Part II: The Suffrage Movement Gets Wheels by Kenneth Florey
by Kenneth Florey
Suffragists in America also promoted automobile tours as a way of advertising “Votes for Women.” The most famous trip was that of Alice Snitzer Burke and Nell Richardson in 1916. The pair left New York on April 6, accompanied by their new kitten called “Mascot,” to make a circuit of the United States on behalf of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The Saxon Motor Company donated their car, and NAWSA arranged for their expenses and entertainment along the way. They reached San Francisco in June. In reporting on their activities to the delegates at NAWSA’s annual convention in September in Atlantic City, Esther Ogden exuded delight in recounting the dangers and depredations the pair faced along the way. They crossed a desert and traveled through the Bad Lands of the Northwest. They were along the Mexican border during the raids, and their car had to be pulled out of the river during floods. In all of this, they maintained their courage and were able to elicit nationwide newspaper coverage for the movement.
By the time Burke and Richardson had returned to New York later in the year, Mascot had grown from a kitten to a cat. The Saxon Company picked up on their success and featured the two in a magazine advertisement headed “Two Noted Suffragists Travel 10,000 Miles in a Saxon Roadster.” While the ad did note that the journey proved the “ease” with which the car could be handled, it also demonstrated that the car, and, by implication, women, could surmount “every obstacle of road and weather.”
NAWSA issued a post card that pictured Burke and Richardson in their “Golden Flier” Saxon, with the names of some of the cities they had visited painted on the side of the car. Although some conservative suffragists maintained that they wanted the right to vote and nothing more, it is clear that the issue of the franchise was not an isolated one but part of a larger tapestry of social change and a re-clarification of the roles of men and women in our culture.
Part I of the suffrage auto story by Kenneth Florey that you may have missed!
NEW VIDEO: Automobiles used in the suffrage movement, with photos from the postcard collection of author Kenneth Florey, as well as the Library of Congress. Ken’s book on suffrage memorabilia is due for publication in 2013. Suffrage Wagon has a YouTube channel that specializes in short feature videos about the movement.
COMING SOON: The centennial of Emily Davison, English suffrage martyr. The case is still controversial after 100 years!