Daily Archives: April 12, 2013

One hundred years ago on Long Island: Suffrage Stories

Suffrage Wagon Stories

Have a cup of tea with your suffrage stories and fortune cookies

by Marguerite Kearns

PART I:

The suffrage movement was big news in 1913, but Votes for Women activists had their eye on Long Island well before the turn of the 20th century. Women, in general, organized themselves into a complex web of local clubs and community groups throughout the island to promote everything from reading circles to the support of community institutions, the establishment of libraries, and a wide variety of social issues.

Newspaper accounts document that the state suffrage association sent representatives to Long Island women’s club meetings prior to 1900. On occasion, these women were keynote speakers at club luncheons and special events. Often it was enough for a newspaper article to document the presence of suffragists at club meetings which implied that Long Island represented fertile ground for the cause.

The first Long Island suffrage organizing meetings were held in private homes and informal settings. Organizing for the vote became more overt in 1912 with a “whirlwind campaign” of organizing that was covered in the state suffrage association’s newsletter and the local press.

Then on June 24, 1913, NYS Woman Suffrage Association president Harriet May Mills wrote to suffrage organizer Edna Kearns in a letter about her concern that the Women’s Political Union had been sending organizers to Long Island and  the state suffrage association better get busy making its mark. Mills wrote: “The W.P.U. has two workers on the Island and is trying to steal the whole of it.” She asked Kearns exactly when their volunteers would hit the ground running. Kearns replied that she was ready to take on the challenge, and she expected others to join her immediately. . .

Check out these videos of about one minute each that illustrate the Long Island movement organizing for Votes for Women.

WATCH FOR PART II OF THIS ARTICLE ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF SUFFRAGE ORGANIZING –LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK. COMING SOON. The main Suffrage Wagon platform changes often. Not familiar with us and want to know more? Check us out! And then subscribe.

Book for young readers from “Suffrage Bookshelf”

American Girl seriesMeet Samantha: An American Girl, by Susan S. Adler

By Tara Bloyd

Part of the popular and lucrative American Girl empire, Meet Samantha takes place in 1904.  The book’s synopsis says “It’s 1904.  Samantha Parkington, an orphan, lives in her rich grandmother’s household.  Grandmary has many servants, but there is no one for Samantha to play with.  When a servant girl named Nellie moves in next door, the two girls become fast friends, though their lives are quite different.  Samantha turns to Nellie for help in solving a mystery at Grandmary’s, but then Nellie encounters an even bigger problem of her own.”

The book doesn’t directly discuss suffrage, but does give a (somewhat sanitized) view of what life was like for women and girls in the early 1900s.  Because the main character is a sheltered, wealthy orphan, we read as much about stitching a sampler as we do about more challenging topics.  Racism is only hinted at, when Samantha discusses why their family seamstress has to live in “the colored part of town;” the answer, provided by her friend Nellie, is that “It’s just the way grownups do things.”

Suffrage is not discussed directly in the body of the book, but is mentioned in the historical information in the back.   In those six pages, we learn more about society’s expectations of women and girls, the options poor people had, and how  “modern women” wanted other choices — including the right to vote.  There’s also a nice picture of a suffrage march.

So why did I review this book?  Two main reasons, really.  First, it popped up when I did a library search for suffrage.  And second, as one of the wildly-popular American Girl books, it might be the first exposure many girls have to the history of the movement.  It’s not an amazingly fact-filled book, but it could end up as a “gateway book” to interest readers in the movement.

Wondering about Suffrage Wagon? Check out our overview of news about the suffrage movement, the passage of the 19th amendment, and stories about suffragists, suffragettes, suffrage activists, voting rights, and much more.

Suffrage Bookshelf is a regular feature of suffragewagon.org