Ballots and the Beach: A closer look at the historical events that are touched upon in the HBO series 'Boardwalk Empire.'
ATLANTIC CITY — For a country founded on the concept of equality, the United States has often failed to practice what it preached. Slaves came up somewhat short in the “created equal” department until Abe Lincoln made the Declaration of Independence honest, and it took another century for African-Americans to gain full rights under the law. Women faced a similar struggle to escape their second-class status and, black or white, they couldn’t even vote.
Where was The View back in those days?
Fact is, outspoken forebears of Whoopi and Barbara waged a decades-long battle against an intractable male establishment before securing suffrage in 1920. And Atlantic City — never regarded as the most high-minded of towns — played a pivotal role in their quest.
“When . . . human vision grows clearer, it is caught out of the clouds and crystalized into law — our victory hangs within our grasp,” stated Carrie Chapman Catt in an eloquent speech delivered in September 1916 at the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in Atlantic City’s New Nixon Theatre, which had opened three years earlier.
Catt, in her second stint as NAWSA president, characterized the World War — underway in Europe for more than two years at a cost, already, of more than three million (male) lives — as, regrettably, the engine that would forever change women’s stature in society. She emphasized that women overseas had assumed functions previously the domain of men (e.g., the manufacture of munitions) and were speaking out on issues instead of remaining obligingly silent.
“The war will end soon,” said Catt. “The Woman’s Hour has struck. Arise, my sisters — the time of victory is here.”
President Woodrow Wilson also spoke to the convention crowd at the theater situated at St. Charles Place and the Boardwalk, a vaudeville house jointly owned by developer/impresario Samuel F. Nixon (who leased Atlantic City’s famed Apollo Theatre from saltwater taffy tycoon Joseph Fralinger) and an entertainment combine featuring the notable Erlangers. The New Nixon would soon be rechristened the Globe and become a prime stop for the legitimate stage, the new medium of motion pictures and, ultimately, striptease.
In his convention speech, Wilson, a minister’s son and the former president of Princeton University, waxed professorial rather than messianic. He linked the rise of the women’s movement to the “slavery question” of the previous century and, in so many words, said that the enfranchisement of women was an idea whose time had come. Drawing a distinction between legal issues and social issues, he told the assembly that it represented a “cumulative force . . . that has come with conquering power.” Legal validation would follow, he implied, though he concluded with the qualifier “you can afford a little while to wait.”
They had been waiting for some time, but fighting all the while. For its part, New Jersey had been progressive enough during the Revolutionary era to grant women the vote in return for a kind of initiation fee of 50 pounds (almost $8,000 today) each. Talk about freedom at a price. Only women of means need apply.
Garden State legislators of the following century apparently were less money-motivated, stripping women of the right to vote altogether in 1844. Nationwide, the states offered a hodgepodge of discrimination —essentially, women were invited to stay in the kitchen and out of the voting booth. Dissenters, however, cooked up opposition to such medieval thinking. In 1869, activists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the National Woman Suffrage Association, which shared an overriding common goal with the parallel American Woman Suffrage Association, but differed on how to attain it. (The NWSA opposed granting the vote to black men while women were still excluded, and sought sanction on a federal level — both positions contrary to those espoused by the AWSA.) In 1890, the two organizations merged to form the NAWSA, which spoke in one voice at annual conventions.
In 1916, it was off to the seashore and an executive council meeting at the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel followed by the inspired gathering at the New Nixon, all over a period of several days. Sensing that the tide finally was turning their way, Wisconsin native and former school superintendent Catt pushed the language.
But the war did not end so soon, after all. Congress declared war on Germany the following April, and American troops soon entered the fray. In the victorious aftermath, President Wilson, who, in his Atlantic City speech, had called the women’s movement “one of the most astonishing tides in modern history,” suffered a debilitating stroke in his frenetic bid to rouse popular support for the League of Nations and, in the months to come, remained an invalid. Unknown to all but the White House inner circle — even to Congress — his strong-willed wife virtually ran the executive branch of the U.S. government.
The HBO Emmy Award winning series Boardwalk Empire may be the talk of the town, but I bet you didn’t know that Terence Winter, Boardwalk Empire’s creator, gifted the cast and producers of the show with jewelry by local Atlantic County designer Paula Jerome to help celebrate the Emmys!
Cable TV giant HBO has released an official trailer for the second season of its award-winning and milti-Emmy nominated drama series Boardwalk Empire.
The second season of HBO's highly acclaimed drama series Boardwalk Empire, set in 1920s-era Atlantic City, premieres in late September.
Boardwalk Empire picked up a couple more awards last night from the Screen Actors Guild. The SAGs are the most prestigious awards next to the Oscars, since the SAGs are voted on by a performer’s peers.
In a “news” box on the upper right side of the Archeophone Records home page, there’s a list of the songs played thus far in the first two episodes of HBO’s 'Boardwalk Empire,' set in 1920s Atlantic City.
1912 Prohibition Party Convention
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