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
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:
An article appeared in The Monroe County Mail (Fairport, NY) on October 21, 1915 that’s worth taking a look at. The piece meant the news traveled from Long Island to upstate New York with information about my grandmother’s “can can” campaign. It was intended to prove that a woman could both “can” and make a good speech. Edna harvested the fresh fruit in season and then put the energy to work for Votes for Women. See 1915 column called “Woman’s World.” Grandmother Edna was determined to demonstrate that voting and safe food were related. She didn’t just talk about it. She canned herself and taught others about safe canning techniques. Edna also raised funds for the suffrage movement by canning.
The suffragists modeled leadership –how people can take advantage of existing opportunities to spread the word about their cause or special interests. Grandmother Edna Kearns knew that women could be reached in the kitchen. So she focused on where women could make the connection between political rights and the domestic arts. Thus, her “Can Can” campaign reached women in their own homes!
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The New Agenda is sponsoring a mentor exchange. This is an important part of building leadership among younger people. Can you help with The New Agenda’s program? Or continue with what you’re doing already. The suffragists demonstrated leadership in their “can do” attitude and persistence in seeing an issue through to its logical conclusion, which took 72 years. The suffragists were “there” for us. Let’s be “there” for them by carrying on their work of freedom and social justice.
To participate in the New Agenda’s mentoring program, find out more. Why? Because, as The New Agenda explains:
“This initiative also comes at a time when women are experiencing a widening promotion and pay gap. In 2011 for the first time in history, women surpassed men as recipients of college degrees. But according to a McKinsey report, 53% of entry level jobs are held by women today but the number declines to 37% for mid-management and even lower at 26% for senior level roles. In fields like corporate management and politics, men still occupy 84% and 83% of leadership roles, and women’s progress has stalled or is moving backwards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women still only earn 80 percent of what men do in annual salary and benefits.”
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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The suffrage torch has been passed to the next generation, and young people are running with the flame. This week’s NYT article on change.org spells it out.
And a new video on You Tube by two young women (Sylvia Ashley and Ane Grytten) presents archival suffrage images and original lyrics featuring the suffrage movement as a history lesson where voting is linked with being part of a democratic movement.
Why are stories of the suffrage movement significant? Storyteller Alton Takayama-Chung has this to remind us: “Younger generations may not have an interest in their culture or family history. They may not have the stories of their ancestors to fall back upon when faced with new situations. Culturally specific, historically accurate stories can be used to fill this need.”
Image: Library of Congress. Subscribe to the Suffrage Wagon News Channel to find out how to build leadership through stories of the suffrage movement.