Tag Archives: suffragists

The suffragettes are alive and kicking in the UK . . .

Even The New York Times has picked up on the feisty British women who have a Suffragette Summer School scheduled for September 2012. A new generation of activists are looking to their suffrage tradition and history to propel themselves into motion. Is the suffrage movement a thing of the past? “No,” they respond in a loud voice.

This side of the Atlantic there’s not quite as much matching the enthusiasm and passion of linking the past with the present, although this is changing, especially during this election season. For too long the American suffrage movement has been put on the shelf as something old fashioned and stuffy. So let’s take a close look at the UK and check out the Suffragette Summer School.

There’s a series of links from the UK  and US media that puts the Suffragette Summer School into perspective. Link #1   Link #2   Link #3  Link #4

This video link gives an overview:

Photo: 1908. A suffragette meeting in Caxton Hall, Manchester, England. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pankhurst stand in the center of the platform. New York Times photo album. Image is in the public domain.

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Check out this overview of Suffrage Wagon News Channel: who we are, how long we’ve been covering news and stories of the suffrage movement, plus why this work is important.

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So, tell us about your suffragist grandmother, Edna Kearns . . .

There’s nothing like a newspaper article of the period that reveals character. I found this article in the Nassau Post published on July 16, 1915 describing a Long Island suffrage parade. Edna Kearns is identified as the campaign press chair (second campaign district) and the way in which she addressed the crowd is noted. The reporter stated that she expressed herself in “her usual quiet yet forceful manner.” It’s brief and to the point. And the point goes a long way. Here’s suffragist Edna Kearns at her home office in Rockville Centre, NY, the headquarters from where she organized Long Island and the NYC area for Votes for Women. More about suffragist Edna Kearns.

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Happy August 26th and celebrate with a new video!

Women have been voting in the United States for 92 years. To celebrate, here’s a new video to help us make the most of the day! It’s from the National Women’s History Museum.

The National Women’s History Project has wonderful resources for the celebration of August 26. Highlights include a downloadable brochure, August dates for women’s history observances, a first-person story by Maud Wood Park about the suffrage movement, and much more! When planning any sort of event or community program, you can count on the NWHP to have lots of links and resources on its web site.

Subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel for news and stories of the Votes for Women movement that interests, delights and builds leadership for these times. SWNC posts twice a week. And we have an issue of our quarterly newsletter in the works for the fall. The SWNC 2012 summer issue is still available.

Cake and lemonade, buttons and propaganda . . .

Article about suffragists in 1912 fills in some of the details of the Long Island campaign. This is where you find out about cake and lemonade, buttons and propaganda.

Suffragists at Long Beach, Long Island, 1912

Antonia Petrash’s upcoming 2013 book about Long Island suffrage movement (45 seconds) will add more to what’s known about the movement in the metropolitan NYC area. Here are some examples. . . Antonia gives highlights of her upcoming book about Long Island suffragists (32 seconds of audio). 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 ). More stories by Antonia Petrash are featured on Votes for Women Salon on Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

IN OTHER NEWS: The New York State Museum is now open on Sundays, but is closed on Mondays. It has been closed on Sundays since 2011. With the experience of the NYS capitol attracting thousands of visitors to its exhibits, the state museum is cashing in on this increased tourism. Good work!

New life for an old logo: Women’s Equality Day!

Every week the planning moves forward for the August 26th celebration. Events can be large or small. Private or public. With big budgets or a process of assembling what’s around the house. There’s an updated logo for Women’s Equality Day from WomenArts in San Francisco from that’s based on the  bugler used by the suffs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. See above. It’s available on buttons, stickers, t-shirts from Cafe Press. Even if you only wear one button to set the mood, it’s worth it. Get busy!

The history? Well, here it is, plus some background. August 26th celebrations are fun, informative and necessary!

A fairy tale story of suffrage

My Aunt Serena Kearns was known as Nassau County’s “youngest suffragist.” If there was a poster child for woman’s suffrage, it was little Serena. Her image was preserved when sitting in her mother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon, the “Spirit of 1776″ with the large bow in her hair. Yes, this is the same wagon on exhibit on the second floor of the New York State capitol through the summer of 2012.

Little Serena accompanied her mother, Edna Kearns, in New York City parades and on whirlwind campaigns for Votes for Women on Long Island.  This article from the Brooklyn Times on February 13, 1913 documents a suffrage story that Serena wrote:

“Once upon a time there was a fairy called Suffrage. Now it happened that the laws of the land did not suit her. She believed in equal rights. But in that land the men did not believe in the women voting.

