Category Archives: 60-Second History Lesson
The Votes for Women activists took their appeal to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July in 1915. It’s an example of the bold tactics of the suffragists in 1915 which didn’t win them the vote during that campaign, but it certainly sent a message that the issue wouldn’t go away.
One version of the story is told about New York City where huge suffrage parades and demonstrations put an “Appeal to Liberty” (read by suffragists) into the mainstream awareness as it became an essential element of the Fourth of July observance. See the Fourth of July 1915 coverage in the Times.
Grandmother Edna Kearns carried the “Appeal to Liberty” theme to Long Island where this report noted that local firefighters gave Edna the platform to speak about Votes for Women and thousands listened. News about Edna is in the second column.
Photo: Associated Press.
From a 1914 newspaper, the “Daily Herald,” depicting “Miss Davison.” By Will Dyson.
. . .such as the UK’s Emily Davidson who threw herself in front of the King’s horse. More is coming out about Davison and the details of her life, inlcuding the tale of how Davison hid herself in a crypt so she could use Parliament as her home address as a way to lobby for the vote. The posting comments are as interesting as the researcher’s report.
The film clip of Emily Davison’s dramatic protest is well known, and the clip of her funeral procession in London impacts us as only film can do.
Grandmother Edna kicked up a fuss on Long Island in 1912 as she kept the newspapers filled with suffrage news. She connected the dots between current events and the need for the vote, whether in the newspaper columns she wrote or when campaigning after 1913 in her horse-drawn suffrage wagon now on exhibit at the state capitol in Albany, NY through the summer of 2012.
You can’t have a baby without engaging in politics, Edna argued. And she raised eyebrows among other suffragists who believed they shouldn’t venture outside their limited sphere of lobbying for the vote. Edna raised her voice about the scandal at the Mineola jail and ventured forth to say that women would take care of community business better then men. Just give women a chance, she said.
When the newspapers carried the controversy, Edna defended herself from those who claimed her Better Babies campaign on Long Island was merely a “fad,” a ploy for “sensationalism.” Edna’s motivation? She insisted she was concerned that mothers didn’t have all the skills they needed for mothering and vowed to establish parenting classes. Underlying her argument, of course, was how much women needed the vote! This speaks to us today by remembering the interconnectedness of issues and reaching out to others to bring us together in linking our past with taking leadership in these times.
Posted in 60-Second History Lesson, Long Island, Nassau County, New York
Tagged Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Edna Kearns, Nassau County, suffrage movement, suffragists, Votes for Women, Women's History, women's suffrage
“Holding the Torch for Liberty” is the story of Sarah, a seamstress at the Liberty Pants Factory and suffragist allies who campaign for the right to vote in 1920. With the help of The Statute of Liberty, the students involved in the musical production overcome all obstacles and participate in a story about a great American civil rights movement.
Set aside June 3, 2012 for The Jazz Drama Program Summer Gala, 2-5 pm at Urban Stages in NYC. It’s a celebration of the work of The Jazz Drama Program with artistic director Eli Yamin, special guest Mercedes Ellington and honoring Dr. William Rodriguez, Latin Jazz Pianist, principal and founder of the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.
The event features a live performance of scenes and songs from “Holding the Torch for Liberty,” the jazz musical about women’s suffrage by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, and performed by students from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music. Refreshments and a champagne toast are included in the ticket price. This is a wonderful opportunity to support a program that builds leadership through stories about the suffrage movement.
Tickets to this event are limited and can be purchased for $100. For more information. Each ticket holder will receive a copy of the cast CD of “Holding the Torch for Liberty” signed by the authors.
The “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon on display at NYS capitol in Albany, NY
Grandmother Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon is highlighted in the exhibition, “From Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court,” that’s presently on display at the NYS capitol in Albany, New York. It constitutes a must-see experience and well worth my long trip to arrive here early this week. With the suffrage wagon named the “Spirit of 1776″ as an exhibit centerpiece, the freedom theme is magnified by the panels featuring individual women from New York who have made a significant mark on state and national history, as well as current affairs.
“From Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court: New York’s women leading the way” balances the recently-opened Hall of the Governors, filled with portraits of men, with an exhibit introductory panel highlighting a statement rarely seen in public:
While women”… may not have always been the individuals passing the laws, women were writing the policies, organizing campaigns and generating awareness. For too long, these efforts have been minimized, omitted from the history books or forgotten completely.”
