Today in Feminist History: On to Albany!

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 27, 1912: General Rosalie Jones and her suffrage army spent the 12th day of their march from the Bronx to New York’s capital of Albany plodding through heavy snow, and tonight is encamped in Valatie, just 18 miles from their final objective.

The highlight of the day was a meeting in Kinderhook, where they were able to speak to 300 people about the many reasons why women should have the vote.

Though fatigued by the day’s hike from Stockport, the senior officers weren’t done walking yet. After a bath and a change of clothing, General Jones announced that she would be hiking three miles to the home of James Valentine to address a suffrage gathering there. When she called for volunteers to accompany her, Colonel Craft with her stock of literature, and Surgeon-General Dock and her blistered feet stepped forward, as did local resident and pathfinder Edward Van Wyck.

A somewhat satirical look at the suffrage pilgrimage, but today’s cartoon in the “San Francisco Bulletin” about a New York hike shows just how successful this brave little band has been at generating nationwide publicity for “the cause.”
Panel 1: A man unrolling a carpet in front of a marcher and saying: “That will keep the hem of your gown clean dearie.” Vending machines on trees have signs that read: “Nose Shine Remover,” “Powder,” and “Hair Pins, Safety Pins. Nickel in the Slot.”
Panel 2: A vendor selling waffles, sausages, bonbons, gum drops, five o’clock tea, and paint for holes in stockings. A hiker is calling home saying: “John, don’t forget to give the milk to the baby.” A vendor is next to her with a sign that reads: “Stockings Darned While You Telephone.” 
Panel 3: A hiker saying: “I am all in.” A woman on a bicycle next to her says: “Keep on dearie. Greatest thing for reducing. Only 95 more miles to Albany.” They’re passing by a stand with a sign that reads: “Do Your Shopping While You March” and “Bargain.” One hiker warming herself by the side of the road says to another: “I am tickled to death. I lost one pound already.” The other says: “Slit gowns are bully for marching.” Another woman, on roller skates, says: “Why not ?” while another says: “I could hobble to Frisco for the cause.”

Nearly two hours later they arrived at the Valentine home, and after a warm welcome and successful speech, the troops were ready for a ride back to town. The Commissary Wagon driver was supposed to pick them up, but his vehicle was being repaired, so he rented one from the local garage. 

The pilgrims should have stuck with their traditional method of transportation. Three times on the way back to town the automobile skidded on the road that rain had turned into a challenging combination of mud and slush. The first two times it was kept on the road. But the third time it headed for a tree, and only missed it by a driving maneuver which caused it to skid down an embankment, crash through the undergrowth, and wind up tipped at a 45 degree angle. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and after about 15 minutes another vehicle came along. General Jones waved it down with her bruised arm, and all got a ride back to the Pine Tree Inn. 

Far from being unnerved or discouraged by the incident, General Jones and her pilgrims may try to reach Albany tomorrow, well ahead of schedule. The weather outlook is not good, but after the recent 22-mile hike from Upper Red Hook to Hudson in wind-driven, heavy snow, the troops are no longer concerned with weather, and consider any shorter distance under even slightly better conditions a “pink tea stroll.”

The only complication is that the preparations for the hikers’ arrival are set for the 31st. But suffragists are always able to improvise to meet changing circumstances, so there will be at least a small delegation from Albany on hand to escort the pilgrims the last few miles from East Greenbush if they make it that far by tomorrow. 


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.