“Now fairy Suffrage was a smart fairy: She went to the President. But she did not dress as a fairy. Oh, no! She dressed as a poor working girl asking for the vote to help her in her work. The President wouldn’t help.

“The next day while she was out walking she met an enemy of hers. His name was Ignorance. Ignorance began to say disagreeable things to her. ‘Ignorance,’ she said. ‘I will go to Justice, the queen of the fairies, for help.’ This she did. And Justice said: ‘I can help you because I dwell in almost everybody’s heart, while Ignorance lives in the hearts of so few people. I can overcome Ignorance with my wonderful power.’ Then Justice won the battle in the year 1915 and fairy Suffrage was saved.”

Poor Serena must have been disappointed as suffrage wasn’t approved in 1915 by New York State voters. However, it passed in 1917, which means the upcoming 100th anniversary is in 2017.

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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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Suffragette Slasher Story from film artist!

The suffrage movement is inspiring storytellers. The tale of the English  suffragette slasher is one example from Julie Perini.

Other suffrage stories and news from around the U.S. include: Suffrage storyteller Judy Baker. Oregon’s black suffragist story. Kansas women’s stories on film.

Summer 2012 Suffrage Wagon newsletter on the stands!

The Summer 2012 newsletter for Suffrage Wagon News Channel is available with the effort of a click.

Check out the Summer 2012 issue of Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Subscribe.

Out for the holiday!!!!

The office is closed. Am out enjoying the 164th anniversary of Seneca Falls. The following blog posting comes to you by way of the National Women’s History Project:

On July 19-20, 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott spearheaded the first women’s rights convention in American History. Over 300 women and men came to Seneca Falls, New York to protest the mistreatment of women in social, economic, political, and religious life. This marked the first public call for women’s right to vote.

At the end of the conference 68 women and 32 men of the 300 attendees signed the Declaration of Sentiments. This document was drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who used the Declaration Independence as her guide and listed eighteen “injuries and usurpations… on the part of man toward woman” (same number of charges the colonists leveled against the King of England).
Those who attended the conference were vilified and mocked by the press who described the conference as “the most shocking and unnatural event ever recorded in the history of womanity.”

Yet, thanks to the countless numbers who have worked to preserve the history of the women’s rights movement, Seneca Falls, NY is now the site of the Womens Rights National Historical Park.

To honor democracy and the amazing legacy of the women’s rights movement, be sure to register and vote!
Happy Anniversary!

Link to activities this weekend at Seneca Falls, NY highlighting dramatic presentations of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Photo: Library of Congress.Grundy County, Iowa, 1939.

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.

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.

“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.

Artist from Seneca Falls, NY passionate about the suffrage Big Three

Katherine Pfeffer Pross is an artist and painter from Seneca Falls, New York who considers herself “intensely concerned about equal rights and peace in the world.” She says: “I create works that are thought provoking with messages of inspiration and enlightenment.” One of her favorite movies is “Iron Jawed Angels.”

In this painting Pross features Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, who are considered The Big Three movers and shakers of the American suffrage movement. You may have heard about Anthony and Stanton. Matilda Joslyn Gage is less well known, although her participation and commitment to the cause is increasingly coming to the forefront. This is due, in great part, to the work of scholar Sally Roesche Wagner, director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, New York.

Oregon suffrage centennial sash, plus news from Arizona and Kansas

  • Oregon’s suffrage centennial has some novel programs, such as the traveling sash that’s photographed as it moves around the state (called “Follow the Sash”). A sash is available for $15 from the Oregon Women’s History Consortium. The centennial web site, “Century of Action,” has historical documents, essays, news, events, and suffrage history.
  • Glencoe Elementary Suffrage Singers are shown above with Oregon’s first female governor, Barbara Roberts. The choir performed an original suffrage song called “Hey Mister” for audiences. Photo by Andie Petkus, courtesy of Oregon Women’s History Consortium, Century of Action project.
  • For some of the Arizona suffrage centennial highlights, follow this link. New play part of Arizona celebration.
  • Novel published in time for Kansas suffrage centennial celebration.
  • You can subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel on several platforms.

Video about women voting in our back yard to the north

Nine minute video about the history of women voting in Canada. Plans for a suffragette statue in Australia. Click here. New Zealand women plan their 120th anniversary of Votes for Women. Online book about woman suffrage in Mexico. Canada’s extraordinary suffragists.

Susan B. Anthony is a corker! Find out for yourself!

