Today in Feminist History: The Suffrage Army Marches On!

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 18, 1912: “The weather shall not daunt us. We are going to Albany, and the road lies ahead.”

Thus did General Rosalie Jones rally her troops during the third day of the suffrage army’s march from the Bronx to New York’s State Capital of Albany. Due to a long-standing engagement in New York City, Chief Orator Jessie Hardy Stubbs was on leave for the day, and Private Alice Clark had to go back to her civilian job, but General Jones, Colonel Ida Craft and Surgeon-General Lavinia Dock kept up the brisk pace set on the first two days of the hike. 

The morning began in drizzle, then deteriorated into very thick fog. But as in the battle for woman suffrage itself, slow and steady progress continued to be made toward the marchers’ objective, which today was the portion of the hike from Ossining to Peekskill. 

“Votes for women!” was the shout of Surgeon-General Dock, then despite some obvious foot sensitivities brought on by the first two days of marching, off went the hikers. A loyal pack of “war correspondents” followed closely behind, reporting each day’s events to eager readers of their respective newspapers.

Emma Barton waved greetings as the hikers passed her house in Crotona, and after quickly being given a membership application by Colonel Craft, she signed up to join one of the sponsoring suffrage organizations. Postmaster Ezra Ferris was Crotona’s official greeter. He was accompanied by Charles Chase, whose optimistic prediction that his 4-year-old twin daughters would vote when they turned 21 was a welcome reassurance that it isn’t only dedicated suffragists who believe that the campaign for the winning of the ballot in New York was now well on its way to victory in the reasonably near future.

Farther on, Paul Stier and daughter encountered the marchers, and when Mr. Stier expressed his strong support for suffrage, he got a pat on the back from his daughter, who remarked: “He’s just grand,” a sentiment endorsed by all present. 

Of course, not every fellow-traveler on the road to Peekskill was so enthusiastic. When one man in a wagon drawn by a team of horses was stopped and questioned by General Jones, he said he “sometimes” supported woman suffrage. But the next encounter was more positive, when a man offered to give a marcher a ride in a wheelbarrow, logically assuming she “must be tired of walking.” 

The marchers attracted attention everywhere they went, and anyone who looked even mildly supportive was given literature and a membership application by Colonel Craft. 

Finally, Peekskill approached, and a delegation from the local suffrage group came out to greet the marchers and escort them the last two-and-a-half miles to the Raleigh Hotel. A crowd awaited them there, which included many of the town’s most prominent citizens. Even the police officer in charge assured the women that he was pro-suffrage. 

Though undoubtedly in need of rest and sleep, now forty-two miles and three days into their journey, all three troopers reported for duty later in the evening when it was time for a suffrage rally at the Colonial Theater. Tomorrow, with the expected return of Jessie Hardy Stubbs boosting the strength of the legion to four, it will be time to move out again, and the day’s objective will be to make as many converts to the cause as possible on the road to Fishkill.

About

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.