Tag Archives: Wilmer Kearns

Four videos introduce the Kearns family and the suffrage movement

Suffrage Wagon News NotesTake a trip through four videos to get to know the Kearns family and their relationship to the suffrage movement: Edna, Wilmer and little Serena:

(1.) “Women Picket the White House for Votes for Women.” This video highlights wife Edna and daughter Serena as they picket the White House in Washington, DC for the suffrage movement in 1917.

(2.) “Snapshots of Suffragist Edna Kearns” has images ranging from childhood through her suffrage activist days from the Kearns family archives. Not only did Edna make a mark in the world, but she took her family along, including daughter Serena and husband Wilmer.

(3.) “Highlights of the Life of Edna Buckman Kearns (1882-1934)” gives a personal spin on the lives of a family where everyone supported the cause of winning votes for woman, a very important social movement in the United States.

(4.) “Wilmer Kearns: Being the Husband of a Suffrage Activist” highlights Wilmer’s perspectives and involvement in the movement.

Follow Wilmer and Edna Kearns on Suffrage Wagon News Channel for the story that inspired a multi-media platform of news and stories about the suffrage movement.

Suffrage Wagon Film Festival: Wilmer Kearns recommends!

Suffrage Wagon Film FestivalWilmer Kearns recommends suffrage movement videos.

(1.) “Rocking the ‘Cradle’ of the Women’s Rights Movement.” This video features some of the locations visited in the 2013 “Let’s Rick the Cradle” blogging tour. It’s to introduce the Finger Lakes of upstate New York as a vacation destination for the entire family. There’s so much to choose from, especially the women’s rights historic sites, plus sporting destinations, wineries, and so much more.

(2.) “Let’s Rock the Cradle” is another video with images collected from the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in upstate New York during the blogging tour. Of course, any trip to the region should be well planned.

Consult the New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network for ideas about your trip planning to the Finger Lakes. LetsRockTheCradle.com is a member.

These and other videos are featured on LetsRockTheCradle.com, a platform promoting the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Follow by way of email subscription and Twitter. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Wilmer Kearns introduces December Suffrage News Notes

Wilmer R. KearnsThis is, after all, a news channel. And that means I follow what’s happening in the larger world of issues, events, centennials, books and perspectives about women’s suffrage, as well as  the accomplishments of the  suffrage movement and how we  build on that base today. Of course, my passion is inherited from my suffragist activist grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns, who was born on December 25th.

This year I’ll be celebrating her 121st birthday, and so these news notes are for her, and for my grandfather Wilmer Kearns who told me the suffrage stories when I was young. I grew up hearing my Grandaddy Kearns talk about the movement. Only now do I fully appreciate his contributions and the role the suffrage movement played in his life. This is one of those occasions when Edna steps aside and my grandfather Wilmer Kearns, born and raised in Beavertown, PA, takes over with introducing the first of the Suffrage Wagon news notes for December.

Much-talked about video from UN Women. See also: #1. #2.  From the UK where suffrage history is honored: Susan B. Anthony had her horse chestnut tree that still shades her home at 17 Madison Street in Rochester, NY.  Glascow has a tree too, an oak planted in 1918 to honor the suffrage movement. #1. #2.  Wales honors one of its suffragettes: Emily Phipps. #1. #2.  “Woman and her Sphere” highlights the 1911 census boycott by the English suffragettes. #1. #2.

The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association is gearing up for more fundraising to build a memorial to the women whose harsh incarceration at the Occoquan Workhouse was a turning point in the effort to secure voting rights for all women. Stay up to date on these efforts by visiting their web site.

 

Don’t forget the recent article about the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon and Grandmother Edna Kearns’ big confrontation in Huntington, NY in 1913. It’s from “New York Archives” magazine and reprinted with permission.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel publishes posts twice a week and a quarterly newsletter four times a year. Follow us. We’re a mulit-media platform of news, stories, features, videos and much more about women’s suffrage and the suffrage movement. Videos are added often to the Suffrage Wagon video channel. Check them out! 

Wilmer Kearns introduces film “Ahoy” and suffrage news notes

Wilmer R. KearnsIt’s August and there were too many news notes for our posting at the start of the month. So Wilmer Kearns is stepping up to the plate:

We’ve been watching the progression of a great film from Holland, “Ahoy,” that features, among other courageous women, American suffragist Inez Milholland, the suffrage martyr who died for the cause when campaigning on the trail in the West for Votes for Women. Many people have seen photos of Inez when on horseback, when she led the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC. Among other facts about her fascinating life — her husband, Eugene, was Dutch. “Ahoy” is headed to film festivals in Europe and won’t be ready for release until early next year, but the promotional information is out. We’ll keep you posted. Have you ever been officially introduced to Wilmer Kearns? Check out this short video.

Wilmer R. Kearns

More news notes: Backlash to the idea of a woman in the political arena running for high public office. #1. #2. A link about antique cartoons and postcards that illustrate the opposition to equal rights and suffrage in its day. #1. #2. The opposition to equal rights today. #1.  Gloria Steinem receives presidential medal of freedom. #1. #2. Feminism and the lack of diversity hits social media. See video. Also, article. Excellent commentary about the importance of making historical destinations train friendly. #1. A world growing toward equality. #1. #2. Find out about suffrage centennials. Abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman is at the center of a controversy in this centennial year of her death. See also: #1. #2. Sign up for blogging tour of the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US. Voting rights matter. #1.

