A famous suffragette’s leap year marriage proposal (1916)

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Inez Milholland and Eugen Jan Boissevain - A suffragette's leap year marriage proposal (1916)
She was a famous suffragist from Brooklyn, he a Dutch business merchant who became wealthy importing coffee — and together, they made a very happy pair.

Sadly, the couple was only married for three years,  until Inez Milholland’s very untimely death in November 1916 at age 30. But clearly the taste of wedded bliss agreed with her husband, Eugen Jan Boissevain. Once a man who didn’t believe in marriage, he ended up tying the knot again in 1923 — in fact, ten years to the week after his first wedding.

Inez Milholland and Eugen Jan Boissevain - A suffragette's leap year marriage proposal

How a leap year girl should propose, as told by famous suffragette who did

by Inez Milholland Boissevain

How will the leap-year girl propose? How will the leap-year bachelor act when she lays her heart at his feet?

The beautiful Inez Milholland Boissevain, who proposed three times, answers the first question, and her happy husband, Eugen Boissevain, replies to the second.

Everybody in America knows Inez Milholland, the beautiful suffragist, who started her career by stirring up feminist agitation in staid old Vassar College, scorned New York society, practiced law in the police courts, and finally got herself jailed in England for rioting with Mrs Pankhurst’s “wild women.”

There was amazement in the suffrage ranks when she suddenly became the wife of Eugen Boissevain. Feminists marveled that their dashing young general had consented to become the mere wife of a mere man. They wondered how young Mr Boissevain did it.

Then came the most amazing act of Inez’ amazing career. She calmly announced that she did the proposing. This most beautiful of all suffragists further admitted that she had to pop the question three times before the man of her choice accepted.

Suffragist and lawyer Inez Milholland Boissevain at a women's suffrage parade in New York City, May 3, 1913

Inez’ advice to women who would like to propose to a man

Here is her advice to all girls who wish to propose to a man:

“Let her go toward the man with extended hand. Let her put her case to him freely and frankly — three times if necessary. I did!

“Leap year or any other year, I am for woman’s free education, free work and free speech in love as well as out of it.

“To me, it is much more dignified to say the actual words ‘Let us mate,’ than to resort to lures and to seek to place the responsibility elsewhere.

“When an honest proposal is made, at least the man has a fair chance to escape. But when a woman traps a man by smiles and blandishments, then the man, waking up, finding himself hopelessly cornered, snarls, ‘It’s your fault!’

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“My husband and I would undoubtedly have been lost to each other if I had not done the proposing. That is why I am proud of having done it.

“The one who first realizes the affinity of heart and soul should make it known to the other. In a majority of cases, this realization comes first to the woman.”

What her husband says

Here is Mr Boissevain’s version of what happened when those three never-to-be-forgotten proposals were made:

“I never had even thought of proposing to Inez Milholland, because I did not intend to marry. In general, I do not approve of marriage as an institution.”

Inez Milholland

Yet Mr Boissevain declares that the happiness of their married life, and the fact that he still considers his wife the most charming woman in the world is due to frankness, honesty in telling him of her love — and her honesty in every other matter that concerns them.

“I should feel the greatest disgust for any woman who came to the realization that she was in love with some man, and yet was kept by cowardice and false pride from saying so.

“The courage of a woman who tells a man she loves him commands greater respect than any other thing I know.

“Marriage is fully as much an economic matter as a thing of sheer sentiment, and the man and woman should discuss all the advantages and the disadvantages together before binding themselves to each other.

“We talked the matter over as we would talk about any of the other important things of life. I came to see that Inez Milholland was right, and we were married.”

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