Tag Archives: Edna Kearns

No more goody-goody two shoes: Suffrage activists speak to us from the past!

Doris StevensECS-reporter2
Who are these two women? Left, Doris Stevens. Right, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Both weren’t shrinking violets although if you learned conventional history in school, they were overshadowed by men in the story of this nation. We’re in the midst of suffrage centennial fever that started with state centennial celebrations launched by the western states.


In recent years, the following states celebrated their centennials of women winning the vote prior to 1920: Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), Idaho (1896), Washington (1910), California (1911), Arizona (1912), Kansas and Oregon (1912). Montana and Nevada observed one hundred years of women voting in 2014 with special events, projects and activities. New York’s centennial celebration is scheduled for 2017, with Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota to follow. And oh, yes. There’s the upcoming national suffrage centennial in 2020.

We aren’t going back far in time to hunt for feisty and amazing ancestors and family members. They’re speaking to us from the past NOW. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has been on the case, publishing since 2009, to bring you up to date. We’re not balanced and full and effective human beings without embracing those who came before us. That’s why we’re clearing the decks so that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Doris Stevens can speak their truth. Love them or hate them, we stand on their shoulders. Now’s the time to let them speak their minds.


(1.) “Trouble Brewing in Seneca Falls.” Podcast #1. Podcast #2. Podcast #3. Podcast #4. Podcast #5. Podcast #6. Podcast #7. The story of the women of Seneca Falls, NY who planned the 1848 women’s rights convention. These audio podcasts tell how these activists had to get out of their comfort zone to pull off a social revolt in mind and spirit that sent shock waves through the nation in 1848. These selections by Elizabeth Cady Stanton are from her memoir, Eighty Years and More. Audio by LibriVox. Production by Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

(2.) “Playing Politics with the President.” Podcast #1. Podcast #2. Podcast #3. Podcast #4. Podcast #5. Podcast #6. Podcast #7. Podcast #8. Podcast #9. This podcast series shows how from 1913 to 1917 that bolder tactics and strategies would become necessary if American women were to win the right to vote. Success came about as a result of everyone working together, especially the contributions of feisty devil-may-care types who worked alongside more traditional types of women. These podcasts are from Jailed For Freedom by Doris Stevens. Audio by LibriVox. Production by Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

(3.) “The Night of Terror.” Podcast #1. Podcast #2. Podcast #3. Podcast #4. Podcast #5. Podcast #6. Podcast #7. Podcast #8. The story of how militant women suffrage activists were beaten and terrorized one night in their prison cells near the nation’s capitol in 1917. This audio narrative series isn’t for the faint of heart. The stories told here don’t represent the sentiment of all of the suffrage activists, but rather a segment of them who didn’t mind stepping out of women’s traditional roles and putting their bodies on the line. All of the activists contributed to the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. These podcasts are from Jailed For Freedom by Doris Stevens. Audio by LibriVox. Production by Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Suffrage Wagon Cafe has launched its storytelling series with the tale of how Bess, the best friend of Edna Kearns, got in trouble with her parents for a radical book circulating the rounds among young women of that generation. Stop by the Suffrage Wagon Cafe and meet Bess.

Suffrage Wagon CafeMeet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has a video platform on Vimeo

Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming suffrage centennials. “Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future.

The book that got Bess in trouble: Women’s suffrage storytelling special!


Suffrage Storytelling is how we reach women voters, young voters, teachers, students & American history fans! on Vimeo.

SUFFRAGE WAGON CAFE PROGRAM on Suffrage Storytelling by Marguerite Kearns, your cafe host.

On the street where Edna grew up in Philadelphia, her best friend Bess became an outsider compared to most of the other young women interested in marriage and starting a family at the turn of the 20th century. Bess insisted on remaining single because of the limited rights for married women. This caused considerable distress for Bess because she loved men and romance and fashionable dresses. But Bess drew the line in terms of what she’d have to sacrifice in terms of her freedom. And so in her mid teens Bess announced to family and friends that although she invited love and romance into her life, she drew the line at marriage.


In the larger world, Bess wasn’t alone. Many young women like Bess longed for choices and opportunities. Increasing numbers of them, like Bess, were in a position to receive an education paid for by their fathers. Mr. Weiss wanted his daughter to be the best possible wife for a man. This included becoming a clever conversationalist, someone skilled in household management, music and art –all of the skills and opportunities that could be acquired with a proper education. And so at home, Mr. Weiss caved into pressure from his wife and daughter for Bess to attend high school, an opportunity denied to most young women of that generation.


