Inez Milholland Boissevain was a suffragist, labor lawyer, World War I correspondent, and public speaker who greatly influenced the women's movement in America.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she grew up in a wealthy family. She attended Vassar College, where she was once suspended for organizing a women's rights meeting. The president of Vassar had forbidden suffrage meetings, but Milholland and others held regular "classes" on the issue, along with large protests and petitions. After her graduation in 1909, she spent time in Europe.
Milholland vehemently protested against America's involvement in World War I. She was a labor lawyer and was involved in the production of the socialist journal, The Masses.
She was involved in the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which later branched into the grassroots radical National Woman's Party. She became a leader and a popular speaker on the campaign circuit of the NWP, working closely with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. She led the Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC, the day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, March 3, 1913, draped in white robes and riding a huge white horse.
In July 1913, she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a Dutch importer.
She was a leading figure on Henry Ford's ill-fated Peace Ship expedition of late 1915, steaming across the Atlantic with a team of pacifist campaigners who hoped to give impetus to a negotiated settlement to the First World War. Her role has recently been fictionalized by the British novelist Douglas Galbraith in his novel King Henry.
In 1916, she went on a tour in the West, speaking for women's rights, despite suffering from pernicious anemia. During a speech in Los Angeles that September she suddenly collapsed. Ten weeks later, on November 25, 1916, she died from conditions arising from the disease. Her last public words were, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?" She was known as the martyr of the Women's Suffrage movement.
She died on November 25, 1916 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles at 10:55.