As the nation prepares to vote for a new president, possibly a woman, League of Women Voters members celebrated a 100-year-old silent protest, which helped pave the way for American women to obtain the right to vote.
During Labor Day Weekend 1916, more than 3,000 suffragists converged on St. Louis during the Democratic National Convention for a “walkless, speechless protest” against Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson, who opposed women’s suffrage.
Their sole demand was a plank in the party platform in support of women’s suffrage. Wearing white dresses and golden sashes that read “Votes for Women,” they lined the streets where delegates would walk from their hotel to the convention center. The walkless, talkless parade, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Lane,” was enormous. They accomplished their objective and got the plank on the platform, said League of Women Voters Sedalia-Pettis County co-president Mary Merritt.
On Sept. 3, 2016, an estimated 700 to 800 women from around the state and nation gathered to celebrate this event on its 100th anniversary.
“It was quite an impressive display,” said Merritt, who attended the event. “There were a few men who joined us, too, but it was mostly women.”
She said the event brought to mind the appreciation of what the women went through and what they were willing to do to get the right to vote. The women all wore golden sashes bearing the words “Vote for Women” gathered at the Pacific Park, across from the Central Library in downtown St. Louis.
Merritt has been an active member of the League of Women Voters since 1990, serving in several posts. She said the League was formed to focus on issues that affect women and families such as child care, child labor and social issues.
“These are still issues today,” Merritt said. “The message of this event was ‘gather your strength together.’”
She said one issue the League is fighting to defeat on the upcoming state ballot is the proposed Voter ID amendment, which would require all voters to present identification at polling places before voting. According to the League, the Voter ID requirement would not only disenfranchise more than 220,000 Missouri citizens, but discourage others confused by the law from voting. League members went to the polls on the Aug. 2 primary to greet exiting voters and provide information about the amendment before the Nov. 8 election.
Tim Epperson can be reached at 660-530-0146.