Today in Feminist History: The Suffragettes are at the Door

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 20, 1913: Another day and another State line crossed for the suffrage hikers!

Today’s 18-mile march to Elkton, Maryland, was as eventful as it was long. It began in that most friendly town of Wilmington, Delaware, where the mayor and 20 police officers gave General Jones and her suffragist Army of the Hudson an escort out of town. Mayor Howell also wrote a personal letter of introduction for the hikers to give to the Mayor of Baltimore.

The day’s first encounter was with the Green family. William Green proudly presented Ruth and Esther, age three, as future voters. Their mother shouted her support for the hikers from a window of the house, regretting that she couldn’t go to Washington., D.C., but said: “I am doing my share, for I am bringing up two new voters.”

The next stop was to visit Martha Cranston in Newport. She is one of the most active—and, at over 70 years of age, most senior—suffragists in Delaware. She gave the troops a fine welcoming speech. The City of Newport was decorated for the occasion with flags and bunting on many of the houses, and the city’s greeting even featured thirty schoolchildren, each carrying a banner. Two of the banners were inscribed “Let Women Vote” and “For President, General Jones.” Speeches were given in appreciation of the welcome, and then it was back on the road again.

As they approached Newark, the troops were met by the cadet corps of Delaware College. What made this reception especially noteworthy was that unlike similar encounters at other schools, these students were not given permission to miss classes and go out to meet the marchers, but did so anyway. One hundred and seventy-five uniformed students and band members “presented arms” as a salute, then escorted the hikers into Deer Park. After bidding the hikers a fond farewell, the band played “The Girl I Left Behind Me” as the students marched back to their campus and an unknown disciplinary fate.

PHOTO: The hikers taking a break and talking to a few local residents earlier today at the Deer Park Hotel in Newark, Delaware.

Of course, there was the standard “incident of the day,” which in this case consisted of three small boys throwing some live mice into the marchers’ ranks near Newark. Though the boys momentarily got the reaction they had hoped for from the hikers, military discipline was quickly restored and the pilgrim army’s advance continued. This was actually the second prank of the day. The first was played in Wilmington this morning when among the packages delivered to the suffragists were several stamped “Handle With Care” and which contained small black sticks marked “Dynamite” and “Use Judiciously.” They turned out to be just harmless sticks of carbon. 

The day’s next major event was crossing into Maryland. General Jones grasped some of its soil and said: “Maryland soil, we bless thee in the name of equal suffrage. May our journey be pleasant, and our cause prosper within your borders.”

The ceremonial welcome continued with Dr. Ernest L. Stevens contributing a new marching song, sung to the tune of “Maryland, My Maryland.”

The suffragette is at the door,
Maryland, my Maryland;

On foot she hikes to Baltimore,
Maryland, My Maryland;

Come join the Hudson’s hiking throng,
Stalking with Rosalie along;

And chant the dauntless suffrage song,
Maryland, My Maryland.

As they marched and sang their way, the pilgrims encountered a ten-year-old boy riding a horse with no saddle. Upon seeing the yellow suffrage banners fluttering in the breeze, the horse became frightened, but Marie Baird ran down the road, grabbed the bridle, and soon settled the horse down. “Thank you,” said the boy, “I am in favor of women voting.”

Arriving in Elkton late in the afternoon, there was a good-sized crowd to meet the pilgrims. Despite having just hiked 18 miles, many still had enough energy to make the day’s final speeches, some of which lasted well into the evening.

Aside from the fake dynamite, real mice, and the baggage automobile breaking down near Folly Woods and needing to be towed to a blacksmith’s shop by a team of horses, it was a pretty good day. Eight days after leaving Newark, New Jersey, there are now 134 miles in back of the hikers, with only about 89 ahead, and eleven days remaining until the big suffrage parade and pageant in Washington, D.C. So, the trek is going well, and is still on schedule !


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.