Suffrage Storytelling features tale about how Bess got in trouble with her parents! on Vimeo.

When Bess attended high school with her best friend Edna, Bess raided the public library shelves and borrowed books from teachers. She read radical women writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Margaret Fuller. Bess also heard stories about Lucretia Mott who turned the heads of old Philadelphia fogies with her radical abolitionist organizing. Many men quaked in their boots when hearing about the ways in which Lucretia Mott and her husband James Mott practiced equality in their marriage relationship. The word got around about how James played an essential role at the 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.


Young women like Bess traveled to New York City to witness for themselves the outrageous bells of Greenwich Village who strutted and pranced and showed off their liberated views about women’s equality and freedom. To her father’s dismay and regret, Bess turned out to be exactly what her father despised: an independent thinker, someone committed to remaining single and spending all her free time looking for cracks in the family’s armored existence. All of this came to a head when Mrs. Weiss found the book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft under Bess’ mattress in her bedroom.


Young Edna Buckman followed in the footsteps of her best friend Bess and announced her intention not to marry. But this resolve was eroded when she met Wilmer Kearns at an art exhibit in Philadelphia. We’ll find out about how this disagreement about marriage impacted the friendship of Bess and Edna on “Suffrage Storytelling.” The ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft and other women writers weren’t taught in school during my youth. Today I find it fascinating to discover the impact they had on my grandmother Edna and other young women like Bess, as well as the previous generation of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others.

COMING SOON: THE BOOK THAT GOT BESS IN DEEP TROUBLE WITH HER PARENTS. You’ll be able to experience the book yourself on audio.
SuffrageWagonCafeMeet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platforms on Vimeo and YouTube

Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming suffrage centennials. “Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future.

Suffrage Storytelling series to be launched at Suffrage Wagon Cafe on July 8, 2015

Watch the Video

Suffrage Wagon Cafe is introducing its women’s suffrage storytelling series on July 8, 2015. Are you subscribed? This long-awaited series links story to facts. People who follow the Suffrage Wagon love the details and how the cafe is opening its doors. Meet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe.

Check out past story videos and start following the adventures of Edna Buckman Kearns and Wilmer Kearns. Teachers and students who follow the suffrage wagon tell us that they love the facts best when delivered with story. And Bess is a rebel girl, someone who challenges her best friend Edna Buckman who’s determined to become an activist in the women’s suffrage movement. Bess views herself as an outsider, and she’s headed out into the world as a free independent woman. No marriage for Bess. But Edna had romance on her mind.

Links to Suffrage Wagon News Channel‘s updates and announcements: Our second year of telling the story of the July 4th co-conspirators. National award for “Spirit of 1776” music video, plus other video highlights for women voters. Path through History weekend in NYS includes programs on women’s rights. Women’s history myth and free ebook, “Jailed for Freedom” by Doris Stevens. June special program from Suffrage Wagon Cafe about the perks of visiting Seneca Falls, NY. Get prepared for the upcoming “Suffragette” film from the UK by checking out the BBC series, “Shoulder to Shoulder.”

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Great news about national award for Suffrage Wagon music video, plus 9 suffrage storytelling videos!


Don’t be left behind! Head out to Votes for Women centennial celebrations in 2020 and 2017! on Vimeo.


The National Federation of Press Women has awarded the Suffrage Wagon music video, “The Spirit of 1776: A Suffragette Anthem,” second price in its category (32A) in the national media competition. “Spirit of 1776,” an anthem to sing along with, inspired by the horse-drawn wagon and used by activist Edna Kearns, is now in the collection of the New York State Museum. This award-winning music video by songwriter and performer Eighty Bug recognizes the vast grassroots network that became necessary to build support for women voting over a period of 72 years.


1. The video story of how “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon came to travel for the suffrage movement.  YouTube.  Vimeo.

2. What happened on July 1, 1913 when the “Spirit of 1776” wagon hit the streets to organize for the suffrage movement is highlighted in numerous newspaper articles in the metropolitan New York City area. YouTube.  Vimeo.

3. Little Serena Kearns accompanied her mother Edna Kearns on the first journey of the “Spirit of 1776.” This video highlights the many ways in which Serena became a poster child for the women’s suffrage movement on Long Island and in NYC. YouTube. Vimeo.

4. The Kearns family (Edna, Wilmer and Serena) set out on the “hike” to Albany, NY with Rosalie Jones to see the Governor about women’s suffrage on January 1, 1914. This video highlights the march. Vimeo.

