Tag Archives: Edna May Buckman

Episode #10 of Suffrage Storytelling: Bess cautions Edna about falling in love!


Episode #10 of “Spirit of 1776” Suffrage Storytelling! on Vimeo.

Over 100 years ago young women questioned marriage and whether or not it was in their best interest. Back then, women were property, not individuals with the rights of citizenship. Women were expected to pay taxes and accept their second-class citizenship. “No way,” said Bess, Edna’s best friend. Bess decided that she didn’t want to get married if it meant giving up the freedom to realize her potential rather than be evaluated on how well she cooked and cared for children.


Edna May Buckman wanted freedom and family too. She believed that partnership could be linked to equality, but she had to find the right man who would be committed to this vision. When Edna started seeing Wilmer Kearns, Bess stepped in. Episode #10 of the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage storytelling highlights Edna’s search to find the right partner.


In Episode #11, Edna invites Wilmer to meet her family. But will Wilmer make a good impression? Already we’ve discovered that Edna loves Wilmer’s storytelling, but she hates his pipe and cigar. Wilmer is figuring out whether or not Edna is worth changing his lifestyle. But he needs advice. In New York City where Wilmer is working at his first job, he meets Aunt Sarah. She isn’t his biological aunt. But Aunt Sarah loves young people and giving advice. Enjoy Episode #10, and stay tuned for Episode #11 in this first season of Suffrage Storytelling.

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Episode #7: Edna responds to Wilmer’s love of writings by Henry David Thoreau!





Episode #7: Wilmer Kearns courts Edna Buckman with his storytelling on Vimeo.

We’re moving toward the day when Edna, Wilmer and Bess (Edna’s best friend) are active in the women’s suffrage movement. But long before that, we meet them in 1903 when they’re young. Their direction in life is still in formation.


In previous posts, Bess got in trouble after her parents discovered copies of Mary Wollstonecraft’s books hidden in her bedroom. Edna also read Mary Wollstonecraft. Then Wilmer entered the scene and he loved talking about his favorite author, Henry David Thoreau. The writer understood the art of walking and how he considered every walk a “crusade.” Edna listened carefully.


Wilmer agreed with how Henry David Thoreau needed leisure, freedom, and independence. For Thoreau, walking represented more than exercise. It turned into an adventure, an occasion that brought air and sunshine to his thoughts.

Thoreau loved climbing a tree, studying the landscape, and discovering new horizons during his walks. He listened to the quiet that wasn’t really soundless at all. While walking he contemplated the known and the unknowable. He studied the moon and buildings in varying shades of light and darkness. Thoreau said he ventured out into the world for a walk with no idea of direction. But he found a new way of traveling and being. Then he added: “In short, all good things are wild and free.”

Wilmer’s in the process of wearing down Edna’s reservations about relationships. But will he be successful in winning Edna’s heart? Stay tuned!

Wilmer KearnsRelax this fall by following Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platform on VimeoIn your free time, meet friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe.

SuffrageCentennials.com for trends, 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. We’re celebrating voting rights and women’s freedom to vote! Join us.

More from Bess on “Suffrage Storytelling,” plus news notes!


Being an Independent Woman in 1903 wasn’t easy! Find out more on “Suffrage Storytelling” on Vimeo.

COMING SOON: We’ll meet Wilmer Kearns who starts complicating young Edna’s life because she wanted to go slowly out into the world and not get tangled in a romance, at least not right away.

“SUFFRAGE STORYTELLING” so far: Episode #1  Episode #2

IN OTHER NEWS: The “10 Days in a Madhouse” movie release date has been pushed back to November 20, 2015 to position for The Golden Globe Awards and The Academy Awards. Based on investigative reporter Nellie Bly’s undercover exposé, the film follows Bly as she feigns insanity in order to be committed into Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum before the turn of the 20th century.

