Today in Feminist History: Suffrage Hikers Take on Tarrytown

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 17, 1912: “Suffrage Army” troops are pushing on to Albany on Day Two of their march!

Though the ranks have thinned to 5 from the 26 at the Van Cortlandt Park sendoff in the Bronx yesterday, the enthusiasm of those who remain is still high—thanks to many friendly receptions along the way, and a loyal group of “War Correspondents” giving the woman suffrage cause a boost in their papers by reporting to their many readers the events of this first-of-its-kind suffrage hike.

Those who have walked all the way so far are General Rosalie Jones, Colonel Ida Craft, Surgeon-General Lavinia Dock, Chief Orator Jessie Hardy Stubbs and Private Alice Clark. This morning, the troops broke camp at Irvington, grabbed their walking staffs, buckled on their suffrage-yellow knapsacks and headed off for Ossining.

There was a brief debate among the high command over strategy when it was suggested that while cutting across the estate of Helen Gould an attempt be made to convert her to the cause. But General Jones vetoed the idea, and resolutely ordered the hikers to keep marching toward Tarrytown, where there would be many more (though admittedly not as wealthy) citizens to convert.

Like Yonkers before it, Tarrytown was bubbling over with enthusiasm for the hikers, and before they even arrived, a delegation of residents ran out to greet them. When passing the Knox School for Young Ladies, a group of students ran out cheering, and waving the school’s banner. In return, General Jones promised: “You are all going to have a vote.” Naturally, this made them cheer even more. 

Chief Orator Jessie Hardy Stubbs.

Later, at a suffrage meeting in a church where the rector’s wife is a suffragist, equality prevailed as the school girls were joined by students from the Irving School for Boys. Chief Orator Jessie Hardy Stubbs spoke to the town’s residents, and when the youngsters began a round of applause after the speech, the adults joined in as well. 

Once outside the church, the Knox girls surrounded the pilgrims, and cheered: “Rah, rah, rah, do not fret. You will get to Albany yet. Ray, ray, ray, ret, ret, ret. Cheer, cheer, cheer, for the suffragette!” The Irving boys were not about to be outdone, and gave a similar expression of approval to “the marching suffragettes.” 

As the pilgrims approached Ossining, a delegation from the town drove out and escorted the hikers to the Sleepy Hollow Club for lunch, where, much to the disappointment of the press corps, there were free lunches for hikers only. Following a futile chase after a stray chicken, the War Correspondents finally found nourishment at a local diner up the road.

When the army reached the day’s objective of Ossining’s public square, a crowd of about 200 had gathered despite threatening skies, and every window overlooking the proceedings was filled with faces as well. At the rally, General Jones took her turn at speaking, and the rally closed with another enthusiastic yell from the Irving boys. The army bivouacked at the Nordica home, but not before meeting the woman reputed to have been the first suffragist in Ossining. Cornelia Arnold was quite pleased to meet these young people so committed to the cause.

Following a well-deserved night’s rest, tomorrow’s objective will be Peekskill.


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.