The People's Experience: Women

Women's political participation skyrocketed during the 1912 presidential election due to the split of the Bull Moose from the Republican Parties.  The Progressive Party platform included a plank espousing universal woman suffrage through a national amendment to the Constitution.  More than ten women served as delegates to the 1912 Progressive Party convention (there were two each at the 1912 Republican and Democratic conventions).  Reformer Jane Addams seconded Theodore Roosevelt's nomination, and Alice Carpenter sat on the Progressive platform resolutions committee.

With the dissolution of the Progressive party in 1916, women turned to the two mainstream political parties and were in many ways discouraged.  Woman suffrage became the bitterest debate on the Democratic convention floor, with many activists demanding a national amendment plank in the platform and many Southern Democrats resisting with all their strength.  Suffragists regularly protested at the White House and in other D.C. locations (photo of demonstration at White House at top right).  Wilson finally offered a compromise which was begrudgingly accepted: inclusion of a suffrage plank without endorsement of the federal amendment, leaving it as an issue to be taken up by the individual states.  Radical feminists deserted Wilson because of this decision. 

Alice Paul and the Congressional Union, a radical Congressional lobbyist group with the aim to pass a federal amendment, formed a National Women's Party and gave their loyalties to Hughes.  Paul persuaded Hughes to personally endorse a federal amendment, insisting that he would lose nothing, as the Old Guard would not vote for Wilson under any circumstances.  Paul and the National Women's Party used various means to campaign for Hughes, distributing literature, making speeches, and even organizing a campaign train staffed only by women that traveled throughout the West and was met with considerable cultural criticism.

Although the radical feminists and suffragists were strongly anti-Wilson, most women in the western suffrage states were not.  Favored by Progressive reformers (such as Jane Addams of Hull House) and schoolteachers for his liberal legislative record and by western women in general for his maintenance of peace, Wilson won ten out of the twelve suffrage states.

Click here to read about The People's Experience: Farming and Labor.

Return to the 1916 Election


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation