Today in Feminist History: Suffragists Seek a Sulzer Sighting

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 30, 1912: Though they completed their 13-day suffrage hike from the Bronx day before yesterday, General Rosalie Jones and her troops are still encamped in Albany giving speeches and attending teas.

They’re all waiting for their first “Sulzer sighting” so they can arrange to give Governor-elect William “Plain Bill” Sulzer a message they’ve carried on behalf of several prominent New York suffragists, and ask for his support in getting the State legislature to call for a Statewide suffrage referendum in 1915.

The suffrage army’s orators, always eager to speak – even on the most exhausting day of the hike – are now well-rested, and were in peak form at several open-air meetings around town this morning, as well as two more earlier this evening. But the “main event” will have an audience of just one, when they make their pitch for a referendum to the incoming Governor.

The 21st (#121) in a series of postcards being produced on a profit-sharing basis by the Cargill Company and the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Sharp-eyed scouts will be dispatched to the train station to watch for Sulzer’s arrival tomorrow, then after his train comes in, Jones’ troops will follow at a respectful distance, reporting his whereabouts to their commander. Once it has been determined where Sulzer is staying until his inauguration on New Year’s Day, an official envoy will be dispatched with a request for him to meet with the General.

There is great hope that the Governor-elect will be a strong supporter of woman suffrage because of his progressive record in Congress. He has advocated such things as establishing a United States Department of Labor, an eight-hour day for the nation’s workers, and that all U.S. Senators be elected by the voters of their State rather than appointed by its legislature. Five years ago Oregon became the first State to elect its Senators, and though a majority of States now do so, many still do not. A Constitutional amendment mandating this reform was passed by Congress in May, and has been ratified by three States so far. The pace of ratifications should pick up next month when the State legislatures that are not in session will reconvene and begin new sessions.

Sulzer’s support for expanding democracy in regard to direct election of senators should be compatible with expanding the electorate to include women as well, so there are high hopes for a pro-suffrage administration in the Empire State for at least the next two years !


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.