Tag Archives: Wilmer Kearns

Episode #8: The Good & Bad News of “Spirit of 1776” Suffrage Storytelling


Episode #8: “Spirit of 1776” suffrage storytelling with special guest, Jonathan Geffner on Vimeo.


How’s Wilmer Kearns doing in his ongoing effort to win the heart of Edna Buckman? Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. Edna loves Wilmer’s storytelling. The bad news is that she hates his pipe and cigar. Edna’s mother May Begley Buckman was a temperance activist and these two items (a pipe and cigar) are on May’s “no no” list. It could be worse. May dislikes alcohol even more and Wilmer’s happens to like beer. And this only complicates matters. But Wilmer’s of the opinion that he’ll address these obstacles one at a time.

Are you wondering about the temperance movement? More than 100 years ago alcohol was even more of a problem than it is now. And some people like Edna’s mother got on the bandwagon to do something about it. See PBS special trailer.


The situation with Wilmer is complicated by the fact that his first job was in the accounting office of a cigar manufacturing firm in New York City, a rapidly growing industry at that time. The combination of cigars and booze didn’t endear Wilmer to Edna’s family. They didn’t know about Wilmer’s fondness for beer –only cigars. And Wilmer’s looking in the mirror mornings to ask himself: Which is more important? Edna or cigars?

The solution? Wilmer needs advice and he’ll ask Aunt Sarah. Meanwhile, the writings by Mary Wollstonecraft are still causing problems. Coming soon on Episode #9 of “Spirit of 1776” suffrage storytelling. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to Jonathan Geffner, special guest on Episode #8.

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Wilmer Kearns out to win Edna in Episode #6, a program at Suffrage Wagon Cafe

Wilmer Kearns, Storyteller




Episode #6: Wilmer Kearns tries to win over Edna with his storytelling. “Spirit of 1776.” on Vimeo.

By Marguerite Kearns

Welcome to Suffrage Wagon Cafe. Wilmer Kearns (my grandftaher) is complicating the story, as Edna’s best friend Bess points out. Wilmer’s determined to wear down Edna’s resolve not to marry because of the few rights young women possess at the turn of the 20th century. Bess has been reading Mary Wollstonecraft and other controversial women writers. She’s even paid a price for doing this after her parents found the Mary Wollstonecraft books hidden under her mattress in her bedroom at home.


Wilmer Kearns is a fresh upstart from Beavertown, PA where he grew up playing musical instruments with his family. Enjoy these images of Wilmer as a young man from the Kearns family photo collection. Episode #6 highlights one of Wilmer’s tactics. His determination to wear down Edna’s resolve to avoid marriage is fueled by his storytelling. This has worked so far while they’ve been meeting in secret at the Market Street teahouse. But the narrative becomes even more complicated after Edna’s parents find out about the couple seeing each other weeks after their first meeting at the Pompeii restoration exhibit.


Wilmer Kearns left his hometown at age 16 and moved to Philadelphia where he enrolled in business college. That’s when he met Edna at the Pompeii exhibit in 1903. Bess warned Edna to be careful about falling in love. Bess is committed to remaining single, and she wastes no time in sharing books with radical ideas about equality with all her friends. Edna seeks a middle ground, but it’s not clear yet if Wilmer Kearns has what it takes to win Edna’s heart.

Edna and Wilmer meetEpisode #1. Bess gets in trouble.

Episode #2. Now Bess is in even more trouble.

Episode #3. Wilmer Kearns enters the story.

Episode #4: Mary Wollstonecraft’s books gets Bess in more hot water.

Episode #5: Bess and Edna argue about decisions they must make.

Episode #6: Our special feature here at the Suffrage Wagon Cafe.

Relax by following Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has video platform on Vimeo. “Spirit of 1776” film posters by Corinna Canek.

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.

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.

Suffrage Wagon Cooking SchoolFollow Suffrage Wagon News Channel on Facebook and Twitter. Quarterly newsletters just by signing up. Suffrage Wagon News Channel has a video platform on Vimeo.

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.

Episode 2 of “Suffrage Storytelling”: How Bess got in even more trouble!

Season 1 of “Suffrage Storytelling” reveals the lives of young women in 1903 from on Vimeo.

Whenever Edna Buckman could, she took the train to center city Philadelphia to meet her best friend Bess at the Market Street teahouse. Bess, the rebel, loved telling Edna stories after they took their seats and ordered from the menu. Edna especially liked hearing Bess talk about George Sand, the French woman novelist who wore men’s clothes and adored attention from her many lovers, both women and men.

When Bess strolled down Market Street, she showed Edna how she imagined George Sand walked with a cocky swagger. Bess insisted that Sand made fun of men on their high horses, right to their faces. Edna believed Sand felt entitled to do whatever she pleased because she traveled in aristocratic creative circles and could get away with being different.

“People like us can’t turn into George Sand. It will only come back to haunt us,” Edna said. “Who cares anyway?” Bess asked, throwing up her hands and glancing around at the other teahouse patrons who couldn’t hear or understand their conversation. Bess could be blunt when explaining her problems to her best friend.


