Category Archives: Suffrage Wagon

A happy 4th birthday to Suffrage Wagon, plus birthday video!

Happy Birthday, Suffrage Wagon News Channel Every year in early December there’s another birthday for Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Now it’s number four!

We’ll be celebrating 350 posts this month, and that’s quite an accomplishment. Back in the early days it wasn’t clear just how long I could keep up with blogging on a subject as focused as my suffragist grandmother Edna Kearns and her “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon. Here I am, four years later and not running out of things to say.

There’s a happy birthday video. Take a minute and smile at the thought of four candles as you send birthday greetings by way of cyberspace. Leave a comment on YouTube so that we know you’re out there cheering on the wagon as much as people took notice 100 years ago. Today the news channel keeps fans abreast of suffrage news and views, events and centennials. The story of Grandmother Edna Kearns is just as fresh as it has ever been. She represents the tens of thousands of women on the community level that it took for women to win the vote. Current affairs suggest that rights granted can also be taken away. Choose the vote and use it!

The "Spirit of 1776" article in "New York Archives"An article about the “Spirit of 1776″ in the current issue of “New York Archives” demonstrates how the suffrage wagon in its centennial year continues to have juice. Suffrage centennials like this one are an opportunity to pause for reflection and honor the hard work and dedication that went into winning the vote. Take a stand and insist that rights fought for this shouldn’t be compromised. And don’t stop at the vote itself. It’s merely a tool in our toolbox as citizens.

Grandmother Edna Kearns’ birthday is on Christmas Day. She’ll be 121 years old in 2013.

Highlights of Suffrage Wagon News Channel in 2013 include the centennial celebration of the first journey of the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon from Manhattan to Long Island in July of 1913. Some links:

Media about “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon resolution in the New York State Legislature during 2013: Ms. Magazine blog: #1. #2. Newsday coverage. #1. #2. Legislative Gazette. #1.#2. Votes for Women 2020. #1.  Feature from Women’s eNews. #1. #2. Albany TV coverage. #1. #2.  State Senator Little’s web page about resolution.#1. #2. Transcript of June 18, 2013 of the New York State Senate introduction of the Wagon Day (July 1, 2013) resolution. #1. #2. New York History blog. #1. 

Suffrage Wagon News Channel publishes twice a week and four times a year with a special quarterly newsletter. Follow us. “Marguerite’s Musings” are a special feature.

12 Reasons Why the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon is a Treasure!

The "Spirit of 1776" suffrage wagonAnd you thought the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon was safely tucked away in a warehouse of the New York State Museum near Albany, NY. Wrong! The security team at the museum warehouse will note the wagon is in its usual place. However, the wagon’s 1776 spirit is heading out in late September for a blogging tour of the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US .

Your spirit can join in with the fun. Follow the Suffrage Wagon by signing up for a seat on the blogging bus. It’s free. You don’t have to leave home. And if for some reason, you can’t join us live, stop by when it’s convenient. Join us at LetsRockTheCradle.com

The suffrage wagon called the “Spirit of 1776″ is considered an important part of American history. Here are 12 reasons why:

1. The suffrage wagon a prime artifact of the suffrage movement in NYS and the nation;

2. The suffrage wagon can be exhibited in a stationary place or taken on the road to travel;

3. The wagon symbolizes the national suffrage theme of the unfinished American Revolution and the “Spirit of 1776” theme of the Declaration of Sentiments going back to Seneca Falls in 1848;

4. The suffrage campaign wagon is in the collection of the NYS Museum and already has been seen by thousands of people in an exhibit at the state museum in 2010 and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Capitol exhibit in 2012;

5. The wagon has a constituency of people who follow its stories from history through an online multimedia news and story platform called Suffrage Wagon News Channel (http://suffragewagon.org);

6. The wagon has been well documented in its history, including coverage of the “Spirit of 1776” wagon’s travels by the New York Times, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the New York Tribune, and many other papers in 1913;

