Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Following Up: Jessie Hardy Stubbs

This is the last of the posts following up on the account of the suffrage hike to Albany, which passed through Hudson on Christmas 1912, and one of the saddest. Jessie Hardy Stubbs was one of the five suffragettes who made the hike from New York City to Albany. As a result of the attention the pilgrimage received in the press, Stubbs was reunited with her father, Major A. L. Hardy, whom she hadn't seen or heard from since her parents separated when she was eight years old.

Stubbs was an advocate not only for woman suffrage but also for international peace. She was the president of the Milwaukee Women's Peace Society and the legislative chairman of the Women's Peace Society in New York City. In 1915, she married Benton MacKaye, the writer, forestry expert, and conservationist. 

In 1921, after completing the draft of the disarmament bill for the Women's Peace Society, Stubbs, who frequently experienced depression, suffered what was called a nervous breakdown. Hoping to help her recover, MacKaye planned to take her to Lake Oscawana to visit friends and to rest. At Grand Central Station, while MacKaye was purchasing their tickets, Stubbs eluded the elderly nurse who was attending her and disappeared in the crowd. The New York Times reported that she was last seen "walking rapidly in East Forty-second Street near Lexington Avenue." 

MacKaye filed a report with the Bureau of Missing Persons, and even though Stubbs apparently had often said that she would end her life by jumping into the Hudson River or the East River, MacKaye held out hope that she would be found in a hospital where she had checked herself in. The next day, however, the New York Times reported that her body had been found in the East River just a few hours after she disappeared.

MacKaye, who "had been prostrated since his wife's sudden disappearance," retreated to the farm of a friend in Mount Olive, New Jersey, to grieve her death, and it was there he began formulating his most famous idea: the Appalachian Trail.

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