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Suffrage Army

On the last day of their 12-day, 174-mile suffrage hike, General Jones and her suffrage soldiers, walked 18 miles on roads six inches deep with soft, wet snow over mud. A contingent of local suffragists met them in East Greenbush, 3 1/2 miles from Albany. “General, the State capitol is in sight!” one of them told her. “Don’t let it get away till we can get there,” she replied with a sigh. They reached the capitol at 4:30 p.m.

In an interview, Rosalie Gardiner Jones, the 29-year-old free-spirit from a conservative, wealthy, socially prominent Long Island, New York family, said that news of the 1911 victorious women’s suffrage amendment referendum campaign in California had galvanized her suffrage activism to get the word “male” removed from voter qualifications in New York’s constitution. First, she had targeted towns around her family’s home in Cold Spring Harbor, determined to arouse public support by giving suffrage speeches, calling meetings, and distributing literature and “Votes for Women” flags.  In June, she had teamed up with thirty-six-year-old Elisabeth Freeman, who dressed like a gypsy. Together they traveled across Long Island in a little yellow wagon pulled by a horse named Suffragette, spreading the suffrage message. In July they took their wagon and horse to Ohio to campaign for passage of the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Amendment. (It was soundly defeated by male voters.) 

As for undertaking the suffrage hike, Rosalie Jones said that news of a suffrage hike from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London, England, had inspired her. Known as “The Brown Women,” because of their brown clothing, Florence Gertrude de Fonblanque and her companions hiked from October 12-November 16. (de Fonblanque had “Orginator and leader of the women’s suffrage march from Edinburgh to London, 1912” inscribed on her gravestone.)

Suffragists had spent years fighting for passage of a woman suffrage amendment to the New York state constitution. A referendum on a woman suffrage amendment could be approved for a referendum by either a constitutional convention or by legislative action.  Suffragists had tried the constitutional convention route in 1867 and 1894, vigorously testifying, lobbying, submitting letters, testimonies, and petitions (0ne petition had 600,000 signatures). All in vain.  By 1912, however, their unceasing efforts with legislators appeared to be finally paying off. The new legislature that would convene in January 1913 was poised to approve a woman suffrage amendment that would then have to be passed by a successive legislature. Once that happened, a referendum on a woman suffrage amendment would be on the ballot in 1915. Awakening the public, pressuring politicians and the newly-elected governor, was General Rosalie Jones’s mission. “We have left a trail of thought and suggestions behind us . . .” she said. ‘The process of awakening the public mind to the need of votes for women is very slow, but we feel that this pilgrimage has brought the matter before the public in a manner that would have been possible no other way.” In 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, a statue of Rosalie Gardiner Jones will be dedicated in Cold Spring Harbor Park on Long Island.


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