7. The New York Archives magazine in Albany, NY is preparing an article on the “Spirit of 1776” wagon that is scheduled to appear in October 2013;

8. The wagon is representative of the extensive grassroots organizing that was necessary for NYS suffrage movement leaders to campaign in 1915 and ultimately win the franchise for New York’s women in 2017;

9. The “Spirit of 1776” has come to represent the decade-long activism of the Kearns family (Edna, Wilmer, and their daughter Serena and descendants) for whom the NYS woman suffrage movement has been a family affair;

10. The “Spirit of 1776” wagon symbolizes the tens of thousands of activists that it took to win the vote for women nationally and how the movement also involved communities large and small across the nation;

11. The “Spirit of 1776” wagon continues to develop the theme of the 2012 Governor’s Capitol exhibit, “From Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court: New York’s Women Leading the Way”;

12. The suffrage campaign’s centennial of its first journey in July 1913 will be celebrated throughout 2013, and the wagon has a long shelf life in terms of public interest and the development of cultural tourism from now through 2017 and 2020, the NYS and national centennial of women voting in the United States.

The “Spirit of 1776″ is another way to rock the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US. Sing along.

Subscribe to the Suffrage Wagon main platform for videos you can easily access. Follow the wagon!

Don’t make a fuss –get a front-row seat on the blogging bus!

Blogging Road Trip

Sign up for a free tour of the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US

Late September is a great time to take a trip when the leaves are turning and soon to be at their peak. We want you to join us on a free tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the US. You hop on the blogging bus and take off. As simple as that. Sign up online at LetsRockTheCradle.com

The idea started with the suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” that had a day of glory on July 1, 2013 when the State of New York designated the “Spirit of 1776” Wagon Day to commemorate the centennial of the wagon’s first journey in 1913 from Manhattan to Long Island to campaign for women’s rights. Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed the resolution on June 18, 2013 creating the 2013 Wagon Day.

Now there’s an opportunity to help us take the suffrage wagon out on the road again with a blogging tour of the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement. Seneca Falls will be one of the stops, plus the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, the home and center of Matilda Joslyn Gage in Fayetteville, and much more.

It’s not necessary to leave home to join us on the blogging bus. It’s free. No worries about parking, hotel overnights, meals. This is a road trip to build interest in and momentum for the upcoming centennial of women voting in New York in 2017 and the national centennial suffrage observance in 2020.

If you think it’s early to be thinking about the future, consider this: We have an opportunity to create a splash with our fabulous history in 2017 and 2020, but it requires advance planning and building interest in the opportunities these suffrage centennials provide.

Sign up for the Cradle Road Trip by visiting Let’s Rock the Cradle, a project of Suffrage Wagon News Channel, the web site and blog that tells the story of the suffrage campaign wagon in New York City and Long Island. Follow us!

You’ll be in the forefront of an effort to rock the cradle. Start now by joining with  the blogging tour at LetsRockTheCradle.com

Fifteen Minutes of Fame for the Suffrage Wagon

It has been a great week and there’s more to come. One hundred years ago the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon made a “stir” with the coverage of its first journey in the New York Times. And one hundred years later, almost to the week, the wagon made a stir at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York when both houses of the state legislature passed a resolution directing that July 1, 2013 be designated the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day in New York. Right now, the wagon resides at the New York State Museum when it isn’t out on one of its journeys. In 2012 the wagon was the centerpiece for a Governor’s exhibit called “From Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court: New York’s Women Leading the Way.” In 2010, the wagon was exhibited in March and April at the NYS Museum in Albany, NY. The state legislature resolution and press conference in 2013 was covered by a TV station, Albany public radio, several newspapers, and the web sites of women members of the NYS Legislature.

Quotes from the event. Text of the resolutions from both houses of the NYS Legislature. Overview of this extraordinary accomplishment.

Audio and video about the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage campaign wagon. What you need to know about  Edna Kearns: life history and videos. What is the Suffrage Wagon? Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Our main Suffrage Wagon platform.

