Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Marya Ratavitch

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By Penny Colman, author and independent historian

Marya Ratavitch, or Ratovitch, is one of many grassroots suffragists about which little, if anything, is known, except for what can be gleaned from accounts in newspapers. She appeared in seven articles published on March 4 and 5, 1919 by four newspapers: The Sun and New-York Tribune in New York City; The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts; and The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia.

The coverage was prompted by the National Woman's Party's announcement of a demonstration in New York City, where President Woodrow Wilson was scheduled to speak at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 5, 1919.

Reading the coverage we learn that Marya Ratavitch was from Chicago. That she participated in the demonstration. That she was "a tiny thing" and had "bobbed hair." That she "used to be an aviatrix but lately has been working with a New York newspaper." That she wrote to Alice Paul that she "would gladly fly over the Metropolitan Opera House beyond the reach of the police." That she was "quite badly injured" while attempting to break through a "solid wall of officers."

The chief of police had announced that the suffragists "would not be allowed to trouble the President." He insured that by positioning a phalanx of police at Fortieth Street and Broadway who rushed the parade of suffragists. "They spoke not a word," reported Doris Stevens, "but beat us back with their clubs with such cruelty as none of us had ever witnessed before."

Piecing together the reportage, we know that Marya Ratavitch tried to breach the police line, once by trying to "dart between" the legs of a policeman. Twice she was thrown to the pavement and "lay still." Each time, she was picked up and carried to the sidewalk. Once by a reporter. The second time by "a couple of suffs and some sympathetic men."

When Elizabeth Colt who was stationed nearby in her automobile offered her refuge, Marya Ratavitch refused, saying: "I am going through the lines." As she valiantly "pushed her puny strength against a solid wall of officers," two policemen grabbed her by the shoulders.

"You want to get through," one of them said. "We'll take you through." Holding her so she went head first, the officers rammed her through, leaving her "hatless, disheveled and apparently fainting."

That is all we currently know about Marya Ratavitch, clearly an intrepid suffragist.

Any reader who can add census or vital records information about Marya Ratavitch should contact tdublin@binghamton.edu and we can expand this sketch accordingly.

Sources:

"Suffs to Burn Wilson Speech." 4 March 1919. The Sun, pp. 1, 5.

"Police Ordered to Bar Pickets from President." 3 March 1919. New-York Tribune, p. 3.

"Suffs Fight in Street to Burn Wilson Speech." 5 March 1919, New-York Tribune, pp. 1, 2.

"Suffs Charge the Police in New York." 5 March 1919. The Boston Globe, pp. 1, 8.

"Anti-Wilson Suffragists Are Arrested Here." 4 March 1919. New-York Tribune, pp. 1, 4.

"Suffrage Women Fight Policemen at Metropolitan." 5 March 1919. The Atlanta Constitution, p. 6.

"Anti-Wilson Suffragists Are Arrested Here." 5 March 1919. New-York Tribune, pp.1, 4.

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