Category Archives: 19th amendment

A story about Long Island suffrage activist Rosalie Jones, her “anti” mother and sister

Rosalie Gardiner JonesNate Levin is a real suffrage buff, and he found the article about the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon and the Huntington, NY confrontation with Mrs. Jones described in the recent New York Archives article as “fascinating.” Why?

Because Rosalie Jones, a prominent NYS suffrage activist, was from a divided family where her mother and sister were outspoken in their negativity about women voting. They weren’t shy in expressing their point of view that women had their own work to do and politics constituted a messy business. If you haven’t seen the article, take a peek with this link. And check out the video about Rosalie Jones from images that are part of the Library of Congress collection.

My grandmother Edna Kearns worked with Rosalie Jones on Long Island suffrage organizing, as well as Elisabeth Freeman who we’ll be hearing more of in 2014. Last year I paid a visit to Peg Johnston, Elisabeth’s great niece. And Elizabeth’s other great niece, Jane Van De Bogart, an old friend, was instrumental in starting me on my journey back in 1986 to discover the life and times of my grandmother.

The wagon’s exhibit in Kingston, NY was in conjunction with the Floating Foundation of Photography in High Falls, NY and the visionary work of curator Jone Miller.  It represented the first time the “Spirit of 1776″ was seen in public in New York since the days when Edna Kearns hitched a horse to the wagon and took it out on the road herself. So there’s a lot of history associated with the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon. Jane Van De Bogart and her mother Nettie, joined us in the programming at SUNY New Paltz back in 1986 (and several other programs at New Paltz College), as did my mother Wilma, plus Peg Johnston and her mother Ruth.

Watch the video about NYS suffrage activist Rosalie Jones and then imagine what it must have been like at the dinner table for the Jones family at their homes in New York City and on Long Island when the subject of women voting was raised. Video link. Long Island historian Natalie Naylor  has written extensively about Long Island women, and Rosalie Jones in particular. Natalie says that Rosalie is one of her favorite NYS suffrage activists.  Natalie’s book. Antonia Petrash’s book on the Long Island suffrage movement has an entire chapter devoted to Rosalie Jones.

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The buzz has started about the Suffrage Wagon Centennial, plus suffrage news notes!

suffrage_wagone_high_res copy

July 2013 is the suffrage wagon’s centennial. It’s interesting how we pay attention to something when it has a 100th anniversary. Something that a few days before had been virtually invisible pops up on the radar screen and commends attention just because a centennial has been announced.

When I bring up my favorite subject of the suffrage movement, it’s surprising how often folks comment: “Women haven’t even had the right to vote for a hundred years. It’s not that long in the bigger scheme of things.”

Yes, I say. Ask people about the 19th amendment to the US Constitution and see how many know what you’re talking about. Not many.  Then mention that we have seven years to go before the national Votes for Women centennial in 2020. Most people don’t even think that far ahead, but it’s on my mind in 2013 in this year of centennials. The buzz started in earnest with the 1913 suffrage centennial parade in early March and the associated whirlwind of events, exhibits, and performances.

NewsNotesMoreMore news notes for April 2013 spill into this posting. Come May and you’ll see the full extent of suffrage-related news and events. Try for example: Alice Paul and hunger strikes. #1. #2. This latter article about Alice Paul calls her the “true” founder of the women’s movement. Now, I’ve never heard this before. And I  love Alice Paul. I suspect that Alice would bristle hearing such a claim. She had arms large enough for everyone. And then we continue on: A handmade lamp for suffrage. #1.  C-Span program about Sewall-Belmont House, headquarters of the National Woman’s Party in Washington, DC. #1. Statue of Liberty reopens in July. #1. #2.  Diversity of suffrage movement.  #1. #2.  A new look at Sylvia Plath. #1. #2. The husband of a suffragist. #1. #2. The old gap between what is and what should be. #1. #2. Women voters in Pakistan. #1. #2.  Important exhibition at the Smithsonian about women’s history. #1. #2. Community building. #1. #2. Gloria Steinem puts everything into perspective. #1. #2.   Program announced for Vision 2020. #1. #2.

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The ghosts of suffrage ancestors got Nancy Pelosi in trouble!

US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was teased in 2012. She was attacked. Some commentators suggested that she had a serious mental disorder. What’s behind such a vehement reaction?

Pelosi suggested that she’d been in communication with some of our most revered ancestors who struggled for women’s right to vote. Suffrage ancestors reportedly whispered in Pelosi’s ear about how women finally had a seat at the table of power and as a result, the suffrage spirits crowded in to witness the proceedings.

An animation short produced by an off-shore production company seems rather suspicious in terms of its origin and motivation, considering that Nancy Pelosi and our suffrage ancestors is a relatively obscure story associated with American politics. The video is worth watching, however, if only to cheer on Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and other activists. Not mentioned in the feedback is an apparently long tradition at the White House of staff and others witnessing ghosts.

Anecdotes and references to these famous suffrage ancestors were recorded at Pelosi’s speeches over time. No one in the audience threw tomatoes at her. It isn’t often when US political figures even mention the suffrage movement, though it’s happening more often these days as awareness of the long and difficult struggle to win the vote for women becomes more mainstream.

ARE YOU DESCENDED FROM A NATIONAL WOMAN’S PARTY ACTIVIST?  Get in touch with The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association. LINK

LAST-MINUTE DONATION TO SUFFRAGE MEMORIAL: LINK

Stay up to date with suffrage news and stories and the long and difficult struggle for the 19th amendment to the US Constitution. We wish everyone a happy New Year!

