Women's History

Members of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia protest outside the White House in 1924

The Voteless Voters of Washington, D.C.

As we celebrate the Nineteenth Amendment’s centennial year, those of us in D.C. should also remember the women whose victory wasn’t assured in 1920. Our local story really isn’t about the large demonstrations down the Mall, or the women who protested outside the White House—the suffragettes of Washington were the Voteless Voters, who continued to fight long after the Amendment was ratified.

Portrait of John Quincy Adams ca. 1818

Anne Royall and the President's Clothes

When the stresses of life in Washington became too much, John Quincy Adams calmed his nerves by taking early-morning swims in the Potomac River. In a move that might be considered questionable by today’s standards, he especially liked to soak in the brisk, cold water wearing nothing but his own skin. According to local lore, it once got him into a bit of trouble: Anne Royall, a trailblazing journalist, caught him in a very awkward situation. But is there any truth in the tale?

Dolley Madison in 1848, seated at a table

Dolley Madison, the Queen of Washington

Today she is widely remembered for her heroism during the War of 1812, when she saved a portrait of George Washington from being taken and burned by British invaders. But during her lifetime, Dolley Madison was best known as a prominent socialite, hostess, and politician in her own right — one of the country’s first celebrity personalities. 

The Filipino Women’s Club of Washington D.C.

Filipino Woman's Club, Washington, D.C.

When the U.S. entered WWII in late 1941, women all over Washington stepped up to fulfill wartime needs; and Filipino women were certainly no exception. The Filipino Women's Club of Washington, formed in 1943, played a crucial role in the war effort and inspired community when the city most needed it. 

The Women's Peace Party and Pacifism During WWI

American delegates to the International Congress of Women which was held at the Hague, the Netherlands in 1915. (Source: Library of Congress)

Two years before the United States entered World War I, women in Washington were gathering to protest the practice. As The Washington Post put it, “War was declared on war.”

The Women’s Peace Party was formed January 10, 1915 at a conference at the Willard Hotel. Speakers included Jane Addams, a pioneer of social work and feminism, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Alliance for Women’s Suffrage, and other representatives from throughout the country, including two delegates from the District’s branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Over 3,000 attendees unanimously agreed on a “peace program,” to end the war practically.

The Silent Sentinels

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house on "College Day" in 1917. (Source: Wikipedia)

At 10 o’clock in the morning on January 10, 1917, 12 women from the National Woman’s Party took up posts outside the White House entrances. They stood in silence, wearing purple, yellow, and white ribbons, and holding large banners, which read: “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” By the fall, many of the picketers had been jailed and reports of prison abuse hit the newswires.

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