New York Women’s Suffrage Centennial

New York Women’s Suffrage Centennial. It sounds like another dry commemoration. But there was serious suffragette activity right here on Long Island led by local women…as close as Cold Spring Harbor!

We’ve all heard of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but our local ‘heroine’ was Rosalie Gardiner Jones. Called The General, she used her family’s prestige and wealth to push for the right for women to vote.  That was not an easy decision since both her mother and sister were staunch anti-suffragists! Can you just imagine the dinner conversations in that house? Rosalie was feisty and determined.

In December 1912 Rosalie led a group of suffragettes on a walk from New York to Albany to petition Governor Sulzer for women’s suffrage. That’s right they walked the entire way in skirts, on bad roads and in winter! (You can check a video of the Marchers here) But that wasn’t the end of her hiking. She was one of the leaders of the pilgrimage from New York to Washington, DC in February 1913. That walk took 20 days and covered more than 200 miles. The New York marchers joined more than 5000 women and men from around the country on the eve of President Wilson’s inauguration to present their demands.

Rosalie Jones

Since the suffragettes knew they had to keep attention focused on their cause, Rosalie took another high flying publicity stunt. Literally! She boarded a biplane and flew over the crowds of an airshow distributing suffrage literature from the air.

New York did grant women the right to vote in November 1917. (All of the Long Island legislators voted in favor of suffrage!) But it wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationwide. It certainly took a long time for the country to get behind the legislation that Wyoming had enacted in 1869.

Rosalie Jones might have been a footnote in history but she will be well represented on Election Day.  Her image will be on a sticker given to New York voters that day.

For more information check out books by two local authors. Antonia Petrash’s Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement details the work of Rosalie Jones and other local suffragettes. For example, Edna Kearns drove her wagon called the Spirit of ’76 to spread the message throughout local communities and she used her editorial position at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to publicize the suffrage movement. Natalie Naylor’s Women in Long Island’s Past is another resource to consult.

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

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