Cartoon of Susan B. Anthony

They called her Aunt Susan and she had so many adopted nieces, people couldn’t keep count. That’s why this post features a ten-minute audio clip from “Jailed for Freedom” by Doris Stevens, published back in Grandmother Edna’s day, that gives you a feeling of almost being there.

Susan B. Anthony died before the ratification of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote in 1920. So when August 26th comes around this year, at a time when people aren’t usually thinking about Aunt Susan, consider the possibility of having a party. There are lessons to be learned by putting on a skit about Susan. How about courage? Vision. Inner strength. She had her eye on the prize of women voting and wouldn’t give up. These themes are eternal.

I didn’t even have a script when I directed and produced my own Susan skit back in 2010. I went to the primary sources, lifted lines straight from the record, recruited the cast, and everyone had a blast with dress ups. The audience got the point.

So if you’ve been toying with the idea of putting on a program for August 26th (Women’s Equality Day) or a special fundraiser or other event for your friends, organization, or club, try Susan B. Anthony’s arrest in 1872 and her trial for voting. The trial was a hit at the Susan B. Anthony birthday party I organized in February of 2010, and it’s especially relevant for other special events because it’s an example of nonviolent civil disobedience. Susan was arrested for voting, and everyone knew back then that women couldn’t vote.

The audio clip on this post is a wonderful resource, plus the internet is a great resource for finding quotes from Susan, as well as her speeches, for reading out loud.  Here’s Susan B.’s petition to Congress in January of 1874. And resources from Susan’s trial record. Think about it! It’s a great way to introduce young people to Aunt Susan and there are great parts: Susan, the officer who arrests her, the district attorney, and the judge. Drama, conflict, plenty of action. Great lines.

Now –see how you do on a quiz about Susan B. Anthony.

Six-part interview series on the overview of suffrage history

Among serious suffrage buffs, you either like Carrie Chapman Catt or you don’t. Some believe she got too much credit for the suffrage win, and others would say not enough. Chances are, most people today haven’t heard of her. So the six-part interview series featuring Nate Levin might be filed away in the deep archives of human memory, except for the fact that Levin lays out a simple story line explaining the suffrage movement which is worth spending some time with.

Nate Levin wraps himself in the term “suffrage buff,” so much so that he created a Facebook page called Suffrage Buffs of America. His mother was a loyal member of the League of Women Voters (Grandmother Edna was a member) which has turned into a lifelong interest for Nate. He’s written  a book about Carrie Chapman Catt that’s free on Google Books. (It’s also available in hard copy). You can get to know more about Nate by way of YouTube in this five-part suffrage interview series: Program #1, Program #2, Program #3. Program #4. Program #5. Program #6.  And there’s more about Nate Levin on Suffrage Wagon News Channel where we feature his Facebook page that’s geared to other suffs like Nate…and me. There’s a great deal of information out there about the suffs, and it’s comforting to find a corner where people talk about these subjects.

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.

“Holding the Torch for Liberty”: June 3, 2012 suffrage musical gala in Manhattan

“Holding the Torch for Liberty” is the story of Sarah, a seamstress at the Liberty Pants Factory and suffragist allies who campaign for the right to vote in 1920. With the help of The Statute of Liberty, the students involved in the musical production overcome all obstacles and participate in a story about a great American civil rights movement.

Set aside June 3, 2012 for The Jazz Drama Program Summer Gala, 2-5 pm at Urban Stages in NYC. It’s a celebration of the work of The Jazz Drama Program with artistic director Eli Yamin, special guest Mercedes Ellington and honoring Dr. William Rodriguez, Latin Jazz Pianist, principal and founder of the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.

The event features a live performance of scenes and songs from “Holding the Torch for Liberty,” the jazz musical about women’s suffrage by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, and performed by students from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music. Refreshments and a champagne toast are included in the ticket price. This is a wonderful opportunity to support a program that builds leadership through stories about the suffrage movement.

Tickets to this event are limited and can be purchased for $100. For more information. Each ticket holder will receive a copy of the cast CD of “Holding the Torch for Liberty” signed by the authors.

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 English suffragettes relaxed their stiff upper lips

When people say they feel helpless in the face of overwhelming odds, an attitude or obstacle, it’s time for all of us to remember the serious resistance the British women were up against in their fight for the ballot. The suffragettes’ bold tactics became known worldwide after their decision to stretch the bondaries. Here’s a selection from Mary Walton’s 2010 book, A Woman’s Crusade:

“All over England, suffragettes ‘hid in bushes and under platforms, scaled roofs, let themselves down through skylights in order to interrupt meetings with the dreaded call, ‘votes for women.'”

