The Auditorium Building is a ten-story granite and limestone building with a seventeen-story tower. When Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan completed the building in 1889, it was the tallest and most expensive building in Chicago. A large size and complex design allowed the building to serve multiple functions including a hotel, offices—including Sullivan’s own for twenty years—and a theater. Fulfilling its purpose as the main reason for the building’s construction, the Auditorium Theater became Chicago’s center for musical, cultural, and social activity as the first home of the Chicago Civic Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It held 4,200 seats but could expand to 7,000 or contract to 3,000 as needed. Roosevelt University bought the Auditorium Building in 1947. The Historic American Buildings Survey documented it in August 1963 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1970. The Auditorium Building became a National Historic Landmark on May 15, 1975. It was also designated a Chicago City Landmark on September 15, 1976. Chicago is a Certified Local Government.
Because of its prestigious reputation, the Auditorium Building attracted prominent Chicagoans. When Chicago hosted the Republican National Convention in June 1916, it provided an opportunity for suffrage organizations to campaign directly to an assembly of the U.S. leaders. Because the sitting President Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat and opposed the success of a national suffrage amendment, the opportunity to garner support from his opponents was valuable. As a result, both the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) held conventions in Chicago coinciding with the Republican National Convention. CU convention headquarters were located at the Blackstone Theater, while various committee meetings and speakers were held at the Auditorium Building. The Santa Fe New Mexican published images of the CU’s national organizers to promote the event. The newspaper also recognized Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren, the Santa Fe County superintendent of Public Instruction, for her leadership of the New Mexico chapter. To maximize support and inclusivity within New Mexico’s diverse population, Otero-Warren ensured that the CU printed suffrage materials in both Spanish and English.
On June 7, the same day as the opening session of the Republican National Convention, the CU hosted the Suffrage First luncheon in the South Parlor of the Auditorium Building. During this meeting, CU leaders proposed the adoption of the national Susan B. Anthony Amendment. This Amendment originally called for revision to the 16th Amendment and eventually became the 19th Amendment, which stated that voting rights for U.S. citizens could not be denied “on account of sex.” Committees at the convention also called for Democratic President Wilson as well as the Republican party to incorporate the amendment into their platforms. Later that afternoon, members of the CU and NAWSA assembled for a suffrage parade on Michigan Avenue. An article in the New York Times reported that over 9,000 women marched despite the pouring rain.
Although the June 1916 parade successfully drew support for the suffrage movement, the campaign for women’s voting rights was a controversial subject and could even spark conflict. Just months after the CU convention at the Auditorium Building, the October 21, 1916 edition of The Suffragist chronicled President Wilson’s own speaking engagement at the Auditorium Theater. For two hours, members of the CU and its extended organization the National Woman’s Party (NWP) gathered outside the building with banners and suffrage literature that detailed Wilson’s resistance to the advancement of women’s voting rights. While the president spoke, members of the National Woman’s Party burst into the event bearing suffrage flags. Some of the Democratic male attendees jeered, formed a mob, and launched an organized violent attack. These men destroyed suffrage literature and standards. According to The Suffragist, they threw suffragists to the ground and even dragged one woman across the street. However, not all of Wilson’s supporters engaged in this violent activity. The article also describes that other attendees apologized for the behavior of their fellow Democrats. Undeterred, the suffragists continued to call on the four million enfranchised women in the western states to support the passage of a national suffrage amendment.
The content for this article was researched and written by Jade Ryerson, an intern with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education.
Albuquerque Morning Journal. “Rival Suffrage Meetings Being Held in Chicago: One Camp Wants Constitutional Amendment, the Other Opposes It; Big Parade Today.” June 7, 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress.
Burns, Lucy, Joy Young, Nina E. Allender, S. Ada Flatman, Elizabeth Smith, and W.T. Burch, eds. “Democrats Aroused by Woman’s Party Campaign.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and of the National Woman’s Party 4, no. 43 (October 21, 1916): 7.
Burns, Lucy, Joy Young, Nina E. Allender, S. Ada Flatman, Elizabeth Smith, and W.T. Burch, eds. “Woman’s Party Convention: Blackstone Theater, Chicago Illinois June 5, 6, 7, 1916.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage 4, no. 23 (June 3, 1916): 3.
Gardner, Matilda Hall. “The Attack on the Suffrage Demonstration.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and of the National Woman’s Party 4, no. 43 (October 21, 1916): 8.
Illinois SP Auditorium Building, Roosevelt University (28892541); National Register of Historic Places and National Landmarks Program Records: Illinois; National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013-2017; Records of the National Park Service, 1785-2006, Record Group 79; Cook County, IL. Accessed January 22, 2020.
Martin, Anne. “Woman’s Party Scope and Aims Told by Leader: Not a Suffrage but a Political Body—Backs Up Its Demands with Votes.” Chicago Daily Tribune. October 21, 1916. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune.
National Park Service. “Auditorium Building.” Chicago: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed January 22, 2020.
New York Times. “Suffragists March in Spite of Storm: Thousands Parade Through Rain in Chicago Streets to Impress Delegates.” June 8, 1916. TimesMachine, New York Times.
U.S. Const. amend. XIX. H.J. Res. 1, 66th Cong. (1919).