Tag Archives: Nassau County

Rosalie Gardiner Jones: The Story and the Video

Rosalie Gardiner Jones

Rosalie Gardiner Jones of Long Island drove a yellow horse-drawn wagon that on occasion campaigned with Edna Kearns and the “Spirit of 1776” campaign wagon. Among Long Island’s suffragists, Rosalie knew how to reach out to the movers and shakers. She also networked with other grassroots activists ands reached out to the public by standing on street corners, gathering petitions, and taking bold moves such as “hiking” or marching to the state capitol in Albany. Rosalie worked closely with any and all who put themselves on the line for Votes for Women.

Less known was the way in which Rosalie Jones was a maverick in her own family. Her mother, Mary or Mrs. Oliver Livingston Jones, was opposed to women voting, as well as Rosalie’s sister. Rosalie was the kind of rebel who didn’t hesitate to use her family’s social standing and the resources that came with it to leverage the cause of women’s rights. This was always a danger when parents sent their daughter to college, as they had with Rosalie, but relatively few took advantage of the associated opportunities as Rosalie Gardiner Jones did.

Rosalie Jones convinced photographers to document suffrage marchers if she couldn’t get the Bain News Service to show up at a particular event. She knocked down doors to get access to newspaper editors and reporters. Few questioned her bold moves because Rosalie Jones always had a good lead or unique angle. She wasn’t shy and retiring.

When Rosalie organized small bands to march from New York City to the state capitol at Albany, NY, for example, she marched in front with a megaphone and called herself the General. Rosalie Jones posed for photos as if she were on stage at the Metropolitcan Opera. When Edna Kearns rode her “Spirit of 1776” wagon around Long Island, Rosalie occasionally joined in with what she called her little yellow wagon that saw service in upstate New York as well as all the way to Ohio with activist Elisabeth Freeman to benefit the suffrage movement there.

Rosalie had reporters write about the time she went up in an airplane to distribute suffrage literature from the air. These writers covered every step of the way during the 1912 suffrage hike to Washington, as well as a hike to join the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC in 1913, plus another march to Albany in 1914 to meet with the governor. Rosalie Jones was good news copy. Any New York Times reporter could attest to that. Check out the Rosalie Jones video that’s a special feature!

For more information about Rosalie Jones, see “Women in Long Island’s Past” by Natalie Naylor and “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Campaign” by Antonia Petrash. Follow the suffrage wagon with twice weekly postings and a quarterly newsletter. News and views of the suffrage movement, events and centennials. And don’t forget to get a seat in the front of the blogging bus that’s leaving soon for a tour of the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US.

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.

One hundred years ago on Long Island: Suffrage Stories

Suffrage Wagon Stories

Have a cup of tea with your suffrage stories and fortune cookies

by Marguerite Kearns

PART I:

The suffrage movement was big news in 1913, but Votes for Women activists had their eye on Long Island well before the turn of the 20th century. Women, in general, organized themselves into a complex web of local clubs and community groups throughout the island to promote everything from reading circles to the support of community institutions, the establishment of libraries, and a wide variety of social issues.

Newspaper accounts document that the state suffrage association sent representatives to Long Island women’s club meetings prior to 1900. On occasion, these women were keynote speakers at club luncheons and special events. Often it was enough for a newspaper article to document the presence of suffragists at club meetings which implied that Long Island represented fertile ground for the cause.

The first Long Island suffrage organizing meetings were held in private homes and informal settings. Organizing for the vote became more overt in 1912 with a “whirlwind campaign” of organizing that was covered in the state suffrage association’s newsletter and the local press.

Then on June 24, 1913, NYS Woman Suffrage Association president Harriet May Mills wrote to suffrage organizer Edna Kearns in a letter about her concern that the Women’s Political Union had been sending organizers to Long Island and  the state suffrage association better get busy making its mark. Mills wrote: “The W.P.U. has two workers on the Island and is trying to steal the whole of it.” She asked Kearns exactly when their volunteers would hit the ground running. Kearns replied that she was ready to take on the challenge, and she expected others to join her immediately. . .

Check out these videos of about one minute each that illustrate the Long Island movement organizing for Votes for Women.

WATCH FOR PART II OF THIS ARTICLE ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF SUFFRAGE ORGANIZING –LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK. COMING SOON. The main Suffrage Wagon platform changes often. Not familiar with us and want to know more? Check us out! And then subscribe.

Suffrage wagon storytelling with the Hudson River Playback Theatre

I hadn’t planned to be on stage with the Hudson River Playback Theatre. In fact, this  was the last thing I predicted the Monday evening I spent attending a performance for organizations attending Service Week at Omega in Rhinebeck, NY.  I’d been on the road the previous three weeks from Long Island to Albany to Binghamton and back to the Hudson Valley again in hot clammy weather.

I was tired, but relaxing in the audience wasn’t meant to be. Hudson River Playback Theatre is interactive story theatre for dialogue and connection. The cast creates memorable theatre on the spot based on the true stories of people in the audience.

“Go up and tell your story,” Susan Zimet urged. Susan sat next to me in the audience, and I ignored her the first time she poked. Then her plea became a kick and an order:  “Do it, now.” You don’t say no to Susan.

