Grandmother Edna Buckman Kearns marched in suffrage parades in New York City and Washington, DC wearing Quaker dress. Edna’s mother, May Begley Buckman, was right there with her. And my grandfather, Wilmer R. Kearns, was among the men in their own parade division. Someone asked me once: “What was a priority for your grandmother Edna? Was she a Quaker first? Or a woman’s rights activist first?” To me, there was no question. She was, first and foremost, a Quaker and a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

This was essential to how Edna Kearns viewed the world, her place in it, and how she made the decisions she did. Working for the suffrage movement was a “leading.” This meant my grandmother listened carefully to the Spirit within that prompted her action in the external world. In short, she was faith directed. Quakers believe that men and women are equal under the eyes of heaven, which in translation meant that in years past it isn’t surprising that my grandmother’s ministry in the world could take the form of activism in the women’s rights movement. It’s no coincidence that several key leaders in the movement were Quakers, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Alice Paul. It isn’t well known that Quaker women played an important role in the organizing of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York.

Suffrage Wagon News Channel is updated twice a week with news and stories of the suffrage movement. Subscribe on a variety of platforms and sign up for our quarterly newsletter.