By 1912, a certain percentage of American women had been agitating for the right to vote for at least seventy years. Most of them, however, could not vote in national elections even if some could vote in local elections, often only on issues related to the "feminine sphere" such as school board membership. More troubling to those women campaigning for suffrage was the fact that their movement did not claim the public allegiance of all or even most American women. The opponents of woman suffrage capitalized on this disparity and focused much of their attention on it in their writings and cartoons.
In this article describing a suffragist parade in New York City, the antisuffrage author asks, "Where Were the Suffragists?"
WHERE WERE THE SUFFRAGISTS?
The enormous crowds that watched on the sidewalk the women's parade on May 4th did not find much that they expected to see. There were no freaks; there was nothing especially sensational to gratify their curiosity. The line was spread out so as to take more time in passing than is necessary, and there were long intervals -- in some instances twelve or fifteen minutes -- between the divisions.Those in charge of the parade said it was owing to bad police management; but the formation has been criticised because there were four or five women marching abreast, instead of ten, as is usual in many parades, a formation which would have kept the crowd from surging onto the street.
Much criticism was made at the presence of babies and children. The women marched with precision and enthusiasm worthy of a better cause. There was little cheering from the sidewalks, although some of the more emotional suffragist accounts asserted that there was, and there was no jeering, except for the small body of men. The comments from the crowds, however, as heard by hundreds of men and women actively opposed to suffrage, all and down the line, were many of them starting, and some of them unrepeatable.
Many of the college students, as well as me working girls who marched, were under age. Some of the college students who marched were paid from $3 to $5 a head, and many of the working girls $1 to march. The excuse for paying the latter was not a good one-- "that they were paid in lien of a half day work," because Saturday is a half holiday in most of the trades.
The numbers in line were a little over 8,000 women and 675 men. The Suffragists had been working for six months, hoping to have 30,000, spending thousands of dollars in printing, stamps and salaries, having recruiting stations in the parks and streets, and using every possible means to secure a large number.
It was given out to the press throughout the country that there were 15,00 to 20,000 women and 2,000 men in line, which has given the impression that the number marching was much larger than it was.
Leading Suffragists have stated that there are 50,000 members of the Woman Suffrage party in New York, a number which we have always thought over estimated, and it is a fact that there are 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 women in Greater New York who would become voters if suffrage were given to them. The 8,000 who marched represented only sixteen per cent. of the members claimed by Suffragists, and certainly not the eight per cent. claimed as being in favor of suffrage in this city and State.
Where were the Suffragists?
There were over 500 Socialists, men and women, in the parade who marched in a group distinctly Socialist, with red sashes and unmistakable inscriptions, headed by a red banner and a band of music that alternately played the "International" and the "Marseillaise." They wound up their demonstration with an open-air meeting, at which Socialist literature was distributed in large quantities, and where Socialist suffrage speeches were made.
-----From The Woman’s Protest, June 1912, page 7.