Down the Research Rabbit Hole; Up with Rosalie Gardiner Jones!

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights

Author: Zachary Michael Jack

Publisher: Zest Books

Date: September 27, 2016

March of the Suffragettes tells the forgotten, real-life story of “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones, who in the waning days of 1912 mustered and marched an all-women army nearly 175 miles to help win support for votes for women.  Most of us know about Susan B. Anthony and her fight for women’s right to vote, but few of us know about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.  The author of March of the Suffragettes, Zachary Michael Jack, tells us a little bit about how he learned about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.

suffragettes

Over the past week, as I’ve taken my new book, March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights into schools and bookstores, readers keep wanting to know: how on earth did you discover Ms. Rosalie Gardiner Jones?! Rosalie, it seems, has surprised and delighted them as much as she did me, hiding out in right there in plain sight in the pages of history.

I only wish I could tell them in the fifth grade—when I was taught the remarkable story of “General” Rosalie Jones and the all-woman suffrage army she mustered and marched 175 miles, through the dead of a New York winter, when she was still in her twenties. I wish I could tell them that a well-meaning high school teacher, sensing my love for the revolutionary and the brave, tipped me off, almost conspiratorially with a nod and a wink and a go-forth-my-child, to research the amazing story of Rosalie and Ida Craft and Lavinia Dock and Jessie Hardy Stubbs for an upcoming research paper.

Instead, I’m left to confess the sad truth—that beyond Susan B. Anthony no one in my excellent public schooling taught me the noble truth of the votes-for-women movement and its amazingly contemporary advocates and their advocacies. That, I suppose, is part of the amnesia we suffer as a country where our foremothers are concerned.

The real story of how I came to learn about Rosalie Gardiner Jones and her remarkable march (at the time, probably the longest sustained women’s rights march in all of American history) is far more prosaic then that: I virtually stumbled into her in the dusky dustbin of history while researching female farmers and agrarians for a previous book: The Midwest Farmer’s Daughter: In Search of an American Icon. It turns out that a number of leading early feminists had rural backgrounds or rural interests, including the likes of Jane Addams and Frances Willard. So, as the saying goes, way led on to way—down, down, down and back up the research rabbit hole again—and suddenly, standing on the shoulders of these great women agrarians, I could see the distant figure of General Jones and her heroic army marching toward me…at least metaphorically.

As a writer and researcher, I believe in walking through the looking glass with both your notepad and your mind open, moving laterally, joyously, from one research find to another—something the Internet (the smart-as-a-whip “Aunt Google,” as I sometimes call her in classes) makes not only enlightening but enjoyable. While my otherwise fine fifth grade history class failed to introduce me to the proud, fightin’ spirit of my suffrage foremothers, it did, in my epic research paper on Maine, at least show me the vertigo-inducing, chutes-and-ladders feeling of historical research at its finest and most life-giving. That’s the breathless feeling I hope I’ve at least partly bottled in March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights. May it march on to the most unexpected places.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.

Zachary Michael Jack is an award-winning author and editor of over twenty books, a former youth and bookmobile librarian, and the lead instructor for a popular writers’ workshop for tweens and teens, the Master Class for Young Writers. An associate professor of English at North Central College, he teaches courses in Leadership, Ethics and Values, and Writing for Social Change. His latest book, March of the Suffragettes, was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) for its Best Books for Young Readers 2016 catalog.

 

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