Petticoat Parade

I’m currently working on a spanking romance novel set in 1896. It’s a Western and an event central to the story is the vote for women’s suffrage in Idaho in 1896. Coincidentally I ran across this piece, a tongue-in-cheek faux “newspaper” account of a suffragette rally and its aftermath in Denver circa 1918 or so. This was originally penned by AG Purvis who wrote quite a bit for CF Publications back in the day (and maybe still does). You can find more of his work at

                                             The Petticoat Paradekneeling for boich


Here, the Editor of The Observer, Stephen Newberry, took exception to the Denver paper’s caption. In a front page editorial he said that while some or all of Denver’s prostitutes may have been in the petticoat parade, the truth was that most of the marchers were honest hardworking women who deserved the right to vote. The women of his acquaintance, Mr. Newberry wrote, were at least as capable of determining their political future as the men he knew. On the other hand he said that he thought the petticoat parade was a misguided idea since it seemed to say, “If you don’t treat me like a reliable grown-up, I’m going to act like a mischievous child.”

That editorial started a daily exchange of opinions on the front page of the Observer, which printed letters and comments from residents who came here from many places and brought with them many different points of view on the topic. Each day someone else had a say.

Norma Bell, the widow of Tyler Bell and the owner and operator of the Blue Bell Mine, agreed that women shouldn’t take their clothes off if they wanted to be taken seriously. She challenged any man to personal combat who didn’t think she was qualified to vote. She offered them their choice of bare knuckles, shovels, picks, sledge hammers, or iron bars, but not firearms.

Olaf Petersen, the Blacksmith, allowed as how no man would object to a woman like “Big Norma” Bell joining them in the voting booth, particularly since no man in his right mind would accept her challenge — she had bested all comers with bare knuckles, shovels, picks, sledge hammers, and iron bars in the past. Mr. Petersen asked if other women, more dedicated to home and family than the rough and ready Widow Bell, were interested in political affairs, or if they would just vote the way their husbands told them to vote, thus doubling the voting power of married men.

Polly Parsons, the only female employee of The Observer and hence referred to in print at the “Girl Reporter” (although she was 31 years old) reported that the women were planning a petticoat parade. She invited the men to enjoy the spectacle so long as they accorded the women respect, and listened to what the women had to say.

Biddy Malone, the teenage Irish immigrant Chambermaid at the Garrison Hotel, was quoted as saying, “American women have no decent rearing.” She said the very idea that women should vote violated God’s law and any woman who showed her underwear in public like a naughty girl should be soundly spanked.tumblr_mfyk2o1I8c1s28hw2o1_500

Wilson O’Dell, a Fireman on the railroad, said that women had every natural right to vote and he couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. He didn’t think the women needed to strip to prove their point, but he was looking forward to watching them do so.

Dotty Pitts, a housewife, was outraged at the thought of grown women parading in their bloomers through the town. She suggested that any women who did so should be arrested for “Indecent Exposure.”

Sheriff Shuck Sherman said he knew of no law or ordinance which allowed him to arrest women for walking around in their petticoats, so long as their most private parts were covered.

Polly Parsons, the “Girl Reporter,” wrote that the women had chosen Mildred Lang, the wife of the Mayor, to lead the “Bloomer Girls” in a march down Front Street the day before the vote.

Mayor David Lang said that his efforts to discuss the proposed petticoat parade with his wife had been futile and he was considering what action he should take if she went through with it. He thought Biddy Malone’s idea was a good one.

Mildred Lang said her husband’s efforts to talk to her about the “March for Women’s Suffrage” were nothing more than his attempts to dissuade her and, as a mother of two grown children, she did not appreciate being threatened with a spanking by her husband on the front page of The Observer.

Housewife Dotty Pitts said the suffragettes were taking advantage of the fact that the town’s best men and horses were away in Europe fighting the World War and she encouraged the Mayor to spank his wife if she lead the petticoat parade.

Mildred Lang said with so many men away fighting the war, the women had had to fill in for them, most women liked their little taste of the “man’s world,” and the right to vote would insure that the women were not pushed back into servitude when the men returned. She also said she did not appreciate Dotty Pitts meddling in her family’s private affairs.

Polly Parsons, the “Girl Reporter,” wrote that Mildred Lang would be joined in the front ranks by the Hungarian born Tisza Horvath, the School Marm for a dozen years; by the President of the Cattlemen’s Association, Mary Webb, who, with her twin brother Harry Webb, ran cattle on the W-bar-W Ranch; and by Princess Magpie Chirping, of the Indian Nation. The later two women were seeking to borrow bloomers since neither of them owned such apparel.

