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 18, 1913: Halfway!
Day seven of the suffrage hike was very successful in a number of ways, not the least of which was passing the midpoint on the long trek from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C.
The relatively short 14-mile day began with General Jones leading her suffragist Army of the Hudson out of Chester, Pennsylvania, accompanied by tooting whistles, automobile horns, a police escort, at least 1,000 spectators cheering them from the sidewalks, and two local schoolgirls, ages 15 and 16, marching along for the day.
The troops carried with them a gift from Major Standell, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. It consisted of a large gift box containing smaller boxes of pretzels for each hiker. It was a timely gift, because a large supply of “army rations” donated by Alva Belmont had been misrouted to General Jones’ home on Long Island.
Even the traditional “incident of the day” was minor, as General Jones tripped over a rock in Pennsylvania and stumbled into Delaware. Fortunately, no damage was done to General Jones or the State Line.
When the hikers approached the historic Robinson Mansion, once frequented by numerous Revolutionary War figures, they were first met by a thankfully pro-suffrage bulldog who wore a blanket made of “Votes for Women” pennants. The present residents, a colony of artists, gave the hikers a warm reception.
Next came a luncheon with single-tax advocates known as “Ardenites.” They want to implement an idea by Henry George (1839-1897) to abolish all other taxes and replace them with a single tax based on the value of land. Female members of the Arden Colony have voted on affairs of common interest for ten years. The hikers were greeted by the Suffragist Club of Arden. The name “Arden” derives from the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
The entry into Wilmington was wonderfully triumphal, and an appropriate way to celebrate the half-way point of the march. Applauding crowds lined the streets and three fire companies gave the pilgrims the noisiest greeting of the trip, something especially appreciated by General Jones. The parade through town was followed by a reception at City Hall, where Mayor Howell—who has mixed feelings on the issue of woman suffrage, but great admiration for the hikers—expanded the army’s growing collection of “keys to the city” by presenting one from Wilmington.
Later in the evening, the troops gave speeches at an open-air suffrage meeting attended by an estimated 10,000 of the city’s 87,411 residents, making it by far the largest rally so far for General Jones and her fellow hikers. Colonel Craft barely managed to make it into town today, due to an ankle injury adding to the problems she already had with sore feet. But she is expected to be able to continue on when the hike resumes. Tomorrow will be the first time since leaving Newark on the 12th that the hikers will spend an entire day in the same place. But they will still be working for the cause by doing speaking engagements in this very supportive city, and a day without hiking should give everyone a chance to give their feet some much-needed rest before starting out on the final half of the journey.