While the suffrage story has been very low key for many years, it’s jumping into center stage in England with the announcement of the upcoming year’s centennial celebration of Emily Davison. Many of her relatives are involved, including the release of material previously unavailable. Check it out. The trailer of “Everything is Possible,” a UK film about Sylvia Pankhurst is a must see, if you haven’t run across it already. It’s a story of vision, determination, and a lifelong dedication to the goal of freedom. There’s also a fascinating link on the film’s web site about Sylvia’s security files compiled by the British government.

Headed for Albany, NY to see Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon?

The suffrage campaign wagon used by suffragist Edna Kearns on Long Island and in NYC is expected to be on exhibit through the summer of 2012 at the Hall of the Governors in the state capitol in Albany, NY.  To refresh your memory. . . check out the article below that appeared in the NY Times on August 1, 1913 at the time of the wagon’s presentation to the state suffrage movement.

This suffrage campaign wagon is representative of other horse-drawn wagons used in parades and in grassroots organizing for the suffrage movement. It’s likely that there are only two of these wagons existing today that were pressed into service for the Votes for Women cause.

One is Edna Kearns’ wagon, now in the permanent collection of the New  York State Museum and on exhibit now in the Hall of Governors in Albany. The other suffrage campaign wagon is the Smithsonian’s collection. Grandmother Edna Kearns was a squirrel when it came to documenting her suffrage organizing work, and the suffrage wagon has a history of its very own with the stories about it that I’m in the process of locating, collecting and sharing.

Watch a suffrage story on video and share your suffrage story

Did you know about the picketing of the White House by suffragists? This is a story we can’t tell often enough. The headquarters of the National Woman’s Party in Washington, DC (aka the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum) has prepared this video using some archival images many people have not seen.

These wonderful and energetic folks at the Sewall-Bemont House & Museum have launched a virtual campaign called “Share Your Story. Save HerStory.” It’s precisely the kind of campaign that builds leadership through stories of the suffrage movement, which is the mission of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Contact Elisabeth Crum at 202-546-1210 ext, 17, or send her an email with your answers to the following questions: “Why is woman suffrage important to you? Why will you vote this year? Who are the women (past and present) who inspire you to vote? What do you think women should know about the WNP and how will that move them to vote in 2012?” Stories will be collected as blog posts, video, Facebook, and Twitterview. For more information.

I’ll be participating in the story campaign. What about you? Stay up to date with news and stories of the suffrage movement: suffragewagon.org

I love this story of Grandmother Edna Kearns!


Here’s what happened almost a hundred years ago. Grandmother Edna Kearns expected to be a speaker at a community event as she set out for the evening with this purpose in mind. She was, after all, as the article notes: “a well known suffrage speaker.” When turned away at the door of a Republican Party rally, Grandmother Edna didn’t take the situation lightly. She stood up on a automobile nearby and expounded on the topic of Votes for Women to the people passing by on the street, as well as those headed to the meeting. She held forth for at least two hours and refused give in –one example of many instances of her hard-headed style.

After the event, Grandmother Edna made certain more people knew about what happened. She wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and this article appeared on November 1, 1915. It’s worth a read.  Not only because it’s yet another untold story of the suffrage movement. But it’s a lesson in determination and persistence that we can learn from today. The photo above isn’t of Grandmother Edna, but it illustrates the interest suffrage speakers sparked when they spoke in the streets.

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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.

New curriculum materials for “Iron Jawed Angels” film

Grandmother Edna Kearns wouldn’t have had a starring role in “Iron Jawed Angels,” a classic introduction for many about the woman’s suffrage movement. However, she would have been in the office of the National Woman’s Party during the scenes when the suffs picketed the White House. And as such, she would have represented the many grassroots activists it took to win Votes for Women. Check out the mention of Edna in the online magazine, New York History.

Now there’s a curriculum guide available that uses “Iron Jawed Angels” to make history come alive. I haven’t seen the materials myself, but I’m passing them on because they stress the angle of nonviolent social change and its importance in the suffrage movement. Check out the press release. Plus additional information.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel is now on a new platform.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel has migrated!

Check out the new platform for Suffrage Wagon News Channel. The regular blog stays the same: that is, linked to suffragewagon.org        Note that things are organized differently –by news and 60-second history lessons. And the spring special issue of the newsletter is now published. Highlights include new art work by Peter Sinclair of the suffrage wagon, the article by Tara Bloyd in “Albany Kid” about little Serena Kearns who was a suffrage poster child, and a great music video about the suffrage movement. Also, a special feature: Who’s behind “Suffrage Buffs of America”?

