The most famous example of the medievalist impulse in the suffrage movement is Inez Milholland (above), who dressed as a medieval herald as she led the Women’s Suffrage pageant through Washington D.C. on March 3, 1913. With her crown, sweeping white cape, flowing hair, white horse, and riding gloves shaped like armored gauntlets, Milholland provided a medievalist representation of the glamour of the suffrage movement. Her reputation as the most beautiful of the American suffragists only enhanced that glamour. She rode confidently astride her herald’s horse, not in the more demure side-saddle posture. . . .
In her role as the herald of the suffrage parade, Milholland played with conventional medievalist tropes; she saw herself as a crusader or champion for the cause, invoking medieval military language. . . .
Joan of Arc represented a pure, beautiful, young woman fighting for goodness and virtue against men who sought to oppress her. In many of these pageants, a marcher specifically designated as Joan of Arc embodied that military idea. The symbolism focused on Joan as a triumphant female figure of inspiration, purity, and righteousness, ignoring her eventual torture and execution for her religious and political beliefs. For the suffrage paraders, Joan represented a pure, beautiful, young woman fighting for goodness and virtue against men who sought to oppress her. In short, they ascribed their own motives to her.
Friday, March 6, 2020
Suffragists in Medieval Garb
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