Photo of the Week Series
— Updated March 29, 2020 —
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
Edna Buckman Kearns in Her Home Office in Rockville Centre, c. 1915. Image courtesy of Marguerite Kearns.
Edna Buckman Kearns was a suffrage activist who worked on the 1915 and 1917 New York campaigns for votes for women, as well as on the National Woman’s Party campaign for the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She was born in Philadelphia, and as an adult, she moved with her husband to New York in 1904. They lived in both New York City and Rockville Centre. From 1910 to 1920, Kearns was a prominent grassroots suffrage organizer, working intensely as a speaker, press chair for local and state suffrage campaigns, and organizer on Long Island and in New York City. As a writer and speaker on equality and suffrage, Kearns learned newspaper reporting and editing on the fly, writing and editing suffrage news for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and other New York City papers. She developed close relationships with news editors who published her many columns and reports. During the 1915 New York State suffrage referendum campaign, she relentlessly submitted articles in support of Votes for Women to more than twenty local newspapers.
Kearns is perhaps best known for her horse-drawn “Spirit of 1776” campaign wagon, a suffrage-movement symbol of patriotic protest. In 1913, the Brooklyn carriage company, I.S. Remson, donated an old wagon called Spirit of 1776 to the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. Kearns hitched a horse to the wagon and took off from Manhattan to Long Island in 1913 for suffrage parades, pageants, and special organizing events. Today her historic wagon is in the collection of the New York State Museum.
The women’s suffrage movement remains one of the most remarkable and successful civil rights efforts in our nation’s history, spanning seventy-three years and involving tens of thousands of women activists and their male allies. The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the movement’s great victory, the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
*UPDATED* CLOSURE NOTICE: The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum will remain closed based on the closure order issued by NYS Governor Cuomo in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We are also suspending all upcoming events at this time, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The health and safety of our visitors, members, and staff remain the Suffolk County Historical Society’s priority. Every day brings new developments related to the virus, and we understand that uncertainty can be unsettling. Our thoughts are with the entire Suffolk County and Long Island communities and with all who have been impacted by COVID-19.
During our closure, we invite the Long Island community to visit our website for updates and special offerings, including a free subscription to our historic Photo of the Week series and our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube content: www.
From all of us at the Suffolk County Historical Society, thank you for your continued support through these uncertain times. Stay tuned, and stay safe!