Category Archives: 60-Second History Lesson

What is suffrage angel cake and why would you want to make it?

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!

Grandfather Wilmer Kearns and the Kearns motor car

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.

Oldest Long Island Suffragist, Rhoda Glover

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.

New York State governor takes ownership of suffrage movement and Votes for Women

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.

Suffragists marched 98 years ago this week for civil rights and votes for women

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:

What Edna Kearns will do for votes in this cold and snowy weather. . .

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.

One of the most shocking protests in British history!

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.

On a freezing winter night, listen to Votes for Women storytelling. . .

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.

It wasn’t easy being a suffragist’s husband!

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.

She died so we can vote today: Inez Milholland

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.

Splits in suffrage movement didn’t deter working relationships

Mrs. Raymond Brown took over after Harriett May Mills as president of New York’s state suffrage organization. A rare recording of Mrs. Brown speaking is a valuable look at the period, as well as a reference in one of Grandmother Edna Kearns’ newspaper columns that she wasn’t all that pleased with Mrs. Brown being selected as state president. Despite her personal opinion, Kearns and Brown worked closely together on suffrage organizing of Long Island. Photo: Library of Congress.

Plan holiday meals using the Woman Suffrage Cookbook

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

Support Oregon women and their Votes for Women centennial!

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.

Grandmother Edna Kearns had her fingers in many suffrage pies

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,” say Votes for Women activists out in force at Mineola Fair

“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.

A suffrage wagon named “Victory”: Look out Saudi Arabia!

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.

Sending a message upstairs to those in charge. . .

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.

Congressional Gold Medal for suffragist Alice Paul?

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.

Bad girls and troublemakers!

“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.

Blogging for BUST

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 wouldn’t leave U.S. President Woodrow Wilson alone

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.

Check out the updated Suffrage Wagon News Channel web site. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Intense suffrage debates on Long Island street corners

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.

Point of view from a Canadian lover of suffrage history

Barbara Allisen

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.”

FOR MORE FROM BARBARA ALLISEN

Is this story true? A two-minute suffrage podcast.

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.

July 19-20 is 163rd anniversary of Seneca Falls convention

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.

Lucy Burns donned an evening gown to get Churchill’s attention!

Lucy Burns.

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.

That we always remember the “Night of Terror”

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."

Two minutes of “Jailed for Freedom”

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.

And Alice Paul’s birthday is in January!

Put January 11, 2012 (Alice Paul‘s birthday) on your calendar now, and be thinking of celebrating the birthdays of other suffragist women during 2012. Susan B. Anthony’s birthday is in February and celebrating her birthday has a long tradition in the US. It’s a terrific occasion for afternoon high tea and everything this suggests. The 2012 calendar might sound like far into the future. But if you’ve never had a Susan B. Anthony party, it takes more effort and planning the first time around. You can’t fail with a party like this. A little music, tea, goodies. And a short program. This year’s party I pulled together included live music, a dessert potluck, tea and a program about Susan B. Anthony’s trial after she was arrested for voting. It was great fun and not the kind of thing you organize overnight. Which is why I’m suggesting that we look ahead. By next February, a party might seem like a great idea.

Who gave her life for Votes for Women?

The English had their martyr –Emily Davison who threw herself in front of the King’s horse to bring attention to the cause of Votes for Women. In the U.S., Inez Milholland was well known for riding a horse in suffrage parades. Milholland died on the campaign trail when barnstorming in the West.  She was known as the couragous woman who died with the word of “Liberty” on her lips. Suffragists repeated her words often when confronting U.S. President Woodrow Wilson: “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

Suff Whirlwind Campaign of Long Island: Part 2

Meanwhile, back on the suffrage campaign trail, the women worked day and night, weekends and holidays.  This 1912 article from my grandmother Edna’s suffrage movement archive gives the details of the work. The suffragists were frequently accused of being emotional about the issue of Votes for Women. The reporter Cora E. Morlan includes Dr. Anna Howard Shaw’s story of 15,000 men at a convention in Baltimore putting on a show or what she termed a “wild demonstration.” Now, who’s emotional?

