The CLEVELAND 1914 MARCH FOR SUFFRAGE brought together women and men, native-born and immigrant, black and white, working-class and socially prominent, seasoned politicos and political newcomers from 64 Ohio counties in pursuit of a single goal: passage of an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would give Ohio women the right to vote.
Held on October 3rd, marchers numbered in the thousands. The CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER estimated there were 5000, historians estimate 10,000. Among them were local suffrage leaders, including MINERVA KLINE BROOKS, FLORENCE ELLINWOOD ALLEN, MARY B. GROSSMAN, BELLE SHERWIN, LUCIA MCCURDY MCBRIDE, BERNICE SECREST PYKE, MILDRED CHADSEY, MARIE REMINGTON WING, EDNA BRUSH PERKINS, JANE EDNA HUNTER, MARY BROWN MARTIN, and LETHIA COUSINS FLEMING. They were joined by housewives, mothers with small children, members of the Wage Earners’ League, groups of teachers, college students, social workers, and nurses, as well as contingents of Bohemian, Yugoslavian and Czech women. Many would go on to play important civic roles. The 400 brave men, representing the Men’s Equal Suffrage League, got warm applause from the crowd. A founder of the League, Cleveland mayor NEWTON D. BAKER, looked on proudly from the viewing stand as his wife and children marched by.
On foot, on horseback, on floats, and in electric cars, the line of women dressed in white, wearing the gold suffrage sash, stretched for two miles through Cleveland’s downtown. They carried banners with informative slogans: “Women form the majority on charitable boards,” “Where women vote they remain nonpartisan.” VIRGINIA DARLINGTON GREEN, Cleveland Board of Education member, jumped out of line and onto an overturned packing box to give an impromptu suffrage speech to bystanders. Among them were the “antis,” those who were against women’s suffrage, distinguished by the red flowers worn on their left shoulders. The band played “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” The parade’s numbers, energy, and excitement made victory look certain. But the amendment failed: 335,390 men voted yes, while 518,295 voted no.
This was not Cleveland first suffrage parade. In 1912, led by the Cuyahoga County Woman Suffrage Party and ELIZABETH J. HAUSER from the Ohio Suffrage Party, thousands have marched in an effort to amend the state constitution and enfranchise Ohio women by changing the words that described a voter from a “white male” to “every citizen.” Inspired by the growing numbers of women already enfranchised by their states, the suffrage movement began to pick up steam across the country. In Cleveland, suffragists began a very public campaign, speaking on street corners, trolley stops, soapboxes, bandstands, Public Square, and the Central Market, outside factory gates, at garden parties and picnics. They rode in streetcars bearing “Votes for Women” signs. Audiences were sometimes interested, sometimes apathetic, sometimes hostile. Speakers got used to being heckled.
Like in 1914, the parade of 1912 did not succeed in amending the constitution, this time by 87,000 votes. A narrower effort in 1917 to pass state bill that would allow women to vote only in presidential elections also failed. Suffragists had formidable foes. These included the powerful, wealthy liquor interests, fearful that enfranchised women would close their distilleries and saloons. More visible were the anti-suffragists, organized in Cleveland in 1912 as the Cleveland Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. Yet there were small victories. In 1917, Florence Allen used her formidable legal skills to win municipal suffrage for the women of EAST CLEVELAND in 1917. A victory for LAKEWOOD women followed.
The great suffrage march on October 3rd, 1914 remained the high point of Cleveland women’s political activism until the celebration of the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S YEAR, GREATER CLEVELAND CONGRESS, on October 25-27, 1975.
Marian J. Morton
Virginia Clark Abbott, The History of Woman Suffrage and the League of Women Voters in Cuyahoga County, 1911-1945 (1949).
Marian Morton. "How Cleveland Women Got the Vote"