Hats off to the planners, researchers, governor and state museum staff and supporters responsible for the exhibition. See links: Capitol web site and coverage by Capitol Confidential.
When people say they feel helpless in the face of overwhelming odds, an attitude or obstacle, it’s time for all of us to remember the serious resistance the British women were up against in their fight for the ballot. The suffragettes’ bold tactics became known worldwide after their decision to stretch the bondaries. Here’s a selection from Mary Walton’s 2010 book, A Woman’s Crusade:
“All over England, suffragettes ‘hid in bushes and under platforms, scaled roofs, let themselves down through skylights in order to interrupt meetings with the dreaded call, ‘votes for women.’”
While the suffrage story has been very low key for many years, it’s jumping into center stage in England with the announcement of the upcoming year’s centennial celebration of Emily Davison. Many of her relatives are involved, including the release of material previously unavailable. Check it out. The trailer of “Everything is Possible,” a UK film about Sylvia Pankhurst is a must see, if you haven’t run across it already. It’s a story of vision, determination, and a lifelong dedication to the goal of freedom. There’s also a fascinating link on the film’s web site about Sylvia’s security files compiled by the British government.
Chances are that you’ve seen the suffrage music video, “Bad Romance,” a parody of Lady Gaga. But have you seen the behind-the-scenes production short (link above)? The increase in creative material about the suffrage movement is exciting and noteworthy. Here are a few examples:
A stroll on the new Rochester Heritage Trail. Boston Marathon runners who acknowledge those who came before them. Activism exhibit in New York City. New book to be published in July 2012 from Rutgers University Press: “The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.”
In what ways have you been contributing to this outpouring of love and appreciation toward the tens of thousands of women who participated in this extraordinary civil rights movement?
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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
Posted in 19th amendment, 60-Second History Lesson, right to vote, suffragist, Votes for Women, White House Picketing, woman's suffrage, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Tagged Alice Paul, suffrage movement, suffragists, Votes for Women, Women's History, women's suffrage
Here’s what happened almost a hundred years ago. Grandmother Edna Kearns expected to be a speaker at a community event as she set out for the evening with this purpose in mind. She was, after all, as the article notes: “a well known suffrage speaker.” When turned away at the door of a Republican Party rally, Grandmother Edna didn’t take the situation lightly. She stood up on a automobile nearby and expounded on the topic of Votes for Women to the people passing by on the street, as well as those headed to the meeting. She held forth for at least two hours and refused give in –one example of many instances of her hard-headed style.
After the event, Grandmother Edna made certain more people knew about what happened. She wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and this article appeared on November 1, 1915. It’s worth a read. Not only because it’s yet another untold story of the suffrage movement. But it’s a lesson in determination and persistence that we can learn from today. The photo above isn’t of Grandmother Edna, but it illustrates the interest suffrage speakers sparked when they spoke in the streets.
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Alice Paul is finally getting the recognition she deserves. Yet, during her lifetime she wasn’t interested in glory. She kept her eye on the prize: women’s rights and the vote. This video fills in a great deal. And keep in mind that author Mary Walton never heard of Alice Paul before a newspaper editor brought Paul to her attention. Meanwhile, this interview highlights where Walton calls Paul “the most overlooked civil rights leader of the 20th century.”
Posted in 19th amendment, 60-Second History Lesson, Alice Paul, civil rights, human rights, nonviolent resistance, right to vote, voting rights, White House Picketing, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Tagged Mary Walton
We continue with the untold story of the local wrinkle on the suffrage movement in New York State. As we move toward NYS’s centennial of winning the vote in 1917, we’ll see an increasing interest in this part of our history. The articles linked on this blog are primarily from the archives of Grandmother Edna Kearns.
The suffrage movement tapped the power of the press when its activists witnessed and reported on the news, much as citizen journalists do today. Writers and activists like Edna Buckman Kearns reported for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and local publications on Long Island. Edna also lived part time in New York City where her husband Wilmer Kearns was employed and her young daughter Serena attended a Quaker school. Edna gave her full attention to organizing Long Island for woman’s suffrage. Her reports in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle gave considerable detail to the grassroots organizing efforts, of which this article and others demonstrate.
