Tag Archives: Votes for Women

A visit to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s hometown in Johnstown, NY

Nancy Brown of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown AssociationBy Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine

It’s late afternoon in Johnstown, NY, magic hour, right before sunset when filmmakers capture the best lighting. Nancy Brown, a fifth grade teacher, is waiting to take us to the local historical society and out to dinner with three other board members of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.

This is the town where well-known women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton grew up. The place is also loaded with history of the American Revolution, plus generations of tanners and workers in the glove industry who lived and worked here. We can’t get to the Johnstown Historical Society at 17 North William Street without passing sites of major historical interest. It’s as if everybody is related in some way to this historical community. It looks like classic small town America, made in America.

The Historical Society building has a front parlor room that’s devoted entirely to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with things to die for: her piano, her chair, her father’s bookcase, her family bible. They have sleuths volunteering for the board who ferret out facts about the Cady family never known before. Elizabeth’s parents and many of her relatives are buried in the local cemetery. Local people here talk about Elizabeth Cady Stanton as if they’re related to her. And they are. Like they’re first cousins or neighbors.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's piano

Today the activists of the local historical and hometown association understand the value of what they’ve got in their cultural heritage and they’re building it up from the grassroots.

Yet they feel there’s something lacking, despite the fact that Johnstown has the oldest working courthouse in America, the same courthouse where Elizabeth’s father was a judge. This is an area with strong women, well-known local women, including Molly Brant, Rose Knox, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a Native American Catholic saint, Kateri Tekakwitha.

Johnstown has a strong revolutionary history, a strong labor history. By going to the next level, the two local organizations are moving into the future by developing awareness through advertizing, street signs, a social media presence, collaboration and partnering. They have organized themselves thoroughly, and the town reflects this with its banners, cell phone tour, and exhibits including one at the local bank, the site of the Cady home where Elizabeth grew up.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Women’s Consortium, the umbrella of women’s organizations including the hometown association, is planning a symposium in 2015 to honor the year of Cady Stanton’s 200th birthday.

And still, something is missing. Ask them what they need, and there’s no question in their minds.

“The greatest gift the State could give us would be to fund a Votes for Women history trail,” said Nancy Brown of the Hometown Association. “A trail has been established, but there’s no funding.”

And what else is missing? They say that other historical-related groups located in the “cradle” are worthy, energetic, and well organized, but there’s no unity among the separate organizations. These associations of people may work together and share information, but there’s a recognized need to make a focused effort to get a trail funded that would be good for the state and visitors on a number of levels.

Emphasized Helen Martin of the historical society: “Money for a historical trail is desperately needed. Money –that’s the biggest gift the state could give us. There’s so much potential, like I could see a big convention of womens’ groups in New York State, maybe at the state fairgrounds. Some place where we can celebrate women’s past, get media coverage and press, get the right speakers.”

“We must pull together,” added Nancy Brown. “Look at all that needs to be done!”

“We know our past; we know where we are. But where are we going?” posits Helen Martin. “Let’s break that glass ceiling!”

These community grassroots organizers are aware of what can be accomplished by themselves and the value of working together with others to reach a goal. This involves rocking the cradle.

As we made our way back to the Holiday Inn from the Union Hall Inn Restaurant and dinner with Hometown Association board members Bonnie Valachovic, Barb Taylor, Sandy Maceyka, and Nancy Brown, we asked about their goal. We were told: “…to be the home of women’s equality by 2020.” But isn’t this competing with Seneca Falls? “Oh no,” they said.

“We complement Seneca Falls and other places and sites. There’s no doubt in our minds that Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s experience in Johnstown as a young person made her the revolutionary thinker she was.”

The Johnstown Historical Society at 17 North William Street, Johnstown, NY is open weekends 1-4 p.m., Memorial Day through September. Or by appointment 518-762-7076.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association has a one-hour, one-mile cell phone tour called “Walking the Footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” plus events, exhibits, banners and signs throughout the town. They also have a fabulous web site: http://ElizabethCadyStantonHometown.org

Follow Marguerite and Olivia on their travels for LetsRockTheCradle.

Photos: Top is a photo of Nancy Brown of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association featuring an image of one of Johnston, NY’s historic landmarks. Below is Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s piano at the Johnstown Historical Society.

Suffrage Wagon News Notes: October 2013

NewsNotesOctober2013Citizens and businesses in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York State are proud of its cultural riches and a recent news article says this is something to crow about. Olivia Twine and I barely scratched the surface on our 2013 blogging tour of what’s available. We could have been on the road for a month in upstate New York and still wouldn’t have been able to touch into everything that’s available for visiting and thinking about. See article. #1. #2.

