Females today, are nearly equal to their male counterparts, I say nearly because we all know about the difference in pay scales, the lack of females at the top, and yes, still today the lack of respect females get as housewives, mothers, wife’s and on and on and on.
However in comparison, when we look at the female role back in the 1920’s, well baby, we’ve come a long way. Back in the 1920’s, were women permitted to vote, or smoke a cigarette, or belly up to the bar at the local watering hole? Were women permitted by their husbands or society to go out for the night after dinner, say a night out on the town with the girls or say “Hey honey, I’m going downtown for the night shopping, see you when I get back?” I think not, at least the married women could never get away with that. Well the fact is that back in the 1920’s laws varied from state-to-state. A women could get fired from a job if they were pregnant, she couldn’t sue for sexual harassment under any circumstances, she couldn’t apply for credit at most banks, if a female was to get credit at a bank or local stores, her husband had to co-sign. There were no females in the military, discrimination ran rampant in the work place and in many states women couldn’t serve on juries.
Back in November of 1925, Conshohocken put together a celebration that included one of the largest and most prominent parades in the history of this borough. Conshohocken was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the borough’s incorporation, and Armistice Day with a double celebration parade.
The borough’s incorporation was granted on May 15, 1850, with birthday celebrations to follow in 1925, for the 75th anniversary, 1950, for the centennial celebration, and again in 2000, for the sesquicentennial celebration.
The massive event in 1925 included several parades, a three night play depicting the history of the borough that included a cast of more than 400 residents. Two other pageants pertaining to the borough’s celebration were also held in November of 1925. The main parade held on November 11, Armistice Day was sponsored by the John F. DeHaven Post No. 129, American Legion. The parade included Army, Navy, and Marine Corps detachments, several visiting VFW Posts, Civic and Fraternal organizations, local and visiting Fire Companies, and the school children of both public and parochial schools from both boroughs along with most of the borough’s social clubs had floats representing many of the borough’s industries. There was also a historical section in the parade depicting the important historical events in Conshohocken’s history.
Following World War One Conshohocken had a lot to be proud of having sent more residents off to war than any other community in America per capita. This feat was recognized by the Federal Government in Washington D. C. and ordered a merchant marine ship built at the Chester Ship Yards in honor of Conshohocken’s service to the war. The ship was launched in January 1920, and was called “The Conshohocken.”
According to the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper November 11, 1925 was a beautiful day for a parade, the sun was shining, the sky was crystal clear and the temperature reflected a beautiful fall day. Trains packed to capacity started arriving from every direction and unloading visitors for the parade as early as 7a.m.
The parade started at Elm and Fayette Street, preceded up Fayette Street to Eighth Avenue, to Harry Street, to Tenth Avenue, back over to Fayette Street where they then marched to Twelfth Avenue, countermarching on Fayette Street back to Hector Street, down Forrest Street to West Elm Street. The parade proceeded over the Matsonsford Bridge to the monument in West Conshohocken, around the monument countermarching back across the bridge to Hector Street where the parade was ordered to disband. The parade lasted hours and was viewed by what was reported as the largest gathering in borough history. It was reported by the newspapers at the time that “every inch of the parade route was wall-to-wall people.”
Almost all of the buildings and stores along Fayette Street were decorated in red, white and blue with banners and flags for the event. All business establishments were closed including all the stores and mills. Every factory in Conshohocken blew their whistles and all the churches tolled their bells at eleven o’clock in commemoration of the signing of the Armistice seven years earlier.
At some point, the parade committee, consisting of all males discovered, (or it was brought to their attention by one of their wives) what was described by the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper as, “The most important part of early Conshohocken had been overlooked that the fine women of the early days of the town who promoted the social life and who had given the borough so many of its lasting institutions have been given no part in the historical section of the big parade. That tribute would be suitably paid to the memory of these women.” That tribute would be represented by the “Girl of 1850,” and the “Spirit of 1925.”
A town wide contest was held encouraging residents to vote for “Girl of 1850” and the “Spirit of 1925.” More than two dozen young ladies from both Conshohocken and West Conshohocken entered the contest. Voting was sponsored by the John F. DeHaven Post and the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper.
Thousands of votes were cast and the Conshohocken Chamber of Commerce met and counted the votes three times and determined that Miss Bertha Saylor, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Saylor of West Conshohocken, was awarded First Honors. She was selected to represent the “Spirit of 1925.” She was also presented with a Silver Loving Cup, suitably inscribed with her name and the event by Jeweler William Ray.
Miss Jean Burns, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Burns of Conshohocken was awarded Second Honors, she will ride on a float and represent the “Girl of 1850.” Jean was presented with a handsome toilet set of pearl and ivory by Jeweler William Wallace.
Miss Gladys Horisk finished in Third Place and was presented by News-dealer George Taylor with a gold fountain pen. In recognition of her work in the contest the Order of Independent Americans provided a float for Miss Horisk in the big parade.
Fourth Place was awarded to Miss Margaret McMullin and she was presented with a Banjo-ukulele by Smiths Music Shop.
The American Legion who sponsored the contest arranged to have the girls finishing the contest fourth thru tenth place, inclusive in the big parade. The girls rode in automobiles furnished by the legion.
Other local residents who participated in the voting selection included:
These winners and participants represented the females of the borough’s past, present and future. The “Spirit of 1925,” and “Girl of 1850” were a really big deal in the newspapers back in 1925. Miss Saylor and Miss Burns were continually applauded all along the parade route, and their float was stopped many times so that they could be presented with handsome flowers by friends and strangers, residents and organizations.
Miss Saylor and Miss Burns were special Guest of Honors at Dinner Banquets held later in the evening where they were honored and given more special gifts.
Marching Military units were greeted like super-stars as the different units paraded throughout the borough and residents applauded the industry portion of the parade as well.
The parade was a huge success, thousands of residents attended, and the borough’s female population and their contributions to the success of the borough were duly recognized.
Conshystuff.com has published several articles honoring the borough’s females both past and present. The future of our borough now depends on females as five of the seven borough council members are female including Council President Colleen Leonard, along with Vice President Jane Flanagan, Tina Sokolowski, Anita Barton, and Karen Tutino.
Throughout the years Conshohocken has had a lot to be proud of, our service to the nation during war-time, inventions that have occurred in and around the borough, John Wood Manufacturing Company, Lee Tires, Walker Brothers, Alan Wood Steel, and several inventions from our once proud and long-gone garment industries owned and operated by West Conshohocken’s George Bullock, James Hall, and Conshohocken’s Edwin Harrison who once lived in a large stone mansion located at Seventh Avenue and Fayette Street, currently the CVS store. All of these company’s and a handful of residents came up with inventions and patented them contributing to a better America.
Our female residents can take their rightful place alongside the large factories and brilliant men who have all contributed to making Conshohocken the greatest community in America.
I love looking back and recognizing all of the borough’s accomplishments, it makes me proud to be part of this community and I hope when others read about our history they too, will swell with pride as a member of our community.
Thanks for the memories!