Delta Sigma Theta re-enacts women's suffrage march - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Deltas re-enact women's suffrage march


We often hear about the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. giving back to the community. After all,  they are a public service sorority that was founded a century ago. We have covered the Savannah Alumnae Chapter through the years as they've mentored young men and women, awarded scholarships, hosted health and political forums and partnered with several historic and cultural institutions throughout our community. However, on Saturday they're re-enacting an historic march that changed our nation and led to women earning the right to vote.

On Election Day, it isn't unusual for women to vote, but 100 years ago, that was unheard of.  Women were fighting for that right. They took to the streets in protest on March 3, 1913. Women's organizations from around the country marched on Washington during what they called the Women's Suffrage Parade just one day before Woodrow Wilson became the 28th president of the United States.

 In that crowd of 5,000, just one black women's organization, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. which at that time was only made up of 22 young college girls between the ages of 19 and 22. They had just been founded on Jan. 13 on the campus of Howard University. Despite the racial tension and resistance from the organizers who feared the white women would not march if the black women joined in, these women refused to quit. During those times, they also had to battle with the university because they could not leave campus without a chaperone. They finally got one to accompany them for the march.  In spite of the tremendous odds, those young ladies prevailed and with their banner, they followed the rule and marched in the back of the march.  "Some of them could've said I don't want to I'm afraid. As a collective unit they decided I'm going to make this statement on behalf of ourselves and for those who don't have the ability to be here.  I cannot imagine the courage that took," explained President of the Savannah Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Grayzel Ellison.

The march was the Deltas' first public act. It took a lot of courage for them and all of the women. Suffragist Alice Paul described what they faced as a mob scene. She said, "The violence erupted minutes after the parade began. The crowd broke through steel cables and spilled into the street. Men, many of them drunk, spit at the marchers and grabbed their clothing, hurled insults and lit cigarettes, snatched banners and tried to climb floats. Police did little to keep order." One hundred marchers had to be treated at the hospital and the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson sent in a troop of cavalry from Fort Myer to help control the crowd.

Despite the violence, the rich legacy those ladies, especially those young Deltas, left behind give strength to today's Deltas who on March 3 of this year retraced their founders' footsteps along Pennsylvania Avenue. They invited all of their sisters and many came from as a far away as Tokyo and Germany on that cold day to honor those phenomenal women who were willing to risk their lives for a better tomorrow for the sisterhood and women from all walks of life  who would live in a time they could only dream about. Savannah Alumnae Chapter President Grayzel Ellison was right in that crowd of 12,000 still bursting with pride today as she reflects upon the sacrifice, commitment, and strength of the founders and pride she feels to be a part of the legacy today. "It was just amazing to see these women come together and walk together with their banners from the respective states and countries and it was absolutely breathtaking," said Ellison.

Saturday is sure to be breathtaking too, when the Savannah Alumnae Chapter re-enacts that historic march right here on the streets of historic Savannah. All women and women's organizations are invited to join them and bring their banners just like they did back in 1913. You'll walk from the north side of Forsyth Park to Bull and Bryan Streets where there will be a very short program. More than 300 women will be there. If you want to participant, you have to register. It is not too late, just call 912.232.6048. 

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