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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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” 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.
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.”
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.
Chances are that you’ve seen the suffrage music video, “Bad Romance,” a parody of Lady Gaga. But have you seen the behind-the-scenes production short (link above)? The increase in creative material about the suffrage movement is exciting and noteworthy. Here are a few examples:
A stroll on the new Rochester Heritage Trail. Boston Marathon runners who acknowledge those who came before them. Activism exhibit in New York City. New book to be published in July 2012 from Rutgers University Press: “The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.”
In what ways have you been contributing to this outpouring of love and appreciation toward the tens of thousands of women who participated in this extraordinary civil rights movement?
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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
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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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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.
Edna Kearns documented as well as participated in the suffrage movement in the New York City area. She wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the Brooklyn Times and many Long Island papers. She’s shown here in a news photo, fourth from the left, in an article describing the performers in the 1914 Armory pageant. Edna noted in pencil on the clipping that she had written the article, not unusual because she was press chair for many events and campaigns. And she submitted copy to many newspapers that was printed with and without her byline. Lulu Kearns, my grandmother Wilmer Kearns’ sister from Beavertown, PA, is noted in the article as a pageant participant!
I love the part describing the “forty beautiful maidens in a final dance of victory.”
A BBC audio recording of nine minutes made in 1946 features suffragette Ada Flatman speaking about risking arrest for the suffrage campaign in England. This first-person account by a very proper English woman is not only a delight to listen to, but an insight into how the more traditional advocacy of lobbying and education hadn’t worked in London, and the movement had moved to a new level of pressure. Recent BBC coverage of the English suffrage movement raises the question of whether or not the current British government should apologize for the acts of a past administration. The commentary shows the way in which history remains a present-day consideration.
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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.
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:
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.
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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Lots of eggs and not much flour! This recipe is from a 1915 suffrage cook book, and it sure is fun dragging out these old recipes to bring us just a little closer to the tastes and rituals of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Only 11 eggs, flour, sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and salt. Great for the Susan B. Anthony birthday party you’ve been considering throwing in mid-February. Or how about high tea during Women’s History Month in March? A cake from scratch will be a treat any weekend. You can tell friends and family that this cake is from the kitchen of a real suffragist, Eliza Kennedy Smith, who used the cake for Votes for Women fundraising. And the women really went to town with the ingredients!
Edna not only put herself out in public, but she documented herself every step of the way. A conversation with an attorney became a newspaper column in four-part harmony. Poor guy. He admitted that voting might be okay for Edna, but not for his wife. He wouldn’t let her vote. And so on. See the entire exchange. Edna Kearns made the point that politics must be the concern of women. See her piece about how politics resides within each baby.
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The Kearns motor car company manufactured different models over the years, and my grandfather Wilmer R. Kearns made the family automobile business a focus after he married my grandmother Edna and they moved to New York City in 1904 from the Philadelphia area. Building wagons and horse-drawn buggies ran in the Kearns family, so it wasn’t surprising when Wilmer’s brother Maxwell Kearns started manufacturing automobiles in Beavertown, PA where both Max and Wilmer were raised. While in NYC, Wilmer represented the Kearns Motor Car Company with an office in midtown Manhattan.
Edna and Wilmer Kearns lived in both NYC and Rockville Centre on Long Island where Edna participated in suffrage organizing. The Kearns vehicle on exhibit at the Pennsylvania state museum is “The Lulu,” named after Max and Wilmer’s sister, Lou, who collaborated with Edna on Votes for Women organizing on Long Island. Below: letterhead for Kearns Motor Car Company in New York City.
Suffragist Rosalie Jones of Long Island used a yellow horse-drawn wagon. Edna Kearns traveled in another suffrage wagon, the “Spirit of 1776.” They toured, gave speeches, recruited supporters. At the end of the day, they were special guests of honor at dinner. See article below in The Long Islander. Note, however, that Edna’s daughter is recorded as Irene. Actually, it was Serena. And little Serena was a suffrage poster child. Her onstage appearance in a suffrage pageant at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City is noted in this article., as well as the effort put into organizing on Long Island for Votes for Women.
It isn’t often that governors cite the suffrage movement and votes for women in their State of the State addresses. Yet NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo did exactly this in 2012. For example, a quote from his address in Albany, NY:
“We declared independence from Britain before they (colonists) signed the Declaration of Independence. We birthed the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The Workers Rights Movement. The Environmental Movement. All were born in this state. In this Capitol. By this government.” See article.
This 1917 article spells out the importance of remembering the specifics of a movement that involved tens of thousands of individuals on the grassroots.