Elisabeth Freeman was among the suffrage campaigners, along with Edna Kearns and others who spread out to cover organizations where numbers of men would congregate, such as the firemens’ convention. They showed up with literature and made a visual impact. The community reactions and how the suffragists responded were documented in detail.
Back to contemporary times: I enjoy reading the press coverage of England’s suffrage movement. The Brits’ coverage of this time in their history is extremely creative. For example, there’s a recent piece on a descendant of Emily Davison, best known for throwing herself in front of the king’s horse. And an excellent article on how the sinking of the Titanic impacted the suffragette movement in England.
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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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.”
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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Whether or not the remarkable response from men for suffrage was expected back in 1914 isn’t clear. However, this article published in the New York Herald about the huge suffrage pageant at the Armory documents a growing and more influential suffrage movement. The article noted that support from men had grown significantly in the previous three years and how enthusiastic men had stepped forward to be patrons of the Armory ball and pageant. Even children, including little Serena Kearns, were part of the production, as well as other children of the period. As the article shows below, my grandparents demonstrated their support as patrons.
Support for suffrage pageant from many quarters
Keeping the suffrage issue constantly in front of the public was a daunting task. Grandmother Edna Kearns got news coverage when standing on a street corner and speaking about suffrage. Here’s an example from a Long Island local paper:
The Brits have come through royally with their recent media coverage of the English suffrage movement. Especially with the first broadcast of audio interviews of suffragettes recorded back in 1977 by prominent British historian Brian Harrison. This past weekend’s BBC radio special, “The Lost World of the Suffragettes,” reveals the character, political context, and personalities of these gutsy activists. This coverage adds much to the rich collection of Votes for Women stories.
The BBC television pieces entitled Christabel Pankhurst: “I wanted to assault a policeman” and another recent segment called “Fight to clear Derby suffragette Alice Wheeldon’s name” are worth the five minutes or so you’ll spend watching. The BBC news magazine even has an article raising the question of whether or not the English suffragettes were regarded as terrorists in their day.
Note the valentine illustration above by American artist Ellen Clappsaddle. There’s no doubt where she stood on the issue of Votes for Women!
Stories of the suffrage movement can also tickle your funny bone. A favorite of mine is about the well-known British composer, Dame Ethel Smyth, imprisoned for the suffrage struggle in England. When serving time in Holloway prison, Smyth leaned out of her cell and used her toothbrush to conduct the suffragettes in the prison yard singing “The March of the Women,” the work Smyth composed.
You can hear Smyth’s own voice on a special podcast from the BBC. Come on, now. This podcast is only three minutes long. Painless. And don’t forget that Susan B. Anthony’s birthday is February 15th! This link to the Susan B. Anthony Day notes the opposition to it becoming a national holiday though Susan’s day is observed or celebrated officially in several states.
I love it when examples pop up on the web where the suffrage legacy of our ancestors is cited. Kristi Rendahl says this in her Op Ed piece about her suffragist great-grandmother:
“My great-grandmother is but one example of strength. I surround myself with pictures and memories of family members–men and women alike–who have shown might in times of distress. I serve food on my mom’s trays and use my grandmother’s silverware at meals. I play from my great-aunt’s songbooks on my grandmother’s piano. I drink wine from my aunt’s wine glasses. I sleep in my grandparents’ bed. I hang my great-aunt’s artwork on my wall. I listen to music on my grandfather’s Edison player. I soak up the journalled memories of my pioneer great-grandmother.
“I am never alone, because they and an army of love and wisdom are behind me. Anything I encounter will not surpass their stories. Anything I conquer will be because of the lessons they’ve taught me. And we are all enveloped in this greatness, if we remember to see it and let it feed the core of our being. Do you hear the call? Do you hear my great-grandmother saying ‘no’ to injustice? Do you hear your own conscience saying that there are some things that are simply not acceptable?”
Edee Lemonier speaks about her grandmother being bundled up to be carried to a Votes for Women demonstration in downtown Chicago featured in this New Agenda point of view.
