Category Archives: Long Island

What did Grandmother Edna Kearns say when standing on her campaign wagon?

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.

Splits in suffrage movement didn’t deter working relationships

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.

Sending a message upstairs to those in charge. . .

Here’s my grandmother, Edna Kearns, dressed as an aviator. The photo could be interpreted as quaint and perhaps a bit old-fashioned. Underlying the outfit is the message that women had decided they could wait no longer for the vote as they’d been asked to do before the Civil War. They would no longer cooperate. They would no longer submit to second-class citizenship. They would no longer be obedient to the status quo.

There were tens of thousands of down-to-earth and up-in-the-air activists like grandmother Edna. Perhaps your grandmother or great-grandmother was on the suffrage bandwagon too. This wasn’t a fad. It was a shared understanding that without the consent of half of the population, things would have to change.

When reading through Edna’s scrapbooks and clippings, I’m finding many examples of dramatic tactics. Such as Long Island suffragists who milked cows to attract attention to the movement. They flew airplanes and distributed Votes for Women literature from the air. It was critical to keep the issue of Votes for Women alive so the movement didn’t die on the vine. This wasn’t a remote possibility. The suffrage movement started with a bang in 1848. By 1900, people described the movement as in the “doldrums.”

This was another way of saying that collective begging and “pretty please” no longer worked. What began with polite persuasion developed into accelerating forms of protest. When parades no longer did the trick, some segments of the movement moved on to non cooperation (including boycotts of political candidates and parties), and then, bolder and more dramatic stands, such as picketing the White House.

See article from Edna’s collection from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This particular piece describes women turning a Long Island airport over to a demonstration that sounds almost like a movement pajama party. The event didn’t exist in isolation. In the context of demonstrations like it across the nation, the suffs sent a clear message to those in charge. They weren’t about to give up.

Photos: Edna as aviator from the collection of Edna Buckman Kearns. Vintage photo from the public domain.

Intense suffrage debates on Long Island street corners

The location of one such fiery debate was identified as the corner of North Ocean Avenue and Main Street in Patchogue, NY as part of the campaigning to open up Long Island to more suffrage organizing. The Votes for Women activists held parades, spoke on street corners and from the back seats of automobiles, as well as horse-drawn wagons. At times their presence in town was heightened with a live band.   See entire article from the archives of Edna Buckman Kearns that includes the details of a shouting match between the women and a man on the street. Edna witnessed the event, and it was her job at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to write about it.

Photo of my grandmother Edna in 1912

Barnstorming for Votes for Women on Long Island, my grandmother Edna Buckman Kearns didn’t leave a stone unturned in her campaigning for Votes for Women. This photo is from a New York State suffrage publication, showing her to the right holding an umbrella.

The Whirlwind Campaign of Long Island: 1912

The women hit the streets, literally, when barnstorming Long island for Votes for Women in 1912. They also kept excellent records, took charge of their own publicity, and understood the importance of being visible.Long Island's 1912 campaign

How my Grandmother risked her life for Votes for Women

I wrote this award-winning story about how my grandmother (Edna Buckman Kearns) risked her life for Votes for Women; it takes us back to 1915. And what a great way to kick off the many activities of Women’s History Month! Accompanying this tale is a contribution by Tara Bloyd, Edna’s great granddaughter, who seasons the story with her favorite corn soup recipe. My grandmother Edna canned fruits and vegetables and made jam to raise money for the women’s suffrage movement. While our family saved some of Edna’s plates and dishes, the most prized possession is Edna’s canned corn which is featured in the story.