New York State Legislative Resolution for the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day in NYS

editWagonState of New York Legislative Resolution (Senate:2421, Assembly:642)

Whereas, New York State is the cradle for the women’s rights movement in the United States and it is critically important to celebrate women’s history as well as support programs that build economic development through cultural and heritage tourism, including the development of a New York State Women’s Heritage Trail,

Whereas, A Governor’s Capitol women’s exhibit in 2012 pointed out how New York’s women led the way from “Seneca Falls to the Supreme Court” and the exhibit showcased a horse-drawn campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” that was used in parades and special events on Long Island and New York City,

Whereas, This “Spirit of 1776” suffrage campaign wagon is held in the collection of the New York State Museum and it is a prime historical artifact symbolizing the significance of New York women’s participation in the suffrage movement over a 72-year period starting in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY and ending with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920,

Whereas, Attendant to such interest in our history, and in full accord with its long-standing traditions, this Assembled Body is justly proud to memorialize the “Spirit of 1776” wagon as it celebrates the centennial of its first journey for freedom on July 1, 1913 when the wagon left the state headquarters of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association in Manhattan and headed to Long Island for a month of grassroots organizing for the vote, in addition to later appearances in New York City suffrage parades,

Whereas, Celebration of this “Spirit of 1776” wagon centennial is in alignment with the Legislative Women’s Caucus of New York State’s mission to educate citizens of New York State by celebrating our rich cultural heritage and advancing the centennial of New York Stare’s women winning the vote in 1917, followed by the national suffrage centennial in 2020,

Whereas, Celebration of the Spirit of 1776” wagon celebration is in alignment with the State of New York‘s “ Path Through History “ program that includes women’s rights as one of the 13 identified themes building on New York’s already robust heritage tourism attractions,

Whereas, The mission of Votes For Women 2020 is to celebrate, educate, inspire, and promote the history of women’s right to vote with a focus on the past and an eye to the future with the goals of preserving and promoting NYS history sites, including but not limited to the Susan B. Anthony House, Matilda Joslyn Gage Home, Harriet Tubman Home and others; creating a NYS Women’s Heritage Trail with the “Spirit of 1776” wagon” inaugurating that trail; and hosting national celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in 2020, beginning in 2017 with the centennial of women gaining the right to vote in New York State,

Resolved, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to memorialize Governor Andrew Cuomo to proclaim July 1, 2013 as the “Spirit of 1776” Wagon Day in the State of New York ; and be it further Resolved, That a copy of this Resolution, suitable, engrossed, be transmitted to the Honorable Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York.

Adopted in Senate on June 18, 2013
Adopted in Assembly on June 18, 2013
State of New York Legislative Resolution

News of suffragette sit-com and many updates

newsnotesmore copyI just signed a digital petition. Tara forwards them to me. Bless her! It’s another tool in my tool box –along with recycling. Any of these things alone won’t budge the inertia associated with humans taking necessary steps to build a safe and sustainable future. But it keeps the Big Picture in mind while taking the garbage outsider to the composter. Digital petitions work when they’re included in a movement’s toolbox. If digital petitions are an end in themselves, they’re unlikely to attract much attention. Here’s the link to the petition Tara sent me. It’s all in the spirit of Grandmother Edna who was a peace activist, which in her day represented a challenging cause.

And now… on to Suffrage News Notes: A YouTube trailer about “Up the Women,” a suffragette sit-com. “Up the Women,” the suffragette situation comedy on UK TV featured. #1.  Even more about UK suffrage sit-com. #1.

An appeal to women to lead the Third Women’s Revolution. #1. #2. Speculation about a woman presidential candidate in 2016. #1. #2. Upcoming state suffrage centennial celebration in Illinois. #1. Woman mayor in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s hometown has stepped down. #1. #2. Congressional medal for Alice Paul bill filed. #1. #2. Appeal to protect voting rights. #1. #2. Sojourner Truth statue vandalized. #1. #2.   Free suffrage downloads. #1. #2.  The Atlantic’s suffrage coverage. #1. #2. The story behind the story of Votes for Women. #1. #2. 

