Today in Feminist History: A 27-Mile Hike for Suffrage

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.

February 13, 1913: This has been an eventful, but exhausting 27-mile second day of the Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C., suffrage hike by General Rosalie Jones and her Army of the Hudson.

Though appreciative of temperatures that are no longer near the zero mark as they were yesterday, warmer weather has caused problems of its own. Melting snow and ice made going any distance through slush and water difficult on the already poor roads. But even so, when the army finally made its arrival in Princeton, thirteen of the original sixteen troops were still in the ranks and intent on finishing the hike. 

The hikers started this morning from Metuchen, New Jersey, and after a luncheon in their honor at the Hotel Klein in New Brunswick, they approached Rutgers College. Some students spotted and then surrounded Olive Schultz in the advance scout car. When one yelled, “General Jones is coming !” the rest of the students, many in cadet uniforms, formed a single-file line when a student leader said, “Fall in !” They then lock-stepped out to meet her. 

PHOTO: Hikers on their way out of Newark yesterday.

The students gave the General and her troops a slightly modified version of a traditional school yell (“Rah, Bow-Wow-Wow; Rah, Bow-Wow-Wow; Rutgers, Suffragettes, Bow-Wow-Wow Rutgers !”) as the two armies marched together across the campus. Students then demanded a speech, which General Jones happily gave. It was accompanied by even more cheers. The atmosphere was so supportive that when she was introduced to the college president, General Jones pinned a suffrage button on his coat. 

There was a brief, unplanned stop on the way to Princeton, the final destination of the day. What looked like a woman wearing a bonnet was spotted far out in a field, and Elizabeth Aldrich decided to see if she could be converted to the cause. Not until Aldrich had gone over a fence and some distance into the field did she discover that the effort was doomed to failure, because scarecrows are universally neutral on all issues. Unfortunately, this was far from the biggest error of the day. Due to a wrong turn, a planned 20-mile hike became a 27-mile trek.

But despite the difficulties encountered along the way, the hikers’ arrival in Princeton was well worth the effort. In fact, the welcome was a bit too enthusiastic for Mary Boldt, the first to come into town, well ahead of the others. Several hundred very boisterous students suddenly rushed out to meet her, then surrounded her, picked her up, and began to carry her around, much to her confusion and dismay.

The reception for the rest of the hikers, who arrived about 7:00, was equally supportive, but a bit more restrained after the earlier incident. Speeches were made by the army’s senior officers to a crowd of students that swelled to 500, with college yells and applause being heard until well after 9:00.

The pace of the hike is taking its toll, but the undaunted spirit of the troops is best exemplified by Corporal Martha Klatchken. She was in a state of near-exhaustion when she arrived an hour after the first hikers, but has absolutely refused all offers of a lift from passing drivers. Instead, she leans, when necessary, on another hiker. Everyone will rest well tonight, and be off for Trenton 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.