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Posted in 60-Second History Lesson
Tagged Alice Paul, Alva Bemont, Doris Stevens, Edna Kearns, Edna May Buckman, suffrage movement, suffragists, Susan B. Anthony, Votes for Women, Women's History, women's suffrage
Lots of eggs and not much flour! This recipe is from a 1915 suffrage cook book, and it sure is fun dragging out these old recipes to bring us just a little closer to the tastes and rituals of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Only 11 eggs, flour, sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and salt. Great for the Susan B. Anthony birthday party you’ve been considering throwing in mid-February. Or how about high tea during Women’s History Month in March? A cake from scratch will be a treat any weekend. You can tell friends and family that this cake is from the kitchen of a real suffragist, Eliza Kennedy Smith, who used the cake for Votes for Women fundraising. And the women really went to town with the ingredients!
The Kearns motor car company manufactured different models over the years, and my grandfather Wilmer R. Kearns made the family automobile business a focus after he married my grandmother Edna and they moved to New York City in 1904 from the Philadelphia area. Building wagons and horse-drawn buggies ran in the Kearns family, so it wasn’t surprising when Wilmer’s brother Maxwell Kearns started manufacturing automobiles in Beavertown, PA where both Max and Wilmer were raised. While in NYC, Wilmer represented the Kearns Motor Car Company with an office in midtown Manhattan.
A Kearns motor car is on permanent exhibit at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. For more information about the Kearns car.
Edna and Wilmer Kearns lived in both NYC and Rockville Centre on Long Island where Edna participated in suffrage organizing. The Kearns vehicle on exhibit at the Pennsylvania state museum is “The Lulu,” named after Max and Wilmer’s sister, Lou, who collaborated with Edna on Votes for Women organizing on Long Island. Below: letterhead for Kearns Motor Car Company in New York City.
The photo below from the Library of Congress photo collection shows Rhoda Glover, oldest Long Island suffragist riding in a horse-drawn wagon during a local parade. Grandmother Edna referred to Glover in one of her many columns about the Long Island suffrage campaign –in particular because suffragist Glover lived in Rockville Centre, New York (Nassau County) and was active in the suffrage club there. Edna Kearns served at one time as the Rockville Centre suffrage club president.
It isn’t often that governors cite the suffrage movement and votes for women in their State of the State addresses. Yet NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo did exactly this in 2012. For example, a quote from his address in Albany, NY:
“We declared independence from Britain before they (colonists) signed the Declaration of Independence. We birthed the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The Workers Rights Movement. The Environmental Movement. All were born in this state. In this Capitol. By this government.” See article.
This 1917 article spells out the importance of remembering the specifics of a movement that involved tens of thousands of individuals on the grassroots.
Rain, snow, sleet, or blisters couldn’t stop a Votes for Women march from New York City to Albany during the first week of January in 1914. I like to call it a story about a stubborn streak of spirit.
When woman’s suffrage hike leader Rosalie Jones ordered, “Forward, March,” my grandmother Edna Kearns, grandfather Wilmer Kearns, and their young daughter Serena fell into line. They’re highlighted in the NY Tribune photo on January 1, 1914 when they joined the hike to see the governor about votes for women. This group of 30 people from NYC and Long Island set out from Manhattan on that freezing winter day with high spirits. Only three hikers made it the entire 166 miles in six days. For the rest –including my grandparents– participation in the event became part of family oral history for a job well done, which was making a social issue visible. This visibility led to change.
No one could have predicted 98 years ago that women voters would play a pivotal role in the upcoming 2012 election. Back then, merely joining a march to Albany was definitely outside the box.
Before 1914, some crowds jeered suffrage hikers along the march routes. The tide of public opinion shifted somewhat by 1914,and the hikers to Albany were cheered on as they headed north. The activists were tough. They stuck with it, though it took much more on-the-ground organizing before New York State women finally won the vote in 1917. And it wasn’t until 1920 when all American women were able to exercise this basic right.
The story of the 1914 suffrage march stands the test of time because it is part political and part human interest –plus a little romance, sore feet, and spirited speeches in towns and villages along the route. The Votes for Women hikers attracted widespread media attention, and they rallied supporters throughout the Hudson Valley. Media accounts such as these were popular in their day:
Grandmother Edna had a hard time saying “no” when it came to campaigning for Votes for Women. And she was a particularly soft touch when suffrage activist Rosalie Jones asked for volunteers to march to Albany. It’s quite a boat ride from New York City to Albany, not to mention the journey by train. But Rosalie really meant it when she asked for others to march alongside with her, out in the street, facing the winter weather.