5. Edna Kearns worked closely with many women on Long Island to organize for the vote. This video focuses on Rosalie Jones and her highly-publicized marches and events.

6. Edna’s husband, Wilmer R. Kearns, not only supported his wife and daughter in suffrage movement activities, but he participated as well.

7. Photos from the life of suffragist Edna Kearns. The family photo album snapshots.

8. Edna Kearns and Serena Kearns picketed the White House in 1917.

9. The “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon played an important part in the 1913 organizing campaign on Long Island. The wagon was also used for speakers’ platforms, for exhibits and suffrage parades in New York City.

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Suffrage Wagon Cafe special program with award-winning songwriter Eighty Bug!

Award-winning songwriter program & interview with Eighty Bug at Suffrage Wagon Cafe on Vimeo.

Welcome to the May 8, 2015 special program of Suffrage Wagon Cafe where we’re featuring Eighty Bug, her music production team, and the Heritage Museum of Orange County (California) for the music video “Spirit of 1776: A New Suffragette Anthem.” They were recipients of a first-place award from New Mexico Press Women at their annual conference and awards ceremony. A first-place award was for a video for a nonprofit web site, Suffrage Wagon News Channel, that has been publishing since 2009. Marguerite Kearns is the host of Suffrage Wagon Cafe.

NMPW judges said that the music video, “’Spirit of 1776’: A Suffragette Anthem” is “a high-quality, engaging video with a great story well done.” The music video “’Spirit of 1776’: A Suffragette Anthem” is available on YouTube.


Eighty Bug, "Spirit of 1776" musicThe song “Spirit of 1776 by Eighty Bug is also available on itunes.


The award-winning video of three and a half minutes highlights one version of the grassroots organizing that’s considered fundamental to American women campaigning for voting rights. This took from the 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY to the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At that time, millions of women across the United States voted on November 2, 1920.


The creative team for the music video includes Eighty Bug (Production/Costumes), Edwin Carungay, Lesha Maria Rodriguez (Directors/Videographers),and Jon Lagda (Art Director). The video and song features The Suffragist Sisters, led by Eighty (Banjolele, Ukulele, Bass and Lead Vocals), famed violinist Lisa Lui (strings) Eighty’s younger sister Savannah (Backing Vocals), Ashli Lee Christoval, and Laura Guaico, The song was rounded out by Max McVetty (percussion), JRAT (guitar, mixing and mastering) with special thanks to Adam England, Jamie Sue Hiber, and The Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana, CA.

Awareness of women’s suffrage movement history is gathering steam as more suffrage centennial celebrations are scheduled throughout the nation, according to Eighty Bug. She points out that this year, 2015, is the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It will be celebrated on August 26, 2015.

Eighty Bug award


Because the Heritage Museum of Orange County was able to provide a set, a wagon, a blacksmith shop, and staff support, Eighty Bug took the project a step beyond just writing the song. She organized friends and family members to act and perform in the various scenes, film, and edit the performance into a polished production.

The “Spirit of 1776” wagon featured in the award-winning music video is a suffrage movement artifact now in the collection of the New York State Museum that was used by Edna Buckman Kearns. The horse-drawn wagon that inspired the music video is considered an icon of Votes for Women campaigning because of its 1776 taxation without representation message. This represents a call of patriotic protest and a return to the spirit of equality and freedom written into the Declaration of Independence. The music video highlights the tens of thousands of grassroots activists throughout the nation that it took to win voting rights for women over the period of 1848 to 1920.


“Patriotic protest was a significant theme during the 72-year Votes for Women campaigning,” Eighty Bug said. “I am thrilled to have been a part of this exciting project that features the rich creative talent that can be found in our community. What we are doing is especially relevant today. Women around the world are still struggling for equality, without the ability to vote, to own land, or to be free from tyrannical and oppressive situations.

“Even here in America, women get paid less and are often treated subserviently. It is something we must change. Hopefully this song will get people to sing along and create a spirit of equality that breaks old-school suppressions. Women and men of every color and background should be treated fairly. I’m hopeful but aware of the deep changes we must still make. Please pick up an instrument and sing along. The lyrics and the chords are on the YouTube page. I encourage others to make a video like this one supporting women’s equality worldwide.”


Suffrage Wagon Cooking School features the dessert recipes of Eighty Bug on Vimeo.

Suffrage Wagon Cooking School is a special feature of the suffrage wagon platform. The horse-drawn campaign wagon, the “Spirit of 1776,” will be exhibited at the New York State Museum in 2017 during the state’s centennial celebration of the win for women’s voting rights in 1917.