The unfinished women’s rights statue at the nation’s capitol. #1. #2. Should we change the date for Election Day? #1. #2.  Student wins contest for suffrage project. #1. #2. Pro women voters and candidates. #1. #2. Efforts to expand voting. #1. #2. Funding the Susan B. Anthony House. #1. #2.  Class trip to the cradle of the movement. #1. #2.  Suffragists in Texas. #1. #2.  One hundred years ago for big NYC parade. #1. #2. Honoring suffrage history. #1. #2.

News from: Japan. #1. #2. Bahamas. #1. #2. Norway’s national suffrage  centennial. #1.  Article from England: Suffragettes on hunger strikes. #1. Report from Australia. #1. #2. International Women’s History Month. #1#2. Jewelry of the suffragettes. #1.  The theme of cats in the suffragette movement. #1. #2.  Suffrage badge hung up in customs. #1. #2. 

This video about horse-drawn wagons used in the suffrage movement goes with Ken Florey’s wagon article (the images are from his postcard collection). See two-part article about wagons used in Votes for Women movement by Ken Florey, whose new book on suffrage memorabilia is expected to be published in late June 2013. See his web site for more information.

If you like suffrage news notes and commentary, subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

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The buzz has started about the Suffrage Wagon Centennial, plus suffrage news notes!

suffrage_wagone_high_res copy

July 2013 is the suffrage wagon’s centennial. It’s interesting how we pay attention to something when it has a 100th anniversary. Something that a few days before had been virtually invisible pops up on the radar screen and commends attention just because a centennial has been announced.

When I bring up my favorite subject of the suffrage movement, it’s surprising how often folks comment: “Women haven’t even had the right to vote for a hundred years. It’s not that long in the bigger scheme of things.”

Yes, I say. Ask people about the 19th amendment to the US Constitution and see how many know what you’re talking about. Not many.  Then mention that we have seven years to go before the national Votes for Women centennial in 2020. Most people don’t even think that far ahead, but it’s on my mind in 2013 in this year of centennials. The buzz started in earnest with the 1913 suffrage centennial parade in early March and the associated whirlwind of events, exhibits, and performances.

NewsNotesMoreMore news notes for April 2013 spill into this posting. Come May and you’ll see the full extent of suffrage-related news and events. Try for example: Alice Paul and hunger strikes. #1. #2. This latter article about Alice Paul calls her the “true” founder of the women’s movement. Now, I’ve never heard this before. And I  love Alice Paul. I suspect that Alice would bristle hearing such a claim. She had arms large enough for everyone. And then we continue on: A handmade lamp for suffrage. #1.  C-Span program about Sewall-Belmont House, headquarters of the National Woman’s Party in Washington, DC. #1. Statue of Liberty reopens in July. #1. #2.  Diversity of suffrage movement.  #1. #2.  A new look at Sylvia Plath. #1. #2. The husband of a suffragist. #1. #2. The old gap between what is and what should be. #1. #2. Women voters in Pakistan. #1. #2.  Important exhibition at the Smithsonian about women’s history. #1. #2. Community building. #1. #2. Gloria Steinem puts everything into perspective. #1. #2.   Program announced for Vision 2020. #1. #2.

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NEWS FLASH: The story behind Grandmother Edna Kearns’ Suffrage Wagon

The blog of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum in Washington, DC features the story of Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon, especially the family stories. Check it out.

I’ve written stories about Grandmother Edna’s campaign wagon in the past, but this time I’ve included more in the Sewall-Belmont post, especially the role Grandfather Wilmer Kearns played in suffrage campaign work and the many ways in which Suffrage Wagon News Channel celebrates women’s freedom to vote.

The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum‘s location in downtown Washington, DC makes it a frequent destination for tourists and visitors from all over the world. The National Woman’s Party headquarters at the Sewall-Belmont House highlights a vibrant part of our past for the increasing numbers of people interested in this part of American history, especially the dramatic and difficult campaign for passage and ratification of the 19th amendment.

