Today in Feminist History: New York City Suffragists are Hiking to the State Capitol

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

December 16, 1912: On to Albany!

The first-ever “suffrage hike” was kicked off this morning with the official cheer of “Votes for Women! Sulzer! Sulzer!” as the army of suffrage pilgrims began its long journey to the State Capitol from 242nd Street and Broadway in the Bronx.

The pilgrims’ purpose is to drum up support for woman suffrage along the route, then meet with Governor-elect William “Plain Bill” Sulzer to enlist his help in getting the New York State Legislature to put a woman suffrage referendum on the ballot. Representatives of seven suffrage organizations either fell into the line of march, cheered from the sidewalks or followed in automobiles as 26 hikers formed a column, then headed North when General Jones shouted “forward!” through her megaphone.

PHOTO: From left, Jesse Belle Hardy Stubbs, Ida Craft and Rosalie Jones.

Olive Schultz, in the Scout Car had left earlier to do her duty of checking road conditions ahead and dealing with any unanticipated problems that might delay the army’s advance. With General Jones at the head of the column were Colonel Ida Craft, loaded down with literature to hand out; Surgeon-General Lavinia Dock, Private Kate Abbot and her drum; and Captain Jessie Belle Hardy Stubbs, Chief Orator and official War Correspondent for the groups endorsing the march. Both still and motion-picture cameras were present at the start of the hike at 9:40, and several reporters will be tagging along for the entire route in order to send back daily reports to be published in their newspapers. 

It was an auspicious start, peppered with pleasant incidents along the way, such as an elderly woman rushing out onto her porch and waving a suffrage banner over her head and shouting: “Hurrah! Good Luck! I am with you!” 

The New York Police Department provided a mounted escort to the city limits, and after a cordial farewell, they were soon replaced by equally friendly officers from Yonkers, who marched along to Getty Square, where the local suffrage group had arranged the first rally. The Chief of Police, sporting a suffrage button, introduced the Mayor, who gave the cheering crowd a speech that was as supportive of “Votes for Women” as any given by the marchers.

But as enjoyable as their rally and luncheon in Yonkers were, this was also where Inez Craven decided that “Honorable Elizabeth,” the army’s only canine member, wasn’t quite up to the rest of the hike, so the dog was given an early, but honorable, discharge. The drum also gave out, and the drummer soon departed. 

The ranks, as expected, became somewhat depleted after that initial stop, but the scenery along the winding road on this beautiful day kept up the spirits of the true pilgrims. Darkness was falling by the time the troops reached Irvington, where they will bivouac for the night at local hotels after this long, but worthwhile and encouraging day.

Tomorrow it’s off to Ossining!


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.