Suffrage Wagon Cafe

Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platforms on Vimeo and YouTube.

Comment on the Suffrage Wagon blogMeet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming women’s suffrage centennial events and celebrations. 

“Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future. Celebrate women’s freedom to vote.

Women’s suffrage movement news features Nellie Bly & more

Suffrage Movement News Notes from Suffrage Wagon on Vimeo.

April’s news notes are highlighted in this video that also promotes the next program at Suffrage Wagon Cafe: May 8, 2015. An interview and special feature with Eighty Bug, award-winning performer and songwriter who just won an award for “Spirit of 1776: A Suffragette Anthem.” What are you doing for August 26th, the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? A great time to plan a trip to the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the U.S. –in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Nellie Bly on Google

Have you heard about the upcoming film, “10 Days in a Madhouse”? It’s due for release on September 25th. When I opened my browser to do a search, I almost fell off my chair to see Nellie Bly staring at me as a Google image. More.

Nellie Bly opened doors with her investigative reporting. And what better way to find out more than to stand in line for your ticket when the film opens this fall.

Nellie Bly

When Edna Kearns pounded on the doors of newspaper editors in NYC with her activist columns and suffrage news, her ability to find receptive ears was due, in part, to trailblazing Nellie Bly. The film “10 Days in a Madhouse” is getting attention at the Bentonville Film Festival. Great news! And check out the movie trailer and an audio reading from Nellie’s own writing! A special feature from Suffrage Wagon Cafe.


FacebookFollow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platforms on Vimeo and YouTube.

Suffrage Wagon Cafe is openMeet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Comment on the Suffrage Wagon blog.

Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming women’s suffrage centennial events and celebrations. 

“Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future. Celebrate women’s freedom to vote.

Washington’s Spies and the link to the “Spirit of 1776” wagon: Suffrage Wagon Cafe special program

TURN: Washington’s Spies shows Long Island in 1777 and Suffrage Wagon Cafe program shows what happened 100+ years later on Vimeo.

Special Program: Suffrage Wagon Cafe

“TURN: Washington’s Spies” Foreshadows Suffrage Wagon Confrontation in 1913 by Marguerite Kearns

Activist Rosalie Jones was a loose cannon on Long Island back in 1913. She was controversial in public and in her own family. Rosalie Jones appeared often in the newspapers for her stunts and unusual Votes for Women demonstrations, such as marching to the state capitol and demanding to see the governor in 1912 and 1914. Without Rosalie Jones, we wouldn’t know that after more than 100 years after the American Revolution, some people on Long Island still supported English King George III.


Back in school, no teacher ever mentioned that during the war for independence significant numbers of Americans identified themselves with the British. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly today than Long Island as portrayed in the A&E television series, “TURN: Washington Spies” that goes into its second season on April 13, 2015. The tensions within Rosalie Jones’ own family on Long Island made the issue of Tory loyalties simmer and spill into the public arena in 1913.

If it hadn’t been for the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon and its 1913 journey for Votes for Women organizing on Long Island, the continued polarization of the population might not have come to light. This confrontation in Huntington, NY is featured in this special article I wrote for New York Archives.


The players in July 1913: Suffrage activist Edna Kearns who drove the horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” into Huntington, NY and Mary Livingston Jones, the mother of suffragist Rosalie Jones. Mrs. Jones identified herself as the descendant of Long Island Tories and demanded the activists stop immediately in their use of the “Spirit of 1776” wagon. Edna Kearns told a Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter (who covered the incident) that Mrs. Jones’ tirade made her fear for her life.

Mrs. Jones insisted the old horse-drawn wagon had been in the possession of Tory descendants the previous century, and she threatened legal action against the New York State Woman Suffrage Association for misrepresenting its history. The confrontation at the Huntington, NY parade had been provoked, no doubt, by the disagreements suffragist Rosalie Jones had with her mother and sister. Jones family members considered themselves the elite of Long Island for their long-time residency and old money. Rosalie didn’t view the Tory position and the anti-suffrage position as linked together. Her mother and sister did, however. In a 1913 article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mrs. Jones spoke of Tories and their prominence on Long Island as if the war for independence just happened yesterday.


