National Press Club

1913-era signs, hors’ d’oeuvres, commentary abound as Club celebrates suffrage march centennial

March 3, 2013 | By Cary Pollak |

NPC President Angela Greiling Keane greets "suffragists" at Feb. 28 reception

NPC President Angela Greiling Keane greets "suffragists" at Feb. 28 reception

It was 1913 again in the National Press Club Ballroom Feb. 28.

At a gala Club reception commemorating the 1913 march in Washington that led to voting rights for women, arriving guests were greeted at the door by female “suffragists” dressed in period costumes, sporting banners and carrying signs with messages such as “Democracy Should Begin At Home.”

The women did not smile when posing for photos, clearly paying homage to their forebears, for whom the quest for the vote was a solemn pursuit.

Once inside, the overflow crowd munched on hors d’oeuvres introduced during the era of the suffrage movement – among them dates stuffed with walnut and goat cheese, cranberry sauce on turkey bruschetta and chicken ala king tarts. The spread was researched and created by Susan Delbert, NPC’s first female executive chef.

Later, guests heard “Alice Roosevelt Longworth” – actually, a woman in keeping with the crusty personality of her namesake -- criticize and poke fun at her cousin Eleanor. “Alice” also carried her famous pillow with the inscription, “If you can’t say something
good about someone, sit right here by me.”

In the formal part of the evening, guests heard remarks from Joan Wages, president of the National Women’s History Museum proposed for the National Mall, and WJLA-TV (Channel 7) news anchor Maureen Bunyan.

Also speaking was NPC President Angela Greiling Keane, who noted that six of the Club’s past 11 presidents have been women. Thus, she said, the Club was a fitting venue for the program.

In a panel discussion on progress of the women’s movement, Erika Falk, former national public radio personality and author of a book on media bias in the coverage of female presidential candidates, described the uneven coverage of women candidates by the media. Far greater numbers of articles focus on male candidates rather that their female competitors, Falk said.

Agreeing, Wages said that the disparity in coverage is one reason the nation would benefit from construction of a National Women’s History Museum.

Wages also shared the newly released results of an independent poll, commissioned by the museum, that found that two-thirds of the American public, essentially across all demographics, supports the establishment of a women's history museum.

The panel, moderated by Newsweek contributing editor and “McLaughlin Group” panelist Eleanor Clift, also included J.D. Zahniser, co-author of a book on suffragist Alice Paul, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, historian and author of “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote: 1850-1920.”
The 1913 march attracted 8,000 participants and is regarded as a pivotal event in leading to passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that granted the right to vote to women. Marchers were subjected to a barrage of invectives and objects hurled at them along the parade route. More than 200 were injured, so unnerving Helen Keller, the famed deaf-blind political activist, that she cancelled scheduled remarks at Constitution Hall.

Police inaction during the tumult led to the ousting of the District’s chief of police. More importantly, the march awakened the media to the importance of the suffrage movement. The coverage, however, was ambivalent: for example, The New York Times, which opposed suffrage supported the women’s right to march.