Mrs. Weiss had been horrified after daughter Bess delivered a tirade about women’s second-class roles at home at the Sunday dinner table in front of all the relatives. This is why Mrs. Weiss supported Philip in his plan to take Bess out of the pool of young single women by marrying her. Philip, an old friend of the Weiss family, had been like a distant cousin to Bess. She’d grown up seeing him at the homes of family and friends on special occasions. Of all the eligible young men in Germantown, Philip couldn’t be considered the best prospect for marriage, but he wasn’t the worst either.

“Philip’s nice, but I’d rather train to be a teacher than get married,” Bess said.

“Maybe there’s a special arrangement for a man and woman to agree on. Family, yes. And freedom too,” Edna suggested.

“Philip’s too much of a traditional man,” Bess responded as the two women ordered another round of oolong tea.


The day of their meeting at the Market Street teahouse, concern about Bess and her parents took up most of the conversation. Not long before, Bess got in trouble after her mother found Mary Wollstonecraft’s controversial 1798 book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman under the bedroom mattress. Bess had borrowed the work from the city library and read it twice. Then she wrapped it in paper, tied it with string, and passed it around among her classmates at school. This was bad enough when her father found out. But when Bess didn’t show any interest in marrying Philip, her parents lowered the boom and confined Bess to her room after school and weekends for a month.

Mr. Weiss wasn’t supportive of his daughter’s plan to become a teacher. He believed higher education beyond high school would be wasted on a young woman. Mr. Weiss emphasized that he wouldn’t pay a cent for his daughter’s advanced education. He was furious that the school Bess attended with Edna, Friends Central in Philadelphia, had exposed Bess to unconventional ideas. In his opinion, women were created by God to be subordinate to men, and the Bible said so. Quakers like Edna’s family believed that boys and girls, men and women, were equal under the eyes of heaven, something Mr. Weiss didn’t know when he caved into pressure from his daughter that she get a high school education.


The Weiss family weren’t Quakers, but they lived in a Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia with Quakers like the Buckman family, people they liked. When Bess decided she wanted to attend a Quaker secondary school with Edna, the idea didn’t seem so out of the ordinary to her father. Mrs. Weiss believed some education made young women better wives. Overall, Mrs. Weiss agreed with her husband’s position and lectured Bess about how men functioned best in their “sphere” of the larger world. Women’s special qualities of purity and morality qualified them for their own realm of responsibility back at home with the family, Mrs. Weiss added.

If Bess became argumentative, her father made his position clear: “Women should stay in their place.” Her mother called politics a “dirty business” because she believed women could be contaminated by too many thoughts about voting. Correcting the stain created by men in society could be addressed by women without a change in the law to extend voting rights. Mrs. Weiss called this “municipal housekeeping,” or community reform work, the highest form of work suitable for women’s attention.


“Marriage is a bad deal for women,” Bess emphasized in her teahouse talk with Edna as they finished the last crumbs of the scones on their plates. “I’m holding out to meet the special man who will love and support me,” Edna responded.

Bess didn’t comment. Being an outsider who questioned the world as it was couldn’t have been easy for Bess when even her best friend Edna didn’t embrace all her ideas. Several school chums of Bess and Edna agreed with society’s prevailing view that politics were corrupt and women had enough to do caring for family affairs without adding more to their responsibilities.

With each passing year, however, ideas about women’s roles were changing as more Friends’ Central women graduates enrolled in the few colleges and universities open to them. Some of these young women believed that since patriarchy constituted the devil they knew, women voting could turn out to be they devil they didn’t know. If Bess and Edna examined these issues in their own lives, they weren’t alone in struggling with a fundamental issue facing their generation: To what extent would they put themselves on the line to be free? Bess represented a hard liner. Edna hoped to find a middle way.


Bess identified with radically-minded women such as suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony who didn’t mind being called a “war horse,” “battleaxe,” and “unsexed.” Anthony believed that women’s freedom was more important than worrying about being called nasty names. Words like war horse and unsexed were used often by men like Mr. Weiss to label women who supported social equality and freedom. Bess described herself as a restless “New Woman,” a category of individuals who had no intention of finding self fulfillment within the limitations of “true womanhood” and marriage.

Only Lucretia Mott’s husband, James Mott, represented one of the few examples Edna found of an ideal Quaker man who could be himself and yet uphold his partner’s dignity and right to a full expression of power in the affairs of the material world. In Edna’s mind, the Motts had demonstrated the potential of equal partnership at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when both participated fully in the landmark women’s rights convention. In 1903, Edna hadn’t met Wilmer Kearns yet. After she did, the couple met at the Market Street teahouse as they got to know each other better. Teahouses represented a refuge, not only for Edna, Bess and Wilmer, but for many young people of their generation.

STORY RESOURCES: GET OUT THE WIKIPEDIA:  George Sand. Germantown. Lucretia Mott. Friends’ Central. Quaker. Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Mary Wollstonecraft. Susan B. Anthony. James Mott.

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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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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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