Traveling for Suffrage Part 2: General Jones and her army of suffrage pilgrims

Intern Patri O'Gan shares a unique story of woman suffrage for Women's History Month. Read Part 1, the previous post in the Traveling for Suffrage series.

 

Woman suffrage button in the museum's collection
Woman suffrage button in the museum's collection

By the decade leading up to the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment, woman suffragists had been fighting for the vote for over 60 years, and some felt the movement was languishing. Before television, the Internet, and social media, how could suffragists garner national attention to help revitalize their cause? For Rosalie Jones, the answer involved walking... lots and lots of walking.

Pilgrims led by General Rosalie Jones (center). Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.
Pilgrims led by General Rosalie Jones (center). Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.

Rosalie Jones, a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), was an unlikely leader of hiking suffragists. Her mother was a member of the New York State Anti-Suffrage Association and, as a wealthy New York socialite, Jones was accustomed to an easy, glamorous lifestyle. However, in December of 1912, she defied expectations and led a group of NAWSA hikers on a suffrage pilgrimage.

Dubbed "General Jones" and the "suffragette pilgrims" in the press, they walked 150 miles (in skirts!) from New York City to Albany, New York, in order to petition the governor for suffrage. Walking through bad weather on difficult roads, Jones and her pilgrims made speeches, sang songs to keep morale up, and gave interviews to the press along the way. They even attended a ball in Hudson, New York, on Christmas Day, although most of them were too footsore to dance!

Colored picture of woman sitting in chair wearing pink dress, dated 1912. From the book 'Maidens Fair' by Harrison Fisher. Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Women Series, Box 2, Folder 12.
Colored picture of woman sitting in chair wearing pink dress, dated 1912. From the book 'Maidens Fair' by Harrison Fisher. Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Women Series, Box 2, Folder 12.

Thirteen days after they began, General Jones and her suffrage pilgrims arrived in Albany to great fanfare. Three days later, they presented their petition to Governor-elect William Sulzer, who expressed his support for woman suffrage.

On the road, General Jones (center) and Pilgrims, 1913. Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.
On the road, General Jones (center) and Pilgrims, 1913. Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.

Two months later, General Jones organized another NAWSA pilgrimage, this time from New York City to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Woman Suffrage Parade. Traveling with a horse-drawn carriage painted yellow for suffrage, the suffragists gave speeches and handed out suffrage literature along the way, with both supporters and detractors of the cause coming out to meet them on their journey. Again, the press covered their pilgrimage with almost daily articles in the papers, calling them The Army of the Hudson.

General Jones (left) and Suffrage Pilgrims arriving in D.C. for National Woman Suffrage Parade, 1913, Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [LC-DIG-ggbain-12622]
General Jones (left) and Suffrage Pilgrims arriving in D.C. for National Woman Suffrage Parade, 1913, Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [LC-DIG-ggbain-12622]

After a grueling journey lasting 20 days and more than 200 miles, General Jones and 15 suffrage pilgrims reached Washington, D.C., on March 3, 1913. They joined over 5,000 of their fellow suffragists in the National Woman Suffrage Parade procession, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue toward Constitution Hall. The parade procession, which included nine bands, four mounted brigades, and over 20 floats, drew such a crowd that President Wilson's pre-inauguration arrival at Union Station only a few blocks away went almost unnoticed.

General Jones and Pilgrims participate in the National Woman Suffrage Parade, 1913. Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.
General Jones and Pilgrims participate in the National Woman Suffrage Parade, 1913. Courtesy of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the historic National Woman's Party.

A few months after the New York to Washington, D.C., pilgrimage, General Jones took a break from all the walking and tried a new traveling tactic—flying. Stay tuned to Traveling for Suffrage Part 3 to read about Jones and other suffrage fliers.

Patri O'Gan is the James Lollar Hagan Intern with the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives.

Posted at 6:15 am EDT in Intern Perspectives,Women's History

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