When Edna Kearns left Manhattan in 1913 for a grassroots organizing campaign to Long Island, Irene Davison rode in the “Spirit of 1776” wagon with her and little Serena Kearns. The “Spirit of 1776” is in the collection of the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.

Irene Corwin Davison is to the far right in the classic image of the wagon from the archives of the Kearns family. The Long Island Press featured Irene Davison in a March 19, 2018 article by Annie Wilkinson. In the piece, Irene is given her due in terms of recognizing her activism relative to inadequate working conditions for women and children, as well as many other social issues.

Davison made her influence felt by her women’s suffrage activism—activism that included serving as a poll watcher, president of a local suffrage club,  and other commitments.

Her father, Oliver Davison, was well known for owning and operating a grist and saw mill in Near Rockaway. Irene, born in 1871, graduated from Pratt Institute and taught art in the schools of Jericho, NY. She was one of the first women to run an insurance agency. With her two sisters, Irene Davison was instrumental in founding the Rockaway Free Library. She died in 1948 and is buried in the Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook, NY.


Irene Davison witnessed the July 1913 confrontation on the streets of Huntington, NY. That’s why it has been thrilling to be part of the dedication ceremony in late April 2018 when the historic street marker was installed through the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Long Island Woman’s Suffrage Association.

The process of writing about my grandparents and the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage campaign wagon has reminded me at times of digging for buried treasure consisting of facts, stories, and primary documents. The narrative honors, not only my grandparents, but also tens of thousands of activists who struggled for generations to win the right to vote for women, as well as advance women’s rights. Without my mother Wilma and her passion for storytelling and her awareness of the importance of research, this story could not have been written.

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