In Other Words

March of the Suf­fragettes: Ros­alie Gar­diner Jones and the March for Vot­ing Rights by Zachary Michael Jack

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Jen­nifer Levin

Women in the United States were granted the right to vote in fed­eral elec­tions in 1920, af­ter nearly 75 years of ad­vo­cacy by suf­frage groups. Vot­ing rights didn’t come to women in one fell swoop, how­ever — they won the right in­cre­men­tally, state by state, by lob­by­ing lo­cal politi­cians and opin­ion mak­ers. New York, for in­stance, which passed women’s suf­frage in 1917, was by no means pro­gres­sive in this ac­tion: Women in Wy­oming had been vot­ing since 1869. It took the ef­forts of truly ded­i­cated ac­tivists to sway the New York leg­is­la­ture in their fa­vor. In March of the Suf­fragettes: Ros­alie Gar­diner Jones and the March for Vot­ing Rights, Zachary Michael Jack re­calls an all-but-for­got­ten two-week win­ter pil­grim­age, made from the Bronx to Al­bany by in­trepid true believ­ers in the power of democ­racy in 1912.

Jones and her small band of pil­grims met at the sub­way stop at 242nd Street and Broad­way, and then walked 175 miles through the Hud­son River Valley to the cap­i­tal city, in the snow and cold of De­cem­ber, giv­ing speeches and talk­ing with farm­ers and fac­tory work­ers along the way. They planned to call upon the gover­nor-elect on New Year’s Day and ask him to con­sider pas­sage of women’s suf­frage. Some marchers who joined Jones’ army in the be­gin­ning were pulled off the route by an­gry par­ents, while oth­ers were un­able to main­tain the gru­el­ing pace. Jones, whose mother was a prom­i­nent an­ti­suf­frag­ist, was act­ing in di­rect de­fi­ance of her fam­ily’s wishes while know­ingly us­ing her so­ci­etal ad­van­tages to give women of all classes, colors, and creeds a po­lit­i­cal voice. She strug­gled with the line be­tween what she con­sid­ered to be deco­rous protest and dis­rup­tive rad­i­cal ac­tion, and wor­ried about los­ing too much of her fem­i­nin­ity if she be­came too brash in her out­rage against sex­ism.

Jour­nal­ists fol­lowed the marchers for the du­ra­tion, and they were met at nearly ev­ery town by a brigade of well­wish­ers and po­lice es­corts. By 1912, the pub­lic was ready for equal vot­ing rights, even if politi­cians were still drag­ging their feet. The marchers were rarely told that women shouldn’t have the right to vote — though they were sur­prised that most of the an­ti­suf­frage sen­ti­ment they heard came from teach­ers, a sin­gle woman’s profession at the time.

Jack is a former youth and book­mo­bile li­brar­ian, a teacher, and author of nu­mer­ous books of fic­tion and non­fic­tion about Amer­i­can his­tory, in­clud­ing The Mid­west Farmer’s Daugh­ter: In Search of an Amer­i­can Icon (Pur­due Univer­sity Press, 2012) and Corn Poll: A Novel of the Iowa Cau­cuses (Ice Cube Press, 2015). He writes March of the

Suf­fragettes in a tone meant for ado­les­cent readers, po­si­tion­ing Jones as a self­less but essen­tially hum­ble leader among women and men — an Amer­i­can hero. When de­scrib­ing some of the out­dated gen­der mores she en­coun­tered in her daily life, his voice is charm­ingly in­cred­u­lous: “…There were still plenty of frankly silly things young women weren’t sup­posed to do in 1912. Some of these pro­hi­bi­tions were re­ally quite ridiculous, in­clud­ing no-nos like whistling in the street, own­ing dogs, and rid­ing bi­cy­cles.” Though the book is a per­fect ve­hi­cle to get teenagers in­ter­ested in read­ing about his­tory, the com­plex­ity and den­sity of in­for­ma­tion Jack pro­vides, as well as his fa­cil­ity with hu­mor and dra­matic ten­sion, will also hook more ma­ture readers.

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