Today in Feminist History: Suffrage Hikers Go Over the River and Through the Mail

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 16, 1913: General Rosalie Jones and her suffragist Army of the Hudson have crossed the Delaware River, and as in a previous campaign by another General in 1776, she not only got all of her troops across safely, but went on to achieve the day’s objective after encountering resistance. 

The fifth day of the hike from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C., started out quite happily in Burlington, New Jersey, this morning.

After immediately finding three pennies in the street, and thus being assured that the “Jones luck” was still holding, the General opened her mail and discovered a third proposal, this one from a gentleman now living in Chicago:

I have seen your picture in the papers, and I read what you’re doing to further a great cause. I lost a leg at Chancellorsville, so I sympathize with you. I just know how tired your little feet must be. When this march is over I should like to have the chance of smoothing the road before them for the rest of our lives. You may say that I am old and you are young – but what of that ? I may have but one leg, but my heart is bigger than the heart of any two men. Why don’t you rest your tired little head upon it. Just say the word and I am yours. Other men might be afraid of you because you have so much nerve, but I can understand you. We are both soldiers. Say, little one, if you will join forces with me. I will give you anything your little heart desires.

Soon the “regular army” of hikers was joined by three men and three women who are members of Philadelphia’s Wanderlust Club, and the now-traditional children’s contingent consisted today of Agnes Marter, age 10, and Helen Murphy, age 7. Both girls had yellow suffrage badges on the front of their red sweaters and said that they would march all the way to D.C. if they were “growed up.”

The pilgrims took the first break of the day at Camden Lake, where the Boy Scouts accompanying them that far built a fire to heat coffee. The next stop was the “Manless Farm” of Anna and Sally Hunter, near Palmyra, where all work is done by women. Both Hunters are avid suffragists and gave the hikers a warm welcome, with the elder one saying that women could run the country, too, and do it more successfully than men.

There were several hundred supporters waiting for the pilgrims in Camden, and the police had to clear the way for the troops as they walked through the town toward the ferry boat. While crossing the Delaware, General Jones, Colonel Craft and Corporal Klatchken stood in the bow, an American flag in the General’s hands.

The crowd of 2,000 at the ferry house in Philadelphia was far too large and unruly for the six police officers assigned to handle it, but the little army was not about to be deterred by a group comprised mostly of hecklers and the curious. “Votes for Women – On To Washington !” shouted the suffrage army as it very slowly advanced.

Finally, police reinforcements arrived, and the march became easier and more orderly as the hikers approached the local suffrage headquarters in the Hale Building, where they were warmly received. Then after resting a bit at the Hotel Walton, the army was ready for another round of speaking engagements and a dinner with the prominent suffragists of Philadelphia, despite 19 miles being covered today and the brief “Battle of the Ferry House.”


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.