Suffrage Militancy and Public Demonstrations

The 1914 Minneapolis Suffrage Parade

It may not have been the biggest in the nation, but the suffrage parade on May 2, 1914, was one of the most peaceful.

When Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett came to town in 1968, they performed at the Minneapolis Auditorium. So, too, did the famed British suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, when she visited in 1913. For more than fifty years, the Auditorium was Minneapolis's central meeting and performance space, hosting concerts, circuses, political rallies, and conventions.

The first incarnation of the Minneapolis Auditorium was built in February 1905 at the corner of 11th Street and Nicollet Avenue. The Auditorium later moved to 1301 2nd Ave. South, where the Convention Center now stands. Renamed the Lyceum Theater, it continued to host shows and concerts until 1973, when it was razed to make way for Orchestra Hall.

The Auditorium’s central location made it a great place to end a parade.

In 1914, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, under the leadership of Clara Ueland, organized a parade of nearly 2,000 suffrage supporters in Minneapolis—an event that had a dramatic impact on changing attitudes and perceptions about women who wanted the right to vote.

It may not have been the biggest in the nation, but the suffrage parade on May 2, 1914, was one of the most peaceful. Ueland was cautioned by the national parade in Washington, D. C. in 1913, organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The parade in Washington had featured floats, bands, mounted brigades, and an estimated 8,000 marchers. Scheduled on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, the parade drew thousands of observers along with angry rabble-rousers. More than 100 women were injured from attacks by the crowd when police did not keep order.

In contrast, the Minneapolis parade proceeded smoothly. Almost 2,000 marched the route from Second Avenue to Fourth Street, then to Nicollet Avenue and toward the Auditorium. The parade included men and women, high school and University of Minnesota students, small children and Boy Scouts. Forty women rode on horseback. In a common tradition of suffrage pageants, Julie Plant, Ueland’s future daughter-in-law, dressed as Joan of Arc. Merchants decorated their windows, and churches rang chimes. Afterward, the organizers thanked the mayor and chief of police for their support.

Helen Jones, a senior at Minneapolis’ Central High School and president of the Junior Mobile Suffrage Squad, observed:

“It’s been a great day! I feel as if I have been part in creating history.... We were told to keep our heads up, eyes in front of us, and to walk in dignity and silence .... I never felt so serious in my life and didn’t look at the crowd at all.... Some horrid men threw money on our flag and did and said other rather insulting things.”

Images

The Minneapolis Auditorium, ca. 1905

The Minneapolis Auditorium, ca. 1905

The auditorium was built in 1905 and was home to the Minneapolis Symphony. It later became the Lyceum Theater. Today the Minnesota Orchestra occupies the spot. | Creator: Pearson Ullberg Co. (Minneapolis, Minn.) Photographer: Sweet View File Details Page

The 1914 Minneapolis Suffrage Parade

The 1914 Minneapolis Suffrage Parade

The Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association marches in the Minneapolis suffrage parade on May 2, 1914. The festivities drew 2000 participants and many more spectators in a peaceful demonstration. View File Details Page

Josephine Schain (1886 - 1972), chief marshal for the suffrage parade.

Josephine Schain (1886 - 1972), chief marshal for the suffrage parade.

View File Details Page

News coverage leading up to the suffrage parade.

News coverage leading up to the suffrage parade.

The "Tribune Girl," a popular writer in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, used her column to generate interest in the upcoming parade (April 12, 1914.) View File Details Page

A Militant Suffragette Visits Minneapolis

A Militant Suffragette Visits Minneapolis

“No other living suffrage orator could draw such large audiences.” The fight for suffrage in the United States was part of an international women™s movement. With the help of letters and telegraph cables, American suffragists built transatlantic partnerships to substantiate their claim that the cause had universal validity. Local suffrage activists were especially fascinated by Emmeline Pankhurst, founder in 1905 of the Women™s Social and Political Union, which used militant methods and civil disobedience to bring attention to their cause. Pankhurst's followers were dubbed "suffragettes" for their window-breaking and arson campaigns, which landed them in prison. Pankhurst made several visits to Minnesota, where she received large receptions and statewide news coverage. When she first visited Minnesota in 1911, Pankhurst had already served two prison sentences. She was described by the Duluth Herald as “one of the most talked of women in the world.” Minnesotans flocked to her appearances, eager to see a “militant suffragette.” When she returned in 1913 for several talks in Minneapolis and St. Paul, one newspaper estimated that six thousand heard her speak. She was not the “nervous or hysterical person one might expect to see,” wrote the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, “but quiet and self-controlled.” | Source: Jacqueline R. deVries, “™Those who came from curiosity remained from interest™: Militant Suffragettes Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst in Minnesota,” Minnesota History, special issue for women™s suffrage centenary (Fall 2020) View File Details Page

Bertha Moller, left, and Bertha Arnold protest in front of the Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., ca. 1917.

Bertha Moller, left, and Bertha Arnold protest in front of the Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., ca. 1917.

A few of Minnesota's suffragists can be described as radical. Bertha Berglin Moller (1881-unknown) is one of them. Born in Sweden, she was living in Minneapolis by 1917 when she became involved in the women™s suffrage movement. Though initially a member of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, Moller was drawn to the more extreme methods of the National Woman™s Party. This party was led by the militant Alice Paul, who spent time working with the Pankhursts in England. Moller became the Minnesota representative on the NWP™s board of directors. When the NWP began picketing at the White House during World War I, Moller joined them. She was arrested eleven times for protesting, more than any other suffragist from Minnesota. For more on Minnesota's more radical suffragists, see Elizabeth Loetscher, "National Woman's Party in Minnesota," MNopedia, August 6, 2020. View File Details Page

Ole O. Sageng (1871-1963)

Ole O. Sageng (1871-1963)

Ole Sageng, dubbed the "Napoleon of Women's Suffrage," also spoke in favor of votes for women at the Auditorium. After teaching in rural schools in Otter Tail County, Minnesota and Grand Forks County, North Dakota, Sageng successfully ran for the Minnesota state house in 1900 as a Populist representing Otter Tail County. In 1906, he was elected to the Minnesota Senate, where he remained through 1922. He was instrumental in composing the many suffrage bills that were presented to the Minnesota Legislature. Sageng made many public appearances to promote women's suffrage, including the great parades in May 1914 and June 1919. The second parade celebrated the passing of the national suffrage bill. Speaking at the Auditorium after the 1914 parade, he argued, “It is true, a woman™s highest duty is to her home but that is just as true of man … But what an absolutely crazy and absurd proposition would it not be to argue that he would be a better father and a more loyal husband if we take away from him the right to vote.” (Barbara Stuhler, Gentle Warriors, p.128.) When his suffrage bill came up for a Senate vote in March 1915, hundreds crowded the galleries to hear the debate. Sadly, the bill was rejected 34 to 33. View File Details Page

Street Address:

The Auditorium, Nicollet and 11th Street [map]

Cite this Page:

Jackson Gerber and Jacqueline deVries, “Suffrage Militancy and Public Demonstrations,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed September 25, 2020, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/67.

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