NYC Mayor and NYS Governor Cite Suffrage Movement in Major Speeches

The suff movement has been acknowledged in recent public speeches by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. In the course of expressing support for marriage equality in New York, these two officials highlighted the woman’s suffrage movement in New York.

In a letter to New Yorkers on May 26, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the following: “New York has a proud, progressive history as a national leader in bringing greater equality and respect for all. From the fight for women’s suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have not only been on the right side of history, we have made history. . .” A brief clip from Cuomo’s speech.   Check out Cuomo’s full video message.

Noted Mayor Bloomberg: “And the question for every New York State lawmaker is: Do you want to be remembered as a leader on civil rights? Or an obstructionist? Remember, on matters of freedom and equality, history has not remembered obstructionists kindly. Not on abolition. Not on abortion. Not on women’s suffrage. Not on workers’ rights. Not on civil rights. And it will be no different on marriage rights.” A brief audio selection from the Mayor’s speech.

Six Days Left on Kickstarter Film Campaign

The Kickstarter campaign for the documentary about Edna and her suffrage campaign wagon comes to an end in six days. Over $1200 has been pledged and I still believe in miracles.

And now a brief note from the past: The value of a story is in the telling. This terrific story has come down to us from the suffragists themselves who made sure they wrote down their version of history. In March of 1913, U.S. President-elect Woodrow Wilson arrived in Washington, DC all geared up for his inauguration ceremony. He arrived at the train station in Washington, DC and expected  to be the center of attention, but he wasn’t. “Were are the people?” he is alleged to have asked. The response: “On the Avenue watching the suffragists parade.” Woodrow Wilson couldn’t have predicted what was in store for him in the years ahead.

Hanging In, While Making Another Dent!

Some days I have no idea if I’m making a dent when I write yet another letter about the Kickstarter campaign.

I stand on strong shoulders when remembering the suffragists’ persistence. When suff lobbyist Maude Younger approached Senator Irvine Lenroot in the halls of Congress, he snapped at her: “Nagging. If you women would only stop nagging.”

Maude also had a sense of humor about her determination. She described Senator Thomas Martin as someone who “…would not sit down and talk suffrage, nor would he stand up and talk it. The only way to discuss suffrage with Senator Martin was to run beside him down the hall.” She said that talking suffrage with the senator was “very good exercise.” Maude was well known for her card index of representatives which turned out to be a very effective and not-so-secret advantage when lobbying.

NOW, BACK TO REALITY. There are 23 days left and the Kickstarter project is only 16 percent funded. The clock is ticking!

Suffragists Invented Modern Tactics?

Mary Walton’s recent book, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot, has been introducing many people to the woman’s suffrage movement. In the mid-1990s, Walton had never heard of Alice Paul when her editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that she write a book on Paul and her contribution to American history. In the conclusion to her book, Walton noted: “The legal precedents set by the Woman’s Party protected later generations who took their protests for civil rights, an end to the Vietnam  War, and other causes to the streets, sidewalks and parks around the White House and the Capitol. But more than that, Paul and her party virtually invented the modern tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience that those later protestors would use.”

It might be exaggerating the point to say that the suffragists “invented” modern tactics, but they certainly stretched the boundaries of actions commonly associated with civil disobedience.

Sun and Heat Couldn’t Keep Them from Their Task

I’m continuing to spread the word about the Kickstarter campaign. While I’m at it, I deliver 60-second history lessons wherever I can. One such tale is about how spreading the word about Votes for Women on Long Island in 1912 was no small accomplishment. This account from my grandmother’s files shows the details and about how the weather didn’t deter the women from the task at hand.

