Tag Archives: New York

NYS state women’s trail dusted off during Women’s History Month, plus new women’s history exhibit at state Capitol

When we traveled on the blogging tour of the “Cradle” last fall, Olivia Twine and I documented the importance of storytelling about winning the franchise for women. We heard terrific stories in Johnstown, NY, the birthplace of Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the Harriet Tubman home in Auburn; the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center in Fayetteville; the Quaker meeting house restoration project in Farmington; and the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. Other venues for suffrage storytelling are opening up, including several milestones initiated by the State of New  York this month.

Seal of Governor of NYSA new women’s exhibit opened at the state Capitol in Albany, New York  in early March to highlight trailblazing women and advocates, as well as utilize the opportunity for a “final push” to win passage of the Governor’s 10-point “Women’s Equality Agenda.” The State of New York also dusted off its state women’s history trail as Governor Andrew Cuomo encouraged NYS residents and travelers to the state to visit women’s history sites.

We’ve been advocating for a fresh look at the state women’s trail from the legislature, plus funding and promotion, especially as the 2017 suffrage centennial approaches. Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address in January 2014 highlighted tourism and women’s issues. Many observers waited for even a passing reference to the 2017 centennial, but they may have to wait longer. This isn’t recommended as planning and development takes time when government is involved.

The State of California put significant funding toward its suffrage centennial several years ago. And Montana’s state centennial in 2014 may be a model that New York could have difficulty matching. An emerging theme from the state is of New York’s women leading the way. This is a great slogan. As suffrage activists insisted during the movement, they were more interested in “deeds,” not words. And this part of history deserves more than throwing something together at the last minute. We’ve been anticipating the 2017 suffrage centennial in NYS for a long time. Let’s make it the best ever!

We’ll keep you posted if New York continues to inch toward its 2017 suffrage centennial planning. No word out of state government about how the centennial will be acknowledged, let alone celebrated. With the truckloads of state funding directed toward special interest tourism, not a peep yet about 2017 and how it represents an extraordinary opportunity for education, celebration, and economic development.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY has announced the “Showcasing of Great Women” exhibit that premiered on the Google Cultural Institute on March 8, 2014. The exhibit features inductees whose contributions are recognized in social reform, business and technology.

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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.

NEW VIDEO: “This Wet and Wrinkled Paper”

“My voter’s card arrived today, and as I perused the tiny paper, wet and wrinkled from the rain, I felt the spirit of Grandma Edna watching over me,” Goldman-Petri wrote in a poem set to music and presented in this video.

“They stood on soapboxes, signed petitions, rang doorbells, smiled and dialed. They marched, paraded. They waited.  They waited, so I could have this paper.”

There’s more, and then the poem concludes: “My voter’s card arrived today, so thank you Grandma Edna. I’ll vote, I’ll lead, and I’ll succeed. I’ll remember how you fought for me. And it’s all because you believed, Women deserve liberty.”

As I post this video, I’m still reeling from last evening’s U.S. presidential debate where the two candidates, Romney and Obama, strutted on stage at Hofstra University, while outside police arrested the two Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates –Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. The two women political candidates were handcuffed to chairs for hours for attempting to be part of the public debate.

There was a time, once, when political parties other than Democrats and Republicans were part of a dialogue and a process known as democracy. Remember when the League of Women Voters organized the debates? The women organizers were inclusive, as if this were a radical idea. Then, the mainstream parties forced the League out of the job.

The so-called debate last night took place on Long Island –Grandmother Edna’s turf. My grandmother’s generation was familiar with women getting arrested for standing firm on the issue of participation and the democratic process. They believed in the Spirit of 1776.

For more information, visit womenssuffrage.org  

New York State to cash in on tourism related to history

The conference held this week in Albany, New York attracted about 200 people from around the state to discuss the potential of natural, cultural, and heritage tourism in New York and to announce new signs erected on the state thruway and elsewhere directing travelers to various sites. This is excellent for artifacts such as the suffrage campaign wagon now on exhibit at the state capitol through the end of summer. A state policy supporting historical resources and funding programs makes it more likely that the suffrage wagon won’t gather dust in the state museum warehouse. This is good news for Grandmother Edna and a lot of other people.

For more information about this week’s meeting in Albany, NY: Link #1   Link #2

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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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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.

“Appeal to Liberty” on behalf of the foremothers. . .

Read at the feet of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1915

To the Men of New York,

We therefore appeal to you, in the name of justice and fair play, for relief from the intolerable position in which we have been placed.

We protest that no Government is just which taxes and governs half its people without their consent.

We protest that no Government is efficient which is guilty of so absurd a discrimination as that of putting a vote in the hand of male paupers and denying that privilege to at least a third of its taxpayers; of counting the opinion of illiterate males, and denying that count to the 41,000 women teachers of the State.

We protest that no Government is sound which pretends to secure the highest welfare to its people, yet pays no heed to what half its people want.

We protest that no Government is logical which elevates half its people regardless of qualifications to sovereignty and condemns the other half to political subjection.

Justice gave you the vote, in the name of that same great virtue, we ask you to give it to us!

For news clips about the entire story about the “Appeal to Liberty” and Edna Kearns carrying on the work on Long Island, follow this link.