Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nell Richardson, Alice Burke–Traveling Sufragettes

In 1916, the United States was divided into “yellow” and “black” states instead of the “blue” and “red” we hear about today. Yellow states supported women’s suffrage; black states did not–and the tension between the two was just as fierce as today’s political polarization.
On April 6 of that year, two women, Alice Burke of Illinois and Nell Richardson of Virginia, left New York City, driving a yellow Baby Saxon car to tour the country in hopes of influencing politicians and public opinion on women’s rights, particularly the right to vote. With them was a black kitten, also named Saxon. The trip was sponsored by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The yellow car, nicknamed the “Golden Flier,” became a symbol for women’s rights that summer. Richardson and Burke also used it as a podium for the speeches they made in many towns, cities and backwaters along their route. In addition, the car was covered with various promotional ads. 
The trio carried what they needed in the car, including clothing, a typewriter and extra parts for the car. If the car needed repairs, Alice Burke performed them herself. 
They arrived back in New York City at the end of September, having traveled nearly five months and 10,700 miles. They visited every state in the union except those in New England and stated that they had little trouble beyond being lost for four nights in the desert. They also expressed surprise that Southern men were more interested in hearing what they had to say than those in more northern states.

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