Natalie A. Naylor on Zachary Michael Jack. Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the Long March for Women’s Rights. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2020. 270 pp. ISBN 1476681163. $39.95.
The Centennial of Women’s Suffrage—in 2017 for New York State and 2020 for the nation—resulted in many books, exhibitions, and programs. Virtually all, however, continued to ignore an important Long Island and national suffragist, Rosalie Gardiner Jones (1883-1978). The one exception is Zachary Michael Jack, whose aim is to provide the “first-ever book-length biography” of Jones (5). In his March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights (a 2016 Young Adult book), Jack’s focus was on the 175-mile hike Jones led from New York City to Albany in December 1912. That event made “General” Jones famous. She received even greater publicity when she led her “Army of the Hudson” pilgrimage from New York City to Washington, D.C. in February 1913 to join the large “procession” or parade Alice Paul had organized for the day before the presidential inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. This 250-mile “march” with hikers clad in brown pilgrim cloaks is the subject of Jack’s recent book.
Rosalie Gardiner Jones had deep roots on Long Island. She could trace her lineage to Lion Gardiner of Gardiner’s Island and Thomas Jones for whom Jones Beach was named. Jones began her suffrage activities on Long Island, speaking in Roslyn in 1911 and touring the island in May 1912 in a horse and wagon. But it was her hikes to Albany and Washington that brought her national recognition.
Michael Zachary Jack is an English professor at North Central College in Illinois where he teaches writing and other courses. He has published twenty-five books including fiction, poetry, plays, and what he characterizes as “literary journalism, and creative nonfiction.” For this book, Jack draws on some photographs and other information from the Jones family (held by a great-great nephew). He includes some 40 photographs and several contemporary suffrage cartoons. In a number of instances, he more accurately dates Library of Congress photographs. Unfortunately, suffrage histories are sparse in his extensive notes and bibliography.
Rosalie Jones appointed herself General for her marches, although she was more than twenty years younger in age and experience in the suffrage movement than her second in command, “Colonel” Ida Craft. Jack carefully chronicles day-by-day, the two-week-long march by utilizing its extensive coverage in a wide range of newspapers. Eleven stalwart pilgrims pledged to walk all the way. Although a few dropped out, others joined for shorter distances. It was a challenging endeavor. The hikers encountered bitter cold temperatures, ice, rain, snow, slush, mud, and poor roads in Maryland, as well as overly enthusiastic male college students.
Jones was always at the center of the march and also in this book. To his credit in Jack’s account, Craft and a few of the other faithful pilgrims come alive, most notably Phoebe Hawn, Mary Boldt, Martha Klatschken, Elizabeth Aldrich, and Elizabeth Freeman. Boldt, Hawn, and Aldrich, for example, attracted the students at colleges where they stopped en route. The “war correspondents” or journalists (especially the women) who covered the hike and the men involved who supported the effort (particularly the bugler Milton Wend) also receive attention. They all contributed to the success of the enterprise and in one of his last chapters, Jack briefly relates some of their later activities.
Rosalie Jones was carrying a message to President-elect Wilson, but a few days before arriving in Washington, she surrendered it to Alice Paul, who was carrying out the dictates of the officers of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (Paul had not yet left to form her independent Congressional Union). The suffrage leaders doubtless were jealous of the publicity Rosalie and her troops were garnering and relegated Rosalie’s pilgrims to the end of the parade line.
Although the Washington parade has received considerable attention in suffrage histories, few adequately acknowledge the role of General Jones and her pilgrims. The torrent of newspaper coverage of the suffrage hikers en route helped publicize the parade, and attract thousands of participants and onlookers to the spectacular event. Unfortunately, inadequate police protection resulted in mob violence.
In its report on the parade, NAWSA’s Woman’s Journal had photographs of two individuals on its front page–Inez Milholland who led the parade riding a horse and Rosalie Jones. Milholland is still very much recognized in suffrage histories. Later while campaigning, she collapsed, soon died, and became a martyr. Jack’s book may bring recognition to Jones and her pilgrims. Unfortunately, the high price for the paperback is likely to discourage many purchasers.
Most of the book focuses on details of the march itself, with sparse attention to Jones’ years before 1913. Unanswered adequately is why she dropped out of the suffrage movement before it achieved success in her home state and the nation.
The concluding chapter briefly covers the twenty-five years after Jones’ suffrage activities on Long Island, New York City, and the Midwest. She endured family tragedies (her father’s suicide and institutionalization of two brothers), earned five degrees, was admitted to the bar, became involved in the peace movement in the 1920s, and married a US Senator who divorced her. Even briefer attention is given to her final four decades: the depletion of the family fortune, her goats, and declining health. Unfortunately, personal records are missing for those years, except about the goats she raised.
Because of those sparse sources, Jack is unable to deliver his goal of the promised full biography. He does successfully make his case for the importance of Rosalie Jones as a “social justice warrior” and connects her pathbreaking hike to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington (5, 7).
During all of her hikes and tours, whether by horse and wagon, on foot, or later by automobile, education was primary in her grass roots politicking. Jones and her troops distributed suffrage leaflets, sold the Woman’s Journal, and made speeches, seeking to reach particularly those in the hinterlands.
General Jones was a celebrity during her spectacular few years in the suffrage movement from 1911 to 1915. These were important turning point years for the suffrage movement when the charismatic General Jones with her hikes contributed to the growing momentum and eventual success of the suffrage cause.
New York State honored Jones with her picture (albeit unidentified) on its “I Voted” sticker in 2017. The state had promised a statue of Jones in front of the Cold Spring Harbor Library, only a few miles from where she lived in Laurel Hollow. Unfortunately, it is “on hold” in 2021. When General Rosalie Gardiner Jones receives the recognition she deserves, by that statue or otherwise, Jack’s book will be an important source for her suffrage activities and her “long march for women’s rights.”