Today in Feminist History: Hiking Through Patriarchy

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 25, 1913: Proving that they can be just as bold indoors as on the road, the suffragist Army of the Hudson descended upon two of Baltimore’s most patriarchal institutions on this, the 14th day of hiking from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C.

The first visit of the day was to Cardinal Gibbons at his residence. Though known for his personal opposition to woman suffrage, he treated hisunexpected visitors with great respect, even after General Jones impulsively gave him a handshake instead of kneeling and kissing his ring, as is customary for all those who are granted an audience with this highly influential and respected man. 

Jones then presented the Cardinal with a small “Votes for Women” pennant, which he graciously accepted, though with the friendly admonition that ” … in accepting this souvenir of your march, it is not necessarily a conversion to your cause.” He then diplomatically praised the hikers without actually endorsing equal suffrage:

“I hope your mission may commend itself to the judgment and conscience of the legislators. I am sure if they do not form a favorable opinion from your courage and determination their hearts must be harder than the stones that have bruised your feet on the march. I do not wish to bias their judgment, but you certainly deserve well for the efforts you have made and the courage you have shown.”

The Cardinal then asked some questions about the hike, and commented: “It is wonderful that women could have done what you have done. When you have completed your pilgrimage and Washington is reached, I am sure that all will agree with me that you deserve … a good rest.” For just a moment during the pause, the hikers dared hope he would say “the vote” instead of “a good rest,” but they were still quite pleased with his friendly tone, and deemed the meeting a successful one, all things considered.

The next encounter was a luncheon sponsored by the Sons of Jove. Another breach of local etiquette here, when as cigars and cigarettes were passed around, Elizabeth Freeman took one and began puffing away. The sight of a woman smoking in public shocked local suffragists, and one quickly told Freeman, “We don’t do that in Baltimore.” Her action jolted the Jovians as well, one of whom took the cigarette from her hand and extinguished it. But other than that, the reception went well.

The hikers also called upon Acting Mayor Hubert, who accepted a “Votes for Women” flag and gave the pilgrims a letter to the Mayor of Laurel, the city they expect to reach tomorrow night after the hike resumes in the morning. The pilgrims finished up this busy day with an evening visit to the New Theater, where they, Lausanne, the suffragist horse who pulls Elizabeth Freeman’s literature wagon, and Jerry, the donkey, who pulls a small cart for a woman tourist who’s now accompanying the hikers, went on stage to great applause.

The Army of the Hudson seems reunited in spirit again as the dispute between General Jones and Colonel Craft over the speed of the march and the priority given to socializing with the locals seems to have been smoothed over. But problems still remain. The permit for the pilgrims’ march and police escort through the streets of Washington, D.C., has turned out to be issued for a day too early. Since speeding up the hike to conform with the date on the permit would revive the feud with Colonel Craft, that’s not an option, so the permit application process will have to be begun again.

Despite the unintentional breaches of custom during the visits to the Cardinal and the Jovians, plus the misdated parade permit, the hikers are quite optimistic, well-rested and eager to be on the road again. Their destination now seems easily reachable in time to join in the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s massive parade and pageant on March 3rd.


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.