Suffrage Exposition Rally
North Dakota’s 4th Annual Industrial Exposition took place in Bismarck in October 1914, and the city was bustling with activity. The Bismarck Tribune proudly exclaimed, “Never in the history of the state was there such an elaborate, … extensive, and … excellent display of the state’s products. … Not only is there quantity, but also a quality which is perfection itself, accompanied by beauty unsurpassed.”
1914 marked the 25th anniversary of statehood, so a special State and Anniversary day was planned for the exposition. Other special days occurred almost every day during the two-week run. On this date, it was suffragist day.
Voters would soon have the chance to pass suffrage in North Dakota, so this day was called a “last united effort before the men of the state go to the polls to decide this great question.”
The day was preceded by an anti-suffrage day. The anti-suffragists made no plans and held no programs, although they did maintain a booth that offered opposition literature.
The suffragists, on the other hand, went all out, making “as big a demonstration as possible.” They planned speeches and “a general demonstration of the fact that the women are in town.” They held a suffrage parade in the afternoon headed by the Bismarck Band that featured many businesses and groups. At one point, many school children marched through, “all waving yellow pennants bearing the inscription, Vote for Mother.”
Local high school girls took up the cause on a variety of floats in a sort of pageant. The first float held the Goddess of Liberty and 11 girls who represented full-suffrage states. Next were seven girls representing the states that had an active campaign leading to an upcoming election. Twenty girls representing partial-suffrage states followed. Then came 15 girls dressed in black, with drooping heads, representing the states in which no women could vote. After the parade, each of the school girls was given a yellow rose.
Though the bid for suffrage in 1914 would ultimately be unsuccessful, the suffragists gave it their all, an effort that certainly helped further the cause.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 19, 1911, p1
Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 27, 1914; October 20, 1914, p2; October 21, 1914, p2, p6; October 11, 1914, p1 and 4; October 22, 1914, p1, p2; October 23, 1914, p1; October 24, 1914, p1
Devils Lake inter-ocean, October 30, 1914, p8 (Suffrage Advocate supplement)