Too bad that we’d just left Rochester, NY in early October 2013 because we missed the Susan B. Anthony: Spirit in Action Legacy Women Conference. New York’s women are stirring in the “Cradle.” It won’t be long before they’re asking questions, like: Is New York State planning and moving forward to celebrate the centennial of its women voting for the past 100 years? Not yet. The upcoming suffrage centennial is in 2017. Scholars are rolling up their sleeves at the potential of enormous opportunities coming our way. The interest is evident on the grassroots, though it appears to be too early for details. Check out the Rochester conference program. #1. #2.

If you aren’t busy this weekend and happen to be in the vicinity of Seneca Falls, NY and the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US, check out the induction ceremony at the National Women’s Hall of Fame. #1. #2.

The lights at the national park in Seneca Falls, NY have been shut down over the past week. The federal government closings has many up in arms, but no one would have predicted the extent of the public reaction. #1. #2.

And now for the news notes. There are more than you ever thought possible: Illinois suffrage centennial celebrants produce play honoring Chicago. #1. The ongoing Votes for Women quilt project continues. #1. #2. The National Women’s History Museum is still seeking building in Washington, DC after 20 years. #1. #2.  October is Women’s History Month in Canada. #1. #2. Find out about the background slogan’s origin: “Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History.” #1. #2.  Fascinating article about researcher who dug up 50 primary documents about Americans, their views and struggles for freedom. #1. The perspective that women aren’t suited for voting comes up on the internet in various forums by some commentators who claim to have access to the subconscious of women. Take a look at this one: #1. #2.

LetsRockTheCradle features the upcoming 2017 suffrage centennial in NYS, the proposed state and federal trails in the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US, and the 2013 Cradle blogging tour in late September and early October with Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine. Suffrage Wagon News Channel is a multi-media platform with news and stories of the suffrage movement. Subscribe, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The women of Long Island’s past revealed in book by Natalie Naylor: Marguerite’s Musings

Marguerite's MusingsIt is more than appropriate to set aside some time to reflect on an important book by Natalie Naylor, Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives (The History Press, 2012). This book has been winking at me every time I dust near the stack of books that I consider a “must read.” Natalie’s “eminent ladies” is no best seller, but I’ve grown to accept this when it comes to women’s history. This is an arena where those of us who love history must stick together. And Natalie has gone beyond the call of duty in terms of following this subject for years and then leaving something behind of substance for people like us to reflect on.

I remember getting to know Natalie years ago at a Long Island library where she met with me during the very early stages of researching my grandmother Edna Kearns’ suffrage activism on Long Island. She was generous with her own research, which isn’t always the case with scholars. Natalie’s support and encouragement has been extremely important for me, and I’ve grown to respect the time and commitment she has put into documenting the long and what she calls the “invisible” history of Long Island women.

Long Island women book by Natalie NaylorThe first chapter on native women is a no-nonsense account of a culture where women were respected and honored. Their contact with the so-called civilized world of colonial settlers must have been an eye opener to these women, and Natalie’s painstaking work to present this sorry history is a major contribution to those of us who like to know the real story. Some of these images of native women are profound.

“Colonial records usually include only names of men among the original settlers, but Long Island towns were settled by families,” notes Natalie as we descend into the past with her as a guide. We follow along with details about Quaker settlements on Long Island that preceded William Penn’s settlement in Philadelphia, slavery, women’s journals, witchcraft, the British occupation of Long Island, the agricultural economy, artists, historians, civic and political activists, plus the movers and shakers of a wide range of Long Island women over the years.

There are the usual big names, like Jackie Kennedy Onasis and Eleanor Roosevelt, plus numerous examples of ordinary people who made significant contributions. Natalie states upfront that space limitations prevented her from making the book more of a representational document of women who made a difference. That Grandmother Edna Kearns made it into the collection is, of course, a source of delight to me. And it suggests that those writers and historians looking for documentary projects have Natalie’s book to launch their efforts.

There’s so much great material in this 192-page work. In one interview that Natalie gave about her book, she mentioned that suffragist Rosalie Jones has been a source of considerable fascination for her over the years. Thank you, Natalie, for your persistence in bringing all these women to light. It’s an accomplishment much needed and appreciated.

