August 6, 1886
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||November 25, 1916
Good Samaritan Hospital
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||Eugene Jan Boissevain (m. 1913–16)|
|Parent(s)||John Elmer Milholland
Inez Milholland Boissevain (August 6, 1886 – November 25, 1916) was a suffragist, labor lawyer, World War I correspondent, and public speaker who greatly influenced the women's movement in America. She was active in the National Woman's Party and a key participant in the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Inez Milholland grew up in a wealthy family. She was the eldest daughter of John Elmer and Jean (Torrey) Milholland and had one sister, Vida, and one brother, John (Jack). Her father was a New York Tribune reporter and editorial writer who eventually headed a pneumatic tubes business that afforded his family a privileged life in both New York and London. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and women suffrage. Her mother exposed her children to cultural and intellectual stimulation.
Inez Milholland received her early education at the Comstock School in New York and Kensington High School in London. After finishing school, she decided to attend Vassar but when the college wouldn't accept her graduation certificate she attended Willard School for Girls in Berlin.
During her attendance at Vassar College she was once suspended for organizing a women's rights meeting. The president of Vassar had forbidden suffrage meetings, but Milholland and others held regular "classes" on the issue, along with large protests and petitions. As a student she was known as an active radical. She started the suffrage movement at Vassar, enrolled two-thirds of the students, and taught them the principles of socialism. With the radical group she had gathered about her, she attended socialist meetings in Poughkeepsie which were under the ban of the faculty. An athletic young woman, she was the captain of the hockey team and a member of the 1909 track team; she also set a record in the basketball throw. Milholland was also involved in student productions, the Current Topics Club, the German Club, and the debating team.
After graduation in from Vassar 1909, she tried for admission at both Yale University, Harvard University, and Cambridge University with the purpose of studying law, but was denied due to gender. Milholland was finally matriculated at the New York University Law School, from which she took her LL.B. degree in 1912.
Milholland's causes were far reaching. She was not only interested in prison reform, she sought world peace and worked for equality for African Americans. Milholland was a member of the NAACP, the Women's Trade Union League, the Equality League of Self Supporting Women in New York (Women's Political Union), the National Child Labor Committee, and England's Fabian Society. She was also involved in the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which later branched into the grassroots radical National Woman's Party. She became a leader and a popular speaker on the campaign circuit of the NWP, working closely with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.
Milholland was later admitted to the bar and joined the New York law firm of Osborne, Lamb, and Garvan, handling criminal and divorce cases. In one of her first assignments, she had to investigate conditions at Sing Sing prison. At the time female contact with male prisoners was not looked upon well, but she insisted on talking personally with the prisoners to uncover the horrible conditions. Additionally, she wanted to see what it felt like to be an inmate, so she had herself handcuffed to one.
Milholland stepped into her first suffrage parade on May 7, 1911. She held a sign that read, "Forward, out of error,/Leave behind the night,/Forward through the darkness,/Forward into light!" Milholland quickly became the beautiful face of the suffrage movement. The New York Sun stated that "No suffrage parade was complete without Inez Milholland." She led many parades in 1911, 1912, and 1913.
In 1913, at the age of 27, Milholland made her most memorable appearance, as she helped organize the suffrage parade in Washington D.C., scheduled to take place the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. She led the parade wearing a crown and a long white cape while riding atop a large white horse named "Gray Dawn."
Milholland believed that women should have the right to vote because of the traits that were unique to women. She argued that women would metaphorically become the "house-cleaners of the nation." She believed women's votes could remove social ills such as sweatshops, tenements, prostitution, hunger, poverty, and child mortality. She told men that they should not worry about the women in their lives as they were extending their sacred rights and duties to the whole country rather than inside the home. Even though she spoke of these issues, she was always disappointed that she was better known for her looks than her brains.
Milholland traveled overseas to Italy at the beginning of World War I shortly after the RMS Lusitania had been torpedoed by a German U-boat. After landing, the captain informed Milholland that a German submarine followed them across the ocean. With this information, she began writing for the Tribune and became a war correspondent. Milholland worked to be see the front lines in the war as she continued to write anti-war articles that led to her censure by the Italian government which ousted her from the country.
Upon returning from Italy, Milholland suffered from spouts of depression. She felt that she was kicked off the front line because she was a woman and not because she was a pacifist. She felt like she had returned a failure.
She was also a leading figure on Henry Ford's ill-fated Peace Ship expedition of late 1915, steaming across the Atlantic with a team of pacifist campaigners who hoped to give impetus to a negotiated settlement to the First World War. However, she left the ship in Stockholm because the trip was unorganized and dissension had ensued between passengers.
