After the results (how could the electorate have done such a thing), discussions emerged about a Million Woman March on January 21. It would have been on the Mall, facing the Lincoln Memorial with the throngs surrounding the reflecting pool. Over the last few days, that most symbolic site for protest has been declared off-limits, so it won’t be there. It may be elsewhere. It may be everywhere.
As soon as the idea was announced, women began to plan logistics – busses, parking, access, food. We are good at that kind of thing. But I noticed that many of the women who are my friends and facebook friends were also planning a very historically appropriate activity for January 20th – banner making.
Banners are not unique to suffrage and its predecessors as women’s reform movement, of course. They have been used in association with political movements since literacy and before that, armies and crowds distinguished themselves with heraldic symbols. They have the advantage of both unifying a group and identifying the individual locations, professions and organizations that feed participants into the marches. Photo-journalism – whether actual photography or photo-engraving – documents banners as extra text. An image of women marching in London or Washington can attest to the widespread support for suffrage if they are carrying banners from smaller cities, counties or states. Banners representing the women’s professional organizations could attest to the fact that women were working in professions.
The forms of banners that are most associated with suffrage are the wide fabric ones held by marchers at opposite sides of the cohort and the vertical ones (on fabric or board) that could be supported by one marcher. They also used sandwich boards, hung over a woman’s front and back, to promote events, as in today’s featured image. Sandwich boards were also used for selling copies of the suffrage newspapers or magazines, which was often the first task after volunteering for the cause.
The free-usage sources below have wonderful images and information on the suffrage movements and the ways that banners were used to win the campaigns. The Library of Congress and The New York Public Library sites have wonderful photographs and documents. The two British sites are especially strong in artifacts.
This presidential term stretches over the passage process for suffrage in England and the United States. Individual states had to vote to grant suffrage in local elections and to ratify the 19th Amendment, so there are ample anniversaries to celebrate. Ample opportunities for a women’s march. Join us. Bring your markers.
http://www.rochester.edu/sba/ Susan B. Anthony Center
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/naw/nawshome.html Votes for Women, National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/ The New York Public Library
The City of London Museum