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Abstract

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The meeting in Carnegie Hall . . . opened with a pageant of free nations, grouped colorfully about the central figure of "Justice" enthroned, before whom enchained America with a black-draped following of mourning women came to beg for a place in the light of true democracy. . . . Miss Vida Milholland took the central part of "Justice," receiving the beautifully costumed women of free nations, who grouped about her in a glorious massing of color and light as the black-robed women of disfranchised America approached to make their plea."

This vignette is taken from a March 1919 edition of The Suffragist- the weekly publication of the National Woman's Party (NWP) - and describes one of the last suffrage pageants staged by that early twentiethcentury American woman suffrage organization during the final push for a federal suffrage amendment. Suffrage pageants were not unusual. In the last decades of the fight over woman suffrage in America, the contest was waged in images and symbols as much as words, on the streets and in theaters as much as in the courts and legislatures. As in the Carnegie Hall pageant, the figure of Justice played a prominent role in pro-suffrage spectacle. Other candidates were available, and among the pantheon of female allegorical figures others - including Liberty, Truth, and Columbia - also featured in suffrage spectacles. But, as shown below, Justice frequently was the star-likely her first modern feminist role.' In this Essay, I offer a brief, historically sensitive interpretation of the figure of Justice in woman suffrage spectacle and propaganda, deciphering, as best as possible, Justice's salience and function in the battle over woman suffrage.

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