Day, 1916. She was buried at her parents’ estate in Essex County, New York.Some years after Milholland’s death, Eugen Jan Boissevain married Edna St. Vincent Millay. This collection was subsequently passed on to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma Millay, from whom it was purchased by the Schlesinger Library.
Follow the centennial blog launched during the 100th observance of Inez Milholland’s death in 2016. Follow SuffrageCentennials.com
We’re giving you plenty of heads up. Months to plan for something special in August of 2019. There’s the birthday of Inez on August 6th, and then on August 26th, Women’s Equality Day. More people than ever are aware of the US suffrage martyr, Inez Milholland. And we want to make sure the awareness extends into 2020. What are you planning? There are plenty of resources to make your event special. Start with the film, “Forward into Light.” Find out more at InezMilholland.org
LetsRockTheCradle.com is a public service for interested people and the media about the suffrage centennial celebration in 2020 when US women will have been voting for 100 years.