Inez Milholland was born in New York in 1886. She was the eldest of three children, two girls and a boy. Her father ran a mail tube business that left the family very well off. Her privileged life was filled with culture, education, and plenty of physical activity. Inez's parents owned homes in both New York and London. It was in London that she attended Kensington, a girl's high school. However much she loved London, Inez planned to go to college in America. Eventually, she decided on Vassar College in New York City, but her diploma from Kensington was not accepted. Her parents, determined to send Inez to college, enrolled her in the Willard School for Girls. At Willard, Inez worked hard and earned an acceptable diploma. In the autumn of 1905, Inez tested into Vassar. There, she excelled in her studies and athletics. She was always working hard and trying new things. Not only did she win the college award for best all-around athlete, she starred in several school plays and joined multiple school clubs.
Inez spent the summer after her sophomore year in London, where she met a woman that helped to set her on her path as a suffragist. Emmeline Pankhurst was a suffragette who was working to gain women's voting rights in England through a pushier, more aggressive approach. Through Emmeline, Inez Milholland participated in some demonstrations with the Women's Social and Political Union and learned more about the women's voting rights effort in England. America seemed disappointing in comparison. Inez pointed this out when she returned to Vassar to begin her junior year, writing about the issue in the Vassar Miscellany. She was determined to bring the topic of women's suffrage to her college, but Vassar's president, James Monroe Taylor, was as against the movement as Inez was for it. He believed such discussion to be propaganda and forbid it on campus. Inez quickly found a loophole in this rule. She began hosting meetings in the college's adjacent cemetery, the first kicking off with fifty-six people. Because these meetings were not on the campus itself, they were allowed, and Inez continued to help organize them until her graduation in 1909. This group became known as the Vassar Votes for Women Club.
After graduating from Vassar, Inez dove deeper and deeper into the suffrage movement. Her first big moment as a suffrage orator was when she single-handedly halted a campaign parade for President William Howard Taft. She leaned out the window of a building being passed by the parade, speaking from a megaphone. Hundreds of men, both viewing and marching, stopped to watch the beautiful woman speak.
In 1909 Inez was accepted into the New York University School of Law. While in law school, she continued her work as a suffragist. After getting her degree in 1912, she helped to plan a massive Women's suffrage parade, to take place the day before President Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. When the day came, Inez Milholland led the parade, wearing a white cape with matching gloves and a crown. She rode her horse, Grey Dawn. This is what she is best remembered for today.
In 1913, Inez met and married a Dutch coffee importer, Eugen Jan Boissevain. Although married women were expected to stay home, marriage didn't stop her suffrage work. She also joined the National Woman's Party to help bring about fair voting rights in America. On October 19, 1916, Inez collapsed while giving a speech. Ten weeks later she died in a hospital due to pernicious anemia.
The suffrage movement was met with strong opposition. Men didn't want women to be educated or to vote because voting equals power. In a time when women were expected to do nothing more than marry and stay at home, Inez went to college, earned a law degree, and inspired women to think for themselves. When she wanted a change, she stepped forward and worked to make that change happen. She was and is an example to others, and while she did not live to see women gain voting rights, I think she would be proud of how far the women of our country have come.