July 13: Connecticut Suffragists Appeal to Woodrow Wilson


On July 13, 1918, the morning edition of the Hartford Courant featured a rousing account of rallies held throughout the state by women demanding action on the proposed nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution — the amendment that would guarantee women the right to vote.

In Hartford, speeches were given at City Hall and along other highly-visible venues along Main Street to large crowds reported to be full of men and women of all ages.  Kicking off the days’ events was a large automobile parade, full of cars adorned with political slogans and decked out in the suffragist colors of purple, gold, and white.

The day’s events were fueled by suffragists’ frustration at inaction on behalf of both Congress and President Woodrow Wilson regarding a constitutional amendment to enact women’s suffrage.  Under pressure, President Woodrow Wilson had pledged his support for the cause months before in January 1918, but had since made little effort to encourage Congress to act.  Since Connecticut’s two senators, George McLean and Frank Brandegee, staunchly opposed giving women the right to vote, Connecticut’s suffragists decided to stage a day of public rallies and appeal to President Wilson directly (although a group of them also protested outside Senator McLeans’ home in Simsbury that same day to voice their displeasure).

Standing in front of City Hall, Mrs. Toscan Bennett read aloud the text of the telegram which was sent to the President later that day:

“We the women of the city of Hartford of the state of Connecticut respectfully urge the President of the United states to appear in person before the United States Senate this afternoon and give his whole-hearted support to the federal amendment so that it will be passed immediately and can go before the states.”

Historians now credit these direct appeals to President Wilson, sent by suffragists both in Connecticut and throughout the country, with turning the tide of political opinion in Washington.  Less than one year later, in late spring of 1919, Congress finally passed the Nineteenth Amendment, which — once it was fully ratified in August — granted equal voting rights to men and women across America.

Further Reading

Jessica Jenkins, “The Long Road to Women’s Suffrage in Connecticut,” Connecticut Explored

19th Amendment: The Fight Over Woman Suffrage in Connecticut,” connecticuthistory.org