The Whirlwind Campaign of Long Island: 1912

The women hit the streets, literally, when barnstorming Long island for Votes for Women in 1912. They also kept excellent records, took charge of their own publicity, and understood the importance of being visible.Long Island's 1912 campaign

News Notes From All Over

A film about the English suffrage movement called “Suffragettes” is in development. No votes for women in Saudi municipal elections. One hundredth anniversary of English boycott of census by suffragettes, an event that was inspired by Ghandi. There’s more suffrage news on the internet than ever before. The 100th anniversary of suffrage in the United States is in 2020, which isn’t tomorrow, but it suggests that the interest will increase in time.

My Grandmother Stepped Up to Volunteer!

This appeal from the New York Suffrage Newsletter of August 1912 spelled out precisely the tasks volunteers needed to do:  help out at headquarters and sell the newsletter. My grandmother did everything that was requested. She sent out suffrage leaflets in her correspondence, stamped “Votes for Women” on her checks. She recruited supporters, sold newsletters, gave speeches, participated in local clubs and organizations, marched in parades, and much more. Suffrage campaigners also sold flags, arm bands, leaflets, buttons, place cards, seals, pencils, rubber stamps, drinking cups, posters, blotters, stationary, and baskets. The personalized trinket industry was busy back then, just as it is today!

Don’t forget to pledge to support the Kickstarter campaign. Watch the video.

Grandmother in her Quaker bonnet!

Edna Buckman Kearns in her Quaker bonnetMy grandmother’s family history is important in the moral support it gave her to engage in Votes for Women. May Begley Buckman, her mother, was a temperance activist who was very much in support of woman’s suffrage. Edna Buckman Kearns was a ninth generation American on the Buckman side of her family. The Buckman family was the largest family group on the ship Welcome that came to the New World with William Penn, the first governor of Pennsylvania. I’m adding the first few generations to the “About Edna” page of this blog, with more to come. Here’s the information about Edna’s parents and grandparents. And the background about her Quaker great-grandparents and great-great grandparents.

Louisiana Women Celebrated With a Flair

The National Women’s History Project reported that their phone rang off the hook prior to and during March. Folks from around the nation called with reports of events and many questions. Louisiana women celebrated Votes for Women with a parade where they dressed in period costume.


During March a suffrage manuscript was uncovered in Connecticut that revealed the extent of organization it took to win the vote.

Put on a Pair of Kickstarting Boots and Pledge!

I need you to pledge to fund the completion of the film project I started last year. There’s a goal of $5,000 for polishing the editing, adding some more material, and getting the news out into the world. No money changes hands until we’ve reached the goal in early June. A lot of work has gone into this so far. And BTW, the Kickstarter boots are in your size!

Yeah, Team! On the Road!

It feels good to have affirmation about spreading the story. Yesterday I spoke to about a hundred DOE employees in Albuquerque — a program sponsored by the Federal Women’s Program. The program was terrific. I started out by saying that I suspected history might not have been their favorite subject in school and got them laughing at my past associations in history class: yawning, daydreaming, watching the clock and waiting for the bell to ring. Then I followed up by saying that I didn’t intend to lecture them, but rather instead tell them a story and show them photos about my grandmother and family’s association with my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon. My grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns, is an example of the tens of thousands of women across the U.S. who worked together to win the vote. History is much more interesting with a personal angle. I found this to be especially true when I spoke to high school history students at the New Mexico School for the Arts in late February.

The “Spirit of 1776″

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses crowd in U.S.

English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst trumpeted the spirit of 1776 in her famous 1913 speech, “Freedom or Death,” when on a speaking tour in the United States: “We found that all the fine phrases about freedom and liberty were entirely for male consumption, and that they did not in any way apply to women. When it was said taxation without representation is tyranny, when it was ‘Taxation of men without representation is tyranny,’ everybody quite calmly accepted the fact that women had to pay taxes and even were sent to prison if they failed to pay them – quite right. We found that ‘Government of the people, by the people and for the people’ . . . was again only for male consumption; half of the people were entirely ignored; it was the duty of women to pay their taxes and obey the laws and look as pleasant as they could under the circumstances. In fact, every principle of liberty enunciated in any civilised country on earth, with very few exceptions, was intended entirely for men, and when women tried to force the putting into practice of these principles, for women, then they discovered they had come into a very, very unpleasant situation indeed.” Entire text of speech.

