Today in Feminist History: “Sis Boom Ah! Sis Boom Bah! Coo, Coo, Suffragettes!”

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 14, 1913: The suffragist Army of the Hudson continues its advance on Washington, D.C., marching from Princeton to Trenton, New Jersey today.

The troops have now covered 53 miles in just 3 days since leaving Newark.

“Our feet may be sore, but they are not cold and every one of us will stick it out to Washington,” declared General Rosalie Jones, as she, the other full-time hikers, plus Elizabeth Freeman in the literature (“ammunition” ) wagon pulled by Lausanne, the suffrage horse, as well as Olive Schultz, ahead in the scout car, all left Princeton this morning.

The pilgrims were accompanied to the edge of town by a crowd of several hundred Princeton students. They were probably the same ones who greeted the hikers so enthusiastically yesterday, and gave the weary travelers little sleep last night as they cheered outside the hikers’ hotel until quite late. While on the road to Trenton, the Princeton boys were replaced by some Lawrenceville Academy lads who marched along for a while carrying a large “Votes for Women” banner and cheering “Sis boom ah! Sis boom bah! Coo, coo, suffragettes!” 

While the hikers were preoccupied with making speeches to the main body of Lawrenceville students at their school, a small group of boys quietly borrowed the ammunition wagon and drove around with it for about ten minutes. But it was returned undamaged and still well stocked with suffrage brochures, so no harm done.

Upon arrival in Trenton, police officers on bicycles joined the pilgrims as they went through town. The little parade was cheered by crowds along the sidewalks as the troops made their way to the Trenton Hotel. There the hikers found many valentines waiting for them from admirers who had read of their journey in the newspapers. There is a contingent of “war correspondents” along for the trip sending daily reports back to their papers, so this tiny band of hikers is getting nationwide publicity. 

Of course, 53 miles in 3 days is hard on the feet, and hardest of all on Corporal Klatchken. She was already hobbling a bit yesterday, but despite her blistered feet, is still refusing to accept any rides, and was voted “pluckiest of all” by the troops tonight.

PHOTO: The hikers marching through Newark day before yesterday.

Since the marchers were going through Princeton, it seemed only appropriate that General Jones should send greetings to its most famous resident. Though President-elect Wilson was in Philadelphia today, a letter was delivered to his home by Mary Boldt, accompanied by bugler George Wendt, several other hikers, and a number of Princeton students.

The letter said: “My Dear Mr. Wilson: A small band of votes-for-women pilgrims from the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio earnestly request of you an audience for not more than two minutes in Washington as soon after your arrival as possible. They desire to present a message to you. Thanking you in advance for your courtesy, i am, very sincerely, Rosalie Gardiner Jones.”

After arriving in Trenton, Jones and her army joined in a previously scheduled rally in favor of amending the New Jersey Constitution to authorize women to vote. This was followed by a banquet in the hikers’ honor, and finally an evening at the theater, where General Jones and Elizabeth Freeman were invited to make speeches between the acts. 

One of the evening’s major events occurred back in Princeton, however. Mary Boldt, who had arrived there well ahead of the other hikers last night, had been somewhat taken aback by the unexpected and overenthusiastic welcome given her by a large and boisterous crowd of Princeton students. Since there were conflicting reports circulating around the campus today about the incident and her reaction to it, she motored back from Trenton to reassure the students that she held them in high esteem, and appreciated their enthusiasm. 

Apparently, the admiration felt by Boldt for the students was mutual. They gave her another rally, and when she auctioned off her pilgrim’s cloak for the cause, it was cut into strips that the students pinned to their lapels as a sign of support and affection. There was also a brisk business in postcard photos of her. Then there was one final – and much appreciated – show of support. When the automobile carrying Boldt back to Trenton broke down after half a mile, all the boys ran to her aid. They pushed the ailing machine back into town, where it was fixed, so Boldt was able to finish her return trip back to the army’s temporary barracks at the Trenton Hotel. Tomorrow, on to Burlington !


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.