Tag Archives: Edna May Buckman

“I walk on my suffragist grandmother’s carpet”: Marguerite’s Musings

Marguerite's Musingsby Marguerite Kearns

My writing space at home has two pieces of Oriental carpet –sections of the rug Grandmother Edna Kearns had in her home over 100 years ago. The carpet feels sturdy under my feet.  Though these remnants are now frayed and attract dog hair, I’d never expected this floor covering to have  lasted so long. But it has, just like the suffrage stories  Grandmother Edna passed down to me through my mother and of course, Edna’s own articles, stories and writings.

I can identify only a few things as having been touched by my grandmother. There’s the carpet, Edna’s tea tray, her silverware and letters, and suffrage archive. I walk on Edna’s carpet daily. Often I’m down on my knees tucking under frayed edges. When others mention how important it is to walk in other people’s shoes, I stand on Grandmother Edna’s carpet, listening to voices now faint (but growing louder) in this fast-moving world.

Suffrage stories are exciting. And they’re threatening. They’re a reminder of a time of grassroots organizing –people united in their determination to make change. We live in a time again of women rising, and at the same time, we are witnessing the last hurrah of a social system losing ground that no amount of legislation and other obstacles placed by backlash movements can change.

Grandmother Edna Kearns’ life has transformed me. The suffrage stories that have come down from her generation suggest the many ways in which it must have been a heady experience to have been involved in the suffrage movement. It represented a rush of sensation in a dead environment where education, marriage, political and personal power were limited, or for many, non existent. Women made many compromises, but the cat was out of the bag. Equality was on the horizon, and there was no turning back.

Women understood the value of working together, building constituencies, power and control through a nonviolent social revolution. As I walk on the carpet each day, I remember the legacy of our grandmothers and great grandmothers, as the power of their suffrage stories grow larger in spirit. The carpet’s surface is worn and beautiful in its strong threads.

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Marguerite’s Musings: “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement”

Marguerite's MusingsIf there’s a book that’s rocking the cradle of the women’s rights movement in NYS, it’s Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement by Antonia Petrash. The work was recently published by The History Press, and it adds volumes to what has been revealed in the past about what has happened out on the island.

Long Island historian Natalie Naylor has also covered a lot of ground going back to the earliest accounts of Long Island women; she touches on the suffrage movement, especially with her excellent research of suffrage activist Rosalie Jones. Antonia Petrash picks up on this and takes off with subject matter she clearly loves. An entire book featuring individual suffragists is an important contribution to what is known. Antonia approaches the subject as a journalist and storyteller, and she’s really good at what she does.

Long Island suffrage movementOf the 12 chapters featuring individual women in Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement, human interest abounds. The author hooks the reader on the individual activist and a particular tale –usually something with conflict and drama– before backtracking to telling about her birth and early years leading to contributions to the Votes for Women movement. Long Island claims some feisty and notable suffrage activists, including Alma Vanderbilt Belmont, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Lucy Burns, Elisabeth Freeman, Louisine Havemeyer, Rosalie Gardner Jones, Edna Buckman Kearns, Harriet Burton Laidlaw, Katherine Duer Mackay, Theodore Roosevelt, Ida Bunce Sammis, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and others.

There’s a range of individuals from working women and grassroots activists, to wealthy women and high government officials who put themselves on the line. Antonia doesn’t claim that she has delivered a definitive survey of the Long Island suffrage movement. There’s a great deal more to say, Antonia points out, and this book is a welcome contribution, as well a delight and something worth adding to everyone’s Votes for Women library.

Antonia has her own blog about the Long Island movement. Check it out. She’s passionate about the Long Island suffrage activists. I captured some of her enthusiasm last year when I visited Antonia in Glen Cove, NY and documented some of her thoughts and comments about her work. Listen to her remarks from last year before the book’s publication. You’ll see what I mean.

Antonia’s book about Long Island suffrage movement (45 seconds). Highlights of work about Long Island suffragists (32 seconds). Edna Kearns’ contribution to suffrage movement on Long Island ( 44 seconds). The importance of New York’s suffrage movement (35 seconds). Why the suffrage movement story has been buried (39 seconds). The influential role of Long Island (NY) women (40 seconds). Celebrating the New York State suffrage centennial (42 seconds).  How Antonia became interested in the subjects of equal rights and suffrage (59 seconds). Two books Antonia wrote previously about extraordinary women in New York and Connecticut (56 seconds). Why the suffrage movement is inspiring. (60 seconds).

“Marguerite’s Musings” are a regular feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Bonded after wearing Grandmother Edna Kearns’ clothes: Marguerite’s Musings

MusingWagonby Marguerite Kearns

The first time I wore Grandmother Edna’s dresses, it was summer. I was about ten years old when we spent hours every day at the playhouse my father built –a small building in the back yard with green shingles on the roof and openings for windows Dad never finished.

My mother told me: “Here, go and play with Grandmother Edna’s dresses and her Votes for Women sashes.” I dug into the box. My brothers and younger sister weren’t all that interested in dress ups, so I had the cardboard box to myself with its musty-smelling thin fabric, lace, and flowing long skirts.

I marched in imaginary New York City suffrage parades and wrecked the dresses, tore and dragged them through mud. They’d been stored since Grandmother Edna’s death in 1934 –unwashed after she wore them. The sensation of dressing up like Edna never left me. Throughout life I’ve always loved high collars, long skirts, petticoats, and broaches worn at the neckline.

