Edna Buckman Kearns
The follow summary was condensed from the Edna Buckman Kearns entry in Wikipedia. Additional information can be found on the links below.
Edna Buckman Kearns (1882 – 1934) was raised as a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and continued as a member all of her life. From this faith community's belief in the equality of all people, she received a leading to work for the equal rights of women. To this leading she was faithful all of her life. Edna's activism flowed from her spiritual foundation or, as Friends would say, from the "Fountain of Life" that is the ongoing direct revelation of the Divine, which leads, nurtures and provides strength for a faithful life in a world that resists change.
Edna May Buckman was in the ninth generation of Buckmans in America whose ancestors immigrated to Philadelphia with William Penn on the ship Welcome in 1682. Her family lived in the Germantown Section of Philadelphia and were members of Green Street Meeting before the family moved to Plymouth Heights outside of Norristown and Plymouth Meeting Pennsylvania. Edna graduated from Friends' Central School in Philadelphia. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, also a Quaker woman who was lead to be an activist in the temperance movement.
Edna May Buckman married Wilmer Rhamstine Kearns in 1904. They moved to New York City, where Wilmer Kearns was employed. The family purchased a home in Rockville Centre, NY around 1907. Thereafter, they lived back and forth between Rockville Centre and New York City, where their daughter, Serena, attended school and Wilmer was employed. Edna divided her time organizing for the vote between New York City and Long Island.
In 1913, Edna was assigned by the New York State Woman Suffrage Association to use an old donated horse-drawn wagon for the suffrage organizing of Long Island. She served the suffrage movement in many capacities, including writer, editor, and press contact for local, state, and national campaigns. She wrote under the bylines Edna Buckman Kearns or Mrs. W.R. Kearns. Edna took her daughter, Serena Kearns, with her on trips using the “Spirit of 1776” horse-drawn wagon.
Over the years, Edna Kearns worked with many suffrage activists on Long Island, including Rosalie Jones, Ida Sammis, Ida Craft, Elisabeth Freeman, Alva Belmont, Irene Davison, and many others. She served as Congressional representative for Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party on Long Island during the campaigns for the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment.
Edna contributed her reporting and editorial skills to New York Yearly Meeting from 1913 to 1917 as Publicity Committee member and chair, where she served as press contact for the annual Quaker gathering in New York City to conduct business. She urged newspaper reporters to avoid publicizing misconceptions about Quakers. As one example of her work: she argued that the Quaker Oats Corporation was not founded by Quakers but that the company had cashed in on the Quakers’ reputation for honesty in business dealings. Many members of the Religious Society of Friends opposed the use of Quaker branding for oatmeal and other commercial products that had not been endorsed by the religious body.
Over the years, Edna Kearns worked with many suffrage activists on Long Island, including Rosalie Jones, Ida Sammis, Ida Craft, Elisabeth Freeman, Alva Belmont, Irene Davison, and many others. She was active in peace organizations prior to and during World War I, including the Woman's Peace Party. She served on the board of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom until 1919.
In 1920, Wilmer and Edna Kearns moved back to Echo Dale, the Buckman family home, for the birth of their second child, Wilma Buckman Kearns, who was born on November 12, 1920. Wilma's birth placed her in the first generation of American girls and women for whom voting would be a right for their entire lives.
Edna's second daughter's birth date was also the birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the famous New York State women's rights activist and author of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments. Edna and Wilmer Kearns founded a nursery, known as Echo Dale Gardens, that specialized in annuals and perennials. Edna's husband, Wilmer R. Kearns, operated Echo Dale Gardens until the 1950s. The nursery exhibited the “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon and educated citizens about its significance.
In 1932, Pennsylvania Governor, Gifford Pinchot, appointed Edna Buckman Kearns to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Mothers’ Assistance Fund of Montgomery County. Edna also was active in local Pennsylvania organizations that supported business and professional women. She died in June 1934 from cancer, and is buried with her parents , May and Charles Buckman in the Quaker cemetery in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
A book about Edna and her family is scheduled to be published June 2021 by SUNY Press (State University of NY) in Albany, NY for June 2021. The book addresses Quakers in the Philadelphia area as well as NYC and Long Island. The book addresses Quakers in the Philadelphia area as well as NYC and Long Island.
The suffrage campaign wagon was returned to New York State in 1986 to be part of an exhibit, “Edna Kearns and Elizabeth Freeman: Suffrage Foot Soldiers,” in Kingston, New York. The Spirit of 1776 has been exhibited twice since becoming part of the New York State Museum's collection.( Sufferage Wagon News. SuffrageCentennials.com. LetsRockTheCradle.com)
Photo is courtesy of Rose Gschwendtner. July 4, 1913. Long Beach, NY.