Chapter Thirteen

Rose dreamed she was walking, parading through a steely gray day that stole the colors from all things. Around her women walked, their backs ram-rod straight, defiant, but Rose found herself glancing nervously about. Everywhere she looked into the pressing crowd she saw Cal…there! next to that lamppost, and…over there! in that window high above the avenue, and isn't that Mother, looking down from that carriage?… And she found herself pulling her hat down low, trying to fade into the black and white. They walked on in silence, the path uphill, always uphill, and in every shadow Rose sensed discovery. Then she turned to her right and Jack was walking with her, his eyes shot with light, and he was sketching furiously, charcoal flying so fast she couldn't make out his hands, and in every place that Rose saw lifeless gray Jack drew, in colors magically rendered, brightness and warmth and dazzling sunshine.


Saturday, the 4th of May, came to New York on a whisper. The winds of spring stopped their dance, the clouds respectfully demurred, and the sun smiled down so regally that, if betting on such a thing were deemed proper, one would have been smart to wager that God was a woman.

Rose's thoughts had been bouncing to-and-fro as she prepared for work. The previous afternoon, when Gina had told her that she wouldn't be able to accompany her on the parade, Rose had been disappointed, but also strangely relieved. Gina was nebulous about her reasons, and Rose had briefly felt the urge to insist but she couldn't generate any fervor. Now, Rose once again leaned towards not joining the march.

What's wrong with me? she thought. I know I should care but my heart just isn't in it. This used to seem so important but now I can't help but think, 'Why bother?' Was I always so close to falling into apathy? Me, who people called 'bull-headed'?

Rose walked the few blocks to work and found Gina waiting at the factory entrance, her hands hidden behind her. As Rose neared, Gina pulled a bright yellow hat from behind her back and placed it on her head, modeling it proudly.

"Well, what do you think?"

"Gina, you mean you're going to…"

"Yes, I'm parading with you!"

Yellow was the suffrage movement's adopted color and marchers had been requested to display it prominently.

"I'm not sure I want to go now," Rose said.

Gina's face clouded.

"Why not?" she asked.

"I don't know; I just don't have the desire."

"Come on, Rose. We can shop after work and walk down to the park and have a great day to ourselves."

Rose had to admit it sounded inviting.

"What about Anthony?"

"Oh, don't worry about him. I'm free all day."

Rose could feel her emotions swaying once again. She pulled open the factory door for Gina, her mind considering the bright-ribboned hat, the beautiful sunshine, and the prospect of spending a lazy afternoon with her friend.

"All right. Let's march!"


The two spent the afternoon popping in and out of shops as they worked their way down Sixth Avenue towards the parade's starting point. Gina's enthusiasm for shopping was infectious, and soon she and Rose were trying on garments with abandon, alternately complimenting and laughing at each other's appearance. But, save for an oversized sunburst of a hat for Rose, they left the stores empty-handed.

As they neared the park Rose noticed more and more women strolling about, holding impromptu discussions or simply greeting friends, most adorned proudly in yellow.

It looks as if there will be a fine turnout, she mused.

After the shops closed for the day, Rose and Gina decided to have an early dinner at a tavern off 8th Street and were shown to a table amid much bustle.

They quickly made their selections and placed an order with their waiter. Gina took the opportunity to turn in her seat and gaze around the room. A wide grin spread across her face.

"This is great! We should spend a day like this more often."

"I haven't had an afternoon like this in a long time," Rose agreed. She truly couldn't remember the last time she had spent a day idly shopping with a girlfriend.

"How come you aren't with Anthony today?" Rose asked.

"We had a bit of a row last night, so I told him I had important things to do tonight, like marching."

"Hmm....You've known him a long time?"

Gina swung back around in her seat and took a sip of her beer.

"Anthony? About five years, on and off, I guess. He went to school with my brother; that's how we met."

"Where does he work?"


Her answer was cut short by a woman's voice shouting across the room in recognition.

"Gina! What are you doing down here?"

A blonde young woman approached their table.

"Amanda! I'm here with my friend Rose, to march of course!"

Rose shook hands politely with the woman, who nodded graciously.

"Where's Anthony?" Amanda asked as she scanned the area.

"Don't know. Maybe at the saloon."

Amanda was framing a reply when an insistent call came for her from her party.

"Sorry, gotta go. Maybe I'll see you later," she said, and she left with a quick wave for them both.

"Amanda works with me at the Worst Saloon."

