Author’s press release for book—
SUFFRAGE ACTIVIST DESCENDANT WRITES FAMILY HISTORY ABOUT VOTING RIGHTS STRUGGLE
This book, to be released by SUNY Press (State University of New York), is part of the expanding activist descendant nonfiction body of literature. It provides a broad perspective on the courageous, relentless, and diverse activists who campaigned for women’s voting rights. A great deal has changed in the 100 years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920.
ANOTHER ANGLE ON THE SUFFRAGE CAMPAIGNING
Marguerite Kearns, the author and granddaughter of New York suffrage activists Edna and Wilmer Kearns, tells the story of how this 20th century social justice movement impacted four generations in her family. They were family history organizers, women’s rights, peace activists, and social justice advocates.
At the age of ten, Marguerite Kearns asked her Quaker grandfather about her activist grandmother, Edna Buckman Kearns. She posed questions that her grandfather answered with his stories of Edna, with whom he fell in love after meeting her in 1902. Edna had warned him, however: “We’ll be only friends.”
THE LOVE STORY OF EDNA AND WILMER HAD A TIMETABLE ALL OF ITS OWN
The couple’s friendship and later romance moved slowly for several reasons. Her family members were Quakers who believed in nonviolence, arriving from England in 1682 with William Penn, Pennsylvania’s first governor. Wilmer’s ancestors and extended family members enlisted in the military during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
His mother, Henrietta Kearns, was enrolled in a Civil War Orphan School after her father’s death at the battle of Petersburg in Virginia. Wilmer’s friends in Philadelphia warned him about falling in love with “curmudgeons,” what Quakers were considered because their distinct culture, as well as faith and practice which included idealism, a belief in equality, nonviolence, and simplicity.
As Marguerite listened, she translated her grandfather’s stories into what she imagined happened in the past. Decades later, she wrote the memoir and family history by highlighting these narrative scenes, including dialogue and character development, bringing this family history to life. Her grandfather’s struggle to become a Quaker and the drama of Edna becoming a suffrage activist feature the highs and lows of the author’s research and family stories.
MANY NATIONAL VOTING RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS WERE DIVERSE AND DECENTRALIZED
Voting rights campaigning involved tens of thousands of women and many men, petitioning, marching, lobbying, writing, and in other ways standing firm about their determination to win votes for women over generations.
The story shows a Quaker family attempting to navigate the challenges of marriage, the birth of a first child, and participation in a decentralized social justice movement. The uphill struggles of daily life merge with an active role in women’s rights advocacy efforts as the routines of daily life mix with family secrets and a scandal.
AUTHOR CARRIES THE STORY FORWARD AS AN ACTIVIST DESCENDANT IN THE PRESENT DAY
Marguerite, as author, carries the story forward with her development as a writer when she accepts a job as a newspaper reporter and editor in Woodstock, NY. This is in the aftermath of the 1969 Woodstock music festival in the Hudson Valley. She covers women’s suffrage history of the Hudson Valley, suffrage-related stories associated with performer Pete Seeger, activist Sojourner Truth, suffrage activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and the U.S. suffrage martyr Inez Milholland.
After pulling together elements of family stories, legends, interviews, secondary sources, her grandmother’s substantial archive of suffrage primary documents, plus trips and visits to relatives, Marguerite realizes how much she resembles her grandmother Edna. That’s when she understands the significance of telling about the long struggle for women’s voting rights through the lens of a single family.
THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS THAT GO INTO TELLING A STORY
The horse-drawn suffrage wagon Spirit of 1776 used by her grandmother Edna Kearns is now part of the permanent collection of the New York State Museum, and the book, An Unfinished Revolution, fulfills the author’s quest for a personal connection to Edna.
The family tales, legends, challenges, and characters provide human interest to keep the tale moving forward to a conclusion where the author marches in a present-day women’s rights march carrying a large photo of her grandparents participating in a women’s march in 1914, more than one hundred years before.
BASIC CONTACT INFORMATION
Marguerite Kearns is a freelance writer and journalist (MargueriteKearns at gmail.com). The book’s web site is: Unfinished-Revolution.com. The book includes more than 100 vintage photos, most from the author’s personal collection. Kate Seburyamo handles production review copies and other special requests for SUNY Press (firstname.lastname@example.org). Photos available on request from Marguerite Kearns for book reviewers and writers of feature articles.
MEDIA COVERAGE OVER THE YEARS
The story of the Kearns family and the Spirit of 1776 suffrage campaign wagon has been covered in the New York Times, Newsday (Long Island), New York History Journal, New York Archives, Ms. Blog, New York Magazine, Hudson Valley One, New York History blog, Santa Fe Literary Review, WAMC, Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe Reporter, plus other publications and communications venues of general circulation.