Thursday, January 17, 2013

Curious About the Past

We know that the suffragettes of General Jones's army, on their hike from New York to Albany in 1912, celebrated Christmas here in Hudson. We also know that after delivering the suffragist message to Governor William Sulzer, Rosalie Jones returned to Hudson on New Year's Day 1913 to organize a suffrage movement here. It's intriguing to contemplate the extent of support for woman suffrage that existed among Hudson women in the final decade of the struggle before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed and ratified in 1920. 

The women of Hudson may well have been staunch suffragists. The city was, after all, was founded by Quakers, and Quakers believed that men and women were equal before God. Remarkably, in 1784, the list of Proprietors includes a woman--Deborah Jenkins. But were those Quaker precepts of gender parity still part of the collective consciousness 130 years later?

The search for evidence of the suffrage spirit in Hudson a hundred years ago uncovered this tantalizing tidbit. In January 1913, Edmonds Hose Co. No. 1 was planning a fair to be held in February, around Valentine's Day. A fair was a common fundraising event in that era, and the fair that Hudson's oldest fire company was planning was quite an extravaganza. It would go on for three days, and it was to be kicked off by a parade--in the middle of February--that started at the Washington Hose Co. firehouse at the foot of Warren Street and marched up the street to the Edmonds firehouse on Park Place. 

As was the tradition at such fairs, there would be contests to pick the "Most Popular Lady" and, in the case of this fair, the "Most Popular Fireman." The winner of the latter contest would receive a gold watch, which, the Evening Register announced, could be viewed in the window of the Maratskey jewelry store. The prize for the ladies' contest was another thing. The usual prize for such contests seems to have been a diamond ring. Just a few weeks before the Edmonds fair, Miss Minnie Diamond, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Max Diamond, won a diamond ring at the fair in aid of the synagogue. Edmonds Hose Co. No. 1, however, decided to break with tradition. Here's what the Hudson Evening Register reported on January 6, 1913:
The committee has decided to drop the proposed diamond ring contest for the most popular lady, and instead of this contest the committee has decided upon another one, which it feels should be most popular with the ladies of this city.
It has been decided to give a contest, the winner of which, with a companion, will have a trip to Washington, D. C., at the time of the inauguration of President Wilson.
What, we may ask, made a trip to Washington for the inauguration an appealing prize for the ladies of Hudson? Was Woodrow Wilson such a popular presidential candidate that every woman in Hudson wanted to be there to witness him taking the oath of office? Probably not. Women couldn't vote in 1913, so it's not likely that most women paid a lot of attention to elections. What's more likely is that the women of Hudson wanted to be in Washington to see or be part of the elaborate Woman Suffrage Procession that was to take place on Pennsylvania Avenue the day before the inauguration.

Gossips is pursuing this story from the past to find out who won the "Most Popular Lady" contest and who went to Washington.

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