Boone Suffrage Parade

Jan 8, 2020  | 3 min  | Ep 2020 | Transcript

The 1908 suffrage parade in Boone was one of the first suffrage parades in the nation and proved to be a turning point in the history of the Iowa suffrage movement.


The fight for women’s suffrage is commonly covered in history classes, at least briefly.

Stories of the Seneca Falls Convention, the pickets at the White House and the ratification of the 19th amendment are widely known.

But what few may know is that a landmark event in the suffrage movement happened right here in Boone, Iowa over a hundred years ago.

By 1908, women nationwide had been actively fighting for the right to vote for 60 years. Little was being accomplished, and suffragists were becoming discouraged.

Their methods of holding meetings and delivering speeches were no longer drumming up new support, and were preaching to the choir, so to speak.

Iowa Equal Suffrage Association president Eleanor Elizabeth Gordon recognized this and took action.

“She decided that something had to be done to increase interest and get people revved up and ready to go because the suffrage movement seemed to be kind of falling flat at that point.”

She contacted a woman named Rowena Edson Stevens, who was the president of the Boone Equality Club.

Together they came up with a bold idea to hold a parade during the annual Iowa Equal Suffrage Association convention later that fall.

“It hadn’t been done before. Except in England. And the suffrage movement had kind of been dying down. People would get up and they’d talk and talk and talk and people were tired of listening to people talk and talk. But to do something physical, to act something out was much more effective, or they thought it would be much more effective.”

At a quarter to noon on October 29, 1908, over a hundred women lined up at the corner of 7th and Carroll streets ready to participate in the parade.

Led by a local band and a car carrying national suffrage leader Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, they began marching east toward the heart of the business district carrying banners.

When they reached the intersection of 8th and Story streets, Dr. Shaw addressed the crowd in the form of an open-air meeting.

After she finished speaking, the women returned to their parade and marched the five blocks back to the start of the route.

Although the whole event lasted less than an hour, it proved to be a successful first public display for the suffrage cause in the state. With the Boone parade being one of the first suffrage parades in the nation, it inspired other state and national suffrage leaders to consider organizing parades of their own, including Alice Paul’s infamous 1913 parade in Washington, D.C.