Today in Feminist History: Cheering Crowds Greet Suffrage Hikers

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 22, 1912: Unexpected, but mostly favorable, events on this seventh day of the suffrage army’s march from the Bronx to New York State’s capital of Albany.

The day’s good luck began when the snow that was falling in Poughkeepsie last night, and which might have continued all day, suddenly gave way to good weather. But that impediment to travel was soon replaced by another. An apparently anti-suffrage cow refused to yield the right-of-way to the hikers, and made her hostility known in such a way that a detour around the opposing and imposing force was ordered. The maneuver was successful, so the pilgrims pushed on to their next encounter, this one in the form of high society. 

Louise Vanderbilt, Madeline Huntington and Vincent Astor motored out of Hyde Park to see the marchers pass by on their way to town. Vanderbilt happily accepted some literature from the hikers, and said: “I am interested in the movement, but I don’t know much about it.” Now she does. 

Upon arrival in Hyde Park, the Mayor and Fire Chief greeted the hikers, and General Rosalie Jones gave a fine speech. A doubly welcome bucket of water was offered at another point on the march, where the travelers drank some, then poured most of it on their feet.

There were still more pleasant encounters along the road to Rhinebeck, among them the Shears sisters, ages six and nine, who gave the marchers holly, and said: “Mamma sent us.”

PHOTO: The third (#103) in a series of postcards printed by the Cargill Company for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The profits on the sale of each card are shared between the company and N.A.W.S.A

At Staatsburg, there was a crowd of people waiting in the little hamlet, which was decorated in a festive manner in anticipation of the hikers’ arrival. Though General Jones had been noticeably limping during the day, she still delivered a rousing speech to the villagers.

Private Gladys Coursen, recruited yesterday, is still marching with the troops, even though several hours out of her native Poughkeepsie, a Mr. Cannon implored her on behalf of her family to come back and fulfill her various social engagements. But she weathered Cannon’s verbal volley, and after following the line of march for about two miles he realized the level of commitment she had to “The Cause,” and went home.

By the time the troops arrived in Rhinebeck, Colonel Craft was tottering a bit, Surgeon-General Dock was bending forward as she walked, and General Jones was still limping, but a warm reception by the town’s residents soon revitalized them. Tomorrow it’s on to Red Hook!


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.