The 1913 suffrage centennial events in Washington, DC March 1-3, 2013 has people participating from all over the nation. I can’t be part of it, but I’m “there” in spirit, as is Grandmother Edna Kearns and tens of thousands of our ancestors. The 1913 parade was a visual representation of decades of work on the local, state, and national levels, and this weekend’s centennial parade on Sunday, March 3rd represents the vision of the tens of thousands of grassroots suffrage activists that it took to win the vote for women. They passed the torch to successive generations of activists, and they’re showing up in Washington this weekend.
Grandmother Edna knew that the story had to be preserved, not only for American history but also for us today. Edna sent back reports of the 1913 parade to New York City metropolitan newspapers. Here’s a selection in her own words: LINK. She reported how the marchers were slapped, insulted, and abused as they marched in the streets.
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Grandmother Edna Kearns took the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon to Long Beach in July of 1913. When she drove the suffrage campaign wagon onto the beach, it caused quite a stir, not to mention when she stood in the waves and wore a yellow bathing cap and a yellow sash while holding signs that were described as a Votes for Women “voiceless speech.” Silence was a tactic used by the movement, and the most famous example of this can be found in the “Silent Sentinels” pickets of the White House in 1917, which Grandmother Edna was a part of, as well.
This article –”Suffrage Talk Amid Waves” is descriptive enough to give us a sense of what it must have been like sitting on the beach that day and watching the suffrage demonstration. Silent marching in parades and witnessing is getting attention today from activists who continue the silent tradition that was also practiced by the suffragists. More often than not, the suffs don’t get credit for it.
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.
The suffrage campaign wagon used by suffragist Edna Kearns on Long Island and in NYC is expected to be on exhibit through the summer of 2012 at the Hall of the Governors in the state capitol in Albany, NY. To refresh your memory. . . check out the article below that appeared in the NY Times on August 1, 1913 at the time of the wagon’s presentation to the state suffrage movement.
This suffrage campaign wagon is representative of other horse-drawn wagons used in parades and in grassroots organizing for the suffrage movement. It’s likely that there are only two of these wagons existing today that were pressed into service for the Votes for Women cause.
One is Edna Kearns’ wagon, now in the permanent collection of the New York State Museum and on exhibit now in the Hall of Governors in Albany. The other suffrage campaign wagon is the Smithsonian’s collection. Grandmother Edna Kearns was a squirrel when it came to documenting her suffrage organizing work, and the suffrage wagon has a history of its very own with the stories about it that I’m in the process of locating, collecting and sharing.
This story is from a New York Tribune article from Grandmother Edna Kearns’ archive documenting her woman’s suffrage activism on Long Island and New York City.
When Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon was presented to the state suffrage organization in 1913, a big crowd was in attendance, and the event received considerable media attention.
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.
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!
Ok, let’s get the not-so-good news over with. We didn’t make the $5,000 goal on Kickstarter. But let’s not forget the $1200 grant from the Puffin Foundation and the pledges and support from many many friends. Thank you!
In the Good News Department, Mayor David Coss of Santa Fe, New Mexico has joined an ever-growing number of people around the country who are supporting the New York State Museum in its efforts to obtain the funding it needs to put my grandmother Edna Buckman Kearns’ suffrage campaign wagon on permanent exhibit in Albany, NY (the state capitol). The museum has plans for a renovation that would feature the wagon, among other things. However, funding has been held up indefinitely because of budget issues.
Subscribe to this blog if you’d like to stay in touch with those of us who are following the the suffrage campaign wagon on its journey to be seen by you and the general public. By subscribing, you’ll receive updates a few times each month –not enough to clog your email account, but enough to stay on top of the wagon’s progress. The subscription form is at the top of the right-side column.
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", Edna Buckman Kearns, Kickstarter, New York State Women's History, Puffin Foundation, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Check out “Bust Magazine” online for an affirmative last-minute appeal to raise the $5,000 slated to fund the production of a professional version of the story about the suffrage campaign wagon used by my grandmother Edna in the Votes for Women campaign. And please pass the word. I still believe in miracles.
Here’s the link!
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 19th amendment, Kickstarter, right to vote, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Grandmother Edna's suffrage campaign wagon
My dream is that my grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon will be put on permanent exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. And that the edited documentary I’m in the process of producing will be played on a monitor next to the wagon. An unrealistic vision? I don’t think so. It’s my dream and I stand determined to reach the goal of raising $5,000 to professionally edit the work in progress. Which is why I’m cranking up the Kickstarter campaign. There are 31 days to go before the end of the campaign. Honor the hard work that went into the state and national Votes for Women campaigns.
“It is doubtful if any man, even among suffrage men, ever realized what the suffrage struggle came to mean to women before the end was allowed in America. How much of time, patience, how much work, energy and aspiration, how much faith, hope, how much despair went into it. It leaves its mark on one, such a struggle. It fills the days and it rides the nights. Working, eating, drinking, sleeping, it is there. . .”
Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler (suffrage leaders)
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 19th amendment, Kickstarter, New York State Women's History, right to vote, suffragette, suffragist, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Check out the story on my newest project about my grandmother and the “Spirit of 1776,” her suffrage campaign wagon.
And the newsletter from the Santa Fe chapter of the AAUW which said about the March presentation: “The March branch meeting was one not to miss. We had such a good time. Marguerite Kearns regaled us with tales of her grandmother who was a very active suffragist in New York State. She also had a slide show of artifacts from her grandmother’s life. Gerri Gribi taught us a suffragist song and she also sang several women’s folk songs for us. Talk about steel-willed women! Those Victorian ladies were a force to behold. And we are beholden to them.”
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 19th amendment, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Tagged AAUW, The New Agenda
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.
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 60-Second History Lesson, right to vote, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
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.
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!
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 19th amendment, 60-Second History Lesson, New York State Women's History, right to vote, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
Help us stand on the shoulders of courageous, determined women whose insistence on winning the right to vote carried forward the ideals of this country’s founders. Play an important part in telling the story through the Kickstarter campaign, “Hitch a Ride on the ‘Spirit of 1776.’” Make sure that an important part of our nation’s history isn’t forgotten. Back the work in progress about my grandmother who represents the thousands of women who persisted until Votes for Women was won. No money changes hands unless we reach our goal. Get on the bandwagon now! It’s Women’s History Month and there’s no time like the present.
Posted in "Spirit of 1776", 19th amendment, civil rights, human rights, right to vote, Suffrage Wagon, Votes for Women, voting rights, woman's suffrage, women, women suffrage, Women's Suffrage, women's history
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.
My mother –Wilma Buckman Kearns– was born within a week of that historic day in November 1920 when ALL American women voted for the first time. Wilma’s mother, Edna Buckman Kearns, was a New York State suffragist who had spent more than a decade of her life, working full time on Votes for Women. And instead of being able to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the suffragists, my own mother would face the Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, World War II, and raising children during the 1950s and 1960s. It was a difficult time to be a strong independent woman. It took me years to fully appreciate the strong shoulders on which I stand. Wilma played a key role in preserving her mother’s suffrage campaign wagon. She passed away in November of 1997.