Edna Kearns

Edna Buckman Kearns was a grassroots suffrage organizer in New York City and Long Island, a Quaker writer and speaker best known for her “Spirit of 1776” suffrage campaign wagon, a symbol of the movement’s patriotic protest theme.

The “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon was on exhibit at the New York State Capitol in Albany, NY during March 2017 and then again at the state museum from November 4, 2017 through May 13, 2018.

PHOTO OF “SPIRIT OF 1776” SUFFRAGE WAGON UNCOVERED IN 2015: Special program on Suffrage Wagon Cafe.

1913 Long Beach Wagon

Overview of the life of Quaker suffrage activist Edna Buckman Kearns (1882-1934).  PDF  Marguerite Kearns, editor of Suffrage Wagon News Channel, is a journalist and the granddaughter of Edna Kearns. Public radio features Marguerite speaking about Edna and Inez Milholland, America’s suffrage martyr.

Edna Kearns (1882-1934) learned newspaper reporting and editing when serving as press chair for New York Quakers. Later, she wrote and edited suffrage news for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and other New York City metropolitan papers. Edna developed close relationships with news editors who published her many columns and reports. During the 1915 NYS suffrage referendum campaign, she submitted news to as many as 20 papers on Long Island and in New York City.

Photo: Above July 4, 1913 in Long Beach, NY image from the collection of Rose Gschwendtner showing Edna Kearns far left; little Serena Kearns far right and unidentified woman in the middle).

Edna Kearns is best known for her horse-drawn “Spirit of 1776” campaign wagon, a suffrage movement symbol of patriotic protest. Kearns hitched a horse to a suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” and took off from Manhattan to Long Island in early July 1913. The wagon today is in the collection of the New  York State Museum. From 1910 to 1920, Kearns worked intensely as a speaker, as a press chair for local and state suffrage campaigns, and a movement organizer on Long Island and in New York City. This web platform is dedicated to her work and legacy.

The story of Edna Kearns has Woodstock, NY ties. Marguerite speaks about Edna Kearns in a 2014 podcast by Chick History.

Check out videos highlighting the 1913 maiden voyage of the wagon and its trip from Manhattan to Long Island. Article from New York History blog: “Long Island’s Three Wagon Women: Rosalie Jones, Elisabeth Freeman, Edna Kearns. See more information about the wagon on this web site.

Video about Wilmer Kearns, Edna’s husband. About Serena Kearns, Wilmer and Edna’s first child born 1905. About Marguerite Kearns, manager of Edna Buckman Kearns Suffrage Collection.

Edna Kearns, Wilmer Kearns and the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon after 1920 in Pennsylvania.

Bibliography and resources for Edna Kearns and “Spirit of 1776” wagon. Edna Kearns nominee for 2014 National Women’s History Project, Women of Character, Courage and Commitment. Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Snapshots from the Life of Edna Kearns on Vimeo.

Edna B. Kearns, New York State suffrage activist! on Vimeo.

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Follow SuffrageCentennials.com, our sister site, 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.

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