Today in Feminist History: The Suffrage Horse is Strong

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 19, 1913: After seven consecutive days of walking, and approximately 116 of the 225 miles from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C. behind them, the suffrage hikers are spending this eighth day in Wilmington, Delaware, “getting new feet” as they put it.

But while the morning may have been spent applying much of the city’s available supply of liniment to sore feet, the hikers’ voices were not given any pampered treatment during the day’s stopover.

Most of the hikers, once their feet were sufficiently rubbed down, were eager to fulfill the numerous speaking requests made in this very friendly city. By noon there were speakers at the Pullman Car Works. The Hollingsworth ship and railroad workers got a briefing as well, and in the evening the hikers went to the Garrick Theater, where five-minute suffrage speeches alternated between the vaudeville acts, and both types of performances were applauded. 

General Rosalie Jones, leader of this suffragist Army of the Hudson, held a reception in her hotel room this afternoon. Among those attending were the city’s mayor, as well as Captain Thomas Johnson, age 86, of Cape Charles, Virginia, who came to town specifically to see the hikers.

There has been much public concern and speculation about the condition of Lausanne, the suffrage horse, bought in Newark to pull Elizabeth Freeman’s literature (“ammunition”) wagon. But a veterinarian who had heard that Lausanne was “spavined, had a bowed tendon, sprung forward legs, interfered badly and was a cribber” found upon examination that Lausanne’s legs “were just slightly sprung,” and that the horse “has a heavy appetite,” but was otherwise all right and fit to complete the rest of the trip. 

PHOTO: Elizabeth Freeman, Lausanne, and the literature (“ammunition”) wagon.

Though General Jones’ troops are dedicated to winning the battle for the ballot by totally peaceful means, the news that the unoccupied country home of David Lloyd-George, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been damaged stirred controversy in the ranks today. Freeman, who has served time in British prisons for her suffrage activity there, said that she could understand the reason for such a militant action.

The situation in England is entirely different from the situation here. The women know that [Prime Minister] Asquith is their enemy. He has frankly said so. Now, Lloyd-George posed as friendly. He held out one hand to them and then had torpedoed a bill that would have helped them. Englishmen hold above all else the sacredness of property. Well, Englishwomen have attacked sacred property and they will continue to do so. I believe in destruction of property where human life is not endangered. Lloyd-George knows now what Englishwomen really think of him.

But hiker Elizabeth Aldrich is representative of those who take the opposite view: “I would not break a pane of glass if by doing so all women were enfranchised. I am for peace and order.”

Three interesting letters arrived today. One was signed “Mrs. Alfred I. Du Pont,” the wife of the well-known industrialist, financier and philanthropist. When Freeman called her, she said the letter must be a hoax, because she hadn’t written it, but that she actually did support the hikers. So, it was a prank that wound up having a good result.

A second letter was more of an obvious spoof, allegedly from the “Association of Husbands,” who said they were tired of this cross-country hiking by suffragists.

A third letter was from someone claiming to be a librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, who said that the Dean of the Law School had alleged that $30 worth of furniture had been damaged during the suffrage rally there for the hikers. When Freeman tried to call the Dean, he was out, so the truth of this allegation remains in question tonight.

What is not in question is that both fame and support for the pilgrims are increasing rapidly, as more and more groups are now volunteering to be escorts. For instance, a brass band composed of 25 school teachers and other professional women from Marysville, Missouri, has offered to meet the hikers at Laurel, Maryland, and escort them into Washington.

College students have been very supportive from the beginning, and Company “N” of the Pennsylvania National Guard, composed mostly of University of Pennsylvania undergraduates, has offered to march with the hikers in the big suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., on March 3rd. Not to be outdone, Princeton students have also volunteered to march along with them in D.C. next month as well.

With the last of the day’s many speeches done, the hikers have now turned in and are enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep. But tomorrow it’s back on the road again, and on to Elkton, Maryland!

About

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.