Dayton Women March for Suffrage

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Dayton Daily News Friday, October 23, 1914

Dayton Daily News Friday, October 23, 1914

 Last week we discussed the first national women’s march for suffrage, which occurred on March 3, 1913.  One year later, the women of Dayton, Ohio planned their own parade.  In preparation for Amendment 3, the “female suffrage” issue on the state ballot November 3, 1914, a parade was planned to bolster support and raise awareness. It seemed that the issue of suffrage was gaining momentum and surely passage of this amendment was on the horizon. In fact, the Dayton Daily News declared that the day of the parade, October 24, 1914 would be “Woman Suffrage Day in Dayton.”  

 The local newspaper published the account of the parade titled “Suffragists Make Creditable Display.” The article recalled the “twelve hundred strong…[who] paraded the streets of Dayton Saturday afternoon.” They wore white gowns and carried yellow flowers. Yellow was one of the three suffrage colors (the other two being purple and white) and originated when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony adopted the sunflower as a symbol of the cause. Yellow, or gold, was the color of light--a torch that guided their purpose.  The Dayton Daily News recalled “the parade appeared to turn the whole town yellow” as the banners, streamers, and spectators all bore the color to support the movement.

Dayton Daily News October 24, 1914

Dayton Daily News October 24, 1914

There was much support for the suffragists and the parade.  Many city officials hoped the weather would be favorable and the demonstration a success.  One of the city commissioners, A. I. Mendenhall, was quoted the day before in the paper, stating he planned to participate in the parade: “I shall make every effort to march with the women suffragists.” He went on to say, “I believe that a large number of men will be in the ranks.”

 One of Dayton’s most famous families, of which the aviation pioneer Wright brothers belonged, were all active participants in the parade.  Katharine Wright had been active in the suffrage movement and was part of the planning committee for the parade.  The newspaper quoted her as saying “If it is the last thing I ever do, I will march in the suffrage parade.” She, as well as her father, Milton, and brother, Orville, marched in the parade that day.  Later Milton wrote about the experience in his diary, “At 3:30, we were in the 1300 march in town. There was Mrs. Bolton and other aged women, perhaps no older man than, I in the march. There were 44 College women, in the procession. Orville marched by my side. The sidewalks were lined by many thousands of respectful spectators.” At the time of the parade, Bishop Milton Wright was 85 years old. Wilbur was not in attendance because he had died 2 year earlier, at age 42, of typhoid fever.

Section of Bishop Milton Wright’s diary, reproduced.  (Wright Brothers Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University)

Section of Bishop Milton Wright’s diary, reproduced. (Wright Brothers Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University)

 The newspaper also mentioned Mrs. Anna L. Bolton, age 91, “one of Dayton’s oldest suffragists” who rode in an automobile in the parade. Automobiles were a significant contribution to the parade, as many participants were elderly or ill, but still wanted to participate.  The newspaper stated that automobiles had been loaned by supporters of the suffrage cause and lined the entire street in front of the suffrage headquarters at the corner of First and Main streets.

 Support for the cause for women’s suffrage in Dayton was evident. As the newspaper stated the day after the parade, “Men and women, old and young, representing every walk of life and every political affiliation were in line.” Optimism for the passage of women’s suffrage was high going into the election.  Surely, this time it would pass.

The Ohio Women’s Suffrage Amendment, also known as Amendment 3 was voted on November 3, 1914.  It was defeated, with 518,295 voting no (60.71%) and 335,390 voting yes (39.29%). However, as evident from the support of the Dayton parade, the movement was gaining ground. 

 By 1916, municipal women’s suffrage became the new strategy.  In April 1916, East Cleveland voted for municipal women’s suffrage, followed by Lakewood and Columbus in 1917.  An attempt was made to pass a proposal for Ohio women to vote in presidential elections in January 1917.  It was passed and Governor James M. Cox signed it into law in February of that year.  However, it was soon repealed through underhanded tactics by liquor interest groups and anti-suffragists.  Though the petitions submitted by these groups were proven fraudulent in cities such as Columbus, Toledo, and Dayton there were no lawsuits filed.  It seemed hostilities toward women’s suffrage remained a powerful force.  But, still she persisted, and women did not give up their fight.  In 2 years, they would have their reckoning.