Happy August 26th and celebrate with a new video!

Women have been voting in the United States for 92 years. To celebrate, here’s a new video to help us make the most of the day! It’s from the National Women’s History Museum.

The National Women’s History Project has wonderful resources for the celebration of August 26. Highlights include a downloadable brochure, August dates for women’s history observances, a first-person story by Maud Wood Park about the suffrage movement, and much more! When planning any sort of event or community program, you can count on the NWHP to have lots of links and resources on its web site.

Subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel for news and stories of the Votes for Women movement that interests, delights and builds leadership for these times. SWNC posts twice a week. And we have an issue of our quarterly newsletter in the works for the fall. The SWNC 2012 summer issue is still available.

Suffrage wagon storytelling with the Hudson River Playback Theatre

I hadn’t planned to be on stage with the Hudson River Playback Theatre. In fact, this  was the last thing I predicted the Monday evening I spent attending a performance for organizations attending Service Week at Omega in Rhinebeck, NY.  I’d been on the road the previous three weeks from Long Island to Albany to Binghamton and back to the Hudson Valley again in hot clammy weather.

I was tired, but relaxing in the audience wasn’t meant to be. Hudson River Playback Theatre is interactive story theatre for dialogue and connection. The cast creates memorable theatre on the spot based on the true stories of people in the audience.

“Go up and tell your story,” Susan Zimet urged. Susan sat next to me in the audience, and I ignored her the first time she poked. Then her plea became a kick and an order:  “Do it, now.” You don’t say no to Susan.

Well, okay. I could tell about visiting Albany, the second floor of the capitol, to see Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon in the women’s exhibit around the corner from the Hall of Governors. I could talk about Grandmother Edna being part of the grassroots suffrage movement and someone who campaigned in her horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776″ on Long Island and NYC.  Then I’d throw in how I’d grown up with this icon of the suffrage movement, mention how every summer when I was a kid, my mother would dress us up. We’d visit my Grandfather Wilmer Kearns and he’d drag the old wagon out of the garage and we’d have our photo taken. It was important to mention how Edna died in 1934, so I had to learn about Edna from my mother and plowing through my grandmother’s writings, speeches, photos, news clippings packed in stacks of boxes. She saved everything.

Sarah Urech, the theatre’s assistant director, interviewed me on stage and made this part of the process easy. Then she asked me to choose who would play me (Jody Santriani), who would play Edna (the theatre’s director Jo Salas), and Grandfather Wilmer (Mateo). Musician Dean Jones backed up the performance on the piano.

Eeverything flowed from that point on with few props other than a curtain, wood boxes, and several scarves. Grandmother Edna came alive on stage, directing traffic from her soapbox wagon, leading marches to Albany, standing firm in her position that all American women should vote. There were few words, other than “Freedom,” and the finale became me, up on the soapbox wagon after Edna had departed, carrying on the unfinished work of the American Revolution.

Sarah Urech’s a master in helping people tell their stories. I found out later that she’s a distant cousin of Jeanette Rankin, suffragist and the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. So this story joins all the others because Susan Zimet poked me and challenged me to march up to the stage and live beyond the boundaries.

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Evidence of Edna Kearns’ whirlwind campaigning can be seen at state capitol

New York State Capitol, where Edna Kearns campaign wagon is on display.

Here, at last! Albany, New York, that is. Arrived yesterday and made a quick visit to the state capitol to see Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon on exhibit near the Hall of Governors at the state capitol building. It’s a magnificent display. And reason enough to drag a news clipping out of the archives.

This column written by Edna Buckman Kearns  about the Long Island suffrage campaign sets out the facts, as well as the names of the participants and the details of grassroots organizing. It’s a timely reminder of the difficult and persistent work on the grassroots carried forward in the 72-year struggle to win the right to vote for women in the United States.

Edna’s sister-in-law Lulu Kearns from Beavertown, PA joined in with the grassroots organizing. And the Long Island communities visited, as well as everyone involved, are noted. They called it a “Whirlwind Campaign” for good reason.

Grandmother Edna and her co-workers knew they were making history. I found references to this in her letters and newspaper columns. And even a sweet reminder from my grandfather Wilmer Kearns who wrote to Edna when she was away at a conference to bring her up to date on domestic news. At the end of one letter, he reminded her in a postscript to “Make History.”

Watch a suffrage story on video and share your suffrage story

Did you know about the picketing of the White House by suffragists? This is a story we can’t tell often enough. The headquarters of the National Woman’s Party in Washington, DC (aka the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum) has prepared this video using some archival images many people have not seen.

These wonderful and energetic folks at the Sewall-Bemont House & Museum have launched a virtual campaign called “Share Your Story. Save HerStory.” It’s precisely the kind of campaign that builds leadership through stories of the suffrage movement, which is the mission of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Contact Elisabeth Crum at 202-546-1210 ext, 17, or send her an email with your answers to the following questions: “Why is woman suffrage important to you? Why will you vote this year? Who are the women (past and present) who inspire you to vote? What do you think women should know about the WNP and how will that move them to vote in 2012?” Stories will be collected as blog posts, video, Facebook, and Twitterview. For more information.

I’ll be participating in the story campaign. What about you? Stay up to date with news and stories of the suffrage movement: suffragewagon.org