Inez Milholland – Women’s Suffrage Hero

Inez Milholland – Women’s Suffrage Hero

Inez Milholland was an attorney, a charismatic public speaker and a beautiful woman whose role in the fight for the right of women to vote has been largely forgotten. I’ve posted before about the women’s right to vote movement and a history of Inez Milholland Boissevain can be found at "Suffragette Milholland Remembered." She was born in 1886 in Brooklyn to a rather wealthy family. Her father was a reporter and editorial writer at the New York Tribune, but his invention of a pneumatic tube to carry messages brought financial success.

She attended high school in London and went to school in Berlin before she enrolled at Vassar College in 1905 where she was an athlete setting track records. While at Vassar she was suspended for her organization of women suffrage meetings and led an organized protest of the student body when the school refused permission to speakers on women ‘s suffrage to give talks on campus. In spite of this, her excellent grades allowed her admission to several law schools. However, even though qualified Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Columbia denied her admission because she was a woman. She was finally able to be admitted to New York University Law School where she obtained her law degree.

After graduation she practiced labor law, but also was involved in Women’s suffrage as well as women’s trade union activities, child labor organizations and the NAACP. She worked with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, other leaders in the suffrage movement. In addition to public speaking, she found dramatic ways to push for women’s rights. Once she rented a room along the New York city parade route of William Howard Taft who was running for office and using a megaphone leaned out the window shouting "Votes for Women" causing public attention. Then she gave a speech out the window. When Taft lost to Woodrow Wilson, Inez organized a march in Washington of women. While some women dressed in costumes for the march, Inez rode a large white horse, with her hair unloosened and holding a banner supporting women suffrage. However, men along the route spit on them, jeered, and even physically assaulted the women. Men tore banners from their hands, pulled their hats off and knocked them down with the police doing little to protect them.

In July of 1913 married Eugen Boissevain, a Dutch importer. The marriage took place in London. After the wedding she continued her speaking campaign for suffrage as well as her other activities without pausing. For some time her health had deteriorated and she was suffering from a serious anemia problem. Her doctors warned her to rest, but she went on a speaking tour in the West when Wilson ran for a second term. She urged his defeat for his failure to support suffrage. At a rally in Los Angles while she was speaking she said "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?" and suddenly collapsed on stage. She was rushed to a hospital, but ten weeks later she was dead. Her This extraordinary women had accomplished a great deal in advancing the right of women to vote before her young death and deserves to be remembered for her work. In a side note, Eugen, her husband, married the poet and writer Edna St. Vincent Millay several years after her death.

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