Monday, October 27, 2008

Hero: Inez Milholland-Boissevain

Inez Milholland-Boissevain (1886-1916) was born a child of privlege in 1886. The daughter of John Milholland, a newspaper editorialist and a reformer with the NAACP. She graduated from Vassar in 1909 and earned her law degree from New York University - a very gutsy move for a young woman in the early twentieth century.

After college, Inez joined a Greenwich Village group of progressives and socialists who created The Masses - the first magazine to fuse radical art, political commentary and graphic satire. She also protested the US entering into WWI, going so far as to travel to Europe to spread her message.
After meeting Alice Paul, Inez was recruited to join NAWSA Congressional Committee's. She soon revealed a powerful ability to move crowds at rallies on behalf of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU).

In 1913, Inez led the first woman's sufferage parade in Washington DC on the same day Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office. Dressed as a warrior on a white horse, Inez became the icon of the sufferagist movement.
By 1916 Milholland had become one of the highest-profile leaders of the CU. She traveled all over the US making speeches, gathering women to join the cause. Despite warnings from her physician she persisted in touring despite pronounced ill health. While speaking in Los Angeles, Inez collapsed at the podium while delivering a suffrage speech. She was rushed to the hospital and, despite treatment for pernicious anemia, she died weeks later on November 25, 1916.
Her dedication, iconic idealism, and tragic death made her a martyr of the suffrage movement. Her last public words were, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
In January 1917, Woodrow Wilson spurned a delegation that attempted to present him with resolutions crafted in Milholland's honor. The National Women's Party (formerly the Congressional Union) changed tactics from a focus on lobbying to more direct action. Within days the NWP began a new campaign of picketing the White House and three and half years later, women received the right to vote.

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