Rose furrowed her brow, thinking she had perhaps heard Gina incorrectly over the loud conversations crisscrossing the room.

"Is that 'wurst' as in the German sausage?"

Gina laughed out loud.

"I never thought of that! No, it's 'worst' as in 'terrible'."

"Why in the world is it called that?"

Gina tilted her head and waggled a finger in Rose's direction.

"You'll just have to come sometime and find out, now won't you?"

Their conversation was stopped in its tracks by the delectable aroma of their dinner as it was set on the table. Rose realized that she hadn't eaten all day, and she dug in with relish.

"When I first met you, you said Anthony was your ex-boyfriend," Rose said, after the main courses had been consumed.

"Yes, it's sometimes on, sometimes off."

"Does he treat you well?"

"Oh, yes, just fine," Gina answered, a bit too quickly. "We fight sometimes, but I don't know what I'd do without him."

Why does that sound so well-rehearsed? Rose thought.

"What sort of things do you two do together?" she asked.

"Well, we have parties with his friends, ride around the city in his auto, go to dinner with his family; that sort of thing."

"What about your family and friends?"

Gina was quiet for a moment, eyes downcast.

"Oh, I don't really have much of either….What about your family, Rose?"

Rose was aware that Gina was trying to change the subject, but she couldn't very well be upset at the attempt seeing as she'd done the very same thing during numerous conversations in the past few weeks.

"I have no family left," was all Rose would offer.

Gina looked at her in silence. Rose felt ashamed at being so secretive with her friend but she had resolved never to tell anyone what had transpired on Titanic.

Rose smiled broadly.

"Now YOU are my friend and family," she continued, and Gina gave an answering grin and nod.

"To family and friends!" Gina offered in toast, and they clinked glasses.

"It's getting near five," Rose noted, and they left the tavern to walk the final few blocks to Washington Square Park. Sixth Avenue was clogged with people heading towards the parade, and vehicle traffic was at a standstill.

As crowded as the streets were, Rose wasn't prepared for the sight of the massive throng filling the park. As she and Gina turned east on 6th Street to enter the park fringe, she stopped in her tracks.

Washington Square was a literal sea of women, the majority dressed in white with yellow accessories. The crush of humanity milled around, ebbing and flowing about the grounds, their voices creating a wall of noise. Here and there, bands rehearsed their musical numbers, the notes crashing against each other above the din. Policemen on horseback tried to re-route traffic around the park, but the overflow of people spilled out on to nearby streets, defeating their best efforts. Most drivers had finally become resigned to their fate and parked their vehicles, deciding to watch or join in the festivities.

Rose and Gina wound their way towards the center of the park, near the great fountain, where parade organizers were desperately attempting to put some order to the chaos.

"Is this what you were expecting?" Gina asked, raising her voice to be heard.

Rose shook her head, her eyes wide. The scene gave her goose bumps.

"I don't think anyone was expecting this. This is wonderful!"

Gina yanked on Rose's arm and pointed to the northern park entrance leading up onto Fifth Avenue. Police were trying to blaze a path for a group of perhaps fifty women who had mounted horses and begun circling, waiting for clearance. Several of the riders waved to the crowd as they paced, and the women around them applauded enthusiastically.

"Who are they?" Gina asked.

Rose shrugged her shoulders. She had read a little about the march in the previous day's newspaper and thought she might recall the names of a few of the riders, but they were too far away to recognize.

An elderly woman had been standing alongside them, also gazing towards the equestrians. She had obviously overheard Gina's question.

"Girls! Haven't you been keeping up with the papers?" she asked.

"No, Ma'am," Gina replied, her voice mischievously childlike. Rose gave her a soft poke, out of sight. The woman continued.

"Shame on you. We must become informed citizens, all of us, if we are to have the vote. Do you see the young woman at the front of that group? That's Inez Milholland. She is intelligent, highly educated, well connected and determined that we women should have this right. And since men are so predictable, she has another quality that is important in getting them to pay attention: she's beautiful. She has become a symbol of sorts for this parade - the model of the modern woman. Riding next to her is Mrs. Belmont. She's very upper crust, if you know what I mean. The other riders are the leaders of the Women's League."

Rose noticed several dozen women break from an intense meeting just behind the horsewomen. They quickly dispersed into the crowd, fanning out into the corners of the park grounds. One approached the area where Rose and Gina stood, climbed atop a bench, and yelled for the attention of the area throng.

"Ladies! The parade will be beginning shortly. We ask that you all march four abreast. We will break the line now and then to allow the bands and banner-bearers to join in."

