Category Archives: Rockville Centre

A fairy tale story of suffrage

My Aunt Serena Kearns was known as Nassau County’s “youngest suffragist.” If there was a poster child for woman’s suffrage, it was little Serena. Her image was preserved when sitting in her mother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon, the “Spirit of 1776″ with the large bow in her hair. Yes, this is the same wagon on exhibit on the second floor of the New York State capitol through the summer of 2012.

Little Serena accompanied her mother, Edna Kearns, in New York City parades and on whirlwind campaigns for Votes for Women on Long Island.  This article from the Brooklyn Times on February 13, 1913 documents a suffrage story that Serena wrote:

“Once upon a time there was a fairy called Suffrage. Now it happened that the laws of the land did not suit her. She believed in equal rights. But in that land the men did not believe in the women voting.

“Now fairy Suffrage was a smart fairy: She went to the President. But she did not dress as a fairy. Oh, no! She dressed as a poor working girl asking for the vote to help her in her work. The President wouldn’t help.

“The next day while she was out walking she met an enemy of hers. His name was Ignorance. Ignorance began to say disagreeable things to her. ‘Ignorance,’ she said. ‘I will go to Justice, the queen of the fairies, for help.’ This she did. And Justice said: ‘I can help you because I dwell in almost everybody’s heart, while Ignorance lives in the hearts of so few people. I can overcome Ignorance with my wonderful power.’ Then Justice won the battle in the year 1915 and fairy Suffrage was saved.”

Poor Serena must have been disappointed as suffrage wasn’t approved in 1915 by New York State voters. However, it passed in 1917, which means the upcoming 100th anniversary is in 2017.

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Serena Kearns: Poster Child for Suffrage

To me, she was Aunt Serena. To the many people who knew my grandmother Edna, Serena was the poster child for the suffrage movement in New York City and Long Island. Edna Kearns was the suffrage editor for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle which meant Serena went everywhere with her mother. She rode in the suffrage wagon, handed out literature and even went to Washington, DC to picket the White House. Photo from the collection of Edna Buckman Kearns.

Edna’s Hometown of Rockville Centre has a Woman Mayor

On the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, the newspaper covering Nassau County on Long Island featured Edna Kearns and a roundup of the number of women holding elected positions on Long Island. Check it out! I’m sure Edna thought it perfectly reasonable that Rockville Centre, where she lived, should have a woman mayor, Mary Bossart. While an accomplishment, it should be noted that Mary Bossart was elected in 2007 as the first woman mayor for Rockville Centre. She served as a village trustee for eight years.