Don’t forget the Cradle Blogging Tour that’s soon to begin. Follow the Suffrage Wagon on the “Let’s Rock the Cradle” road trip in late September 2013. “Marguerite’s Musings” is a regular feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Marguerite’s Musings: “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement”

Marguerite's MusingsIf there’s a book that’s rocking the cradle of the women’s rights movement in NYS, it’s Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement by Antonia Petrash. The work was recently published by The History Press, and it adds volumes to what has been revealed in the past about what has happened out on the island.

Long Island historian Natalie Naylor has also covered a lot of ground going back to the earliest accounts of Long Island women; she touches on the suffrage movement, especially with her excellent research of suffrage activist Rosalie Jones. Antonia Petrash picks up on this and takes off with subject matter she clearly loves. An entire book featuring individual suffragists is an important contribution to what is known. Antonia approaches the subject as a journalist and storyteller, and she’s really good at what she does.

Long Island suffrage movementOf the 12 chapters featuring individual women in Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement, human interest abounds. The author hooks the reader on the individual activist and a particular tale –usually something with conflict and drama– before backtracking to telling about her birth and early years leading to contributions to the Votes for Women movement. Long Island claims some feisty and notable suffrage activists, including Alma Vanderbilt Belmont, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Lucy Burns, Elisabeth Freeman, Louisine Havemeyer, Rosalie Gardner Jones, Edna Buckman Kearns, Harriet Burton Laidlaw, Katherine Duer Mackay, Theodore Roosevelt, Ida Bunce Sammis, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and others.

There’s a range of individuals from working women and grassroots activists, to wealthy women and high government officials who put themselves on the line. Antonia doesn’t claim that she has delivered a definitive survey of the Long Island suffrage movement. There’s a great deal more to say, Antonia points out, and this book is a welcome contribution, as well a delight and something worth adding to everyone’s Votes for Women library.

Antonia has her own blog about the Long Island movement. Check it out. She’s passionate about the Long Island suffrage activists. I captured some of her enthusiasm last year when I visited Antonia in Glen Cove, NY and documented some of her thoughts and comments about her work. Listen to her remarks from last year before the book’s publication. You’ll see what I mean.

Antonia’s book about Long Island suffrage movement (45 seconds). Highlights of work about Long Island suffragists (32 seconds). Edna Kearns’ contribution to suffrage movement on Long Island ( 44 seconds). The importance of New York’s suffrage movement (35 seconds). Why the suffrage movement story has been buried (39 seconds). The influential role of Long Island (NY) women (40 seconds). Celebrating the New York State suffrage centennial (42 seconds).  How Antonia became interested in the subjects of equal rights and suffrage (59 seconds). Two books Antonia wrote previously about extraordinary women in New York and Connecticut (56 seconds). Why the suffrage movement is inspiring. (60 seconds).

“Marguerite’s Musings” are a regular feature of Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

September 2013 Suffrage Wagon News Notes from Edna Kearns

Suffrage Wagon News Notes, September 2013The fall is a terrific time for travel, and the blogging bus headed to the Cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US is about ready to hit the road. Join us! Sign up for the free tour. Enjoy a road trip through upstate New York, the “Cradle.”

While it’s still warm outside, squeeze in a cookout with roast corn on the cob. Chef Cutting shares his secrets for a mouth-watering way to roast corn, either outside on a grill or in your oven, at the first lesson from the Suffrage Wagon Cooking School.

News Notes for September 2013: What Obama did in Seneca Falls, NY. #1. #2. August 26th or Women’s Equality Day is like July 4th. #1. #2. Women voters in US are going to the polls in high numbers. #1. #2. The importance of Susan B. Anthony’s scrapbooks. #1. How department stores changed the dynamics for early 20th century women and their families. #1. #2.  One hundred years for women voting in Illinois. #1. Award for film about suffrage movement in the Bahamas. #1. #2.

A second season for UK suffrage sitcom, “Up the Women.”  Study notes for the Declaration of Sentiments from the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. #1. Pathways for highway travel have important implications for attracting visitors to the “Cradle” of the US women’s suffrage movement. #1. #2.  The implications of a New York State Free thought Trail. #1. #2.  News from around the world: Women voters in India. #1.

Visit the Suffrage Wagon magazine feature platform. Follow the Suffrage Wagon as it’s headed to the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US. It’s the wagon’s suffrage centennial and we want to make the most of it.

Don’t make a fuss –get a front-row seat on the blogging bus!