A demonstration like this made good copy, and the suffragists were clear about the importance of staying in the forefront of the news. They marched out of New York City the first week of January in 1914, determined to speak to the governor about appointing poll watchers for the upcoming 1915 state suffrage referendum. Only a handful actually made it from start to finish, but this shouldn’t be surprising. These days we stay home when snowflakes fall. Anybody demonstrating on the streets so soon after New Year’s Day would inevitably attract attention.
Both my grandparents started out on the march, along with daughter Serena Kearns, who was nine years old. They finished the first leg of the journey, and then Edna rushed home to write her story and deliver it to the Brooklyn Eagle where she published a column and edited special suffrage features. The NY Times had a straight-forward version of the event, while Edna’s accounts focused on the Votes for Women issue and human interest. While the Hudson Valley press had been primarily positive, a few Hudson Valley papers such as the Kingston Daily Freeman criticized the women for not being of sound mind.
Edna used the experience as a reference in her speeches and newspaper writing.
Posted in 60-Second History Lesson, Edna Buckman Kearns, New York City
Tagged Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Edna Kearns, Rosalie Jones, Serena Kearns, suffrage movement, suffragettes, suffragists, Votes for Women, women's suffrage
What I love about this segment from UK television is the fact that the program focuses on family members of one of Britain’s most famous suffragettes. More about this.
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but the snow’s lingering on the ground and one freezing day follows another. This is the time to listen to another installment of Doris Stevens and her first-person account of the suffrage movement. This isn’t a version written by a scholar years after the event. Doris was there in the thick of the action. And she tells the tale of what it was like to win Votes for Women, on the ground.
During my early years in elementary school, the suffrage movement had been summed up in a single sentence by my 8th grade social studies teacher who said: “And then in 1920, women were given the vote.” Even I knew that the teacher portrayed the accomplishment much differently than how it actually happened. Doris takes us along as she describes in Jailed for Freedom the tedious and persistent tasks engaged in by the suffragists. In this five-minute selection, Doris highlights how the suffragists lobbied U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. If they hadn’t persisted, the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution wouldn’t have been possible.
On this cold wintry night, treat yourself to this audio account by Doris that gives one respect for the hard work and sacrifice of tens of thousands of women, including grandmother Edna.
I grew up under the wing of my grandfather Wilmer R. Kearns (shown above) who told me all about Grandmother Edna who died years before I was born. One of Grandmother Edna Kearns’ forays into the world of citizen journalism was to cover a speech by Theodore Roosevelt and write it up in one of her columns. In the piece, Edna appealed to what she called “broad minded thinking men,” the very same men the suffs needed to reach for the upcoming 1915 New York State suffrage referendum. For someone like my grandfather Wilmer, it wasn’t easy marching in the men’s divisions of suffrage parades.
Being a presence in the community and monitoring public figures was part of the suffragists’ strategy. Edna’s 1914 article covering Roosevelt’s positions on issues relevant to women speaks volumes about working conditions back then, and it’s another example of grandmother Edna’s citizen journalism supporting the cause of Votes for Women.
Inez Milholland was beautiful, smart, courageous. She gave her life for our voting rights today after collapsing while on the campaign trail. She died shortly thereafter. Chances are, most people never heard of Inez Milholland. However, they may have seen photos of the magnificent woman on a horse leading the enormous 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC at the time of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
Inez Milholland is briefly featured in the HBO movie “Iron Jawed Angels.” Inez is representative of the suffragists’ style of mixing drama and beauty with their idealism. Parades were carefully planned to provide evidence of strength and determination as well as artistic impact. Suffrage activism inspired pageantry, poetry, art and music.
To Inez Milholland
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Read in Washington, November eighteenth, 1923, at the unveiling of a statue of three leaders in the cause of Equal Rights for Women
Upon this marble bust that is not I
Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;
But in the forum of my silenced cry
Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame.
I, that was proud and valiant, am no more;—
Save as a dream that wanders wide and late,
Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,
Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate.
The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust.
Only my standard on a taken hill
Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust
And make immortal my adventurous will.
Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:
Take up the song; forget the epitaph.
