Tag Archives: Elisabeth Freeman

“Sister in Struggle”: Get to know suffragist Elizabeth Freeman

Elizabeth FreemanA great article about suffragist Elizabeth Freeman is the cover story in a recent issue of Pasadena Weekly. Their angle: Elisabeth died there, and the editorial staff was particularly interested in Elisabeth’s contribution to the anti-lynching campaign of 1916. They made a link between Elisabeth’s work and the Michael Brown case in Missouri today, welcome coverage because it illustrates the extent to which many Votes for Women activists had more than one concern, reminiscent of the early women’s rights activists involved in abolition and temperance. Elisabeth receives more attention these days for her activism in the suffrage movement, so this is a welcome addition to what’s available about her life and work. PDF of the Pasadena Weekly article.

See the great web site on Elisabeth Freeman produced by Elisabeth’s great niece Margaret Johnston of Binghamton, NY. Also. “Long Island’s Three Wagon Women” in the New York History blog.

Marguerite's MusingsI’ve been aware of Elizabeth Freeman going back years when I first heard stories about “Great Aunt Elisabeth” from my friend Jane Van De Bogart, a member of the Woodstock town board back when I lived in Woodstock, NY and prowled around local issues with my pen, pad and camera for Woodstock Times. I don’t remember if Jane mentioned her great aunt first or if I trotted out my grandmother Edna Kearns. In any event, one thing led to another.

Two people with family members who’d been suffragists in NYS would sooner or later insist on details and that’s how I found out that not only did Edna and Elizabeth know each other, but they worked together with Rosalie Jones on Long Island on women’s suffrage organizing. As Grandmother Edna Kearns was a Long Island wagon woman, so was Elisabeth Freeman who organized women from diverse backgrounds. Elisabeth also marched with Rosalie Jones to the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC –hardy souls who hiked through bad weather to prove their point.

In 1986 the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon became part of an exhibit about Elisabeth and Edna in Kingston, NY with a seed grant from the NYS Council on the Arts. Jone Miller and the Floating Foundation of Photography in High Falls, NY organized the exhibit which got me started on the long road to bring this part of American history to the attention of a broader audience. Several programs at SUNY New Paltz for Women’s History Month even involved our mothers.

Pick up a rock these days and you’ll find a descendant of a suffrage activist. That’s why I love Elisabeth Freeman. Peg Johnston has picked up the torch from her great aunt and is carrying it high these days. The general public may know about the suffrage movement nationally, but we find out much more by touching into the lives of individuals like Elisabeth, as well as the records and news coverage of clubs and associations on the local level that kept the suffrage issue alive for years. The existence of these organizations, and their ongoing events and activities, gave backbone to the national movement. Leaders at the top can’t do anything without support on the grassroots.

Follow the Suffrage Wagon for news and views of the suffrage movement.

We have an ongoing podcast series: “Playing Politics with the President” that features the work of the National Woman’s Party right at the time of Elisabeth Freeman’s work. Podcast #1. You can listen to the next podcast in the series, #2, this coming weekend.

New York State’s wagon women are Rosalie Jones, Elisabeth Freeman & Edna Kearns: a special for Women’s History Month

Rosalie Gardiner JonesThe “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon in the collection of the NYS Museum is a terrific jumping-off point when telling the suffrage story. New York State is not only the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the U.S., but New York has its three wagon women: Rosalie Jones, Elisabeth Freeman, and Edna Kearns. All three suffrage activists drove horse-drawn wagons on Long Island and beyond that figured prominently in suffrage activist tactics and strategies in the period from 1913 to about 1915.

Only one horse-drawn wagon used for grassroots campaigning remains from this period, and that’s the “Spirit of 1776″ used by Edna Kearns in the collection of the New York State Museum.

Rosalie and Elisabeth garnered considerable attention, especially in rural areas, when they traveled by wagon to Ohio and Washington, DC. Women traveling in a horse-drawn vehicle represented a novel attraction along the road, and it enabled face-to-face contact with many voters who otherwise would not have heard the women’s message.

See video on Rosalie Jones. Elisabeth Freeman’s great niece, Peg Johnston, has been telling Elisabeth’s story through a web site loaded with detail. Long Island historian Natalie Naylor considers suffragist Rosalie Jones one of her favorite characters from history. See Natalie Naylor’s book that features Roaslie Jones, as does the book on Long Island suffragists by Antonia Petrash.

And of course, there’s my grandmother Edna Kearns who has been inspiring me for years to learn more about the suffrage movement and spread the word through Suffrage Wagon News Channel. The great part is that Rosalie, Elisabeth and Edna worked together in the cause, and today we carry on the message of this early wave of voting activists.

Suffrage hikers to Washington DC are captured on film

Suffragist Elisabeth Freeman on her soapbox. From the web site elisabethfreeman.org published by her great niece, Peg Johnston.

There’s very little film footage from the suffrage movement, so this 80-second clip from the National Film Preservation Foundation is a treasure. It’s entitled “On to Washington.” The occasion is the suffrage hiking march with Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman and others who headed south to Washington, DC to join the suffrage parade scheduled to coincide with the inauguration of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. My grandparents Edna and Wilmer Kearns marched in that parade, along with Serena Kearns, my mother’s older sister who was born in 1905.

Grandmother Edna Kearns worked on Long Island suffrage organizing with both Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman. Jones was born and raised on Long Island where she carried out a significant amount of grassroots suffrage work. Elisabeth Freeman was born in England and became a paid organizer for the  movement. Rosalie, Elisabeth, Edna Kearns (along with Wilmer and Serena Kearns) and others started out on the march to Albany from NYC to see the governor about Votes for Women the first week in January of 1914.

Elisabeth Freeman’s web site is published by Elisabeth Freeman’s great niece, Peg Johnston of Binghamton, NY. Visit the Suffrage Wagon News Channel’s new platform.

Water Dumped on Suffs’ Heads

Speaking from soap boxes in the street wasn’t an activity without its risks, as is noted by this June 30, 1914 New York Times article about an associate of my grandmother, Martha Klatschken, who had cold water dumped on her head when she was out advocating for Votes for Women at Twelfth Street and Avenue B in NYC.

With the observance of Martin Luther King Day this week, there’s also an awareness of other civil rights movements in the U.S., including the woman’s suffrage movement.

Below: Go to the web site about Elizabeth Freeman for more information: www.elizabethfreeman.org

Elisabeth Freeman on a soapbox, speaking for Votes for Women

Long and Short Suffrage Hikes

A rare and precious film clip of 1913 showing Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman leaving on a hike to Washington, DC for suffrage gives a sense of, not only their courage, but the intense interest in women voting and the need to accelerate the pressure. The story in my family was that my grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns, planned to take the wagon, the “Spirit of 1776,” on the long trip with Rosalie and Elisabeth, but she backed out at the last minute for health reasons. Edna went to the big march in Washington, but couldn’t commit to the long ordeal of the hikers underwent.

Edna, her husband Wilmer Kearns and their daughter Serena Kearns accompanied Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman on the 1914 hike to Albany in January, no small accomplishment. Hiking as a media event in the suffrage movement received considerable publicity.