Storytelling is when our fabulous Votes for Women history comes alive. Share our stories.  Subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel. An overview of the news channel.

 

What you’ve always wanted to know about Suffrage Wagon News Channel

Check out this overview of Suffrage Wagon News Channel: who we are, how long we’ve been covering news and stories of the suffrage movement, plus why this work is important.

ACTION ITEM: Help the National Women’s History Museum find a home. Sign a petition.

Suffrage wagon storytelling with the Hudson River Playback Theatre

I hadn’t planned to be on stage with the Hudson River Playback Theatre. In fact, this  was the last thing I predicted the Monday evening I spent attending a performance for organizations attending Service Week at Omega in Rhinebeck, NY.  I’d been on the road the previous three weeks from Long Island to Albany to Binghamton and back to the Hudson Valley again in hot clammy weather.

I was tired, but relaxing in the audience wasn’t meant to be. Hudson River Playback Theatre is interactive story theatre for dialogue and connection. The cast creates memorable theatre on the spot based on the true stories of people in the audience.

“Go up and tell your story,” Susan Zimet urged. Susan sat next to me in the audience, and I ignored her the first time she poked. Then her plea became a kick and an order:  “Do it, now.” You don’t say no to Susan.

Well, okay. I could tell about visiting Albany, the second floor of the capitol, to see Grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon in the women’s exhibit around the corner from the Hall of Governors. I could talk about Grandmother Edna being part of the grassroots suffrage movement and someone who campaigned in her horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776″ on Long Island and NYC.  Then I’d throw in how I’d grown up with this icon of the suffrage movement, mention how every summer when I was a kid, my mother would dress us up. We’d visit my Grandfather Wilmer Kearns and he’d drag the old wagon out of the garage and we’d have our photo taken. It was important to mention how Edna died in 1934, so I had to learn about Edna from my mother and plowing through my grandmother’s writings, speeches, photos, news clippings packed in stacks of boxes. She saved everything.

Sarah Urech, the theatre’s assistant director, interviewed me on stage and made this part of the process easy. Then she asked me to choose who would play me (Jody Santriani), who would play Edna (the theatre’s director Jo Salas), and Grandfather Wilmer (Mateo). Musician Dean Jones backed up the performance on the piano.

Eeverything flowed from that point on with few props other than a curtain, wood boxes, and several scarves. Grandmother Edna came alive on stage, directing traffic from her soapbox wagon, leading marches to Albany, standing firm in her position that all American women should vote. There were few words, other than “Freedom,” and the finale became me, up on the soapbox wagon after Edna had departed, carrying on the unfinished work of the American Revolution.

Sarah Urech’s a master in helping people tell their stories. I found out later that she’s a distant cousin of Jeanette Rankin, suffragist and the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. So this story joins all the others because Susan Zimet poked me and challenged me to march up to the stage and live beyond the boundaries.

Subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel. If two postings a week aren’t your cup of tea, sign up for our quarterly newsletter. The summer 2012 newsletter for Suffrage Wagon News Channel is available online.

Headed for Albany, NY to see Edna Kearns’ suffrage wagon?

The suffrage campaign wagon used by suffragist Edna Kearns on Long Island and in NYC is expected to be on exhibit through the summer of 2012 at the Hall of the Governors in the state capitol in Albany, NY.  To refresh your memory. . . check out the article below that appeared in the NY Times on August 1, 1913 at the time of the wagon’s presentation to the state suffrage movement.

This suffrage campaign wagon is representative of other horse-drawn wagons used in parades and in grassroots organizing for the suffrage movement. It’s likely that there are only two of these wagons existing today that were pressed into service for the Votes for Women cause.

