BLS and the Suffrage March of 1913

For Women’s History Month, observed in March in the United States, the blog for the Law Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis, has an interesting post noting that March 2013 is also the Centennial of the 1913 Suffrage March. One of the organizers of the march from New York to Washington was Rosalie Gardiner Jones, an early Brooklyn Law School student, who was known as the “General”.  Early accounts describe her as “a wealthy Long Island young woman”, a socialite from Oyster Bay. Her British and Dutch roots dated back to the early settlement of New York. Jones Beach and Gardiner’s Island were named after her ancestors. She graduated Brooklyn Law School but never worked as a lawyer.

Women’s suffrage had been an issue long before the Suffrage Marches as can be seen in The Woman Who Dared to Vote: The Trial of Susan B. Anthony (Call #KF223.A58 H85 2012) by N. E. H. Hull in the BLS Library collection. The book relates the story of Susan B. Anthony’s attempt to vote on November 5, 1872. Before she could place her vote in the ballot box, a poll watcher objected, claiming her action violated the laws of New York and the state constitution. Anthony protested that as a citizen of the United States and the state of New York she was entitled to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment. The poll watchers gave in and allowed Anthony to deposit her ballots. Anthony was arrested, charged with a federal crime, and tried in court.In addition to telling the story of Anthony’s vote, arrest, and preliminary hearings, as well as the legal and public relations maneuvering in the run-up to the trial, the book summarizes the woman suffrage movement in the post-Civil War era and its subsequent fall into disarray. Hull captures the drama created by Anthony, her attorneys, the politically ambitious prosecutor, and the presiding judge, Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt, who argued against Anthony’s interpretation of the Reconstruction Amendments as the source of her voting rights. Citing Minor v. Happersett, a key case for the voting rights of women, the book follows the major players through the eventual passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.