As she finished, as though on cue, the bells of the church steeples bracketing the park began to toll out the hour. As the fifth peel faded away dozens of whistles blew, drawing everyone's attention to the Fifth Avenue entrance. In the sudden lull a song was struck up, and the mounted women began to wind their way out of the park and into the late afternoon shadows of the city's high-rises.

The parade vanguard was met by a storm of photographer's flashes as the press documented the moment for the whole nation. Rose could hear the familiar strains of "What Am I Going To Do To Make You Love Me" being played by the lead band.

Women in the eastern and western ends of the park began to converge towards the center but the flow leaving the grounds was so slow that the crush became intense. Rose and Gina were forced to stand in place for nearly a half hour before the crowd immediately in front of them started to slowly ease forward and they were able to begin walking, finally emerging from the environs of the park at a quarter to six.

The line of women already stretched before them as far as the eye could see and, looking back, Rose noted several thousand still taking formation behind them. She felt her heart swell with pride at the turnout: a line miles long comprised of actresses, teachers, students, businesswomen, nurses, clerks, tearoom girls, tavern workers, typists, factory workers, housewives, and more, all united for one cause.

The marchers tried to maintain a serious demeanor, but many waved to the crowd and smiled politely at hecklers. The size of the crowd along the avenue astonished Rose as well; people were lined ten deep in places attempting to get a look at the parade. Some hung out windows or on balconies of the buildings along the route and a brave few even scampered up light poles, opting for a bird's eye view. The city itself was respectfully quiet; a Saturday evening quiet, when the sounds of the growing metropolis halted for a brief respite.

The going became slow after ten blocks or so and the marchers began to stack up. Gina decided to look ahead by breaking rank and scooting out wide of the line.

"I can't really see the problem but the crowd is spilling far out into the roadway ahead," she reported.

Indeed, at Union Square the onlookers were so numerous that they choked the parade from both sides until there was only enough room for two marchers to pass through at once. The mixed crowd there was mostly enthusiastic in their response.

Once past the square, the pace quickened again but then the heckling started in earnest. A few of the banners attracted snide remarks from some in the crowd. The marchers had done an admirable job thus far, Rose thought, of ignoring the shouts of nay-sayers along the way, but the avenue here was lined with many taverns and men's clubs. The patrons within, their interest piqued, left their beers and whiskeys sitting jilted on the tables and flowed out of the doors to grab a vantage point for the parade.

"Boilermakers!" one man yelled at them.

"You should be makin dinner right now!" another added.

"Go home and do the dishes!"

A brave marcher walked over to one of the loudest of the hecklers and made him a present of a long yellow streamer. His cronies howled with delight at her action, temporarily directing their comments to their friend's manhood. Soon, any adverse shouts were met with offers of dozens of yellow ribbons.

Rose and Gina had a fine laugh at all this but for Rose the chauvinistic attitude of some of the men bothered her fiercely.

You would think in this modern day and age they would FINALLY accept women's rights as proper, she thought. Some people are very slow to change.

A particularly snooty voice boomed at the women from a first floor window.

"Well, where are yer trousers?"

Almost as though listening to someone else's words, and despite her earlier decision to remain as invisible as possible during the march, Rose heard her own voice responding.

"Well, sir, where are YOURS?"

Her comment really caused a ruckus. It surprised the man, whose face soon wrote a new definition of 'crimson'. A few of the women around Rose gave her looks of disapproval but others patted her roundly on the back, as they had so often seen the men do to congratulate one another's mastery of the world. Perhaps in response to her comment, the band marching directly behind them began to play "Some Of These Days You're Gonna Miss Me, Honey," and even some of the men in the crowd laughed and applauded at the apt choice.

Gina tapped Rose on the arm and pointed to a pair of ambulances parked on one of the cross streets.

"Wonder what those are for?" she asked.

Rose laughed.

"They think we women are to fragile to walk all this way!" Rose answered. "I read that last year they had them at almost every corner, expecting us to drop like flies."

"Let them spend a day sewing and cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, then see what they think," Gina said with a laugh.

They marched northward as the streetlights lining the avenue flickered on and the sky went from salmon to deep blue. As they passed 34th street, Rose glanced over at the lights of the Waldorf, remembering back to her first few days and nights in New York.

Gina noted the direction of Rose's gaze.

"That's the Waldorf. I've been in the lobby once, it's clas-sy! I could die happy if I had the chance to stay there even one night of my life."

