“American Woman Suffrage Postcards” by Kenneth Florey on Vimeo.


by Marguerite Kearns

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As I held Kenneth Florey’s book in my hands recently, I felt a surge of delight in flipping the pages for an overview of the postcard images that our grandmothers, great grandmothers and other family members may have viewed that illustrated their interest in, and in many cases, their involvement in this important American civil rights movement.

American Woman Suffrage PostcardsHundreds of these postcard images with scholarly commentary are now available in Florey’s 2015 book American Woman Suffrage Postcards: A Study and Catalog  (McFarland, a leading publisher of academic and nonfiction books). Kenneth Florey, professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University, is a long-time specialist in woman suffrage memorabilia. He has lectured on the subject in the U.S. and abroad, appeared on television, and written articles for a variety of publications.

Imagine my surprise when an unidentified postcard jumped off the page that only my eagle eye could have caught –that of the “Spirit of 1776,” the suffrage campaign wagon that inspired this web site.


This postcard photo (shown here) is the first time the public is able to see the “Spirit of 1776” horse-drawn wagon used for suffrage movement grassroots organizing in the full context of the oceanside setting in Long Beach, NY in July 1913. That’s only one of special treats available when making American W1913 Spirit of 1776 wagon, 1913, Long Beachoman Suffrage Postcards part of your library.

If any of us were to try and imagine what it was like for our family members to be activists during the suffrage movement (1848 to 1920), we’d do ourselves a favor by spending quality time relaxing with this work. Over the past year I’ve witnessed several women’s suffrage postcards go viral, but these sharings, though informative, didn’t give a complete picture of the wide range of subject matter that’s expressed in the 700+ examples in what Kenneth Florey calls a “study and a catalog.” These postcards represent a wide variety of types of cards used for different purposes as “visual rhetoric.”


Activists collected the postcards, exchanged them, put them into service for fundraisers and souvenirs, as well as sending messages to friends. They cover a wide range of topics, including anti-suffrage messages, the promotion of real events and programs, including actual arguments pro and con of women voting.

The book production staff at McFarland shared my excitement in being able to identify the details of July 1913 not long after Edna Kearns, Serena Kearns, Irene Davison and others left Manhattan for a month of votes for women organizing on Long Island. Though the newspaper coverage of the campaign at the time was ample and other images exist of the wagon, the “Spirit of 1776” postcard in this new book from McFarland shows for the first time the horse attached to the wagon and its various patriotic protest messages.


There’s my grandmother Edna Kearns sitting in the far left of the wagon on the beach, wearing her colonial costume. Little Serena Kearns is to the far right of the wagon, at age eight. And the woman in the middle, holding the umbrella, is unidentified. Perhaps there’s someone out there with an eagle eye like mine who could identify other features and add to the fascinating detail of this picture.

Here’s what McFarland’s web site had to say about the “Spirit of 1776” postcard discovery.

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