After a more than 60 year struggle to give women the right to vote, things were coming to a head during the second decade of the 20th century. The suffragists had won battles in a number of states, and were slowly converting indecisive politicians. But to keep pressure on the holdouts, the more radical activists descended on Washington, D.C. for a massive march, picketing, and clever publicity stunts.
The “Woman Suffrage Procession” called for the rally on March 3, 1913, the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. It was “a protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded” the program stated, and there were up to 8,000 supporters stepping off on Pennsylvania Avenue, while hundreds of thousands watched the spectacle.
As the day neared for the important national push, the suffragists advanced on the city on the Potomac from every direction. Across the northern Chesapeake, attractively decorated with their fine hats and yellow roses, they came from the cities of the northeast.
General Rosalie G. Jones, an Oyster Bay socialite, and her army pushed past the Mason Dixon Line on February 20, 1913, having started in New York. In the band of merry hikers was Jerry, “the Democratic donkey,” a little grey burro, driven by Jennie Geist of New York. He pulled a little two-wheeled cart as the “Army of the Hudson” advanced on the capital. Jerry “was in the picture as prominent as the general,” the Baltimore Sun informed readers.
Taylor W. McKenney of Elkton met the advance guard at the border with a big automobile to offer a lift. The genuine hikers declined, but the “war correspondents” climbed on board, so he carried them to Elkton. While the army trudged on to the inspiring strains of “the suffragette is at thy door, Maryland, My Maryland,” the next citizen they met was Union veteran and Judge of the Orphans Court, Thomas S. Miller. He was in his buggy and cheered as they passed.
At the town limits, a number of people, some of whom were sympathetic to “equal suffrage and some of whom were not” met the suffragists. In the crowd was Mary A. Jamar, president of the Cecil County Equal Suffrage League, Ella C. Levis secretary, Mrs. R. C. Levis, president of the Woman’s Club, and Dr. H. Arthur Mitchell, the mayor, the Sun reported.
But some notables weren’t there. William. T. Warburton, Republican floor leader of the House of Delegates, who defeated the suffrage bill at the last session of the legislature, was one. Briefed on this matter General Jones, “as tired as she was,” paid an “official visit to his home.” Mr. Warburton was away, and is being “accused of cowardice,” the Sun said. “The general will try again before leaving in the morning. All that she wishes is a little argument with Mr. Warburton, but he is a shy man tonight,” the reporter added. Emerson Crothers, a Democrat, was “also not in evidence.”
Until Newark the marchers had been preceded by a “little yellow wagon,” from which Elizabeth Freeman, the English militant, made speeches for the cause. Fortunately for Warburton, Freeman, stayed behind with the gospel wagon in Newark, a reporter remarked. “She was trying to convert the Delaware college cadets.”
Lots of folks lined the street and by the time the hikers reached the Howard House a large, curious crowd was waiting outside. The General seized the opportunity, speaking from the automobile on behalf of votes for women.
During the evening in the county seat a public meeting was held at the Mechanics Hall, and an amusing incident occurred there. Having invited questions, one boy took issue with Corporal Klatschken’s strong argument for extending the franchise. He didn’t think women should vote. Asked if he thought women ought to be educated, he replied “yes, in a way.” Asked if he went to school he said yes, while also replying affirmatively to the query about whether girls attended the school. “Who’s the head of your class, a boy or girl?” inquired the corporal. A girl came the reluctant answer. “Are there any other questions? This young man’s argument has fallen. A girl’s at the head of the class,” the speaker concluded.
The Red Men’s Lodge was holding its 17th anniversary banquet at the Felton House that evening. Thus some of the army made an impromptu call, explaining to the group the principles of the equal suffrage cause.
After an overnight stay at the Howard Hotel, they briefly occupied North East. The town newspaper wondered that if this “little band of women walkers” could create so much excitement, interest, and enthusiasms, what would happen in political circles when that number of women was multiplied by several million, once they got the vote? That was the question on the minds of politicians, too.
At Hotel Cecil, the party of about 40 tarried an hour for rest and lunch. Speeches made from the porch by Martha Klatschen and Elizabeth Freeman were frequently interrupted by applause. Half of North East turned out to see the band and business was at a standstill, the Cecil Star observed.
Continuing on the pilgrimage, the suffrage banner still proudly flying as the target grew ever closer, they trooped through Charlestown. There “Bayard Black mounted his gramophone on the front porch. As General Jones appeared Mr. Black started the record,” Maryland My Maryland.” At Principio Furnace, there was waving of yellow banners and the men left their work, coming out to the roadside to greet the ladies.
At Perryville they were met by the Bayside Brass Band and a large delegation of citizens from Havre de Grace escorted the hikers across the bridge, where they were “greeted by half the town.” Completely “tired out and foot sore,” they “were ready to give their endorsement to the general verdict that the worst piece of public road in the United States was between Perryville and Elkton,” the Havre de grace paper reported
They were growing closer to their objective, a show of strength and solidarity with the first massive national civil rights parade in the nation’s capital