Category Archives: New York

What did Grandmother Edna Kearns say when standing on her campaign wagon?

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.

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

Marching to Albany on New Year’s Day! Brrr

I should have known I had “marching on Albany” in my DNA. It would have made life so much easier. And it had to have been a stretch for my grandparents, Edna and Wilmer Kearns (marked on the photo above), when they headed out with suffrage activist Rosalie Jones and others from Long Island on New Year’s Day in 1914 for the trek to Albany, NY to speak to the governor about Votes for Women. Hiking was quite a media event, and the NY Times was there as the hikers started north. My grandmother Edna sent on-the-scene reports back to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle where she was an editor for suffrage news. The photo below is from the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. Edna and Wilmer and their oldest daughter Serena are seen there, on the right, walking near the flag.

“Strength Without Compromise”

People are interested in the history of woman’s suffrage. Author Teri P. Gary is finding this out as she travels upstate New York to speak to groups about her research and the story of the movement in Washington, Warren and Saratoga Counties. She’s been at about 40 appearances during the past year and is about to take a break so she has time for writing. Her book Strength Without Compromise:  Womanly Influence and Political identity in Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century Rural Upstate New York (2009) isn’t a candidate for the best-seller list. But it’s hot among certain audiences of people hungry to know more about this part of history. Teri has three more appearances scheduled:

Monday, Nov. 1 – at 7pm – Book talk and signing at the United Church in Greenwich, NY for the Washington County HIstorical Society (and is open to the public)

Sunday, Nov. 7 – (11am – 4pm – signing books all day at The Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY at the Queensbury Hotel (this is the largest book fair in the Adirondacks!)

Saturday, Mar. 19, 2100 – 2pm – Book talk and signing at Hubbard Hall (an 1878 historic opera house) in Cambridge, NY – in conjunction with singer/songwriter Bob Warren, who will present his musical composition, “Only the Message Mattered,” about the life and work of Susan B. Anthony in the Greenwich, New York area.

Inspired by the true stories of Lucy Allen, Chloe Sisson and the Political Equality Club of small town Easton, NY, Strength Without Compromise focuses on the quest for political equality as carried out by suffragists in the rural areas of northern upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century. To order Teri’s book, contact her at: terig1189@yahoo.com

Edna’s Hometown of Rockville Centre has a Woman Mayor

On the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, the newspaper covering Nassau County on Long Island featured Edna Kearns and a roundup of the number of women holding elected positions on Long Island. Check it out! I’m sure Edna thought it perfectly reasonable that Rockville Centre, where she lived, should have a woman mayor, Mary Bossart. While an accomplishment, it should be noted that Mary Bossart was elected in 2007 as the first woman mayor for Rockville Centre. She served as a village trustee for eight years.