Parades, Protests and Politics

The 1920 Republican National Convention

Republican National Convention, Chicago Coliseum, 1920.

Republican National Convention, Chicago
Coliseum, 1920. (CHS)

The question before the Republican delegates at the 1920 convention was: what would post-war America become and who should lead it? Voters wanted a party that could protect and promote the nation's new cultural and industrial power. To prevent future wars, President Woodrow Wilson had proposed a League of Nations, an idea not everyone was comfortable with, so unseating the Democrats was a strong possibility.

The first two days of the convention consisted of meetings on the contents of the platform and party organization. Besides the plank on the League of Nations, the platform also pushed to end lynchings and for all states to ratify the women's suffrage amendment giving women the right to vote. Twenty-seven women delegates attended the convention.

Picking a leader proved more difficult than settling the platform. Sen. Warren Harding of Ohio and Herbert Hoover, a U.S. food administrator, were included among the dark horses in the running, as was Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts. These men were mixed in with many more prominent choices for nomination. On the first ballot, not a single candidate received over 300 votes. Harding earned only 61. By the seventh ballot, the convention was deadlocked between Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, Gov. Frank Lowden of Illinois, and Harding. By the ninth ballot, Harding tallied 374 votes. Lowden and Wood could not reach a compromise and neither would step down to accept the vice president position. Harding won on the final ballot with 692 1/5 votes.

In the election of 1920, more than 9 million women went to the polls for the first time and voted overwhelmingly for Harding, who beat Wilson 404 to 131 in the electoral college.

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