Posted in 60-Second History Lesson, Edna Buckman Kearns, Long Island, New York State Woman Suffrage Association, New York State Women's History, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Tagged "Spirit of 1776", Edna Kearns, Mrs. Raymond Brown, suffrage movement, suffragists, Votes for Women, Women's History, women's suffrage
This suffrage cookbook available free online tells a great deal about the women of the movement, their perspectives, and the special place of cooking in family life. When you’re planning a meal or special event, find a recipe to make and share the process and results with us at Suffrage Wagon. Holidays are giving us an opportunity to try out some suffrage recipes. To those of you following along, read through the cookbook’s section on suffrage and let us know what you think! And then, get in touch: suffragewagon at gmail dot com
Oregon suffragists visit New York, 1912, from the Library of Congress collection. These women very much wanted to be seen, just as Oregon women today are gearing up for their anniversary of women voting in 2012. You can Twitter their events: Oregon Women Vote @CenturyofAction.
Edna knew that the women of New York were making history. And when a pageant was held at the Armory in New York City involving 500 performers and broad, vast and innovative subject matter, she made sure the news was spread through her writing.
Both Edna Buckman Kearns and daughter Serena Kearns were featured in the New York Herald’s April 1914 coverage of the event. Serena played a child, and Edna, a nurse. The production, “The American Woman: Six Periods of American Life” by Hazel MacKaye was not only ambitious, but it was considered a milestone in the suffrage movement’s production of pageants with significant social commentary. Inez Milholland played the woman of the future. Susan B. Anthony would have been proud.
This blog post is yet another episode of “The Adventures of Edna Buckman Kearns,” the news about her suffrage campaign wagon (now in the collection of the NYS Museum), and another example of how my grandmother dedicated her life to bring about Votes for Women. Stay tuned!
“Just show up.” That’s the advice for us today in all aspects of our lives. It was the motto of the suffragists who used community events such as the county fair to show up and use the occasion to advocate for human rights.
Check out the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 22, 1915. What’s Edna Buckman Kearns up to now? She’s making her presence known at the Mineola Fair, and here’s what the Brooklyn paper had to say about it.
The evidence of another suffrage campaign wagon known as “Victory” has surfaced in a 1915 news article about a torchlight suffrage parade in New York City. The wagon was accompanied by decorated automobiles, bands, and marchers representing different segments of society. Saudi women and others throughout the world today are curious about U.S. suffrage history and for good reason. See Bonnie Smith’s comments on the Suffrage Wagon News Channel about the curiosity of women from other parts of the world in our Votes for Women history.
The strength and power of organizing for rights can be seen in the evidence of Saudi Arabia relenting and throwing a few crumbs in the direction of its women residents. I use the word “residents” because they still have second-class status. Beginning in 2013, Saudi women can be appointed to the shura council (a policy advisory organization). In 2015 Saudi women will be able to vote and run for municipal elections. Women still aren’t full citizens, and they aren’t allowed to drive cars. If they decide to run for office on the local level, they’ll need permission from their husbands, fathers or male guardians. Reform? A baby step, perhaps.
Here’s my grandmother, Edna Kearns, dressed as an aviator. The photo could be interpreted as quaint and perhaps a bit old-fashioned. Underlying the outfit is the message that women had decided they could wait no longer for the vote as they’d been asked to do before the Civil War. They would no longer cooperate. They would no longer submit to second-class citizenship. They would no longer be obedient to the status quo.
There were tens of thousands of down-to-earth and up-in-the-air activists like grandmother Edna. Perhaps your grandmother or great-grandmother was on the suffrage bandwagon too. This wasn’t a fad. It was a shared understanding that without the consent of half of the population, things would have to change.
When reading through Edna’s scrapbooks and clippings, I’m finding many examples of dramatic tactics. Such as Long Island suffragists who milked cows to attract attention to the movement. They flew airplanes and distributed Votes for Women literature from the air. It was critical to keep the issue of Votes for Women alive so the movement didn’t die on the vine. This wasn’t a remote possibility. The suffrage movement started with a bang in 1848. By 1900, people described the movement as in the “doldrums.”
This was another way of saying that collective begging and “pretty please” no longer worked. What began with polite persuasion developed into accelerating forms of protest. When parades no longer did the trick, some segments of the movement moved on to non cooperation (including boycotts of political candidates and parties), and then, bolder and more dramatic stands, such as picketing the White House.
