Sunday, March 3 marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage parade in Washington, DC. On that date 100 years ago, 5,000 women came from all over to Washington to march for the right to vote. The suffrage march was a pivotal point in the movement for women to obtain the right to vote and passage of the 19th amendment. It took another 7 years before women were given the vote. And 100 years later on March 3, thousands of women from across the country and around the world came to Washington, DC to re-create the march renamed the Delta Centennial march.
Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in observance of the 100th anniversary sponsored the march. And along with members of approximately 15 other leading women’s groups, including American Association of University Women (“AAUW”), National Council of Negro Women, National Organization for Women (“NOW”), Sewall-Belmont House Museum and UniteWomen.org re-created the suffrage march from the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol to the grounds of the Washington Monument. Rallies took before and after the march—just as they did in 1913.
The founding members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority marched in the suffrage parade 100 years ago. In 1913, Delta Sigma Theta was founded on the campus of Howard University by 22 college educated women. Although the 22 African American founders of Delta Sigma Theta took part in the suffrage march for women, black men were still disenfranchised in the south due to Jim Crow laws and in other parts of the country. They marched knowing that once voting rights for women passed that they may not reap the full benefits. Nonetheless, they marched in support of sisterhood, social activism and solidarity for all women and equal rights. Today Delta Sigma Theta boasts members across the world with estimates of 270,000 members.
As we leave Black History month and enter Women’s History month, it is important to stress the role that black women played in the history of our country. During the original march held 100 years ago, history has often overlooked that the founding members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority participated. Gwendolyn Boyd, chairwoman of the Deltas’ Centennial Celebrations and a former national president, says “We understand how we have to continue to speak up so that our place in history is not lost or forgotten or misplaced.”
In speaking up for women’s history, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D. DC) calls for a national women’s museum to be placed in the nation’s Capital. There are approximately 17,000 museums in the U.S. and none represents the full history of women. Washington, DC should set the mark for the world in establishing a national history museum to honor the accomplishments of women.
The Delta Centennial March boasted participation from around the world with members present from chapters as far away as the Republic of Korea, Japan, Guam and from almost every state in the country. Parade participants marched according to their state, country or organization from the U.S. Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House and on to the final stop at the Washington Monument. Thousands were in attendance-far more than the original 5,000 in 1913.
Throughout the weekend, many women’s organizations and museums throughout Washington, DC area hosted events and activities in observance of the centennial of the suffrage march. The Newseum exhibited the newspapers seen across the country as they looked 100 years ago. From the early days of the suffrage movement to the 2012 election, where women outvoted men, women have made many strides in our nation’s history. And there are still many more accomplishments to be made in the area of women’s rights and women’s equality.
Debbie Hines is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.