An article in “Albany Kid” by Tara Bloyd, Edna Kearns’ great granddaughter, is spreading the word to a younger audience about the exhibition of the suffrage campaign wagon used by Edna Buckman Kearns currently underway at the NYS capitol in Albany, NY.
A Brooklyn wagon company donated the wagon to the state woman’s suffrage movement in 1913. Considerable information about the wagon and its use for grassroots activism during the suffrage movement has been presented on Suffrage Wagon News Channel over the past two years.
The article in “Albany Kid” highlights the exhibit underway at the state capitol honoring New York State’s extraordinary women as represented in many arenas, including suffrage. The exhibit’s in the Hall of Governors in the state capitol and is part of an ambitious program by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to make more public space available for educational and historical exhibits. The exhibit runs through April and possibly into May.
It’s one thing to read about the split between Alice Paul and the main suffrage organization at the time, NAWSA. It’s quite another to realize that Grandmother Edna witnessed it. An article in the New York Tribune in November following the big 1913 suffrage parade laid out how the New Yorkers headed to Washington, DC for the NAWSA convention. Edna boarded the train with the New York delegation, accompanied by women whose names may be familiar to lovers of suffrage history: Inez Mulholland, Mary Garrett Hay, Elisabeth Freeman, Ida Craft, Mrs. Arthur Livermore, Portia Willis and many others. It would be the national convention where the split between NAWSA’s direction and that of Alice Paul came to the fore in its recorded documents.
The new $10 gold coin isn’t something that most of us will get our hands on, though it’s expected to be popular with collectors. An article in “Coin Week” recently questioned how the Paul coin could be issued by the U.S. government in the first place. The coin’s intended to be part of a series of presidential dollar coins for President Chester Garfield (1881-1885) and columnist Louis Golino suggests that the coin’s ill suited for the series.
There’s no doubt, however, that Alice Paul should be better recognized for her contributions to U.S. history. Whereas Ghandi took note of the British suffragettes and their campaign for the vote, he bristled when they broke windows to get their point across. Alice Paul served time in an English jail for her suffrage activism which was difficult to keep out of the American press, especially when she went on a hunger strike and was subjected to forced feeding, an experience which steeled her for the Votes for Women campaign in the U.S.
When writing to her mother from England in 1909, Alice explained the reasoning: “…to resist prison –passively by taking no food & also by refusing to obey any of the regulations, with the purpose of making the situation more acute & consequently bringing it to an end sooner.” She noted that this was in the spiritual tradition of Quakers: “…simply a policy of passive resistance & and as a Quaker thee ought to approve of that.”
Hazel MacKaye (shown above) was riding high in 1914 when her pageant, “The American Woman: Six Periods of American Life” was performed at the Seventy-first Regimental Armory (sponsored by the New York City Men’s League for Equal Suffrage). This cutting-edge production milked the potential when combining drama and social commentary. Grandmother Edna Kearns was involved, not only in the event’s organization, but also the performance. Historians now note that women’s pageants shifted to beauty contents in the years following the suffrage movement. In their time, though, suffrage pageants were less confrontational than parades and demonstrations. And they were an emotional training ground for later forms of protest, such as picketing the White House.
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Treat yourself by watching this fabulous music video about the suffrage movement called “Bad Romance.” And while poking around the internet this morning, I found news of publishers in the U.S. and U.K. bidding over the rights of a book about a suffragette that resulted in an advance in the six figures. Take a look. Noted the editor in charge of acquiring the book: “How could I not fall in love with a beautiful Indian princess who was a suffragette and a revolutionary?”
I’m monitoring the internet when I have a chance, and wish I could say that awareness of the suffrage movement has entered the mainstream. Sadly, it hasn’t. An overall lack of awareness about the suffrage movement isn’t anything to laugh about either, like in this YouTube piece. Because so many school history textbooks portray the suffrage movement with little more than a photo and a caption, it isn’t surprising about the ignorance of many girls and boys concerning this extraordinary civil rights struggle that took 72 years.
Edna Kearns documented as well as participated in the suffrage movement in the New York City area. She wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the Brooklyn Times and many Long Island papers. She’s shown here in a news photo, fourth from the left, in an article describing the performers in the 1914 Armory pageant. Edna noted in pencil on the clipping that she had written the article, not unusual because she was press chair for many events and campaigns. And she submitted copy to many newspapers that was printed with and without her byline. Lulu Kearns, my grandmother Wilmer Kearns’ sister from Beavertown, PA, is noted in the article as a pageant participant!
I love the part describing the “forty beautiful maidens in a final dance of victory.”
Sparks flew within the Long Island suffrage movement when Edna Kearns broadened her scope and linked voting with better care for babies. This drew the ire of suff activist Rosalie Jones and others who believed that the women had enough on their plate merely advocating for Votes for Women. Several articles on the subject outline the disagreement: Article 1 and Article 2. And it was noted that Edna had once been president of the Rockville Centre Suffrage Club, but she’d shifted her allegiance to the South Side Political Equity League. Long Island news coverage of Better Babies issue.
There came a time in the American, as well as the English woman’s suffrage campaigns, when it became obvious that without bolder action, progress couldn’t be made.
A BBC audio recording of nine minutes made in 1946 features suffragette Ada Flatman speaking about risking arrest for the suffrage campaign in England. This first-person account by a very proper English woman is not only a delight to listen to, but an insight into how the more traditional advocacy of lobbying and education hadn’t worked in London, and the movement had moved to a new level of pressure. Recent BBC coverage of the English suffrage movement raises the question of whether or not the current British government should apologize for the acts of a past administration. The commentary shows the way in which history remains a present-day consideration.
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