Tag Archives: Marguerite Kearns

Washing sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving day . . .

Thanksgiving1895Marguerite’s Musings:

On Thanksgiving Day I’ll be off  for our 2013 family holiday gathering. It’s a day when I’m not wondering if the laundry basket is full, or the bed made, the carpet vacuumed, or the newspapers picked up from the front porch where they’ve stacked up for days.

On Thanksgiving I’m in charge of washing sweet potatoes to bake and serve with butter. While scrubbing the sweet potatoes, I’m remembering the story of the 100th monkey –about how a single monkey on an island discovers how to wash a sweet potato in a stream, eat it, and not struggle later with grit grinding down on his/her tongue or churning down in the gut.

Another monkey watches and washes his/her sweet potato until there’s a tipping point when the 100th monkey follows the same routine. Then, all the monkeys on one island instantly wash and eat their sweet potatoes in the same way which happens without any sweet potato washing lectures or workshops or demonstrations.

The insightful lesson on how to wash sweet potatoes travels on invisible jet streams of knowledge, or the collective monkey unconscious, until monkeys all over the world wash their sweet potatoes in the same way to clean off the grime and dirt before sitting down to dinner. This is what comes to mind when I’m troubled about so many critical situations facing us on Planet Earth and how change often occurs on levels far beyond our awareness and comprehension.

This morning I carried my empty glass bottles out to the driveway recycling bin and remembered back to the 1970s, when I was young, when Toshi and Pete Seeger practiced glass and newspaper recycling for everyone to see. Pete, America’s troubadour, didn’t pay someone to wash his sweet potatoes or sort his newspaper from glass. The Seegers modeled recycling for everyone from the little retreat that Pete built where the Seeger family lived and overlooked the Hudson River near Beacon, NY.

One day Pete Seeger drove up to the parking lot of Green Haven prison in the Mid-Hudson Valley in his old pickup filled to the brim with bottles and plastic and papers, on route to a recycling center. He grabbed his old banjo from the truck’s front seat and marched up to the prison’s front door, reported to the guard station, presented his driver’s license, and filled out forms and papers so he could enter the cement fortress and visit with those of us in the prison school. Pete opened his mouth as wide as he could and belted out one song after another.

The officers in the towers above the 30-foot walls stared down at Pete Seeger’s pickup filled with bottles and newspapers as they witnessed one of the first monkeys on the block wash away the grime and dirt and gravel from a highly-evolved institution with its electric chair, barbed wire fences, and gun towers with guards and machine guns. That’s how change happens, in increments, as words and deeds are passed around.

Image above by Marianna Sloan (1875-1954). The artwork for the Women’s Edition of The Press. From the Library of Congress. Color lithograph.

Marguerite’s Musings is a feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel, the “go to” place since 2009, for news and views of the suffrage movement and how the movement inspires us today.

A tale of lemon meringue pie, women’s suffrage style

Marguerite's MusingsMarguerite’s Musings:

When Thanksgiving comes around each year, I love to cook and become the center of attention like I did at age ten.

My mother Wilma didn’t mind telling people about how she was a terrible cook. This was always accompanied by the explanation that her own mother, Edna Kearns, was a suffrage and women’s rights activist, and not a terribly good cook either. Because Edna had died when my mother was a young teen, even boiling water had been a challenge for my mom. So, in the absence of any of the other young’ins in my family stepping forward to care about Sunday dinners, I vowed to become a good cook.

Photo by Annie MoleLemon meringue was a delicate and delicious dessert surprise –the one thing I could carry from the kitchen and present to everyone at the dinner table, guaranteed to evoke waves of comments and compliments.

Lemon meringue pie was lip-smacking good. Roll out the pie dough. Clean up the flour mess. Make everything from scratch. No lemon pudding mix. Not me.

I dug into the back kitchen cabinet for my mom’s double boiler to prepare the lemon custard with fresh lemons, egg yokes and sugar. Yum. Bake the pie and hold the meringue until the end. Then, beat the egg whites with sugar until they form a stuff peak and spread over the top of the baked custard pie. That’s what I remember. Place the pie back in the oven and toast to a quick brown.

“You’ll make a good wife for some man, someday,” my father said after polishing off every crumb on his plate and standing in line for more. I don’t ever remember making lemon meringue pie for any of my husbands. Nor do I ever remember them making it for me. Perhaps it’s time to search for a women’s suffrage lemon meringue pie recipe as Thanksgiving approaches. There are several great suffrage movement recipe books online. I can see my dad peeking around the corner of some heavenly cloud and wondering if I’m searching for a new husband.

Follow Marguerite’s Musings on Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Postings twice a week and a newsletter four times a year. Suffrage Wagon Cooking School has yet to schedule a lesson on making lemon meringue pie. But stay tuned; you never know!

Photo of meringue by Annie Mole.

“Marguerite’s Musings” and feature piece about “Cradle” and Cotton Country

Cradle articleArticle about rocking the Cradle in the Finger Lakes of New York State.

Last week I returned from Texas cotton country where my sister Winifred Culp received an award for her work with NearSea Naturals (and sustainable and organic fabrics) from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative in Lubbock, Texas. Grandmother Edna would be proud. One hundred years ago Edna launched her “Better Babies” campaign on Long Island and who would have thought it would have been controversial? Some Long Island women thought it inappropriate to mix the issues of voting and everyday life. Not so, said Edna. And I’m seeing, more than ever, the inter-relatedness of issues when once compartmentalizing seemed so neat and tidy.

It’s been a busy two months starting with the “Cradle” blogging tour in September. Olivia Twine and I are still blogging about our whirlwind trip through the Finger Lakes region of New York State. My article about Grandmother Edna’s “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon was published in the fall issue of New York Archives. And Suffrage Wagon Cooking School moves forward to its second recipe and lesson to celebrate November birthdays starting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 198th birthday tea party (pull up a chair to the virtual party table) and a spread featuring traditional English scones brought to us by Chef Cutting.

The Texas organic cotton growers rolled out the red carpet for us in Texas this past week, and I learned more about organic cotton production than I could have ever imagined. Women as a voting block have many issues on their minds today, especially safety, as far as food, fabric, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. What we wear is just as important as the quality of food we put in our mouths. Logical? Cotton seems like such an American apple-pie product until you realize how much poison it takes to keep insects from eating the cotton ball in one gulp.

Other news items from Suffrage Wagon News Channel for November 2013. Stay current on new comic book about suffragist Margaret Sanger and updates on the upcoming film ‘Suffragette” in the UK.

Follow the suffrage wagon with postings twice a week and a special newsletter four times a year? Where else do you get  up-to-date news about the suffrage movement, as well as today’s news and views and stories? New York History features my writing with Olivia Twine, as well as LetsRockTheCradle.com. We’re gearing up to shake up the “Cradle” of the U.S. women’s rights movement in upstate New York (the Finger Lakes district). How about joining us?

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.

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.