Grandmother Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon on exhibit in Albany, NY

An article in “Albany Kid” by Tara Bloyd, Edna Kearns’ great granddaughter, is spreading the word to a younger audience about the exhibition of the suffrage campaign wagon used by Edna Buckman Kearns currently underway at the NYS capitol in Albany, NY.

A Brooklyn wagon company donated the wagon to the state woman’s suffrage movement in 1913. Considerable information about the wagon and its use for grassroots activism during the suffrage movement has been presented on Suffrage Wagon News Channel over the past two years.

The article in “Albany Kid” highlights the exhibit underway at the state capitol honoring  New York State’s extraordinary women as represented in many arenas, including suffrage. The exhibit’s in the Hall of Governors in the state capitol and is part of an ambitious program by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to make more public space available for educational and historical exhibits. The exhibit runs through April and possibly into May.

Suffrage pageants were cutting edge for their time

Hazel MacKaye (shown above) was riding high in 1914 when her pageant, “The American Woman: Six Periods of American Life” was performed at the Seventy-first Regimental Armory (sponsored by the New York City Men’s League for Equal Suffrage). This cutting-edge production milked the potential when combining drama and social commentary. Grandmother Edna Kearns was involved, not only in the event’s organization, but also the performance. Historians now note that women’s pageants shifted to beauty contents in the years following the suffrage movement. In their time, though, suffrage pageants were less confrontational than parades and demonstrations. And they were an emotional training ground for later forms of protest, such as picketing the White House.

Be patient. Suffrage Wagon News Channel is migrating to a new platform. This means the links aren’t working throughout and they’re in the process of being fixed.

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:

Valentine’s Day stories about suffrage, PLUS a composer who used a toothbrush to conduct a song!

The Brits have come through royally with their recent media coverage of the English suffrage movement. Especially with the first broadcast of audio interviews of suffragettes recorded back in 1977 by prominent British historian Brian Harrison. This past weekend’s BBC radio special,  “The Lost World of the Suffragettes,” reveals the character, political context, and personalities of these gutsy activists. This coverage adds much to the rich collection of Votes for Women stories.

The BBC television pieces entitled Christabel Pankhurst: “I wanted to assault a policeman”  and another recent segment called “Fight to clear Derby suffragette Alice Wheeldon’s name” are worth the five minutes or so you’ll spend watching. The BBC news magazine even has an article raising the question of whether or not the English suffragettes were regarded as terrorists in their day.

Note the valentine illustration above by American artist Ellen Clappsaddle. There’s no doubt where she stood on the issue of Votes for Women!

Stories of the suffrage movement can also tickle your funny bone. A favorite of mine is about the well-known British composer, Dame Ethel Smyth,  imprisoned for the suffrage struggle in England. When serving time in Holloway prison, Smyth leaned out of her cell and used her toothbrush to conduct the suffragettes in the prison yard singing “The March of the Women,” the work Smyth composed.

You can hear Smyth’s own voice on a special podcast from the BBC. Come on, now. This podcast is only three minutes long. Painless. And don’t forget that Susan B. Anthony’s birthday is February 15th! This link to the Susan B. Anthony Day notes the opposition to it becoming a national holiday though Susan’s day is observed or celebrated officially in several states.

We are surrounded by greatness. Do you hear the suffrage call?

I love it when examples pop up on the web where the suffrage legacy of our ancestors is cited. Kristi Rendahl says this in her Op Ed piece about her suffragist great-grandmother:

“My great-grandmother is but one example of strength. I surround myself with pictures and memories of family members–men and women alike–who have shown might in times of distress. I serve food on my mom’s trays and use my grandmother’s silverware at meals. I play from my great-aunt’s songbooks on my grandmother’s piano. I drink wine from my aunt’s wine glasses. I sleep in my grandparents’ bed. I hang my great-aunt’s artwork on my wall. I listen to music on my grandfather’s Edison player. I soak up the journalled memories of my pioneer great-grandmother.

“I am never alone, because they and an army of love and wisdom are behind me. Anything I encounter will not surpass their stories. Anything I conquer will be because of the lessons they’ve taught me. And we are all enveloped in this greatness, if we remember to see it and let it feed the core of our being. Do you hear the call? Do you hear my great-grandmother saying ‘no’ to injustice? Do you hear your own conscience saying that there are some things that are simply not acceptable?”

Edee Lemonier speaks about her grandmother being bundled up to be carried to a Votes for Women demonstration in downtown Chicago featured in this New Agenda point of view.

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How could a wealthy woman like Alva Belmont be a radical Votes for Women advocate?