Don’t forget to celebrate August 26th. Check in with the Women’s Equality Day video. “Rap and Roll with the Suffrage Wagon.” And while fresh corn is in season, you’re missing out on free instruction on how to roast it, only at Suffrage Wagon Cooking School.

 

Thanksgiving letter from Edna Buckman Kearns to her childhood friend Bessie

Thanksgiving 1904

Dear Bessie,  Remember the promise we made to each other before my June wedding about the two of us getting together at the Russian tea place over the Christmas holidays? Wilmer and I might come down to Philadelphia. And Mama and Papa are thinking about traveling up to New York, but no decision yet. If we make it home, I’ll be so happy to see you.

Being a married woman is so different than I ever imagined. A long train trip with Wilmer all the way to St. Louis for our honeymoon was exhausting enough, and I could barely concentrate on the exhibits and crowds at the world’s fair. We came back earlier than expected. Being in New York City makes me realize what a country girl I’ve been when it comes to becoming a woman and growing up overnight. I’ll get used to it, I suppose.

The two of us I must talk over tea. My mother’s generation is so much in the attic when it comes to things of this world. So New York is the best thing that’s happened to me. People speak languages I didn’t know existed, even though I studied geography and was convinced I knew it all.

The men Wilmer works with at the accounting firm had dinner at a restaurant downtown and took their wives along. One of them, who grew up in New Jersey, talked all through the meal about awful it is that women are allowed to vote in Wyoming and how nobody knows anymore whether a woman’s visit to a neighbor is to solicit votes or get support to run for political office.

I laughed, but only to myself. Have been taking the bus now and then for meetings about women voting. Getting used to New York and being married is plenty for now because I tire easily. My fingers are crossed for the two of us having tea over the holidays.

Thy loving friend, Edna

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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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The local suffrage wrinkle: Debates on Long Island street corners

We continue with the untold story of the local wrinkle on the suffrage movement in New York State. As we move toward NYS’s centennial of winning the vote in 1917, we’ll see an increasing interest in this part of our history. The articles linked on this blog are primarily from the archives of Grandmother Edna Kearns.

The suffrage movement tapped the power of the press when its activists witnessed and reported on the news, much as citizen journalists do today. Writers and activists like Edna Buckman Kearns reported for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and local publications on Long Island. Edna also lived part time in New York City where her husband Wilmer Kearns was employed and her young daughter Serena attended a Quaker school. Edna gave her full attention to organizing Long Island for woman’s suffrage. Her reports in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle gave considerable detail to the grassroots organizing efforts, of which this article and others demonstrate.

Elisabeth Freeman was among the suffrage campaigners, along with Edna Kearns and others who spread out to cover organizations where numbers of men would congregate, such as the firemens’ convention. They showed up with literature and made a visual impact. The community reactions and how the suffragists responded were documented in detail.

Back to contemporary times: I enjoy reading the press coverage of England’s suffrage movement. The Brits’ coverage of this time in their history is extremely creative. For example, there’s a recent piece on a descendant of Emily Davison, best known for throwing herself in front of the king’s horse. And an excellent article on how the sinking of the Titanic impacted the suffragette movement in  England.

Men joined the bandwagon for Votes for Women

Whether or not the remarkable response from men for suffrage was expected back in 1914 isn’t clear. However, this article published in the New York Herald about the huge suffrage pageant at the Armory documents a growing and more influential suffrage movement.  The article noted that support from men had grown significantly in the previous three years and how enthusiastic men had stepped forward to be patrons of the Armory ball and pageant. Even children, including little Serena Kearns, were part of the production, as well as other children of the period. As the article shows below, my grandparents demonstrated their support as patrons.

Support for suffrage pageant from many quarters

Grandfather Wilmer Kearns and the Kearns motor car

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.

A Kearns motor car is on permanent exhibit at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. For more information about the Kearns car.

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.

It wasn’t easy being a suffragist’s husband!

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.

Armful of weeds for the men supporting Votes for Women

It wasn’t easy being married to a suffragist. Take the article below, for example, where men were jeered from the parade sidelines and one joker handed the male marchers an armful of weeds. My grandfather Wilmer Kearns marched in that 1911 parade. And he probably had something to do with the 1915 book I found in my grandmother Edna’s archives, How it feels to be the husband of a suffragette. It’s free for a download and is available as a Google book or on archive.org

The book is funny. It’s true. It’s a great reminder about the process of social change and where change meets resistance. The article below also points out another perspective –the crowds of people watching the Votes for Women parade and how it was an enormous attraction to see women out in the streets, exposing themselves to make their point. There came a time, of course, when parades became old news. But they served a useful purpose. May 1911. from the collection of Pamela Hobbs-Glackmeyer.

Long and Short Suffrage Hikes

A rare and precious film clip of 1913 showing Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman leaving on a hike to Washington, DC for suffrage gives a sense of, not only their courage, but the intense interest in women voting and the need to accelerate the pressure. The story in my family was that my grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns, planned to take the wagon, the “Spirit of 1776,” on the long trip with Rosalie and Elisabeth, but she backed out at the last minute for health reasons. Edna went to the big march in Washington, but couldn’t commit to the long ordeal of the hikers underwent.

Edna, her husband Wilmer Kearns and their daughter Serena Kearns accompanied Rosalie Jones and Elisabeth Freeman on the 1914 hike to Albany in January, no small accomplishment. Hiking as a media event in the suffrage movement received considerable publicity.