Magpie Chirping never called herself a “Princess.” Her father, Chief Elk-Stands-in-Snow, was neither a King nor even an hereditary chief. He was chosen annually by the Tribal Women’s Council, as is the custom of the Indian Nation. But Magpie Chirping was too polite to correct the silly non-Indians who usually called her “Princess Maggie.” When an idiot once asked her if she should be addressed as “Chiefette,” she demurred with no more expression than the twinkle in her eyes and added that among members of her tribe she was often called, “Miss Chief.” Likewise, her father silently suffered most fools who dismembered his name and call him “Chief Elk” or “Chief Snow.” He drew the line with an official named McIntosh from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who therefore should have known how to pronounce the names of the Indians. After Superintendent McIntosh called him “Chief Snow” a few times, the chief started to call the man from Washington “Mr. Tosh.” The abbreviated surname caught on around here and lots of people would have sworn in court that the man’s last name was “Tosh,” as opposed to “McIntosh.”)

Robert Tattersall, an Englishman who managed the railroad office, wrote to The Observer that the leaders of the proposed march were setting a appalling example for the girls. His 19 year old daughter, Victoria, had asked him if she could participate. Of course he had forbidden her to do so, but the fact that a young woman of his daughter’s superior upbringing could consider parading in her short clothes, demonstrates the dreadful effect that the “female Fagins” were having on the young.

Sheriff Shuck Sherman said a law called “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Juvenile” did not cover public parades or political speeches and whether or not women under 21 marched was between them and their parents.

The day of the proposed petticoat parade, the bold headline on The Observer reads:


The front page has two editorials, both in favor of women’s suffrage, but split on the bloomer issue.

The first, by Editor Newberry, reiterates his opinion that women would send the wrong message with a petticoat parade and urged the strident suffragettes “don’t parade — persuade.” For emphasis, the editor added a general threat by reporting that some citizens were “seriously considering the need to spank the two or three overzealous members of the distaff community who might in fact show up on Front Street in a state of undress.”

Polly Parsons, the “Girl Reporter,” wrote the other editorial, encouraging women to “come out and be counted!” She said the very notion of a petticoat parade had focused more attention on women’s right to vote than anything else they could have said and now was the time to “put up or shut up.” She pooh poohed the possibility that anyone might get spanked, saying that it was typical of men to try to intimidate women with threats of violence. She quoted Sheriff Shuck Sherman as saying he would be on hand to insure orderly behavior and anyone who got rowdy would be arrested for “Disturbing the Peace.”507_spankingdrawingmf

The day after petticoat parade, the bold headline on the Observer reads:


It is just like the day before, except the question mark is gone.

There is a front page photograph depicting Mildred Lang receiving an over-the-knee hand spanking from her husband the Mayor; School Marm Tisza Horvath across the lap of School Superintendent Bob Dawson, who is wielding a wooden paddle; Rancher Mary Webb tucked under the arm of her twin brother, Harry Webb, who is flicking her flanks with a quirt; and Magpie Chirping gyrating as her father, Chief George Elk-Stands-in-Snow, switches her. All four women’s faces are contorted and their mouths are open wide. The picture is captioned, “Suffering Suffragettes,” and is followed by Editor Stephen Newberry’s report:”

No less than forty-nine females, by actual count, appeared at the North end of Front Street at high noon yesterday wearing only their shoes and underwear. Ranging in a age from 15 to 50, they were lead by the mayor’s wife, Mildred Lang; School Marm Tisza Horvath; rancher Mary Webb; and Magpie Chirping of the Indian Nation, just as predicted by our own girl reporter Polly Parsons, who was also among them, suitably undressed for the occasion, and carrying one of the three signs demanding women’s suffrage.”

The ‘Bloomer Girls’ stopped traffic as they marched the length of Front Street in the noonday sun wearing a variety of frilly garments most men had only seen on clotheslines. The hot sun proved to be a problem because important portions of their perspiration soaked outfits were all but transparent.”

Onlookers, shouting both jeers and encouragement, moved along the sidewalks with them and by the time they reached City Hall the ‘Bloomer Girls’ had gathered a considerable crowd. Leaders of the march, however, never got an opportunity to deliver their speeches.”

Mayor David Lang, School Superintendent Bob Dawson, Rancher Harry Webb, and Chief George Elk-Stands-in-Snow of the Indian Nation waited on the porch of City Hall for the petticoat parade to arrive. Then they hustled the leading ladies up the steps of City Hall where they could be seen (and heard) by all and sundry, and commenced to take them to task.”

