Republican Turmoil at Bay City Armory in 1912 Led to Vote for Women in 1920
Century Old Building is Historical Treasure & Progressive Politics Shrine
September 25, 2011
By: Dave Rogers
The old National Guard Armory in Bay City, now the Bay County Historical Museum, is not just a 100 year old building.
It is -- or should be -- a shrine to progressive politics, including presidential primary elections and the movement that led to women's suffrage.
Not only did Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Republicans create a new party -- The Bull Moose Party -- in their uprising at the armory in Bay City in 1912, they changed the course of history.
Roosevelt supporters challenged the forces of the more conservative William Howard Taft at the windows and doors of the Bay City Armory at the Republican State Convention in April, 1912.
The National Guard finally restored order but there were injuries, including a death that occurred later of a Midland judge who fell from the platform onto the press table.
The Roosevelt men who started in Bay City went on to Chicago and continued their agitation for a new party, dubbed the Bull Moose Party after TR declared he was "fit as a bull moose" despite being shot in an assassination attempt.
The late Dr. John A. Gable, an expert on Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Party, wrote:
"But the real winner in 1912 was democracy in the form of the presidential primaries. By running and losing, by refusing to be counted out ... when the voters had spoken ... Theodore Roosevelt had firmly established the new primary system."
Michigan currently is in the process of establishing a primary election that will probably lead the the state gaining in importance in the selection of presidential candidates in the future.
Women had been denied the vote for more than half a century after blacks had been granted freedom by the Thirteenth Amendment and suffrage by the Fifteenth Amendment after the Civil War.
Wrote Dr. Gable:
"The Progressive Party went out of business in 1916, but the cause of women's suffrage was surely advanced by four years of Bull Moose campaigning. Women got the vote everywhere at last in 1920.
"In later years Ruth Hanna McCormick, after serving in the U.S. House, became the first woman nominated in any state for the U.S. Senate by the Republican Party. Though defeated, she remained a power in that party until her death in the 1940s. In 1933 Frances Perkins was appointed Secretary of Labor by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first women to serve in the cabinet. In 1912 Frances Perkins had supported the Progressive Party.
"The legacy is clear. The Progressive Party had opened a door to women, a door previously closed to them by Republicans and Democrats alike."
History Article 06275
- Feedback From Readers!
On September 26, 2011
at 11:54 AM
Dave, I'm waiting for you to write about the great Polish Church War of 1896-1897. I placed a notebook containing all the newspaper articles I could find on the War in the library. Now I'm trying to find someone to write the story. How about it?
On October 06, 2011
at 08:33 AM
Good article Dave. I did not know all of this. See you next week.
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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