Tag Archives: Edna Kearns

Albany women’s exhibit has the “Spirit of 1776″

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.

Evidence of Edna Kearns’ whirlwind campaigning can be seen at state capitol

New York State Capitol, where Edna Kearns campaign wagon is on display.

Here, at last! Albany, New York, that is. Arrived yesterday and made a quick visit to the state capitol to see Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon on exhibit near the Hall of Governors at the state capitol building. It’s a magnificent display. And reason enough to drag a news clipping out of the archives.

This column written by Edna Buckman Kearns  about the Long Island suffrage campaign sets out the facts, as well as the names of the participants and the details of grassroots organizing. It’s a timely reminder of the difficult and persistent work on the grassroots carried forward in the 72-year struggle to win the right to vote for women in the United States.

Edna’s sister-in-law Lulu Kearns from Beavertown, PA joined in with the grassroots organizing. And the Long Island communities visited, as well as everyone involved, are noted. They called it a “Whirlwind Campaign” for good reason.

Grandmother Edna and her co-workers knew they were making history. I found references to this in her letters and newspaper columns. And even a sweet reminder from my grandfather Wilmer Kearns who wrote to Edna when she was away at a conference to bring her up to date on domestic news. At the end of one letter, he reminded her in a postscript to “Make History.”

Headed for Albany, NY to see Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon?

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.

I love this story of Grandmother Edna Kearns!


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.

Visit our updated Suffrage Wagon News Channel platform at suffragewagon.org

The local suffrage wrinkle: Debates on Long Island street corners

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.

New curriculum materials for “Iron Jawed Angels” film

Grandmother Edna Kearns wouldn’t have had a starring role in “Iron Jawed Angels,” a classic introduction for many about the woman’s suffrage movement. However, she would have been in the office of the National Woman’s Party during the scenes when the suffs picketed the White House. And as such, she would have represented the many grassroots activists it took to win Votes for Women. Check out the mention of Edna in the online magazine, New York History.

Now there’s a curriculum guide available that uses “Iron Jawed Angels” to make history come alive. I haven’t seen the materials myself, but I’m passing them on because they stress the angle of nonviolent social change and its importance in the suffrage movement. Check out the press release. Plus additional information.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel is now on a new platform.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel has migrated!

Check out the new platform for Suffrage Wagon News Channel. The regular blog stays the same: that is, linked to suffragewagon.org        Note that things are organized differently –by news and 60-second history lessons. And the spring special issue of the newsletter is now published. Highlights include new art work by Peter Sinclair of the suffrage wagon, the article by Tara Bloyd in “Albany Kid” about little Serena Kearns who was a suffrage poster child, and a great music video about the suffrage movement. Also, a special feature: Who’s behind “Suffrage Buffs of America”?

Grandmother Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon on exhibit in Albany, NY

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.

Suffrage pageants were cutting edge for their time

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.

Be patient. Suffrage Wagon News Channel is migrating to a new platform. This means the links aren’t working throughout and they’re in the process of being fixed.

Forty barefoot maidens in a suffrage victory dance

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.”

Men joined the bandwagon for Votes for Women

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

Suffragists were publicity hounds . . .

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:

How could a wealthy woman like Alva Belmont be a radical Votes for Women advocate?