Monday, March 04, 2013

Today -100: March 4, 1913: 28

Woodrow Wilson is sworn in as the 28th president of the United States, with all due pomp and circumstance. (I have no idea what the word circumstance means in the phrase “pomp and circumstance.” Anyone?)

The NYT paints a picture: “Washington was Wilsonized for the day. Even the cheap, white-painted dairy lunch shops had his picture on their greasy bills of fare; and one of them announced grandly in letters three feet high: ‘White House Lunches Like Mrs. Wilson Will Cook Them–For 50 Cents.’”

But the big event of the day in D.C., in terms of spectacle and mayhem, was the women’s suffrage parade.

5,000 women, led, as was the custom, by Inez Milholland on horseback,

with bands, floats, and allegorical tableaux on the steps of the Treasury Building.

Maybe 500,000 people spectated (when Wilson slipped quietly into town, one of his staff asked where all the people were and was told they were watching the women).

The mayhem part was caused by the police, who had not properly cleared off the streets for the entire distance of the parade, and by rowdy men who were therefore able to harry and obstruct the marchers, jeering, slapping, spitting, tripping, etc, while the police stood by and watched, or even participated (after Congressional hearings, the DC superintendent of police was fired). Alice Paul, who organized the parade on behalf of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, said “The Boy Scouts were the only ones who did any effective police work”. The parade took hours longer than planned because of the obstructions. Eventually the secretary of war sent in some cavalry to restore order.

Alice Paul had tried to appease Southerners by making a group of black women from Chicago march separately, behind all the white marchers, but on the day they were allowed to march in the Illinois contingent.

The Woman’s Journal reported: “To those that feared that equal suffrage would make women less womanly, to those who feared that in becoming politically free we will become coarse and mannish looking.... the pageant offered the final word, the most convincing argument that human ingenuity can devise.”

Russian police in St Petersburg prevent suffragists speeches on Woman’s Day.

Headline of the Day -100: “Government Demands Hens.” When Armand Fallières became president of France in 1906, his wife brought in 34 hens to replace the inferior ones she found in the poultry yard of the presidential château (do you suppose Carla Bruni kept chickens when she was first lady?). When her husband’s term expired seven years later (did I mention that Raymond Poincaré recently became president of France? He totally did), the bureaucrats told her she could only take 34 hens with her, although the hen population had increased, and anyway the original two cocks were provided by the state. I’m assuming this argument will run for years and years.

Arts Headline of the Day -100: “Hisses Make Singer Insane.” A Swiss singer, unnamed, is hissed in the Imperial Opera House in Vienna during Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, tries to stab herself with a hatpin. It ain’t over until...

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