The Maryland General Assembly held a joint session Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a historic march through Maryland in support of women’s suffrage.
On Feb. 12, 1913, a band of women calling themselves “The Army of the Potomac” began marching in New Jersey and went through Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, before reaching Washington D.C., according to the program distributed by the General Assembly’s Women’s Caucus. Although thousands attended the march, it would take another seven years for women to obtain the right to vote.
“The women legislators of Maryland take notice, feel pride, and commit ourselves to work for gender equality in all aspects of American life,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh (D- Baltimore), chair of the caucus.
As the women legislators gathered outside in order to march into the House chamber all together, both the House and Senate met briefly as they had done a century earlier — without any women legislators. In the House of Delegates, this meant a lot of milling around and thumb-twiddling as they waited for the ceremony to begin.
“The women aren’t here yet, so of course, nothing will get done,” said Del. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery County).
“I still sense an effeminate presence,” said Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert County). He then motioned to a number of female State House employees working at the dais.
Across the hall, however, the male members of the Senate proceeded with business almost-as-usual. They confirmed two of the governor’s nominees — one judge and one Stadium Authority member — and gave preliminary approval to two bills.
The rest of the agenda was rolled over to Monday. While the House did recognize some visiting sports teams, they waited until the female delegates returned to conduct legislative business.
Without any female legislators, both houses still had enough members present to have a quorum. In Maryland, 57 of the 188 lawmakers are women, making up just 30 percent of the General Assembly.
Like their suffragette mothers before them, the women wore black and sported yellow sashes. As they entered the House, Del. Melony Griffith (D- Prince George’s) sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The women of the General Assembly marched behind her, carrying signs that said “Votes for Women” and held pictures of the original marchers.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) made remarks about the important role women lawmakers play in the General Assembly. Several women legislators participated in a brief presentation on the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Maryland.
“I learned so much,” said Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County). “When I think about the women who came before me, what they went through to get us here, it’s unbelievable, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”