The History Of Peaceful Protests in America

(Library of Congress)

Throughout history, protests have been used by regular people who want to have their voices heard. Civil unrest has been whipping around humankind since the first rule was laid in a stone tablet, but it's only recently that rebellious people of all ages have carried out peaceful protests to enact change. History is full of riots, rebellions, and martyrs taking their lives to bring about social change, but in the 20th century, peaceful protests inspired by people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks became the way that freedom fighters worked to bring about a better world.

Alice Paul's Silent Picket For Suffrage

The struggle for women's suffrage was a long-fought battle to provide voting rights for women in the United States. It started around the 1820s, after all states agreed that every white man should have a vote, whether they owned property or not, and white women started to wonder why they were being left out. Once the Civil War broke out, however, there were more pressing concerns to discuss.

Following the war, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendments were added to the Constitution, defining "citizens" as male members of society and extending voting rights to black men. (This was, of course, easier extended than done—we'll get to that.) Women began to push lawmakers to create an amendment that allowed everyone to vote regardless of gender, and in 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was formed.

By 1910, the NAWS had split into two distinct factions. Carrie Chapman Catt led a group that brought together local suffrage movements into order to strengthen the national group, while Alice Paul led a contingent who took part in hunger strikes and picketing the White House. Paul's most accomplished act of peaceful protest occurred on March 3, 1913 in Washington D.C., one day before President-Elect Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. Paul brought 8,000 woman to the city to carry banners and floats down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House, and when President Wilson brushed off their demands, she embarked on 18 months of silent picketing outside the White House that lasted from January 1917 to mid-1918.

Finally, after Paul's arrest, Wilson got behind suffrage. After two years of hashing it out in the Senate and the House, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920.