See article from Edna’s collection from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This particular piece describes women turning a Long Island airport over to a demonstration that sounds almost like a movement pajama party. The event didn’t exist in isolation. In the context of demonstrations like it across the nation, the suffs sent a clear message to those in charge. They weren’t about to give up.
Photos: Edna as aviator from the collection of Edna Buckman Kearns. Vintage photo from the public domain.
Alice Paul, suffragist.
This week U.S. Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) re-introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to award the Congressional Gold Medal to suffragist Alice Paul. The Alice Paul Women’s Suffrage Congressional Gold Medal Act officially recognizes Paul’s role in the women’s suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women. Make sure your congressional representatives are aware of this legislation, that they support it, and move it forward to passage.
Rep. Baca first introduced legislation to award Alice Paul the Congressional Gold Medal in 2005. His legislation garnered near unanimous, bipartisan support in the 110th Congress with 406 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. This is the most co-sponsor support in history for any Congressional Gold Medal act. Unfortunately, the legislation was not brought up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. Since then, Rep. Baca has reintroduced the legislation in both the 111th Congress and the current 112th Congress.
Alice Paul spearheaded the effort to pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting all American women the right to vote. Her courage inspired thousands of women to join the women’s suffrage movement. She was among the first group to ever picket the White House and later embarked on a three-week hunger strike with her fellow suffragists when they were arrested for their cause. Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 and fought tirelessly for its passage until her death in 1977.
Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), who represents Paul’s home state of New Jersey in the U.S. Congress, is the lead Republican sponsor of the legislation.
“History Detectives” was a great way to begin the week, along with Louise Bernikow’s article for the Women’s Media Center about this deep dark hole of our history. You can watch the “History Detectives” show online after the fact.
Part of the thrill of doing this work is when my grandmother Edna Kearns speaks to me, when I can hear her voice above the noise and chatter of present day. Above all, she’s saying, “Don’t give up. Lucretia Mott took a lot of flack in her day from people who said she wanted too much too soon. And take Susan B. Anthony as an example. Ridiculed often, she never wavered from her goal.” Hefty advice for the days when we feel overwhelmed, isolated, discouraged. Hang in there, says Grandmother.
Notes pioneer women’s historian Anne Firor Scott: “It is worth trying to understand the past because in the process of doing so one learns so much about the possibilities and mysteries of human existence at the same time one is learning how partial and incomplete is even the most careful reconstruction of lives, events, and social movements. Sometimes I am willing to say, with Leonard Woolf, The Journey Not the Arrival Matters.” (From Making the Invisible Woman Visible.)
Anne Firor Scott’s interview with North Carolina Public Radio commentator Frank Stasio is worth a listen. Scott speaks about her life, women’s history, teaching and her perspective on the current state of affairs in the world. She reminds us that scholars and history buffs aren’t escapists in the sense that we prefer to live in the past instead of the present. Rather, we reach out to bridge the past with the present and extract the lessons meant for us today.
Posted in 19th amendment, 60-Second History Lesson, Edna Buckman Kearns, suffragette, suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Though the term “blog” didn’t come into use until 1999, it’s just like me to tell folks that Grandmother Edna blogged suffrage news and reported it much like a citizen journalist would today. Edna wrote columns, press releases and was suffrage editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. She served as press chair for suffrage campaigns and had relationships with every news editor on Long Island.
Grandmother participated in suffrage events and then she raced home to write about the experience. The outcome wasn’t instant like a blog would be, but it was as fast as could be expected back then. A few women like Ishbel Ross and Emma Bugbee broke into writing through the suffrage movement. Check out this case study of Ross and Bugbee and how they got into “the exciting newspaper game.” The story of how Ross tracked down Mrs. Pankhurst led to her later comment about she owed her newspaper career to this front-page interview. Bugbee covered the 1914 march to Albany and the incident in front of the Metropolitan Opera in 1919 with Alice Paul and others where Grandmother Edna was smack in the middle of the fray.
While we’re waiting for the September 20th “History Detectives” program to air, I’m posting more audio comments from author and historian Louise Bernikow. Here, she speaks about the chronic forgetting of suffrage history.
Photo by Peter Norby.