Rain, snow, sleet, or blisters couldn’t stop a Votes for Women march from New York City to Albany during the first week of January in 1914. I like to call it a story about a stubborn streak of spirit.
When woman’s suffrage hike leader Rosalie Jones ordered, “Forward, March,” my grandmother Edna Kearns, grandfather Wilmer Kearns, and their young daughter Serena fell into line. They’re highlighted in the NY Tribune photo on January 1, 1914 when they joined the hike to see the governor about votes for women. This group of 30 people from NYC and Long Island set out from Manhattan on that freezing winter day with high spirits. Only three hikers made it the entire 166 miles in six days. For the rest –including my grandparents– participation in the event became part of family oral history for a job well done, which was making a social issue visible. This visibility led to change.
No one could have predicted 98 years ago that women voters would play a pivotal role in the upcoming 2012 election. Back then, merely joining a march to Albany was definitely outside the box.
Before 1914, some crowds jeered suffrage hikers along the march routes. The tide of public opinion shifted somewhat by 1914,and the hikers to Albany were cheered on as they headed north. The activists were tough. They stuck with it, though it took much more on-the-ground organizing before New York State women finally won the vote in 1917. And it wasn’t until 1920 when all American women were able to exercise this basic right.
The story of the 1914 suffrage march stands the test of time because it is part political and part human interest –plus a little romance, sore feet, and spirited speeches in towns and villages along the route. The Votes for Women hikers attracted widespread media attention, and they rallied supporters throughout the Hudson Valley. Media accounts such as these were popular in their day:
A little story written by my grandmother in 1913 about speaking on a street corner on New Year’s Eve in New York City followed a rant about being abused by hecklers in the Washington DC suffrage parade. Edna tacked on the New Year’s Eve story in a column she wrote comparing the experiences of suffragists in New York parades versus that of Washington, DC. Grandmother Edna concluded: “New York men are the best in the United States.” When Edna had finished her presentation about Votes for Women, the crowd yelled, “Happy New Year, Suffragette.” From the South Side Observer, March 14, 1913.
During one week in May of 1913, New York State suffragists planned a whirlwind schedule of activities to support the suffrage movement. My question is this: Will the centennial celebrants of 2017 in New York State match the women of my grandmother Edna’s generation? The above newspaper clip is from one of Edna’s newspaper columns.
Grandmother Edna had a hard time saying “no” when it came to campaigning for Votes for Women. And she was a particularly soft touch when suffrage activist Rosalie Jones asked for volunteers to march to Albany. It’s quite a boat ride from New York City to Albany, not to mention the journey by train. But Rosalie really meant it when she asked for others to march alongside with her, out in the street, facing the winter weather.
A demonstration like this made good copy, and the suffragists were clear about the importance of staying in the forefront of the news. They marched out of New York City the first week of January in 1914, determined to speak to the governor about appointing poll watchers for the upcoming 1915 state suffrage referendum. Only a handful actually made it from start to finish, but this shouldn’t be surprising. These days we stay home when snowflakes fall. Anybody demonstrating on the streets so soon after New Year’s Day would inevitably attract attention.
Both my grandparents started out on the march, along with daughter Serena Kearns, who was nine years old. They finished the first leg of the journey, and then Edna rushed home to write her story and deliver it to the Brooklyn Eagle where she published a column and edited special suffrage features. The NY Times had a straight-forward version of the event, while Edna’s accounts focused on the Votes for Women issue and human interest. While the Hudson Valley press had been primarily positive, a few Hudson Valley papers such as the Kingston Daily Freeman criticized the women for not being of sound mind.
Edna used the experience as a reference in her speeches and newspaper writing.
What I love about this segment from UK television is the fact that the program focuses on family members of one of Britain’s most famous suffragettes. More about this.
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but the snow’s lingering on the ground and one freezing day follows another. This is the time to listen to another installment of Doris Stevens and her first-person account of the suffrage movement. This isn’t a version written by a scholar years after the event. Doris was there in the thick of the action. And she tells the tale of what it was like to win Votes for Women, on the ground.
During my early years in elementary school, the suffrage movement had been summed up in a single sentence by my 8th grade social studies teacher who said: “And then in 1920, women were given the vote.” Even I knew that the teacher portrayed the accomplishment much differently than how it actually happened. Doris takes us along as she describes in Jailed for Freedom the tedious and persistent tasks engaged in by the suffragists. In this five-minute selection, Doris highlights how the suffragists lobbied U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. If they hadn’t persisted, the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution wouldn’t have been possible.