One is Edna Kearns’ wagon, now in the permanent collection of the New  York State Museum and on exhibit now in the Hall of Governors in Albany. The other suffrage campaign wagon is the Smithsonian’s collection. Grandmother Edna Kearns was a squirrel when it came to documenting her suffrage organizing work, and the suffrage wagon has a history of its very own with the stories about it that I’m in the process of locating, collecting and sharing.

Suffragists Rosalie Jones and Edna Kearns toured in their Votes for Women wagons

Suffragist Rosalie Jones of Long Island used a yellow horse-drawn wagon. Edna Kearns traveled in another suffrage wagon, the “Spirit of 1776.” They toured, gave speeches, recruited supporters. At the end of the day, they were special guests of honor at dinner. See article below in The Long Islander. Note, however, that Edna’s daughter is recorded as Irene. Actually, it was Serena. And little Serena was a suffrage poster child. Her onstage appearance in a suffrage pageant at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City is noted in this article., as well as the effort put into organizing on Long Island for Votes for Women.

“Let them wimmin get the vote and stop making so much fuss!”

This story is from a New York Tribune article from Grandmother Edna Kearns’ archive documenting her woman’s suffrage activism on Long Island and New York City.

When Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon was presented to the state suffrage organization in 1913, a big crowd was in attendance, and the event received considerable media attention. 

The Good News and the Other News

Ok, let’s get the not-so-good news over with. We didn’t make the $5,000 goal on Kickstarter. But let’s not forget the $1200 grant from the Puffin Foundation and the pledges and support from many many friends. Thank you!

In the Good News Department, Mayor David Coss of Santa Fe, New Mexico has joined an ever-growing number of people around the country who are supporting the New York State Museum in its efforts to obtain the funding it needs to put my grandmother Edna Buckman Kearns’ suffrage campaign wagon on permanent exhibit in Albany, NY (the state capitol). The museum has plans for a renovation that would feature the wagon, among other things. However, funding has been held up indefinitely because of budget issues.

Subscribe to this blog if you’d like to stay in touch with those of us who are following the the suffrage campaign wagon on its journey to be seen by you and the general public. By subscribing, you’ll receive updates a few times each month –not enough to clog your email account, but enough to stay on top of the wagon’s progress. The subscription form is at the top of the right-side column.

BUST Magazine Publishes Last-Minute Appeal for Suff Film

Check out “Bust Magazine” online for an affirmative last-minute appeal to raise the $5,000 slated to fund the production of a professional version of the story about the suffrage campaign wagon used by my grandmother Edna in the Votes for Women campaign. And please pass the word. I still believe in miracles.

Here’s the link!

Six Days Left on Kickstarter Film Campaign

The Kickstarter campaign for the documentary about Edna and her suffrage campaign wagon comes to an end in six days. Over $1200 has been pledged and I still believe in miracles.

And now a brief note from the past: The value of a story is in the telling. This terrific story has come down to us from the suffragists themselves who made sure they wrote down their version of history. In March of 1913, U.S. President-elect Woodrow Wilson arrived in Washington, DC all geared up for his inauguration ceremony. He arrived at the train station in Washington, DC and expected  to be the center of attention, but he wasn’t. “Were are the people?” he is alleged to have asked. The response: “On the Avenue watching the suffragists parade.” Woodrow Wilson couldn’t have predicted what was in store for him in the years ahead.

Slow Start, But Spirited Movement Forward!

Check out the story on my newest project about my grandmother and the “Spirit of 1776,” her suffrage campaign wagon.

And the newsletter from the Santa Fe chapter of the AAUW which said about the March presentation: “The March branch meeting was one not to miss. We had such a good time. Marguerite Kearns regaled us with tales of her grandmother who was a very active suffragist in New York State. She also had a slide show of artifacts from her grandmother’s life. Gerri Gribi taught us a suffragist song and she also sang several women’s folk songs for us. Talk about steel-willed women! Those Victorian ladies were a force to behold. And we are beholden to them.”

Yeah, Team! On the Road!

