Hopefully you have seen the PBS American Experience two part series called The Vote. If not: Watch it! Stream it!
Elisabeth was well represented in the series and I recall talking with the researchers a year ago or so. What a thrill it must be to put together a narrative like this! It’s a great show, don’t miss it!
It turns out our publicity hound appeared 7 times in the documentary. I know that because my friend Patricia Bernstein counted. She is the author of “The First Waco Horror” and clearly in the EF fan club. Here’s what she emailed me:
These times might be a little bit off but I think they are very close. I was so excited every time I saw her sweet face! The last one is the kinetoscope: her name appears on screen, too, along with the names of the other women. Hers is last on the list.51:2654:341:19:521:20:281:21:431:23:341:34:36
The three times she appears just before that last one have to do with the march from New York to Washington DC. I remember that, by the time they reached Washington, she was pretty sick. I was so glad to see that she was actually at the big march, looking fairly cheery. The narration mentions that the DC police chief lost his job but not that many of the women marchers were married to very prominent men who were not happy about the way their wives were treated.
You must be so proud! And I’m sure she would be proud of the way you have carried her legacy forward.
So, if you want to find every appearance, thank Patricia and check out her book, it’s amazing.
The kinetoscope is the most interesting reveal for me but they didn’t show the whole thing. In the “talkie” Elisabeth is positively effervescent; she literally cannot sit still. It is clear that she doesn’t get how a movie works or she would not be talking while others are speaking. And yet, when it is her turn you can see the appeal. She’s a natural speaker, none of the formal oratory of the previous speakers. I always thought it would be cool for someone who reads lips to translate. The recording, which was made of wax, has not survived.
But apparently Edison thought it would be a good newsreel to show before the feature film at the movies. From some news accounts it was booed wildly at some shows. I think Edison and EF were both looking for ways to ride a star for maximum publicity. Edison was looking for topical news and EF was only too eager to explore the latest medium. She was not a fan though, complaining that it was hard to talk without an audience. And she got a lot out of the experience. Several feet of copy in the papers were written about the filming thus extending it beyond the boos at the theatre.
Here’s another thing that didn’t make the documentary. You saw this promo picture of the Pilgrim Marchers. They had a photo shoot in Central Park prior to the Hike to DC in 1913, but at some point someone had the idea to add some characters in an early version of photoshop (which probably included some good scissor work). Here is the url of a photo in the NY Time series “Suffrage at 100” which shows a few of the same people, including the guy with the purse, but then there are all these other odd faces that clearly were not there. Inquiring minds want to know… Look between Elsie McKenzie, far left and our old pal Ida B. Craft–it looks like Oscar Wilde’s head! Or the rather large head of the guy with the purse in the Times photo next to Rosalie Jones in this one. And who do those heads belong to lurking behind EF?
The Pilgrim outfits may have been designed more for comfort with the cold weather hiking, but notice that Elisabeth created a different character for herself, with a more girlish, rakish air. If we accept the idea of Suffrage “Pilgrims” on a quest, apparently, gypsies used to accompany them and read fortunes, taking advantage of the crowds. And according to my mother, Elisabeth did, in fact, read palms for amusement. I guess if you have a schtick, you keep it up.
I love this picture. These young women are clearly into smart costumes (unlike those Pilgrims) and Elisabeth’s outfit is just different enough to stand out as the leader. I believe this captures a Suffrage Club that went to Wall St. to sell suffrage newspapers. Financiers and traders had to “run the gauntlet” of these women to get to their offices and apparently they were relentless in selling those newspapers. This club of young women also went to the beach to hand out suffrage literature and sell newspapers but this doesn’t look like beach wear to me. The outfits alone make me want to join up!
American Experience: The Vote will be re-broadcast Sept 8-29th so if you missed it, here’s your chance to catch it. And watch for our girl!