On this cold wintry night, treat yourself to this audio account by Doris that gives one respect for the hard work and sacrifice of tens of thousands of women, including grandmother Edna.
I grew up under the wing of my grandfather Wilmer R. Kearns (shown above) who told me all about Grandmother Edna who died years before I was born. One of Grandmother Edna Kearns’ forays into the world of citizen journalism was to cover a speech by Theodore Roosevelt and write it up in one of her columns. In the piece, Edna appealed to what she called “broad minded thinking men,” the very same men the suffs needed to reach for the upcoming 1915 New York State suffrage referendum. For someone like my grandfather Wilmer, it wasn’t easy marching in the men’s divisions of suffrage parades.
Being a presence in the community and monitoring public figures was part of the suffragists’ strategy. Edna’s 1914 article covering Roosevelt’s positions on issues relevant to women speaks volumes about working conditions back then, and it’s another example of grandmother Edna’s citizen journalism supporting the cause of Votes for Women.
Inez Milholland is briefly featured in the HBO movie “Iron Jawed Angels.” Inez is representative of the suffragists’ style of mixing drama and beauty with their idealism. Parades were carefully planned to provide evidence of strength and determination as well as artistic impact. Suffrage activism inspired pageantry, poetry, art and music.
To Inez Milholland
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Read in Washington, November eighteenth, 1923, at the unveiling of a statue of three leaders in the cause of Equal Rights for Women
Upon this marble bust that is not I
Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;
But in the forum of my silenced cry
Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame.
I, that was proud and valiant, am no more;—
Save as a dream that wanders wide and late,
Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,
Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate.
The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust.
Only my standard on a taken hill
Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust
And make immortal my adventurous will.
Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:
Take up the song; forget the epitaph.
Not only did the suffragists march in huge parades, but in some events they even carried portable soapboxes (such as in the photo below) in the event an opportunity arose for them to stand up on a street corner and speak. It was a novelty for women to speak in public back then as Susan B. Anthony knew well. And it was equally daring to climb up on a soap box and speak for as long as a crowd gathered to listen. This took considerable courage. The suffragists had to duck water thrown on them and smile in the face of insults and worse. The men who marched in suffrage parades also faced jeers and insults. Critics accused them of tagging after the “girls.” One man anonymously wrote a book entitled How it feels to be the husband of a suffragette. It’s not only funny, but you get the point. And it’s free for the download.
I’m hearing a lot about downsizing consumption this holiday season. This suggests a suffrage-themed gift could be in order. Yvonne Crumlish, whose grandmother Addie’s Votes for Women pennant was featured on “History Detectives” in September, tells me that she saw the HBO special “Iron Jawed Angels” for the first time this year. This could mean that “Iron Jawed Angels” is a potential gift idea for those becoming familiar with suffrage history, even though the HBO film has been around for a while.
Jennifer Hinton has suffrage theme gifts you can assemble yourself. Start with the upcoming holidays, a young woman’s 18th birthday, her 21st birthday, special occasions for someone of any age. And while you’re at it, plan a party around a suffrage theme during Women’s History Month.
Jennifer’s suggestions are clever, such as the “Forward into Light Gift Kit,” “Tea Time at the Pankhursts,” “Sojourner Truth Tub Soak” and more.
Lucretia Mott adored oolong tea. Elizabeth Cady Stanton made a point of mentioning this in her memoir, Eighty Years and More. So oolong tea is a special gift idea, especially when there’s great organic oolong tea available online.
How about a book about Lucretia Mott and a package of oolong tea to accompany it? The National Women’s History Project has a wide variety of books and gift items. The Susan B. Anthony House’s online gift shop features Alva Belmont’s reproduction tea set. Mrs. Belmont, an active supporter of the National Woman’s Party, built a tea house and held suffrage events there.
Planning a trip to Oregon in 2012? The state is celebrating 100 years of women voting and there’s a full program of activities and exhibits receiving considerable web attention.
Mrs. Raymond Brown took over after Harriett May Mills as president of New York’s state suffrage organization. A rare recording of Mrs. Brown speaking is a valuable look at the period, as well as a reference in one of Grandmother Edna Kearns’ newspaper columns that she wasn’t all that pleased with Mrs. Brown being selected as state president. Despite her personal opinion, Kearns and Brown worked closely together on suffrage organizing of Long Island. Photo: Library of Congress.
Oregon suffragists visit New York, 1912, from the Library of Congress collection. These women very much wanted to be seen, just as Oregon women today are gearing up for their anniversary of women voting in 2012. You can Twitter their events: Oregon Women Vote @CenturyofAction.