Years before women gained the right to vote, a band of trailblazing Pittsburgh women, led by Jennie Bradley Roessing, joined to determine how to succeed in their quest for women’s suffrage. Roessing created their strategy, called the Pittsburgh Plan. As word of the plan’s success spread, it was adopted by suffragists throughout PA and beyond its borders.
The women, from diverse backgrounds, towns, and class, were determined, resilient, and resolved to bring their message to as many citizens as possible.
Meanwhile, Katherine Ruschenberger, of Chester County, purchased a truck and a replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell. Naming the bell the Justice Bell, she proposed the suffragists undertake an epic trek to every PA county with the bell in tow.
The suffragists kept the bell’s striker chained, so that it remained silent during the journey. Katherine stated: “the mission of the woman’s liberty bell is to establish justice for the women of the state by helping them to secure the same political independence which the old liberty bell proclaimed for the men” adding that it would ring only when Congress passed women’s suffrage.
Roessing used her Pittsburgh Plan to map out the bell’s campaign style whistle-stop tour. Throughout the journey the small, but determined band used every tool available, from the latest innovations such as automobile, telegraph, telephones, and photography. They also created innovative fundraising strategies, employed time honored symbols and used yellow, the official color of suffrage, on everything from their clothing to the garlands adorning the Justice Bell truck.
With Jennie at the helm, the intrepid trek criss-crossed the Commonwealth, during the summer of 1915. The women set out to win over legislators and voters of all stripes, from rural farms, to small towns and large cities.
In a particular stroke of genius, the suffragists handed out packets of yellow flower seeds. Soon a growing number of yellow gardens bloomed across the Commonwealth and legislators traveling from Harrisburg to their home counties understood exactly what those flowers were saying.
…big cities and big crowds…
The November 1915 election saw Pennsylvania’s suffrage amendment pass in the rural, northern tier and south western counties, but it failed in the eastern region.