"We are a force . . ."
From Washington, D.C. on our recent women's landmarks road trip (previous post), Linda and I drove to Delaware. First stop Georgetown.
Instead of Tennessee, Delaware could have claimed the honor of being the 36th, the final state, needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment that prohibits the federal government and the states from denying citizens the right to vote on account of sex. By March 1920, 35 states had ratified the amendment. On May 5, the Delaware Senate had ratified the amendment. Now, it was up to legislators in the House. Suffragists intensified their already expensive and extensive campaign of mass meetings, canvassing, petitions, speeches, automobile parades, even a parade of suffragists' children riding ponies and bicycles, and being pushed in carriages. Anti-suffragists counter-attacked. SUFFRAGE FIGHT IN DELAWARE HOLDS NATION'S INTEREST read a newspaper headline. This moment in suffrage history is memorialized in Georgetown, a quaint town with the historic Sussex County Courthouse, located across the street from the lovely town circle with its elegant fountain. Placed beside the courthouse, the historic marker commemorates a meeting held there on March 16, 1920 "to hear opinions for and against women's suffrage."
On June 5, legislators in the House refused to even consider the resolution to ratify the amendment. Three years later, in 1923, Delaware legislators would after-the-fact finally ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. (Click to enlarge images.)
Next stop Wilmington, a distance of 80 plus miles heading north, (although we drove extra miles by going south for a time).
Pageantry was a hallmark of women's fierce fight for the vote. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had personally experienced the power of pageantry during their stint with the British suffragettes, pioneers in producing well orchestrated public spectacles that heightened feelings of solidarity and empowerment among participants and garnered widespread publicity and elicited broad public support; Gains worth the inevitable negative, even violent blowback. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns staged their first spectacle on March 3, 1913—The Great Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. Their second one was on May 2, 1914—"Suffrage Day," a first-of-its-kind nation-wide event. WHOLE NATION OBSERVES WOMAN'S DAY read a newspaper headline in Missoula, Montana. "All over the country women are asking for the vote. We are a force in life, a factor which must be considered," declared Jeannette Rankin. (Rankin began suffrage work in 1910 and would become the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.)
We went to Wilmington to visit suffrage markers commemorating the May 2, 1914 events held there and suffrage activism by both Black and white suffragists.
The first marker, "Women's Suffrage Parade," was dedicated in 2020 by the Delaware Public Archives. The next
four distinctive markers, dedicated on September 28, 2021, are on the Votes for Women Trail Road to the 19th Amendment, a project of the National Collaboration of Women's History Sites in collaboration with the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
A special treat of going to Wilmington was to actually see the intense monumental and emotionally provocative memorial to Harriet Tubman and white abolitionist Thomas Garrett, her friend and helpmate from 1845-1860. Garrett, a Quaker, provided money and aided escaping enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Titled—Unwavering Courage in Pursuit of Freedom, the 9-foot tall bronze monument, created by Mario Chiodo and dedicated on October 3, 2012, is located at the entrance of the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park. Harriet Tubman, represented fiercely stalwart with a pistol at her waist, is holding a baby. Thomas Garrett, represented as a stealthy guide, is pointing the way and holding a lantern. Statues representing fugitive enslaved people are placed crouching
close to Harriet Tubman. A plaque positioned in front of the monument includes Harriet Tubman's quote: "I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death., if I could not have one, I would have the other."