Hungering for the right to vote

More than 8,000 marched for women’s suffrage on March 3, 1913, led by a grand marshal identified only as Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson (center, on horseback). / Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress

One hundred years ago this weekend, thousands of American women hungering for the right to vote converged on Washington, D.C. Their 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade – staged on that March 3 to capitalize on crowds gathering for the next day’s inauguration of Woodrow Wilson – reportedly was the first major civil rights demonstration in the nation’s capital.

Food companies already had designs to liberate women from some kitchen chores – but more on that later.

On that distant March day, more than 5,000 suffragists lined up with bands, banners and floats, and an estimated 500,000 people awaited them along Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Most parade watchers were not friendly to the cause of women getting the vote and began attacking the women,” said Linda Denny, an organizer for this Sunday’s re-enactment of the parade, part of the centennial celebration honoring the marchers. It leaves the U.S. Capitol at 9 a.m. for the White House.

This is the program cover from the procession. / Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress

But “the police protection that had been promised failed” the marchers, the newspaper Woman’s Journal and Suffrage News  reported under the headline “Parade struggles to victory despite disgraceful scenes.”

“… Women were spit upon, slapped in the face, tripped up, pelted with burning cigar stubs, and insulted by jeers and obscene language,” the account read.

More than 300 people were injured, some seriously enough to be hospitalized. Local police reportedly did little to intervene, so U.S. Army “troops on horseback from Fort Myers had to be brought in to quell the uproar,” Denny said.

Suffragists demonstrated outside the White House, raising banners that asked, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

Women finally were granted the right to vote in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment.

Those early feminists might have fortified themselves with chicken a la king, tomato pie or even canned cranberries, speculates Susan Delbert, chef at the National Press Club, where the centennial celebration kicked off Thursday evening. She’d prepared appetizers to follow a discussion of the media’s role in suffrage.

Delbert paged through a suffrage cookbook for ideas, then searched online for foods or ingredients typical of the time. Among the bite-size offerings:

Chicken a la king tart, the creamed chicken dish attributed to various people, including Philadelphia hotel cook William King.

● Turkey and cranberry bruschetta, because in 1912 the Cape Cod Cranberry Co. began selling cranberry sauce packed in tins. Company founder Marcus Urann called it Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce. Delbert topped the bruschetta with a sauce of whole cranberries.

● Dates stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese, cream cheese, “a little bit of cream with salt and pepper, with just a touch of sugar,” topped with a lightly toasted walnut half, Delbert said. The 1910 “Dromedary Cook Book” had ideas for entertaining, though hers presentation was decidedly more contemporary.

● Oreos, the embossed chocolate sandwich cookies introduced in March 1912 by the National Biscuit Co.

On the day of the march, the demonstrators probably “were rushing” and needed calories, Delbert said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some Oreos made it into people’s pockets.”


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One Response to Hungering for the right to vote

  1. Profile photo of Steve Webb
    Steve Webb March 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Great piece of American history there Carol, and definitely something to think about.

    I had to look twice at the stuffed dates. They serve something very similar, or used to, at Komi. From fuelling the suffrage movement to an amuse bouche at one of the most highly ranked restaurants in DC. Something else to think about.