Long Island was divided in loyalties in 1776. A significant number of colonial sympathizers moved away after the Battle of Long Island. And the island became even more entrenched in loyalist support in the aftermath of the British capture of New York City. This was well portrayed in “TURN: Washington’s Spies” during its 2014 first season, enough for the intrigue and spy thriller to hook two million Americans and have them glued to their TV sets. So the TV series going into its second season performs a much-needed service of expanding the understanding of American history, even if some of the details have been crafted to meet the storytelling requirements of Hollywood.

Mrs. Mary Livingston Jones halted the Votes for Women parade in July 1913 with her claim that the “Spirit of 1776” wagon had been in the possession of her ancestors, the Hewletts, before the suffrage movement decided on the vehicle’s use for grassroots organizing on Long Island. It was, therefore a Tory icon, not a patriot one, Mrs. Jones insisted.

The suffragists disagreed and proceeded to carry their own message of patriotic protest to towns and villages all over Long Island during the summer of 1913. More than 20 newspapers, including the New York Times, covered the splash caused by the “Spirit of 1776” wagon and its supporters at suffrage demonstrations, rallies, and special fundraising events. See representative media. No legal action resulted, despite Mr’s Jones’ threats. Without the confrontation in Huntington, NY, we wouldn’t be privy to the fact that Long Island remained polarized between loyalists and patriots, on some level at least, more than a century after the end of the war for independence.


If you’ve been following “TURN: Washington’s Spies,” the Hewlett name should be familiar to you. He’s the TV character wearing a red British uniform, not a bad guy actually –more like a decent guy in an extremely awkward situation. It’s not politically correct these days to make our former enemies, especially the English, look too bad. This happened back in 1917 with filmmaker Robert Goldstein, and a controversial trial that sent Goldstein off to federal prison for ten years. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson later commuted Goldstein’s prison sentence to three years. But the filmmaker’s crime had been specific: making the English look like brutes during the war for independence in his silent film, a crime not addressed under the First Amendment during World War I.

A 1913 Long Island history clearly identifies the Hewletts as the largest and most powerful of all Tory families on Long Island. So it shouldn’t have been necessary for the TV series to import a Hewlett from England to wear a red coat. In actuality, Hewlett represented a well-known household name for Tory support on Long Island. Hewlett family members remained on Long Island after the American war for independence after they officially declared their loyalty to the new nation.


Pressures to become patriots didn’t make the Hewletts revolutionaries overnight any more than the threat of death convinced many Jews to willingly convert to Christianity at the time of the Inquisition. This had been Mrs. Jones’ point (indirectly) when she confronted the suffrage activists on the streets on Huntington, NY in July 1913, a perspective preserved by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter’s account. Mrs. Jones made it clear that her relatives, the Hewletts, resented being linked to the colonial cause.

Long term, the Hewletts’ conversion to patriots seems to have been enough for family members to continue living on Long Island after the American Revolution without limping around, tails between their legs. Later, Hewlett family members became the source for stories told to the suffrage activists that the “Spirit of 1776” wagon had been a symbol of patriotism, not Tory loyalties. The suffragists took advantage of the opportunity to spread this patriotic protest message in 1913. Patriotic protest had been a key theme of the suffrage movement going back to 1848 when the Seneca Falls, NY signers of the Declaration of Sentiments linked their civil rights struggle to the spirit of 1776 and the American Revolution. In 1913, Edna Kearns and other activists dressed in colonial costumes and milked the patriotic protest theme for all it was worth in the cause of votes for women.

But the Hewletts couldn’t shed their loyalist associations easily. The state education department, back when the agency was in charge of historical street markers, produced one marker to stand in front of the home of Richard Hewlett in Rockaway, NY. There, Richard Hewlett was acknowledged as the local Tory who planned the capture of General George Washington. Long Island newspaper accounts during the 1920s suggested that Tory loyalties and the threats on the life of George Washington were, in the opinion of many local residents, best forgotten. But with the second season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies,” we’re treated to a new spin on an old story.

RESOURCES: Videos about Rosalie Jones demonstrate how her support for Votes for Women might have annoyed her mother and sister who were avid supporters of the state and national anti-suffrage cause. “Rosalie Jones and her band of activists marched to Albany, NY in January 1914″; “Rosalie Jones’ hikes to Albany get people’s attention”; “Rosalie Jones; High-Profile Long Island Suffragist.”

Suffrage Wagon Cafe is openFollow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platforms on Vimeo and YouTube.

Meet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Follow SuffrageCentennials.com for news and views about upcoming women’s suffrage centennial events and celebrations. 

“Choose it and Use it” is a video reminding us of how the past is linked to what we do today and its impact on the future.