Maude Malone at a 1914 suffrage meeting. Photo: Library of Congress.
When activist Maude Malone stood up at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October of 1912 to interrupt Woodrow Wilson’s campaign speech on monopolies taking over the country, she yelled: “How about votes for women?” She then repeated her questioning: “You just said you were trying to destroy a monopoly, and I ask you what about woman suffrage? The men have a monopoly.” Wilson replied that this wasn’t an issue the national government needed to be concerned about. The suffragist continued: “I am speaking to you as an American, Mr. Wilson.” Although Malone was hauled off to jail, the incident didn’t go unnoticed.
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The location of one such fiery debate was identified as the corner of North Ocean Avenue and Main Street in Patchogue, NY as part of the campaigning to open up Long Island to more suffrage organizing. The Votes for Women activists held parades, spoke on street corners and from the back seats of automobiles, as well as horse-drawn wagons. At times their presence in town was heightened with a live band. See entire article from the archives of Edna Buckman Kearns that includes the details of a shouting match between the women and a man on the street. Edna witnessed the event, and it was her job at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to write about it.
I don’t remember when I first learned about the Canadian suffrage movement at school, but I do remember that politics were often discussed in our home. We lived in a very small farming community and the community hall, where elections were held, was across the street. Not all members of the family had the same voting preferences and should one of the females express a different opinion, teasing would follow about how terrible things were since women had been given the right to vote. But voting was taken seriously, and it was fully expected that each person who could vote would do so. I remember some farmers whose X signatures had to be witnessed because they could not write their names. At school, we had Civil Studies and held class elections. Much of the information I know comes from stories about the lives of these and other pioneer women I read after graduating from college.
On January 27, 1914, Nellie McClung and several hundred supporters filled the Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nellie delivered the message: “We are not here to ask for a reform or a gift or a favor, but for a right–not for mercy but for justice.”
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Posted in 60-Second History Lesson, Canadian suffrage movement, Nellie McClung, right to vote, suffragette, suffragist, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
It’s all in the telling, and the suffragists are believed to have written their own version of the tale. In March of 1913. U.S. President-elect Woodrow Wilson arrived at the train station in Washington, DC all geared up for his inauguration ceremony. He expected to be the center of attention, but he wasn’t. “Where are the people?” he is alleged to have asked. The response: “On the Avenue watching the suffragists parade.”
Doris Stevens in her book, “Jailed for Freedom,” tells the story as fact. Here’s her story about the parade in a two-minute clip. The reading is brought to us by Librivox.
1848 Seneca Falls Convention
Think back to 1848 in Seneca Falls and hold the thought of women and men gathering for the conference where the radical idea of Votes for Women was first expressed. There’s still time to plan an event for Women’s Equality Day on August 26th for your friends or organization. The National Women’s History Project is a terrific resource.
Note the new feature column above, “Save the Date,” that highlights August 26 and September 20. On July 24th there’s an interactive tour of New York City of women’s history.
Keeping the issue of voting alive and in the minds of politicians was an important tactic of the English suffragettes in 1909. It wasn’t one action that did the trick, but the constant reminders, in unexpected places, at unexpected times. Lucy Burns was an American, who with Alice Paul, was radicalized in the English front lines of suffrage. One evening she dressed in an elegant gown, socialized with the dignitaries at a fancy-dress ball, and then approached Winston Churchill. After waving a banner in his face, she asked: “How can you dine here while women are starving in prison?”
The police removed her from the building, and Churchill got the message.
Dorothy Day was among the suffragists arrested after picketing the White House in 1917. She said: "Those first six days of inactivity were as six thousand years. To lie there through the long day, to feel the nausea and emptiness of hunger, the dazedness at the beginning and the feverish mental activity that came after. I lost all consciousness of any cause. . . I could only feel the darkness and desolation around me."
Doris Stevens, who wrote "Jailed for Freedom"
Listen! This podcast of just over two minutes is the introduction to Jailed for Freedom by Doris Stevens who documented the last phase of the struggle for Votes for Women. It explains why a bolder approach was necessary and how this became a state of mind as well as a record of actions. The work is dedicated to Alice Paul. This short clip is from a recording of the entire work, now in the public domain, brought to you by LibriVox. This book can be ordered through Amazon.