Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.
“The worst stretch of road between Boston and Atlanta,” was the way one local resident described it, and none of the suffrage hikers showed any desire to dispute that claim as they slogged their way from Elkton to Havre de Grace, Maryland, today.
The condition of the alleged “road” was so poor in places that many pilgrims found the going easier in nearby farmers’ fields.
But as unpleasant as it was for those who were walking, it was even worse for the automobiles accompanying the hikers. Three times today, the machines needed to be pulled out of the mud by horses. Bad as it was, mud was not the only problem the army’s motorized division faced. Both the baggage car and commissary wagon caught fire, though fortunately, little damage was done.
But even with all of today’s obstacles, the “Army of the Hudson” marches on toward Washington, D.C., and even picked up a new recruit. Margaret Geist, her two-wheeled cart, and a burro named “Jerry” are traveling across the country, and have decided to accompany the hikers.
Though one encounter this morning was with an apparently anti-suffrage turkey who didn’t like the pilgrims cutting across his territory, the suffragists got a much more friendly reception from Mary Peterson, who led them down a side road to her home. Already well behind schedule, the troops couldn’t stay for dinner, but they did have time to go on an egg-hunting expedition in the barn, and eagerly consumed a number of the best, freshly-laid ones.
The next stop was at Northeast, where all five of the commissioners, plus the village “patriarch” and his suffragist niece, Emily Peach, were waiting to welcome the pilgrims, and give them a luncheon. Passing through Charleston, the marchers were given musical accompaniment when Bayard Black brought his gramophone out on the porch and played “Maryland, My Maryland” as the hikers passed by. The employees of Principio Furnace stopped work long enough to wave yellow suffrage banners, and many of the men at the big steel mills came out to applaud the hikers.
Arrival in Havre de Grace was later than expected due to road conditions, but was well worth the extra trouble. A brass band and citizens committee crossed the Susquehanna River and met the marchers at Perryville, then escorted them to the Havre de Grace City Hall, where Mayor Weber gave an address and presented them with the key to the city. Not all the troops were present for the ceremony, however. “Colonel” Craft didn’t arrive until 9 p.m. due to her swollen and blistered feet, nor did two other hikers accompanying her.
Though reluctant to admit it, all the hikers are showing clear signs of ailments similar to Craft’s, plus fatigue from the long trip. But absolutely no one doubts that they will finish what they started nine days ago in Newark, New Jersey, and that this small, but dedicated group will have given a big boost to the struggle for woman suffrage by the time they finally arrive in the nation’s capital and join in the big suffrage parade and pageant on March 3rd.