Well, okay. I could tell about visiting Albany, the second floor of the capitol, to see Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon in the women’s exhibit around the corner from the Hall of Governors. I could talk about Grandmother Edna being part of the grassroots suffrage movement and someone who campaigned in her horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776″ on Long Island and NYC.  Then I’d throw in how I’d grown up with this icon of the suffrage movement, mention how every summer when I was a kid, my mother would dress us up. We’d visit my Grandfather Wilmer Kearns and he’d drag the old wagon out of the garage and we’d have our photo taken. It was important to mention how Edna died in 1934, so I had to learn about Edna from my mother and plowing through my grandmother’s writings, speeches, photos, news clippings packed in stacks of boxes. She saved everything.

Sarah Urech, the theatre’s assistant director, interviewed me on stage and made this part of the process easy. Then she asked me to choose who would play me (Jody Santriani), who would play Edna (the theatre’s director Jo Salas), and Grandfather Wilmer (Mateo). Musician Dean Jones backed up the performance on the piano.

Eeverything flowed from that point on with few props other than a curtain, wood boxes, and several scarves. Grandmother Edna came alive on stage, directing traffic from her soapbox wagon, leading marches to Albany, standing firm in her position that all American women should vote. There were few words, other than “Freedom,” and the finale became me, up on the soapbox wagon after Edna had departed, carrying on the unfinished work of the American Revolution.

Sarah Urech’s a master in helping people tell their stories. I found out later that she’s a distant cousin of Jeanette Rankin, suffragist and the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. So this story joins all the others because Susan Zimet poked me and challenged me to march up to the stage and live beyond the boundaries.

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The story behind the story. . .


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.

Writer Antonia Petrash has lots of suffrage stories to tell

Suffrage pageant on Long Island. Photo: Library of Congress

There’s a new audio feature on Votes for Women Salon, a special feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel: an interview with Antonia Petrash who speaks about her upcoming book about the Long Island suffrage movement. The book is expected to be published in 2013 by  The History Press.

Grandmother Edna Kearns will be featured in Antonia’s work as someone significantly contributing to the suffrage movement because of her focus on the news media. Antonia has other stories to share with listeners in this Votes for Women Salon podcast special. Many of the interview selections are one minute or less. Listen when you have a break in your busy schedule.

Find out the story of the day when Susan B. Anthony met Elisabeth Cady Stanton. What the suffrage movement was like on Long Island. Remarkable New York women, and more. Click on the link above for Votes for Women Salon, a special feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

News from other places: In the Bahamas, there’s a suffrage celebration. A suff mural in Canada. The Canadians are strong in the promotion of history, and the U.S. could gather a few tips from their example. Especially this Canadian model of Strong Girls/Strong Canada!

What did Edna Kearns do on the 4th of July, 1913?

Grandmother Edna Kearns hitched a horse to her “Spirit of 1776″ wagon and headed to the shore at Long Beach on Long Island. She took two outfits with her: a bathing suit and a white dress with a “Votes for Women” sash. What a crowd on the beach that day, and the group of women made a splash. Edna even got out in the surf to make a “voiceless speech,” a tactic of the suffrage movement which fell under the category of the visual rhetoric associated with sophisticated public relations. Take a look at this link. The suffrage campaign wagon again made the NY Times.

Grandmother Edna Kearns presented an “Appeal to Liberty” to thousands

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.

What did Grandmother Edna Kearns say when standing on her campaign wagon?

Grandmother Edna kicked up a fuss on Long Island in 1912 as she kept the newspapers filled with suffrage news. She connected the dots between current events and the need for the vote, whether in the newspaper columns she wrote or when campaigning after 1913 in her horse-drawn suffrage wagon now on exhibit at the state capitol in Albany, NY through the summer of 2012.

You can’t have a baby without engaging in politics, Edna argued. And she raised eyebrows among other suffragists who believed they shouldn’t venture outside their limited sphere of lobbying for the vote. Edna raised her voice about the scandal at the Mineola jail and ventured forth to say that women would take care of community business better then men. Just give women a chance, she said.

When the newspapers carried the controversy, Edna defended herself from those who claimed her Better Babies campaign on Long Island was merely a “fad,” a ploy for “sensationalism.” Edna’s motivation? She insisted she was concerned that mothers didn’t have all the skills they needed for mothering and vowed to establish parenting classes. Underlying her argument, of course, was how much women needed the vote! This speaks to us today by remembering the interconnectedness of issues and reaching out to others to bring us together in linking our past with taking leadership in these times.

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.”

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.

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:

Oldest Long Island Suffragist, Rhoda Glover

The photo below from the Library of Congress photo collection shows Rhoda Glover, oldest Long Island suffragist riding in a horse-drawn wagon during a local parade. Grandmother Edna referred to Glover in one of her many columns about the Long Island suffrage campaign –in particular because suffragist Glover lived in Rockville Centre, New York (Nassau County) and was active in the suffrage club there. Edna Kearns served at one time as the Rockville Centre suffrage club president.

Edna’s Hometown of Rockville Centre has a Woman Mayor

On the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, the newspaper covering Nassau County on Long Island featured Edna Kearns and a roundup of the number of women holding elected positions on Long Island. Check it out! I’m sure Edna thought it perfectly reasonable that Rockville Centre, where she lived, should have a woman mayor, Mary Bossart. While an accomplishment, it should be noted that Mary Bossart was elected in 2007 as the first woman mayor for Rockville Centre. She served as a village trustee for eight years.