Mayor Lang put the 42 year old mother of his two grown children over his knees for a spanking she will never forget. Mrs. Lang had made the mistake of scoffing at her husband in front of the voters and she soon found herself squirming and squealing as he demonstrated for one and all how naughty girls (and disrespectful wives) should be taught to toe the mark.”beloti10

School Superintendent Bob Dawson brought along the wooden paddle used by Miss Horvath at the school for the past dozen years. The School Marm calls the paddle ‘Mr. Woody’ and half the crowd had been disciplined by Miss Horvath and ‘Mr. Woody’ as part of their education. They watched in astonishment as the 35 year old School Marm was pulled across Mr. Dawson’s lap and they were doubly dumbfounded when ‘Mr. Woody’ barked and bit the back of Miss Horvath’s bloomers repeatedly. Like the least stolid student she had ever paddled, Miss Horvath was soon shrieking in Hungarian and dancing a wild Mazurka in the air.”

The 28 year old rancher, Mary Webb, put up a fight, but her twin brother subdued her, and made her very sorry she hadn’t taken her medicine more willingly. The angry Mr. Webb employed his quirt, causing his twin sister to buck and bellow at first and then to hit some very high notes.”

Chief George Elk-in-snow announced in his native tongue that the Tribal Women’s Council had instructed him to switch his 20 year old daughter, Magpie Chirping, if she marched in the bloomer parade. Maggie crossed her arms and stood stoically while her father commenced to carry out his prescribed duty. A few strokes of the Hickory switch and her face turned beet red, her features twisted up in a knot, her body swayed and then flinched, in spite of her best efforts to remain impassive. The twig whistled through the air a few more times and Magpie Chirping began a wild Indian dance, complete with whoops and screams.”

The contrite quartet were joined in their loud lament by a chorus of a dozen more suffragettes who sang soprano to the rhythms of hands and hairbrushes applied to their backsides by responsible relatives. The dust cloud raised by the ruckus made it impossible to identify just who was being spanked with what in many cases.”4oy2yy41ciiz

An octave higher, Mary Webb’s counter-point was supported by the piercing squeals of three more female voices, syncopated with the swish of switches.”

Railroad Manager Robert Tattersall reined in his 19 year old daughter by her blonde curls with one hand and swung a riding crop with the other, prompting Victoria to prance and whinny all the way back down the parade route to the Tattersall home on North Front Street. Mr. Tattersall said later that he wanted to insure than anyone who saw his daughter disobey his published prohibition would also see her get her comeuppance.”

Catherine Wentworth, the 30 year manager of Wentworth’s Dry Goods Store, was almost pulled apart like a wishbone by her four younger brothers, all of whom wanted to be the one to spank her. They finally compromised and took turns, with a side bet on which one of them could make Catherine cry the loudest. Her youngest brother, 17 year old Harley Wentworth, took the last turn and won the bet hands down. He is the baby of the family but Miss Catherine was the one bawling like a baby, as her baby brother smacked the seat of her damp drawers.”

The 24 and 27 year old Schmidt sisters endured the added humiliation of having their sweat soaked bloomers peeled down by their parents before their painful public punishment began.”tumblr_na7by8pakU1tu5la3o1_400

Most of the bloomer girls were marched away to be dealt with in private. The unmistakable sounds of fannies being tanned and shrill spirited songs of sorrow echoed throughout the town all afternoon: one from a woodshed here, then another from an open bedroom window over there, then a pause, then more smacks from somewhere on the other side of town, followed by the shrieks of a lamenting lady getting a licking.”

Some of the suffragettes slipped away during the commotion, but it seems unlikely any of them got away with their little “prank.”DFF-145

When Vera Tillis, the 34 year old Desk Clerk at the Garrison Hotel, slipped into the back door of the hotel, in her underwear, she was confronted by Biddy Malone, the 17 year old Irish im- migrant Maid. Miss Malone marched her superior by the ear into the lobby where the fashionably attired guests gathered around to watch Miss Malone haul Miss Tillis across her checkered apron and bestow the backside of a hairbrush on the backside of her boss’s bouncing bloomers. The Desk Clerk carried on like a naughty child as she was soundly spanked by a woman half her age. When Miss Malone finally released Miss Tillis, the Chambermaid received an ovation from the crowd, curtsied to one and all, and sent her sobbing supervisor to her room.”

