Why the “Spirit of 1776” wagon is so important!

“Taxation without Representation is not okay” was an important message of millions of women and their men allies participating in the march on Washington, DC and around the world during January 2017.

This same message was expressed when the “Spirit of 1776” horse-drawn wagon started its journey in Manhattan on Madison Avenue in 1913. For more information.

Suffrage activists Edna Kearns, Irene Davison, and Serena Kearns dressed in colonial costumes to emphasize their opposition to taxation without representation. The horse, draped in freedom messages, became part of the publicity blanketing New York City, Long Island, and the metropolitan area.


Taxation without representation was an essential argument for women’s voting rights going back to the 1848 Seneca Falls, NY women’s convention. It was embedded in the national women’s suffrage movement, as well as social movements throughout the 20th century. It continues as a pivotal reference point today.

The 1776 wagon, a symbol of grassroots organizing and patriotic protest, was on exhibit at the New York State Capitol building in Albany, New York during Women’s History Month in March of 2017. The vehicle is now featured in the New York State Museum’s lobby. In November 2017 it will be part of the museum’s November large exhibition that runs through May 2018. Follow the suffrage wagon for more information.

New York State is considered the “cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the United States. And the 1776 wagon is an essential part of this legacy as are numerous historic sites and constituencies linked to cultural heritage tourism.


New York women have been voting for 100 years. The state has a suffrage centennial funded commission chaired by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Events and celebrations are scheduled in 2017 and into the future with the year 2020 in mind. That’s when American women will have been voting for 100 years.

Marguerite Kearns isn’t the only descendant of a women’s suffrage activist who is holding a torch high that has been passed to her from the past. Others are stepping forward as well to continue the work started generations ago.

Marguerite says: “Keeping others in perpetual secondary roles, in poverty, and stripped of their rights wasn’t the vision of our freedom-loving ancestors and family members. They put themselves on the line so we could carry the torch of freedom into the future. My grandmother and tens of thousands of others went up against impossible odds over a 72+ year struggle just to win the right to cast a ballot.”


Marguerite continues: “The 2016 electoral backlash represents an effort to return to the past when it was okay to tax citizens without representation. When it was okay to discriminate against some and not others. When it was acceptable to reinforce dominance with verbal abuse on one end of the spectrum and violence at the other.

“Taxation without representation wasn’t okay in 1776. It wasn’t okay when the ‘Spirit of 1776’ wagon took to the road with activists dressed in colonial costumes in 1913. And it still isn’t okay when so much effort has been put into making sure that a woman is kept from serving in the nation’s highest office.”


Marguerite Kearns thanks the State of New York for holding the freedom torch high, by celebrating the 2017 suffrage centennial, and giving the ‘Spirit of 1776’ wagon its place in the sun. “For me, it’s a matter of brushing off the dust from controversy and sharing the message of ‘Onward.’ This is what my grandmother Edna Kearns had in mind when she hitched the ‘Spirit of 1776’ wagon to a horse and set out on a journey to spread the freedom message in 1913. Her spirit has been passed on to me and many others in these times.”

“Spirit of 1776” wagon represents patriotic protest! on Vimeo.

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