Category Archives: New York City

“Happy New Year, Suffragette”: Grandmother Edna’s New Year’s Eve story

A little story written by my grandmother in 1913 about speaking on a street corner on New Year’s Eve in New York City followed a rant about being abused by hecklers in the Washington DC suffrage parade. Edna tacked on the New Year’s Eve story in a column she wrote comparing the experiences of suffragists in New York parades versus that of Washington, DC.  Grandmother Edna concluded: “New York men are the best in the United States.” When Edna had finished her presentation about Votes for Women, the crowd yelled, “Happy New Year, Suffragette.” From the South Side Observer, March 14, 1913.

What Edna Kearns will do for votes in this cold and snowy weather. . .

Grandmother Edna had a hard time saying “no” when it came to campaigning for Votes for Women. And she was a particularly soft touch when suffrage activist Rosalie Jones asked for volunteers to march to Albany. It’s quite a boat ride from New York City to Albany, not to mention the journey by train. But Rosalie really meant it when she asked for others to march alongside with her, out in the street, facing the winter weather.

A demonstration like this made good copy, and the suffragists were clear about the importance of staying in the forefront of the news. They marched out of New York City the first week of January in 1914, determined to speak to the governor about appointing poll watchers for the upcoming 1915 state suffrage referendum. Only a handful actually made it from start to finish, but this shouldn’t be surprising. These days we stay home when snowflakes fall. Anybody demonstrating on the streets so soon after New Year’s Day would inevitably attract attention.

Both my grandparents started out on the march, along with daughter Serena Kearns, who was nine years old. They finished the first leg of the journey, and then Edna rushed home to write her story and deliver it to the Brooklyn Eagle where she published a column and edited special suffrage features. The NY Times had a straight-forward version of the event, while Edna’s accounts focused on the Votes for Women issue and human interest. While the Hudson Valley press had been primarily positive, a few Hudson Valley papers such as the Kingston Daily Freeman criticized the women for not being of sound mind.

Edna used the experience as a reference in her speeches and newspaper writing.

Sun and Heat Couldn’t Keep Them from Their Task

I’m continuing to spread the word about the Kickstarter campaign. While I’m at it, I deliver 60-second history lessons wherever I can. One such tale is about how spreading the word about Votes for Women on Long Island in 1912 was no small accomplishment. This account from my grandmother’s files shows the details and about how the weather didn’t deter the women from the task at hand.

A Special Suffrage Christmas Tree!

My grandmother Edna May Buckman was born Christmas day in 1882, the daughter of Charles Harper Buckman and May Phipps Begley.   I found a 1910 article about a Christmas suffrage tree and holiday party that shows how the holiday festivities were tied to the suffrage organizing in New York City and it’s precisely the kind of event Edna and daughter Serena would have enjoyed. The children attending the 1910 suffrage holiday party walked away with candy wrapped in suffrage colors and a Votes for Women button.

New York City, a Hub of New Ideas

The New York City Edna moved to with her new husband, Wilmer R. Kearns, was bustling with activists and new ideas. The NYP is my least favorite newspaper, but a feature article highlighting this period of history lays it out in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which mentions suffrage activism of the women of the period.