SARAH TRUAX, A WOMAN OF PARTS
(Feb. 12, 1872 - May 2, 1958)
In her autobiography, she gives an eyewitness account of the struggle for national women's suffrage including marching down Pennsylvania Avenue with 5,000 women. As we approach the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote, she deserves to be remembered for her activism.
The following excerpt from A Woman of Parts: Memories of a Life on the Stage demonstrates her role in the chain of events.
"Gertrude Foster Brown, in a quiet way, had become more and more involved in political matters. Woman suffrage was beginning to be a fiery issue, and she was editing The Woman Citizen.
Gertrude, with others who were in the forefront of the struggle for national women's suffrage, had decided to put on in the Metropolitan Opera House an elaborate pageant, which had to do with the states pleading for recognition, the states being impersonated by women in costume. There was to be the Spirit of Womanhood and the Spirit of Justice. The meeting was to be addressed by speakers of prominence, who advocated votes for women.
We plunged into rehearsal. Maud Durbin Skinner was to direct the action. Most of the women in the act were socially prominent, but without stage experience. There was a lot of marching and countermarching, and eventually, out of these evolutions, the Spirit of Woman emerged, impersonated by the beautiful Pauline Frederick; she climbed slowly up to the middle of a stairway
upstage, where she approached me as Justice. Then, opening my arms, I leaned toward her and folded
her in an embrace. Maud was also to recite a prologue written by Charles Hanson Towne.
|Maud Durbin Skinner|
In the meantime I had memorized the poem. The great night came. There I was, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, and the hall was packed. I stood in front of the velvet drapes where so many famous artists had taken their bows. I spoke my prologue and retired behind the scenes to receive congratulations. When the pageant was over, Mr. Towne came to me with outstretched hands and was good enough to say he had not realized all there
was in the poem.
|Charles Hanson Towne|
'This is the tale of Woman's shining hour,
Her rise from bondage to the hills of power.
The handmaidens of freedom, all in white,
Stand in a grove upon a moonlit night.
They gather blossoming boughs, and never falter,
For Hope to lay upon the sacred altar...'
THEODORE ROOSEVELT SPEAKS
When this poem had been read, I had retired behind the curtain, a number of us started talking softly when I heard a squeaky, high-pitched male voice. There had been loud and prolonged applause when he came before the audience, but I had not seen him go out there. I asked who it was and could scarcely believe it when I was told it was Theodore Roosevelt. That voice from a man who almost coined the phrase, "the strenuous life!" I came to the conclusion the quality of his voice must have resulted from youthful illnesses and lack of vocal development.
THE SUFFRAGE MARCH IN WASHINGTON D.C. MARCH, 1913
Not long after, Gertrude Brown asked me to go down to Washington to be Justice again in a huge demonstration to take place just before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. I was glad to help out, and willy-nilly I was swept into the great campaign, one of the most interesting experiences of my life. It broadened my outlook immeasurably, and was the beginning of a real and vital interest in political matters, which increased and made my life far more interesting as the years went by.
SARAH DISCUSSES DISCRIMINATION
Up to this time I had not concerned myself with larger issues than the strictly personal. Besides, there were reasons why I did not feel so strongly about woman suffrage as did Gertrude and many others. I had never felt discriminated against as a woman, in the first place. I do not think discrimination operates in the theater as it does in most professions. I had worked with men for years in terms of equality and had managed to keep in step with them. The idea of discrimination because of my sex simply never entered my head, and there were millions of women like me, not necessarily in the theater, but in the home or following other pursuits where they had their function and were at no particular disadvantage. We had moved to Spokane, and the state of Washington had votes for women.
The day of the parade was gorgeous, clear, and chilly. We were photographed in tableau on the steps of the Department of Justice and it was a distinct sensation to march through historic Washington between rows of staring---sometimes applauding---people. I have a newspaper account of it which is interesting, when votes for women are no longer either an issue or a novelty.
"Five thousand women, marching in the suffrage pageant today, virtually fought their way foot by foot up Pennsylvania Avenue through to a surging mob that completely defied the Washington police, swamped the marchers and broke their procession into little companies.
The women, trudging stoutly along under great difficulties, were able to complete their march only when troops of cavalry from Fort Myer were rushed into Washington to take charge of Pennsylvania Avenue. No inauguration has ever produced such scenes, which in many instances amounted to nothing less than riots.
The scenes which attended the entry of 'General' Rosalie Jones and her hikers on Thursday, when the bedraggled women had to fight their way up Pennsylvania Avenue, swamped by a mob with which a few policemen struggled in vain, were repeated today, but on a vastly larger scale.
Miss Inez Milholland, herald of the procession, distinguished herself by aiding in riding down a mob that blocked the way and threatened to disrupt the parade. Another woman member of the 'petticoat' cavalry struck a hoodlum a stinging blow across the face with her riding crop in reply to a scurrilous remark as she was passing. The mounted police seemed powerless to stem the tide of humanity.
The parade itself, in spite of the delays, was a great success. Passing through two walls of antagonistic humanity, the marchers for the most part kept their tempers. They closed their ears to jibes and jeers.
Few faltered, although several of the older women were forced to drop out from time to time.
The greatest ovation was given to 'General' Rosalie Jones, who led her
little band of 'hikers' from New York, over rough roads and through snow and rain to march for the cause. 'General' Jones was radiant. She carried a great bunch of American Beauty roses,
which made a splash of red against the dull brown of her hooded tramping gown." End of article
|"General' Rosalie Jones|
Resource: A Woman of Parts: Memories of a Life on Stage
by Sarah Truax. 1949
|Gertrude Foster Brown|
|Miss Inez Milholland |