In 1916, 3,000 women in St. Louis marched for suffrage, heralding an era of non-violent protest | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1916, 3,000 women in St. Louis marched for suffrage, heralding an era of non-violent protest

Aug 24, 2016

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we looked back on a movement 100 years ago in St. Louis when 3,000 women marched to remind Democratic National Convention attendees that women still didn’t have the right to vote. That was in June of 1916, four years before women won the right to cast ballots on Aug. 26, 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution.

Kathleen Farrell, president of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, and Rebecca Now, historian and executive director of the Webster Groves/Shrewsbury area Chamber of Commerce, joined the program to discuss the significance of the event.

Rebecca Now and Kathleen Ferrell.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“In 1916, the Democrats convened in St. Louis to nominate Woodrow Wilson for his second term,” Farrell said. “This was particularly important as we were going into World War I and talking about being the leader of democracy in the world. The national women’s suffrage group and the Missouri women’s suffrage group demanded that attention would be paid. They also asked that women’s suffrage was put in the democratic platform and make the democrats put their money where their mouth was.”

So, they put out a call in May 1916 and told women to come to St. Louis from across the country to line the ten blocks outside the convention and demand the right to vote. And so they did.

“This was the key event that led to the last period of demand for suffrage,” Farrell said. After this protest, the Democratic Party put it in its platform.

This St. Louis event led to spin-off movements like the “Silent Sentinels” (depicted in movies like “Iron Jawed Angels”), a group of women who protested six days a week in front of the White House from January 10, 1917 to June 4, 1919, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution passed the House and Senate, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

"This is an important piece of history in non-violent protest history."- Rebecca Now

“What is so important about this event, and the events of 1917, is that this event is not just an important milestone in St. Louis history and women’s suffrage history, this is an important piece of history in non-violent protest history,” Now said.

On Sept. 3, the League of Women Voters and a number of other local organizations are hosting a “Celebrate the Vote” Festival in commemoration of the protest in St. Louis. More information on that event here. They invite participants to wear white dresses and they will hand out golden sashes with the words “Votes for Women,” just like the women in 1916.

Related Event

What: Celebrate the Vote Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 3 from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Where: St. Louis Public Library Central Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 6310
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.