BONDED THROUGH WEARING EDNA’S CLOTHES

When my grandmother’s clothes touched mine, we bonded. I confided to Grandmother Edna Kearns in whispers, became convinced she worried about me and protected my secrets. My friends heard every story my mother told me about Edna’s horse-drawn wagon, the “Spirit of 1776,” how she wrote articles for New York City and Long Island newspapers, and marched in Votes for Women parades –especially the big one down in Washington, DC in 1913.

Edna’s archives fell into my hands in 1982. They’d been stored for years upstairs in my Aunt Serena’s closet. My mother and I sorted newspaper clippings and letters in an attempt to make sense of all this suffrage history. There were names of organizations I’d never heard of, plus events and speaking engagements spanning more than a decade from about 1911 through 1920.

GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST AT TURN OF 20TH CENTURY

Only years later did I recognize it as an archive of a grassroots suffrage activist at the turn of the 20th century. And then it became more than this. I learned about organizing for a cause as I sorted through Edna’s archives. Edna covered every inch of Long Island. In her free time, she participated in or organized events in New York City, such as a pageant at the Armory or being part of a suffrage program at the Metropolitan Opera. Though I’d never read Grandmother Edna’s writings all the years of storage in Aunt Serena’s closet, I was surprised to discover my own writing at the newspaper where I worked was almost identical in style to Edna’s. More than one person among my friends and family says I have Grandmother Edna in my DNA.

“Marguerite’s Musings” is a feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel. 

Follow the Suffrage Wagon to stay up to date with news and stories of the suffrage movement. We’ve been highlighting events, suffrage centennials, trends, and more since 2009. Tweets about suffrage news and views since 2010. Find out about Edna Kearns, the womens suffrage movement, how the 19th amendment came about, the campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776″ that is today in the New York State Museum and how it is the featured suffrage centennial in 2013 on this suffrage news channel.

What was Edna Kearns doing in March 100 years ago?

New York City and Long Island suffragist Edna Kearns wrote Votes for Women columns for the newspaper and she responded to letters to the editor! Here, she answers a man who writes to the paper about how women have it good and they should stop complaining. In another piece (below), Edna refers to the big 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC and then spells out how the New York State suffrage campaign is shaping up. The suffs realized the importance of press coverage, and Edna did her part in terms of keeping the issue alive in the newspapers. For an overview about Suffrage Wagon News Channel. LINK.

Large crowd today in Washington, DC in 2013 for 1913 centennial suffrage parade

Washington, DC newspaper from the archives of Edna B. Kearns. If you like this and other related articles, visit us at Suffrage Wagon News Channel. And subscribe. See other parade highlights: The 1913 Washington, DC suffrage parade from the archives of Edna Buckman Kearns. Link #1. Link #2. Link #3.1913ParadeNewsEDIT
1913ParadeNewspaper2

Happy Birthday, Grandmother Edna Kearns!

ColumnMKMarguerite’s Musings:

Grandmother Edna was born on Christmas day in 1882. My mother told me how Edna hated having her birthday on Christmas. She claimed to always get shirt shrift as a child when it came to gifts and attention on her birthday.

For Edna, Christmas meant books as gifts; each book contained sweet messages from family members. Edna’s gifts of books to her two daughters on Christmases past ended up in my hands as an eager young reader with the date on the inside cover and a Merry Christmas from “Dearie,” which is how her daughters addressed her, and not “Mother.” Oh, what a scandal it was in those days not to call one’s mother by her role. I loved the Louisa May Alcott series starting with Little Women, all the way through to  Jo’s Boys.

Christmas meant holly and mistletoe to Grandmother Edna, plus hand-made sachets of dried roses and lavender, storytelling next to the fireplace as holiday tree candles burned on Christmas eve and the kitchen buzzed with talk of fruitcake, candied pineapple and citrus… MORE of the article!

Marguerite’s Musings is a feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Special feature for the upcoming holidays: Gifts for the suffrage buff in your life.

Thanksgiving letter from Edna Buckman Kearns to her childhood friend Bessie

Thanksgiving 1904

Dear Bessie,  Remember the promise we made to each other before my June wedding about the two of us getting together at the Russian tea place over the Christmas holidays? Wilmer and I might come down to Philadelphia. And Mama and Papa are thinking about traveling up to New York, but no decision yet. If we make it home, I’ll be so happy to see you.

Being a married woman is so different than I ever imagined. A long train trip with Wilmer all the way to St. Louis for our honeymoon was exhausting enough, and I could barely concentrate on the exhibits and crowds at the world’s fair. We came back earlier than expected. Being in New York City makes me realize what a country girl I’ve been when it comes to becoming a woman and growing up overnight. I’ll get used to it, I suppose.

The two of us I must talk over tea. My mother’s generation is so much in the attic when it comes to things of this world. So New York is the best thing that’s happened to me. People speak languages I didn’t know existed, even though I studied geography and was convinced I knew it all.

The men Wilmer works with at the accounting firm had dinner at a restaurant downtown and took their wives along. One of them, who grew up in New Jersey, talked all through the meal about awful it is that women are allowed to vote in Wyoming and how nobody knows anymore whether a woman’s visit to a neighbor is to solicit votes or get support to run for political office.

I laughed, but only to myself. Have been taking the bus now and then for meetings about women voting. Getting used to New York and being married is plenty for now because I tire easily. My fingers are crossed for the two of us having tea over the holidays.

Thy loving friend, Edna

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