Today in Feminist History: The Suffrage Hikers Go on Holiday

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 25, 1912: Even though there was no hiking today—the first time that’s happened since the small army of suffrage pilgrims left the Bronx for the New York State capital of Albany on the 16th—the troops were not idle.

The day began with Colonel Ida Craft doing what she enjoys best, giving speeches and answering questions. In this case it was at the skating rink here in Hudson. General Rosalie Jones came along later, and after doing some skating gave a speech as well.

At a tea hosted by General Jones, the “War Correspondents” (reporters) presented her with a most appropriate gift. It was a copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which each of her fellow pilgrims had signed, and then expressed a personal sentiment. 

In the evening the hikers attended the Charity Ball. It’s always a major occasion here, but of special interest this year, as the three sponsors are all “Titanic” survivors. Gretchen Longley rowed their lifeboat to the “Carpathia” eight months ago.

It was a costumed affair, so the visiting suffragists came as the spirits of their ideological ancestors. Captain and Chief Orator Jessie Hardy Stubbs was Margaret Brent, who in 1648 unsuccessfully demanded that the Maryland Assembly allow her to vote, thus making her the original suffragist.

General Jones was Abigail Adams, who had urged her husband and his fellow patriots to “remember the ladies” in their revolution. Colonel Craft was Lucretia Mott, among whose accomplishments was being a co-organizer of the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. 

Katherine Stiles represented Revolutionary-era author Mercy Warren, and Gladys Coursen personified the modern woman of 1912, one part of her costume bearing the names of the nine States where women can now vote on the same basis as men. 

Coursen was actually the main topic of conversation all day. It seems that after she was delegated by her fellow Poughkeepsie suffragists to accompany the marchers the rest of the way to Albany, another hiker joined their hardy band on an occasional basis. But it was apparently on enough occasions for a romance to bloom between she and Griffith Bonner of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage of Poughkeepsie. This morning he proposed. She is said to have “conditionally” accepted and both seem quite happy. Their families will be pleased as well, because both of their fathers were in the Princeton Class of ’76 and are still good friends 36 years later. 

With this happy holiday behind them, and some much-needed and overdue rest having refreshed them, it’s back on the road tomorrow, with Stockport as the day’s objective, and Albany a mere 32 miles away.


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.