Passing the Torch: Family tradition to sit in the suffrage wagon

Hana sitting in "Spirit of 1776"

My niece Hana, shown here, represents the fourth generation in my family to sit in the “Spirit of 1776,” my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon. It was a tradition in my family to be photographed in the wagon, and it was also a way of passing the torch of story to the next generation. Few summers passed without my mother gathering up us kids, marching us over to my grandfather’s house. He opened the garage door, dragged out grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon, and my mother took our photos. Of course it took me many years to get to the point where I was ready to pass the torch to the next generation, and it takes many forms. In this podcast, I’m being interviewed about my grandmother by Marzia Dessi, a student at Northern New Mexico College, during February 2011. Marzia’s interested in our history, the woman’s suffrage movement, and how the past relates to young women today. Listen in!

“Stories of Smarts, Tactics, Courage and Stick-to-it-iveness”

Bonnie Smith of Boston, MA says she may not be related to the American suffragists by family, but she’s related “profoundly in spirit.” Bonnie has a great web site worth checking out, an ebook about how to create a women’s history trail in your community, and an enthusiasm that won’t quit.

She says: “I recently gave a walking tour in downtown Boston of women’s history sites for an international group of women economists who were attending a conference at Simmons College. It changed my life, and every talk or tour I have given ever since.

“These women were from all over the world, including parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They asked very specific questions about tactics, how things worked (courts, government, etc.). They wanted to know exactly how people got it done. I suddenly realized that I WAS TALKING TO THE LUCY STONES OF THESE COUNTRIES. They wanted to know tactics and strategy and they need the support of the global female community.

“I believe that we Americans have a special responsibility to support reformers and revolutionaries. . . I believe strongly that ‘our’ stories are inspiring to the world. Despite all of our issues, people do still look to America for inspiration. I would love to see more of ‘our’ suffragists promoted on international sites.”

Bonnie’s perspective on why the story of the 19th amendment isn’t better known is worth checking out: “We still suffer with backlash, with a lack of understanding about the word ‘feminist,’ and with too many people — including the media — promoting the notion that we are in a post-feminist age — which is ridiculous. The big challenge, though, is to teach this information in ways that are inspiring and relevant — to connect the dots to today. All too often, this information is presented in a strident, preachy way and it really doesn’t have to be! These are very inspiring stories of smarts, tactics, courage, and stick-to-it-iveness.”

Visit the web site for Bonnie’s suggestions on how your business can celebrate Women’s History Month.

Sticks and Stones Didn’t Break Their Bones

The advocates of Votes for Women were criticized, called all sorts of names, attacked by onlookers when they marched in parades. They persisted, even when some of their friends suggested that picketing the White House and Congress might be ill advised. Although my grandmother Edna didn’t go to jail (she would have, if not for her fragile health), she supported those who went to jail, stood their ground and suffered the consequences because they believed that they couldn’t count on President Woodrow Wilson to rally the necessary political support for a constitutional amendment. At times they were down to requiring only one or two votes to move the amendment to the next stage of passage. Mary Nolan was the oldest picket at the White House who at age 75, hailed from Florida. She said during her trial: “I am guilty if there is any guilt in the demand for freedom.”

Important Dates to Celebrate This Month:

February 4, 1913 – Birth day for Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”
February 12, 1912 – Juliette Gordon Low established the American Girl Guides, forerunner of the Girl Scouts of America
February 15, 1820 – Susan B. Anthony’s birthday
February 27, 1922 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote

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.

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.