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Three February Days

Today, Sunday, February 14 is Valentine's Day. In 1916, 105 years ago, suffragists sent a barrage of valentines to congressmen. Edward W. Pou (pronounced pew) from North Carolina received one illustrated with a gentleman presenting a bouquet to a maiden dressed in ruffles with the verse: "The rose is red,/The violet's blue/ But VOTES are better/ Mr. Pou."

Monday, February 15, is Susan B. Anthony's 201st birthday. On SBA’s eightieth birthday in 1900, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote a birthday poem with this second verse: "We met and loved, ne'er to part,/Hand clasped in hand, heart bound to heart./We've traveled West, years together,/Day and night in stormy weather;/Climbing the rugged Suffrage Hill,/Bravely facing every ill;/Resting, speaking everywhere;/Oft-times in the open air;/ From sleigh, ox-carts, and coaches,/Besieged with bugs and roaches;/All for the emancipation/ Of the women of our nation."

On Tuesday, February 16, 113 years ago, the first known suffrage parade in America took place in New York City. Defying the police, a small group of women wearing yellow "Votes for Women" buttons marched up Broadway. Thousands of men joined in, some marching with the women, others following behind them. Reporters’ estimates ranged from 1,000-6,000 men. "Suffragists Parade Despite the Police," read the headline in The New York Times. Maud Malone, a trailblazing suffragist, led the way. (Suffrage parades were held later that year in Boone, IA and Oakland, CA)

A tall, slender librarian with wavy brown hair and bespectacled eyes, "with a glint of humor in them, Maud Malone built coalitions across class, race, nationality, and gender. She pioneered innovative tactics—holding open-air, meetings, setting up women-only polling places, publicly confronting politicians. Wearing a large fabric sandwich board sign inscribed with suffrage messages, Maud Malone walked the streets of New York City.

Repeated arrested and manhandled, she spent a night in jail in 1912, the first suffragist to be incarcerated for the cause. In 1917 she was one of a group of pickets sentenced to sixty days in the infamous Occoquan Workhouse. There, she signed her name to what was arguably the first organized group demand for political prisoner status in America. Clandestinely circulated and then smuggled out of prison, the document was printed in a Washington, D.C. newspapers. Officials refused the imprisoned suffragists' demands and placed the eleven signers in solitary confinement. (In 1918, the U.S. Federal Appeals Court ruled that the arrests and detainment of the pickets were unconstitutional.)

Maud Malone’s bold activism garnered much needed publicity in newspapers across America that awakened public awareness of the cause. A previously unsung suffragist, I loved giving Maud Malone well-deserved visibility in my book The Vote: Women's Fierce Fight.

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