Rose scarcely heard Gina's comments. Her emotions suddenly went heavy and her mind stretched down the street to the bank where the 'Heart of the Ocean' lay like a pariah at the bottom of her safety deposit box. A flash of her previous night's dream came to her thoughts and she wondered if she would be marching in this same march if Jack had lived.

She was startled out of her reverie by a woosh of flames just ahead of her. Marchers had been handed torches at intervals along the column and they were now being lit. The string of torchlights seemed to stretch the length of Manhattan, with those at the limits of vision blurring into the dusty haze ever present in the city air.

"How many women do you suppose are marching?" Gina asked.

Rose did a quick estimate in her head.

"I would guess about ten thousand."

Gina was duly impressed. The next day's newspapers would reveal that the number was actually more than fifteen thousand.

The band nearest them had launched into a rendition of "Oh, You Beautiful Doll". As Rose turned to Gina to make a comment about the music she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a photographer step forward out of the crowd to frame Gina and her in his viewfinder.

Rose quickly pulled the brim of her hat down, her hand helping to cover her face just as the magnesium flash flared bright. Gina shot Rose a puzzled look, but her attention was quickly diverted to yet another drunk heckler making a fool of himself and his gender.

The populace along the route then thinned out considerably until they approached the rally point at the southern end of Central Park. There, the women who had completed their march became themselves the audience, lining the street and applauding loudly for the members of the Men's League for Women Suffrage, over 600 strong, who brought up the rear of the parade.

Speeches were scheduled to follow, but Rose and Gina had had a long day and they resolved to head home.

"That was quite a walk for the cause but I think for our OWN cause we might ride the El back downtown," Rose joked.

"My feet believe in your cause, Rose Dawson," Gina answered with a laugh.

"And my tired calves second the motion," Rose added.

The streets in the area of the rally were clogged with people, forcing them to sidestep and circle often as they worked their way westward to Sixth Avenue. The transit authority had added a few extra trains but not nearly enough, so there was still a queue at the El station. They took their place in line, passing the time by admiring the fireworks being sent soaring skyward from the park's interior.

They were deep into a discussion of the day's events and were about to begin the climb up the stairway to the train platform when a hand grasped Gina's arm and spun her around.

"I thought I might find you here!"

"Anthony! What are you doing here?"

"I should be asking YOU that!"

Anthony fingered the ribbons on Gina's hat.

"A suffragette now, are you?"

Gina looked uncertain how to answer so Rose spoke up.

"I asked Gina to walk with me. I'm new to the city and I was a bit fearful of marching alone."

Rose extended her right hand.

"I'm Rose Dawson. Pleased to meet you."

He ignored her gesture, and Rose pulled her hand back, embarrassed.

"I know who you are," he responded with some venom.

Rose nearly replied in kind but thought better of it for her friend's sake. Anthony returned his attention to Gina.

"I wonder if your friend here knows who YOU are?"

"Anthony!" Gina responded, obviously distraught.

"Come on, Gina, let's go. I'm taking you home," Anthony insisted.

Gina looked nervously from Anthony to Rose and back. This surprised Rose; Gina had never before been anything but coolly composed in her presence.

"I have to accompany Rose," Gina stammered.

Anthony tugged a bit harder at her sleeve.

"Rose is a big girl, she can get home by herself."

Rose was alarmed by Anthony's actions and was concerned what he might do if Gina didn't agree to go along with him. She also worried what he would do if she DID.

"It's okay, Gina. I'll be all right," she offered.

Gina turned to her with what Rose took to be a look of resignation, often worn. Anthony finally succeeded in getting Gina moving.

"There, you see. Rose says she'll be all right," he said, more poison lacing his voice.

Rose turned and started up the steps to the train. She looked back over her shoulder and had to resist the urge to bound back down the stairs and run to her friend's aid. Gina glanced back at her and waved a weak farewell.

Maybe I should have said something, done something, Rose thought as she took the flight of stairs. Anything.

She looked out from the platform railing, watching the figures of Gina and Anthony disappearing into the distance. She turned and leaned back against the cool metal, closing her eyes.

But what could I do? Is it my place? I don't really know their situation well enough, even though I feel I do. Gina doesn't need me to protect her; no one can help her if she won't help herself. But if she asks, I will try.

She opened her eyes, fuming about what she had just seen.

Anthony reminds me a lot of someone I know, Rose thought, a little of her own venom escaping.


Home     Next



finalabs.jpg (16787 bytes)