Blogging Road Trip

Sign up for a free tour of the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US

Late September is a great time to take a trip when the leaves are turning and soon to be at their peak. We want you to join us on a free tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US. You hop on the blogging bus and take off. As simple as that. Sign up online at LetsRockTheCradle.com

The idea started with the suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” that had a day of glory on July 1, 2013 when the State of New York designated the “Spirit of 1776” Wagon Day to commemorate the centennial of the wagon’s first journey in 1913 from Manhattan to Long Island to campaign for women’s rights. Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed the resolution on June 18, 2013 creating the 2013 Wagon Day.

Now there’s an opportunity to help us take the suffrage wagon out on the road again with a blogging tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement. Seneca Falls will be one of the stops, plus the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, the home and center of Matilda Joslyn Gage in Fayetteville, and much more.

It’s not necessary to leave home to join us on the blogging bus. It’s free. No worries about parking, hotel overnights, meals. This is a road trip to build interest in and momentum for the upcoming centennial of women voting in New York in 2017 and the national centennial suffrage observance in 2020.

If you think it’s early to be thinking about the future, consider this: We have an opportunity to create a splash with our fabulous history in 2017 and 2020, but it requires advance planning and building interest in the opportunities these suffrage centennials provide.

Sign up for the Cradle Road Trip by visiting Let’s Rock the Cradle, a project of Suffrage Wagon News Channel, the web site and blog that tells the story of the suffrage campaign wagon in New York City and Long Island. Follow us!

You’ll be in the forefront of an effort to rock the cradle. Start now by joining with  the blogging tour at LetsRockTheCradle.com

Suffrage Bookshelf: Crossing Stones review by Tara Bloyd

Crossing StonesCrossing Stones, by Helen Frost.  2009: Francis Foster Books.

Crossing Stones is a phenomenal book.  Coming of age during the beginning of World War One, eighteen-year-old Muriel Jorgenson examines her life, her beliefs, her hopes for the future, and the concepts of war, peace, and women’s roles in this Young Adult book.  The book is written in free verse and cupped-hand sonnets, which I at first thought would annoy me but soon grew to appreciate immensely.  (The author put a lot of thought into the structure; read her note at the end to learn more.  I almost wish I’d read the note first, as I ended up going back through the book after doing so to more consciously understand and admire.)

Caught up in the build-up to WWI, Muriel is what many would have described a “headstrong” young woman; she’s not sure that she wants to follow the prescribed roles.  Frost writes:

“My mind sets off at a gallop
down that twisty road, flashes by “Young Lady,”
hears the accusation in it – as if it’s
a crime just being young, and “Lady”
is what anyone can see I’ll never be
no matter how I try, and it’s obvious
that I’m not trying. “

(I can’t easily reproduce the poem’s format in this review … seeing it for yourself is just one of the reasons I strongly recommend reading this book!) Although it’s expected that Muriel will marry the boy next door, Frank, that’s not necessarily what she wants to do.  When Frank, like so many other young men, joins the Army at the beginning of World War I, Muriel’s feelings about love, proper roles, and war become even more conflicted.  Muriel travels to Washington, DC, to help her Aunt Vera recover from a suffrage hunger strike.

While there, Muriel joins in the picketing, helps at a settlement house, makes friends, and more.  These experiences help solidify Muriel’s feelings that there are other possibilities for her, that it’s not wrong to question and challenge the status quo (even though both her high school teacher and the Espionage Act would have her believe differently. Yet she still struggles with questions of patriotism and loyalty: is it wrong to challenge the president during a time of war?  Is it wrong to wonder, out loud, if war is the right choice?

“When someone takes it
seriously, it’s only to chastise the protesters:
unwomanly, unpatriotic, a thorn in the side of the president
when he has more important things (The War)
to think about.”

And
“Papa thinks I’m strong because
I speak up for my beliefs – but as the war
gets louder all around us, I’m becoming quieter.”

Traveling through the influenza epidemic, the previously-idyllic lives of two small town families and the larger-scale vision of Washington, DC, the women’s rights movement, the war in Europe, and more, this book covers hard topics and does so well.  It puts personalities and faces on people and events from a time about which most teenagers know rather little, and is valuable for that as well as simply for the lyrically beautiful writing.

I highly recommend Crossing Stones.  Get it.  Read it.  Enjoy it. And learn, too, a bit more about what it was like to be a woman in those very turbulent times, to believe in suffrage and in questions and in possibilities.

Tara Bloyd is the great-granddaughter of suffragist Edna Kearns. She is passionate about the suffrage movement and writes often for Suffrage Wagon News Channel about Votes for Women books for young audiences.