Today in Feminist History: Over One Dozen Suffrage Hikers Walk Into the George Washington House…

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 27, 1913 : The suffrage hikers pushed on toward Washington, D.C., this morning—despite rain, mud, hecklers and a growing conflict with the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

General Jones and her “Army of the Hudson” left Laurel about 9:00 a.m. for another day of wading through Maryland’s notoriously muddy roads. But they were soon joined by 25 schoolchildren who happily hiked along until someone noted the approach of a Truant Officer, at which point the students scattered and headed for their classroom. 

The students of the Maryland Agricultural College at College Park were not nearly so well behaved, and in addition to jeering the hikers, got into a fist fight with some of the “war correspondents” (reporters) accompanying the marchers. After getting the worst of it, the students retreated back to their campus. 

At Beltsville, the hikers got a chance to briefly shed the oilskin tablecloths that were made into ponchos and added to their regular rain gear this morning. There they enjoyed a luncheon of crackers, fruit and apple cider. Back on the road again, some of the marchers, Phoebe Hawn and Mary Baird in particular, were clearly suffering from major foot problems, but are still determined to make it all the way.

The next stop for the troops was Hyattsville, where they were met by former mayor Magruder, who escorted the hikers to the armory. There they were given another luncheon, this courtesy of the Prince George’s County Business Men’s Association. After reaching the day’s goal of Bladensburg, some retired to the George Washington House, which, as the name implies, was once the headquarters of another general on the march for a cause. Others went to the Palo Alto Hotel, where the Manhattan cocktail was invented in 1846.

Genevieve Champ Clark, daughter of the Speaker of the House, journeyed out from Washington to greet the marchers and was given an ovation by those not already in bed tending to their weary feet.

Today’s stormy weather matched the relations between the hikers and those in NAWSA. At the beginning of the hike it was made clear that should she make it all the way from Newark, N.J. to Washington, D.C., General Jones was to deliver a letter from prominent suffragists to President-elect Wilson. But NAWSA decreed today that the letter, which Jones has carried and carefully kept dry for 16 days over 240 miles, is to be formally presented to Wilson by a delegation of NAWSA officers and the NAWSA Congressional Committee, though members of the pilgrim army may be “present” as well. 

The letter was dutifully turned over to Alice Paul, head of NAWSA’s Congressional Committee tonight, with General Jones saying : “If the New York suffragists feel it is better for the Congressional Committee to deliver the letter there seems little else for me to do than to bow to its wishes. As for my feelings on this matter I have little to say, other than that I am willing to make any sacrifice for the cause.”

The issue of which hikers are officially recognized by NAWSA remains yet another source of friction. There will be a luncheon tomorrow given by NAWSA, but only women hikers who have walked the entire distance are invited. Since the men and women who walked part way, those in charge of the literature wagon, baggage car and scout vehicle, plus the footsore members of the press contingent are excluded, all the “eligible” marchers have decided to show their solidarity with their comrades by declining the invitation. Still, even with the bad roads, atrocious weather and organizational politics, General Jones remains optimistic tonight, just one day’s march from D.C. and the end of the long trail.

She summed up her feelings in verse :

Oh, sisters, my sisters! 
The trip is nearly done;

The hikers slowly plod along, 
The towns pass one by one.

The weary miles are left behind,
The Capitol draws near;

And soon our lengthy march will end,
Amid a deafening cheer.

Oh sisters, my sisters!
The walk was long and hard;

‘Twas up a hill and down a dale,
Across God’s dewy sward.

While women laughed and men have jeered,
At us and at our cause;

Yet every step brought near that time,
When we shall make the laws.


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.