Nellie Bly was in the front lines of women reporters entering a world that had been dominated by men. Bly covered the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC and supported the women’s suffrage movement. She was a trailblazer in the world of journalism. “10 Days In A Madhouse is directed by Timothy Hines (War of Worlds the True Story), and it is produced by Susan Goforth.

Did you miss the special program at Suffrage Wagon Cafe about August 26th and the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment? Stop by and catch up with the cafe programs that were launched in March of 2015.

PARTY SCHEDULED: Suffrage Wagon Cooking School is celebrating its first birthday this summer and fall. Watch for special features.

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Meet your friends at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe. 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.
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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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Valentine’s Day Special: My grandmother Edna May Buckman loved Wilmer Kearns, but she didn’t want to get married!

Marguerite's Musings

Edna1914ArticleTennesseeby Marguerite Kearns

I’m not saying that my grandparents wore these particular coats shown below, but they certainly glanced at the winter styles and were, I suspect, influenced by the fashion.

The styles appear on the same page as an article about Grandmother Edna and her suffrage movement organizing and activities.

If I transpose my grandparents onto the couple in the newspaper, I imagine Edna thinking in 1915 that Wilmer turned out to be quite a supportive and loving husband.


In 1904 one of Edna’s letters to Wilmer Kearns (then working in NYC) described friends and family members’ puzzlement by the couple’s  infatuation with each other and they wondered if the relationship could be moving in the direction of becoming serious. After all, Edna had announced her intention not to marry early in her teenage years. And Wilmer and Edna came from very different backgrounds. Many young women, like Edna, preferred to be free and independent, unless, of course, they found the exceptional guy, which Wilmer turned out to be.

The conscious decision to remain single wasn’t all that unusual in the 19th and early 20th century. Edna’s childhood friend Bessie, for example, found support in other women, who like her, preferred to remain single. And this recent article from Massachusetts also documents the larger context. Edna’s friend Bessie at the turn of the 20th century was fascinated with the Cult of Single Blessedness, another variation of the same trend.

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Tennessee governor listened to suffragist Edna Kearns’ speech in pouring rain 100 years ago!

Story of Tennessee governor listens to Edna Kearns in pouring rainby Marguerite Kearns

I heard the story about the Tennessee governor when I was young. Yes, in back in 1914 the governor of Tennessee listened to grandmother Edna Kearns’ suffrage speech in the rain. No one bothered to tell me where this happened. It could have been at Long Beach on Long Island for all I knew.

Even worse, I didn’t know enough to ask, but I got the message. The Tennessee governor was important. He listened to Edna speak. Therefore, my grandmother Edna must have been important. Not much to pass on in my storytelling, at least until 1oo years passed and the other day I delved into researching exactly what happened in November 1914.

I know nothing about what the delegates discussed at the National American Woman Suffrage Association annual conference in Tennessee where Edna served as a NYS delegate in the proceedings from November 2 to 17, 1914. But I know now that Long Island suffragist Rosalie Jones set up suffrage street speeches all over Nashville, the first time that street speaking for the suffrage cause had been tried in a Southern city. Edna Kearns put herself in the thick of the street corner action.

Marguerite's Musings with Marguerite KearnsEdna Kearns, who’d made a reputation for herself back in New York as a popular suffrage speaker, captivated the attention of the Tennessee governor, Ben W. Hooper (1870-1957). He served the state from 1911 to 1915. His administration was so controversial, documents say, that armed guards were required in the state legislature. In 1920 the State of Tennessee legislature provided the final ratification vote to bring about the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So all of this Big Picture explanation is now viewed by me in retrospect.

It was a novelty for women to speak in pubic on Nashville, TN street corners 100 years ago. So Governor Hooper must have been fascinated to listen in the rain to a determined activist like Edna Kearns who didn’t fold up shop when the rain pelted the sidewalks. It was a big deal, just as I’d heard about as an impressionable youngster –and even more so now that I’m aware of the details. Back in New York in November 1914, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a long article about the contingent of Long Island women who took Nashville by storm in November 1914. And we’re enjoying hearing about the details 100 years later.

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