It feels good to have affirmation about spreading the story. Yesterday I spoke to about a hundred DOE employees in Albuquerque — a program sponsored by the Federal Women’s Program. The program was terrific. I started out by saying that I suspected history might not have been their favorite subject in school and got them laughing at my past associations in history class: yawning, daydreaming, watching the clock and waiting for the bell to ring. Then I followed up by saying that I didn’t intend to lecture them, but rather instead tell them a story and show them photos about my grandmother and family’s association with my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon. My grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns, is an example of the tens of thousands of women across the U.S. who worked together to win the vote. History is much more interesting with a personal angle. I found this to be especially true when I spoke to high school history students at the New Mexico School for the Arts in late February.

Passing the Torch: Family tradition to sit in the suffrage wagon

Hana sitting in "Spirit of 1776"

My niece Hana, shown here, represents the fourth generation in my family to sit in the “Spirit of 1776,” my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon. It was a tradition in my family to be photographed in the wagon, and it was also a way of passing the torch of story to the next generation. Few summers passed without my mother gathering up us kids, marching us over to my grandfather’s house. He opened the garage door, dragged out grandmother Edna’s suffrage campaign wagon, and my mother took our photos. Of course it took me many years to get to the point where I was ready to pass the torch to the next generation, and it takes many forms. In this podcast, I’m being interviewed about my grandmother by Marzia Dessi, a student at Northern New Mexico College, during February 2011. Marzia’s interested in our history, the woman’s suffrage movement, and how the past relates to young women today. Listen in!

Be a Backer for Film About Votes for Women

Help us stand on the shoulders of courageous, determined women whose insistence on winning the right to vote carried forward the ideals of this country’s founders. Play an important part in telling the story through the Kickstarter campaign, “Hitch a Ride on the ‘Spirit of 1776.’” Make sure that an important part of our nation’s history isn’t forgotten. Back the work in progress about my grandmother who represents the thousands of women who persisted until Votes for Women was won. No money changes hands unless we reach our goal. Get on the bandwagon now! It’s Women’s History Month and there’s no time like the present.

Suffering From Jack and the Beanstalk Complex?

A Jack and the Beanstalk Complex is a fear of never being able to overpower the giant at the top of the beanstalk and thus, missing out on the treasure. When down in the dumps, it feels better some days to just curl up in bed and pull the covers over your head after hearing yet another tale about the condition of the planet today.

In July of 1911, suffragist Carolyn Katzenstein identified the Jack and the Beanstalk Complex by name after setting off with colleagues Alice Paul and Lucy Burns for a Votes for Women street meeting in Philadelphia. Carolyn froze after confronting a police officer, and she later wrote: “I am frank to confess that I seemed to develop a sort of Jack and the Beanstalk Complex because the policeman on the beat near our corner appeared to grow taller and taller and bigger and bigger the closer we got to him. To me, he seemed to be not an arm of the law but the whole body of it!”

You can and will overcome a Jack and the Beanstalk Complex, by simply joining me and others on the trail of the suffrage campaign wagon. The U.S. suffrage movement has been called “a solid historical milestone” by scholar and historian Eleanor Flexner, as well as “the largest social transformation in American history” by filmmaker Ken Burns.

The secrets and stories of this movement are yours, merely by subscribing to this blog. The form is in the upper right column. Type in your email address. Subscribing is free and a great way to stay in touch. What’s there to lose? Your roots can only grow deeper. And you’ll spring out of bed in the morning in the knowledge that others have faced the same anxieties and lived to celebrate a great victory.

My Mother Would Be 90 years Old This Year

My mother –Wilma Buckman Kearns– was born within a week of that historic day in November 1920 when ALL American women voted for the first time. Wilma’s mother, Edna Buckman Kearns, was a New York State suffragist who had spent more than a decade of her life, working full time on Votes for Women. And instead of being able to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the suffragists, my own mother would face the Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, World War II, and raising children during the 1950s and 1960s. It was a difficult time to be a strong independent woman. It took me years to fully appreciate the strong shoulders on which I stand. Wilma played a key role in preserving her mother’s suffrage campaign wagon.  She passed away in November of 1997.

