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Inez Milholland, 1913

Inez Milholland, 1913

Restored Portrait of Inez Milholland Portrait to be Unveiled

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, May 6, 2011

A restored portrait of Inez Milholland will be officially unveiled at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington DC on May 19.

Last year, a committee of notable scholars, historians, writers and descendants of Milholland established a committee to raise $4000 to restore the portrait.

The necessary funds were collected by August, 2010; in time for the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Milholland’s name is known today primarily by historians of the crusade to win passage of the 19th amendment,  which gave women the right to vote.

The movement acquired crucial public attention on March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his first term. Women from every state gathered in the capital and staged a great parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Leading the parade on a white charger was Inez Milholland, then 25 years old.

The Milholland portrait that was restored

But while Inez Milholland may be a somewhat obscure historical figure in other parts of the country, she’s a legend in the Adirondacks.

Born in 1886, she was the daughter of John Milholland, a Lewis, NY native who made a fortune from his investments in the pneumatic tube.

(By training a newspaperman, he got his start on the Ticonderoga Sentinel.)

He used a part of that fortune to acquire property in Lewis – Mount Discovery and the surrounding lands, some of which is now occupied by the Meadowmount School for Strings.

(When my parents moved to the Adirondacks in 1956, they rented one of the estate’s cottages. Their neighbor was Peggy Hamilton, the lifelong companion of Inez’s sister Vida.)

Inez Milholland graduated from Vassar and married Eugene Boissevain, who later married Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Milholland died in 1916 while campaigning in California for Wilson’s opponent, Charles Evans Hughes. She’s buried in the Milholland family plot at the Congregational Church in Lewis.

Another four years would pass before the twentieth amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was adopted.

Eight years after that, the National Women’s Party held a conference at Meadowmount, which concluded with a pageant in the meadows below Mount Discovery.

Anne Boissevain Nussbaum, who married Eugene Boissevain’s brother and who lived in Westport, once recalled the pageant in detail for my father.

A detail of the Milholland portrait

More than 10,000 people attended, she said. The theme was the passing of the torch of freedom from one generation to the next. Great women leaders of the past were honored, and Inez’s role was dramatized by the appearance of her sister, Vida, riding a white horse as Inez had done. In the final act of the pageant, Mrs. Nusbaum took the torch and passed it on to a group of women just setting off on a campaign tour.

The committee to raise funds to restore the portrait included Margaret Gibbs, the director of the Essex County Historical Society at the  Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown.

Representatives of the Milholland and Boissevain families, several scholars and Calvin Tompkins, the New Yorker writer who spent childhood summers with the Milholland family at Meadowmount, were also members.

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