It was a march of generations - daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They came together to remember their foremothers, the ones who do not appear in many history books, the ones who played hardball politics and organized state by state, precinct by precinct to win for women the right to vote.
Marchers Saturday commemorated the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, following the same route as the first suffrage march in 1913.Ninety-six-year-old Butler Franklin rode near the front in a green convertible, a striking figure with a strong square face and bright red straw hat. Now partially blind, she is one of the few who attended Saturday's march who remembered what the movement was like 75 years ago. "It was thrilling," she said. "I didn't know much about politics, but Alice Paul (head of the National Women's Party) changed all that."
Gaining voting rights did not change everything for women. Franklin, the wife of a foreign service officer, was prohibited under federal regulations from working outside the home. When her husband died in the 1950s, she was left with children to raise and no pension. She later lobbied to change federal law to give widows benefits.
Annette Tripiciano, 88, worked as Paul's secretary. "My husband was the old-fashioned type and didn't want me to work," Tri-pi-ci-ano said. "But I needed to use my brain. We weren't able to own a home, have an account in a bank. Today we're celebrating liberty."
Back in the crowd of about 2,000 marchers, 76-year-old Peggy Stephens Aumack of Delaware waved a yellow and black felt banner that her mother and father had carried in a 1917 suffrage march. "A lot of young women think they got their positions on their own and don't know the effort that went into changing the climate," Aumack said. "Sometimes I get frustrated because we've marched so many times, but progress is slow. My mother's mother was a suffragette. My mother was a suffragette. I'm here. It continues."
Aumack's niece, Heather Foote, leaves for the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing next week. "My grandmother told me when I was a young girl how her mother was with the Du Pont family women when they chained themselves to the White House gate," Foote said. "We need to remember."
The march and a rally on the Mall culminated a three-day celebration. Organizers said they hoped to remind people of the work that prepared the way for 20th century women's rights advances.
Amelia Roberts Fry, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who is working on Paul's biography, said many people simply don't know about the fight for the women's vote. From the movement's inception at a convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, suffragists marched and rallied and staged hunger strikes for 72 years, she said.
Paul, head of the National Women's Party in the early 1900s, nearly died in prison after an extended hunger strike a few years before passage of the 19th Amendment, Fry said. Paul was a Quaker and keen strategist who threatened members of Congress, staged frequent photo opportunities and press conferences, organized the 1913 march and waged a relentless campaign for suffrage, Fry said.
After the vote, Paul continued as head of the party - writing the Equal Rights Amendment, working in 1945 to include non-sexist language in the United Nations charter and seeing that women were given protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.