Suffrage Wagon? You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

So what’s the big deal with a suffrage wagon? And what is it anyway? Something kids drag along the sidewalk for play? You’d be surprised how often the question is asked, and you’d think I might have called the blog something else. But a suffrage campaign wagon is what it is. Horse-drawn wagons were used by the women in the US suffrage movement in parades, in community tours, as a speakers’ platform and as a symbol of their work. Photos of suffrage campaign wagons show up in the collections of the Library of Congress, Bryn Mawr College, among other places. They were used to draw attention to the issues. And it was big news when women driving wagons such as these with signs traveled from place to place to drum up action.

The suffrage campaign wagons were generally pressed into service for the cause, and then they returned to being bread or milk wagons or whatever function they might have served previously. Few, if any, suffrage wagons survived. And if nothing else, they remain as a symbol of the extensive grassroots organizing of the turn of the century. Why should anyone care? That’s a good question. Because today we stand on the shoulders of strong people who worked their fingers to the bone to bring us the vote. Social movements are documented through photos, letters, organizational records and so on. But it’s difficult to produce an experience of having touched the movement and a period of time of our history. When we have an example of a suffrage wagon to touch and feel, it’s a treasure.

Suffrage Documentary to be Showcased in Silver City, NM

The upcoming November election, the Day of the Dead, and the 90th anniversary of U.S. women voting all converge with a shrine to suffragist Edna Buckman Kearns that will be on display from October 25 through November 14 in Silver City, New Mexico in the Silver City Day of the Dead Shrine Show.  The exhibit, spread throughout Silver City in 14 businesses and galleries, showcases the shrines of 21 artists. The opening reception is Friday, October 29, 2010, 6-9 p.m. at the A-Space Studio Gallery, 110 West 7th Street. Exhibits fall into the categories of contemporary and traditional shrines. Many shrines are traditional, such as Chickie Beltran’s shrine honoring miners and Gloria Beltran’s shrine honoring the Apache.

“Five Generations and the Million Dollar Wagon” is an example of a contemporary shrine in the form of a 19-minute documentary honoring Edna Buckman Kearns who campaigned for woman’s suffrage. This shrine also acknowledges the thousands of American women who campaigned for the vote over a 70-year period, an effort which was launched in 1848 with the woman’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York.

Suffrage Wagon Mention

The mention of an activist speaking from a suffrage wagon turned up in an unlikely place –The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. “Sara Lauter of Indianapolis, president of the Woman’s Suffrage league, spoke from a ‘suffrage wagon’ in New York City and took turns with others in the group speaking locally ‘whenever we could get two people together to listen.’” (page 1448)


Woman’s Journal Photo of Horse-Drawn Wagon

Women mounted on horses and horse-drawn wagons (as seen on the front cover of this March 1913 issue of the Woman’s Journal) suggests that the drama was very much a part of the impact of the demonstrations. It was a rare sight for women to be out of the home and in public in such large numbers, and the crowds turning out to witness the parades often exceeded the women themselves. At a time when the vote for women is taken for granted, the impact of these times has faded almost to the point of invisibility. It’s a reminder, however, of the effectiveness of determination in getting things done.

Welcome to the World of Suffrage Campaign Wagons!

The suffrage movement used many tactics and strategies to win the vote for women. Horse-drawn wagons attracted attention at a time when automobiles were coming onto the scene. Of the photographs collected and preserved about the national and state campaigns, horse-drawn wagons were a special feature of the large parades and demonstrations. They attracted large crowds, were used as speakers’ platforms, for transportation and to make the point that votes for women had to be, above all, visible.

The suffrage campaign wagon used by Edna Buckman Kearns was exhibited at the New York State Museum in March and April of 2010. While many horse-drawn wagons were used for suffrage campaigning, most didn’t survive intact so we can actually see them today. They tell us a great deal about organizing support for woman’s suffrage in local communities around the nation.