Goldie Gotlieb, the 25 year old owner of Gotlieb’s Gold Mine Saloon has no relatives in town, but she ran all the way to her business establishment for fear that concerned citizens might take it upon themselves to blister her backside on Front Street. She knew her burly bouncer would fend off anyone who tried to spank her at the saloon, but she never considered that her own employees would do the job. They reasoned that she could not fire all of them and stay in business, so they borrowed a razor strop from the Shin Liu’s Barber Shop and when Miss Gotlieb ran into the saloon, they hoisted her over the bar and took turns holding her hands on one side of the bar and strapping her hindquarters on the other. The regulars cheered and egged on the two bartenders, the three bar maids, and the bouncer. Everyone loved the show except Goldie, who writhed and shrieked hysterically each time they laid the leather to her.”!1r7thdeo0

A few of the suffragettes had the forethought to get dressed before they returned to their workplaces. It did them little good.” Evelyn Arnett, the 37 year old widow of miner Randolph Arnett and the Bookkeeper the Blue Bell Mine, was back in her dress before she was went back to her office. Widow Norma Bell, the owner and operator of the Blue Bell Mine, was waiting for her. Mrs. Bell bent Mrs. Arnett over the desk, lifted her linens, and spanked her harder and longer than any man would have. Then ‘Big Norma’ made the wailing widow stand in the corner for the remainder of the afternoon.”

At least two of the suffragettes who got dressed were obliged to change back into their parade outfits:” Ana Maria Molo was attired in her waitress uniform when she crept into the kitchen at Moffatt’s Restaurant, but the other waitresses stripped her down to her petticoats again while the male members of the staff drew straws to see who would get to do the honors. Reese Boivert, the Canadian Cook, won the draw. When the other waitresses put the struggling 24 year old Miss Molo across his lap, Mr. Boivert lowered her bloomers and tenderized her hams with a spatula. Witnesses said he roasted her rump until it was ‘well done,’ and it would have been possible to hear it sizzling save for the shrill cries of Miss Molo, who won’t be sitting down on the job for quite a while.”

And of course our own Polly Parsons had to face the music when she returned to the newspaper office, fully dressed. When she was informed of her impending punishment, the 31 year old reporter said she would resign to remove herself from the jurisdiction of her employer. Polly had not only carried a sign in the parade, but was in large measure responsible for spankings received by four dozen other suffragettes, so she was told that she could resign if she wished but the undersigned would spank her underside anyway. Her colleagues surrounded Miss Parsons and she was told to remove her frock or have it removed by the men. She blushed and asked for a private place to disrobe. Since she had just marched through town with her pink petticoats on public display, her request for privacy seemed unwarranted and was denied. She blushed more brightly as she removed her outer garments and was taken over the knees of yours truly, who measured her mischief with a wooden ruler where it would do her the most good. 0000000000 jim blackAt first, the distaff journalist argued angrily against the childish nature of the well earned punishment she was receiving. Then she suddenly started to struggle with all her might, but failed to escape. Then she took on a more feminine and compliant tone, and even began to agree with the stern lecture which accompanied her comeupance. She appealed to her co-workers, but the men only prompted her paddler to whack her more, since it seemed to be working. Very soon the girl reporter was kicking and crying and pleading for mercy, but the walloping and the preaching went right on unabated, even after she was bawling and blubbering too loud to hear the sermon. Once she had been thoroughly smitten hip and thigh, to the satisfaction of all the men she works with every day, she was sent to the corner to have a good cry, which lasted quite a while, about half an hour. When she started choking back her tears and stamping her feet, we noticed that the posterior of Polly’s pink pantalets glowed ruby red from the florid flesh beneath. When she finally could, Polly asked permission to return to her desk to write her resignation. She was asked to write an editorial instead. She requested for a day to think about it. Fortunately, she decided to write the editorial rather than the resignation and she turned it in just before the deadline this morning. Here it is:

“WE WERE WRONG  by Polly Parsons “Those of us who slept on our stomachs last night are grown up enough to admit  defeat. We called your bluff and you trumped our aces. But now that you boys  have had your fun, we think that you are grown up enough to seriously consider  the proposition on the ballot today and vote for Universal Suffrage.”

On page two of this edition of The Observer, the fact that this was election day was finally discussed directly. The men who were registered to vote were reminded to exercise their franchise and to vote their conscience whatever it might be.

The following day The Observer’s headline read: LANDSLIDE VICTORY FOR WOMEN VOTERS!


2 responses to “Petticoat Parade

  1. Love the black and white illustrations in this one. So retro.


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