Inez Milholland became the classic New Woman in the beginning of the 20th century. She loved the new dance crazes of the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear and enjoyed traveling to Paris and buying couture gowns in Paris. Additionally, her views mirrored those of the New Woman when it came to sexual love.
By the fall of 1909, Inez Milholland and Max Eastman became rising radical stars due to their handsome looks. Inez knew Max through his sister, Crystal Eastman whom she met at socialist and suffrage rallies. Inez told Max that she loved him and tried to convince him to elope with her. When he finally reciprocated her love and agreed to marry her, their relationship fell apart. They both realized they could not be lovers, but they did remain close lifelong friends.
In the same way that she fell fast in love with Eastman, soon after she began seeing the author, John Fox, Jr.. She told him she loved him but he didn't reciprocate right away. When he did tell her that he loved her, she was no longer interested.
In July, 1913 while on a cruise to London, Milholland proposed to Eugen Jan Boissevain, a Dutchman she had known for about a month. The two were married on July 14 at the Kensington registry office which was as soon as they could after their arrival in London without consulting their families. John Milholland was in New York at the time and heard about the marriage from the press. John insisted that the two get remarried in a church, but Inez refused.
The marriage between Milholland and Boissevain was not perfect. A complication arose when the couple returned to New York from London. Milholland was no longer an American citizen because the law stated that the woman took the man’s nationality in a marriage. Although Milholland fought for suffrage, if women would have been granted the right to vote in her lifetime, she would not have been able to practice her right because she was no longer a citizen. Although married, Milholland did not stop flirting with other men and often wrote to Boissevain to tell him. Additionally, most disappointing to the couple was the fact that they did not have any children.
In 1916 she went on a tour in the West speaking for women's rights as a member of the National Woman's Party. She undertook the tour despite suffering from pernicious anemia and despite the admonitions of her family who were concerned about her deteriorating health. On October 22, 1916, she collapsed in the middle of a speech in Los Angeles, and was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital. Despite repeated blood transfusions, she died on November 25, 1916.
Milholland's last public words were, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?"
Carl Sandburg wrote a poem about her titled "Repetitions," which appears in his 1918 volume, Cornhuskers. Edna St. Vincent Millay, who married Milholland's widower Eugen Boissevain in 1923, also wrote a poem, "To Inez Milholland," included in her collection The Buck in the Snow.
- History of feminism
- List of suffragists and suffragettes
- List of women's rights activists
- Timeline of women's suffrage
- Women's Social and Political Union
- Women's suffrage in the United States
- Nicolosi, Ann Marie "The Most Beautiful Sufragette: Inez Milholland and the Political Currency of Beauty." Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, July 2007. pp 287-310.
- Nicolosi, Ann Marie "The Most Beautiful Sufragette: Inez Milholland and the Political Currency of Beauty." pp 287-310.
- "Inez Milholland Boissevain." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. Oct 6, 2011.
- “Inez Milholland,” Vassar Encyclopedia. Last modified 2006. http://vcencyclopedia.vassar.edu/alumni/inez-milholland.html
- Marilyn Elizabeth Perry. "Boissevain, Inez Milholland"; American National Biography Online. Feb. 2000.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, p. 69.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004), p. 70.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 71-73.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 120-130.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, p. 131.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 54-56.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 56-58.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 78-80.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 94-100.
- Linda Lumsden, Inez: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland, pp. 101-110.
- "Long Struggle is Vain". The New York Times. November 26, 1916. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
Idol of the Suffragists and One of the Most Beautiful Women in United States Passes Away at the Good Samaritan Hospital After Long Efforts to Prolong Her Life Failed. Sketch of Her Career. Lays Down Life for Women's Cause. Lays Down Life. ... died at the Good Samaritan Hospital at 10:55 ... Mrs. Inez Milholland Boissevain, Internationally-known suffragist, ...
- "Profiles: Selected Leaders of the National Woman's Party". American Memory. The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 19, 2009.
- Sandburg, Carl (1918). "Repetitions". Cornhuskers. H. Holt. p. 47.
- "Eugen Jan Boissevain". Retrieved June 17, 2012.
- Millay, Edna St. Vincent. "To Inez Milholland". Cscs.umich.edu. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Inez Milholland.|
- Inez Milholland Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- Sidesaddles and suffragettes – the fight to ride and vote Horsetalk.co.nz
- "Inez Milholland Portrait Restoration Planned" The Adirondack Almanack, April 23, 2010
- "Inez Milholland". Suffragist. Find a Grave. Apr 20, 2004. Retrieved Aug 18, 2011.