Monthly Archives: January 2011

Grandmother Assaulted in the Street

It was a cold night in front of the Metropolitan Opera House when suffrage leader Alice Paul, my grandmother Edna and other women demonstrated when U.S. president Woodrow Wilson was in New York City. The police rushed the demonstrators, pushed them around and broke their banners. This article — “Suffragists and Police in Fierce Fight” from my grandmother’s archives — has her notes accompanying the March 5, 1919 article. “Untrue,” Edna says of the account, where a reporter attributed the incident to 200 “maddened Suffragists” who were the recipients of the attack, not the aggressors. Edna saved the broken stick that held her banner. Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party were determined to hold Wilson’s feet to the fire so that enough support could be generated to assure the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution which gave all American women the right to vote.

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

In the past, not all feedback about the idea of women voting was negative. Many prominent people put themselves on the line, including Walter Clark, chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. He wrote to suffrage leader Alice Paul toward the end of the national suffrage campaign to pass the 19th amendment: “Your place in History is assured. There were politicians, and a large degree of public sentiment, which could be won only by the methods you adopted.” Justice Clark was referring to the direct action taken by Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, which at the time was extremely controversial. Nowadays we take the civil rights movement to expand the franchise for granted. At the time it polarized people, as well as brought them together.

Water Dumped on Suffs’ Heads

Speaking from soap boxes in the street wasn’t an activity without its risks, as is noted by this June 30, 1914 New York Times article about an associate of my grandmother, Martha Klatschken, who had cold water dumped on her head when she was out advocating for Votes for Women at Twelfth Street and Avenue B in NYC.

With the observance of Martin Luther King Day this week, there’s also an awareness of other civil rights movements in the U.S., including the woman’s suffrage movement.

Below: Go to the web site about Elizabeth Freeman for more information: www.elizabethfreeman.org

Elisabeth Freeman on a soapbox, speaking for Votes for Women

A “Votes for Women” Teapot Means Celebrations!

I’m planning a Susan B. Anthony birthday celebration next month. More about this soon! And there’s news from Velya Jancz-Urban who always wanted a “Votes for Women” tea pot to go with her china set that has been stored away. Here’s what she said about it. Now the entire set will be coming out of storage just in time for afternoon tea party season. February 15th is Susan B. Anthony’s birthday and a perfect opportunity for Velya to use the “Votes for Women” dish set, which by the way, is available at the gift shop at the Susan B. Anthony House, among other places. Photo: Velya opens her teapot gift during the holidays.

Jailed for Freedom: Alice Paul

Alice Paul, important civil rights leader of the 20th century

From Doris Stevens’ book “Jailed for Freedom”– about suffrage leader Alice Paul: “Most people conjure up a menacing picture when a person is called not only a general, but a militant one. In appearance Alice Paul is anything but menacing.”

Stevens continues: “Quiet, almost mouselike, this frail young Quakeress sits in silence and baffles you with her contradictions. Large, soft, gray eyes that strike you with a positive impact make you feel the indescribable force and power behind them. A mass of soft brown hair, caught easily at the neck, makes the contour of her head strong and graceful. Tiny, fragile hands that look more like an X-ray picture of hands, rest in her lap in Quakerish pose. Her whole atmosphere when she is not in action is one of strength and quiet determination. In action she is swift, alert, almost panther-like in her movements. Dressed always in simple frocks, preferably soft shades of purple, she conforms to an individual style and taste of her own rather than to the prevailing vogue.”

January 11th is Alice Paul’s birthday. January is a powerful month for birthdays of important activists. Lucretia Mott. Joan of Arc. Sojourner Truth. And many more.

 

Celebrate Alice Paul Day on January 11, 2011

My grandmother Edna worked with suffrage leader Alice Paul on the national campaign to win Votes for Women.

It’s the goal of many Americans to have the day of January 11th (Alice Paul’s birthday) designated as a national holiday. Have you signed the petition? Have you thought about planning high tea during 2011 for your friends or organization as a way to talk about the issues?

Take a look at this video piece about Alice that was produced by the Alice Paul Institute. They have ecards that you can send to friends and associates . . . for example, “You have a voice. Thank Alice.” “You can speak up. Thank Alice.” Author Mary Walton calls Alice Paul “the most overlooked American civil rights leader of the 20th century.” One source worth checking out is an Alice Paul interview conducted by Amelia Fry that’s available online.

Suffering From Jack and the Beanstalk Complex?

A Jack and the Beanstalk Complex is a fear of never being able to overpower the giant at the top of the beanstalk and thus, missing out on the treasure. When down in the dumps, it feels better some days to just curl up in bed and pull the covers over your head after hearing yet another tale about the condition of the planet today.

In July of 1911, suffragist Carolyn Katzenstein identified the Jack and the Beanstalk Complex by name after setting off with colleagues Alice Paul and Lucy Burns for a Votes for Women street meeting in Philadelphia. Carolyn froze after confronting a police officer, and she later wrote: “I am frank to confess that I seemed to develop a sort of Jack and the Beanstalk Complex because the policeman on the beat near our corner appeared to grow taller and taller and bigger and bigger the closer we got to him. To me, he seemed to be not an arm of the law but the whole body of it!”

You can and will overcome a Jack and the Beanstalk Complex, by simply joining me and others on the trail of the suffrage campaign wagon. The U.S. suffrage movement has been called “a solid historical milestone” by scholar and historian Eleanor Flexner, as well as “the largest social transformation in American history” by filmmaker Ken Burns.

The secrets and stories of this movement are yours, merely by subscribing to this blog. The form is in the upper right column. Type in your email address. Subscribing is free and a great way to stay in touch. What’s there to lose? Your roots can only grow deeper. And you’ll spring out of bed in the morning in the knowledge that others have faced the same anxieties and lived to celebrate a great victory.

Marching to Albany on New Year’s Day! Brrr

I should have known I had “marching on Albany” in my DNA. It would have made life so much easier. And it had to have been a stretch for my grandparents, Edna and Wilmer Kearns (marked on the photo above), when they headed out with suffrage activist Rosalie Jones and others from Long Island on New Year’s Day in 1914 for the trek to Albany, NY to speak to the governor about Votes for Women. Hiking was quite a media event, and the NY Times was there as the hikers started north. My grandmother Edna sent on-the-scene reports back to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle where she was an editor for suffrage news. The photo below is from the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. Edna and Wilmer and their oldest daughter Serena are seen there, on the right, walking near the flag.