Today in Feminist History: The Last Hurrah for Suffrage Hikers in New Jersey

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 15, 1913: General Rosalie Jones and her suffragist Army of the Hudson hiked 18 muddy miles today on their journey from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C. But despite poor road conditions, it was a good day, thanks to two fine receptions along the way during this final full day in New Jersey.

Day four of the pilgrimage began in Trenton, with a bugle call by Reverend Walter Kinsley, who also marched with the troops on their way out of town. The army also gained two other temporary recruits, who have agreed to two-day enlistments, and may rejoin later. They are Florence Allen, Assistant Secretary of the National College Equal Suffrage League, and Bertha Miller of the Philadelphia Law School.

PHOTO: General Rosalie Jones, Commander of the suffragist Army of the Hudson.

The trip was not entirely by road today, because the troops had to walk across the ice at Crosswick Creek. The army’s first reception of the day was, appropriately enough, at the Bordentown Military Institute, where the cadet band marched out to meet the hikers. Upon arrival at headquarters they were formally greeted by the 83-year-old founder of the school, and invited to a luncheon in the Mess Hall. Several of the marchers spoke to a cheering crowd of students there and Colonel Craft said it was one of the best meetings so far. The cadet band then gave them a musical escort for half a mile down the road. 

The youngest hiker of the day was Grace Herbert, age nine. She marched out from home on her own, and joined the hikers at Bordentown, saying: “I can’t go all the way, but mother said I could go as far as the Icehouse.” A group of Princeton students who have been accompanying the pilgrims since the hikers visited their campus had to leave at Bordentown, but the hikers weren’t alone long. As they approached Burlington, a group of Boy Scouts came out to deliver a letter from the town’s mayor, extending the city’s greetings and giving the visitors the key to the city.

The letter said: “To General Rosalie Jones, Commandant. As Chief Executive of the City of Burlington, N.J., it gives me great pleasure to assure you and your comrades on this historic march that a hearty welcome awaits you in the most historic town in New Jersey. It will be an honor to write in the annals of the city the fact that you have made a visit to us on this occasion. We extend herewith in symbol the key of the City of Burlington and trust that from your stay within its borders you may retain the pleasantest of memories and may win hundreds of new ‘votes for women.’ I am, Madam, your obedient servant, Ellsworth E. Mount, Mayor.”

The rest of Burlington was as supportive as its mayor, as about 1,500 of its 8,336 residents turned out to greet the troops. The townspeople then marched with the hikers to just in front of a popular theater, where the pilgrims gave spirited suffrage speeches to the crowd, and even caught the interest of some who were just passing by. The crowds at this and other rally locations around town were so enthusiastic that even hikers who don’t normally give speeches became orators before the evening was over. Tomorrow, it’s across the Delaware River, and on to Philadelphia !


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.