Category Archives: New York State Museum

Torchlight meetings, auto parades = wagons got out the word!

Picture a torchlight meeting, an automobile parade, and open-air meeting. Huntington, New York piled on the welcome when my grandmother Edna Kearns and the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon hit town. Long Island activist Rosalie Jones drove her yellow suffrage campaign wagon in the parade as well.

Horse-drawn wagons may seem quaint to us today, but at the time it was quite a stunt for women to be out in the streets. They took advantage of the novelty by decorating their campaign wagons with Votes for Women banners. Come to think of it, a horse-drawn wagon put in the service of any cause today will attract some attention. Marketing plans were relatively new back then, and the suffrage movement activists took advantage of every opportunity to spread the word.

An article of July 27, 1913 notes that Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon was also known as a “one hoss shay.” Geoffrey Stein, who’s now retired from the New York State Museum as its transportation curator, told me in the past that Edna’s horse-drawn campaign wagon (used on Long Island and in New York City) is representative of other such wagons used by the suffrage movement for parades, as speaking platforms, and more. Most of these wood vehicles, like the yellow wagon used by Rosalie Jones, weren’t preserved and they were put to other uses after 1920.

I’m curious. Google may be great about some things, but my search came up short when I typed in the word “votersvilles” which is mentioned in the last line of the linked article. Anyone know what this means?

U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey. . . on Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon

U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey

“Thank you for contacting my office with regard to your Grandmother Edna’s suffrage wagon. Her story is an outstanding example of how women here in New York forged the path to the passage of the 19th Amendment and I am confident that people in the 22nd Congressional District and beyond would welcome the opportunity to see this part of our history on permanent exhibition.”

From a July 27th letter from U.S. Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, 22nd District, New York, to Marguerite Kearns.

News from the NYS Museum

No one likes the belt tightening underway in organizations and institutions across the nation. And the distribution of pink slips in offices at the New York State Museum is no exception. The museum’s employees held their collective breath in 2010 when 12 staffers were laid off, and then again recently. There’s a breeze blowing through the museum these days when one considers that one third of its staff disappeared in just over a year due to layoffs, forced and voluntary retirements. In the past six months, the museum has closed its doors on Sundays, removed some exhibits and contracted its cafeteria out for cultural events. Some observers are wondering if the state museum will be able to carry out its legislative mandates.

How will this impact my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon that sits stored in a museum warehouse in the Albany area? No one knows at this point. With the 100th anniversary of women voting in NYS coming up in 2017, there are many reasons why New York should be planning an enormous celebration –one that will highlight the extraordinary accomplishment of New York women that was a tipping point in the national campaign.

All the more reason for us to continue gathering support for museum officials and those in the state’s executive chambers charged with budgetary matters to take the necessary steps to get the suffrage wagon out of the warehouse and on permanent exhibit. Let’s see what happens next!