Happy Valentine’s Day.
Here’s a film by director Sarah Polley that will be streaming soon. It’s a must see.
by Marguerite Kearns
Just to publish the book, An Unfinished Revolution: Edna Buckman Kearns and the Struggle for Women’s rights, was a major accomplishment due to the research and work involved in telling the tale of one family. It’s very relevant now that ERA advocates are lining up support for a new round of legislation.
Several years ago I made an audio podcast for KSFR public radio in Santa Fe (2015) to ask what New Mexico’s elected officials think about the ERA momentum. It’s fascinating to hear what they had to say then. Are our representatives’ names on the current legislation sponsoring a change in the ERA time requirements. I wrote to find out what is happening. Here’s what they had to say in the past.
I made it clear in the introduction to my 2021 book from SUNY Press in Albany, NY that I was not writing a researched account of all the campaigning and individuals going back to the start of the nation who felt compelled to support or oppose an extension of women’s rights.
I wrote about what intersected with my family, as well as what others told me about my grandparents and their ups and downs relative to their condition at the turn of the 20th century through 1920.
THE INVESTMENT AND THE SATISFACTION INVOLVED
This effort in terms of one branch of my family took tens of thousands of hours of consulting and researching with my mother when she was alive. I gathered as much content as possible from others with basic knowledge, and I never had funding or suport from a grant or academic position. The work adapted to our respective schedules.
When I realized around 1996 that my mother had a different editorial agenda than I did, I set the project aside. We clashed over whether or not the story about my grandmother’s first menstrual period in 1895 should be included in the account. I believed it was important. My mother worried over what others might think.
Automobiles in the Suffrage Movement on Vimeo. With thanks to Ken Florey.
I WASN’T ABLE THEN TO PROBE THE BOUNDARIES AND NUANCES
I kept the subject matter limited when I wrote about my family. Even then, it’s an approximation of what happened. I did not live during the period from 1900 to 1920. When I was ten years old, none of the teachers or students at my school ever heard the word “suffrage.” My efforts represented a coming of age for me, more related to the widespread perception that the women of the nation were boring, as was their history. From what I knew, the extension of rights was uphill and time consuming.
I figured that I could, at least, focus on my family in anything I wrote. I couldn’t address foreign policy, patriarchy, racism, or other issues that may have been relevant along the way. The only thing interesting me at age ten was my zeal in finding out about my grandmother Edna who died in 1934, before I was born. I felt insecure about being the family historian. I didn’t believe I had the necessary skills. Other family members came before me with the genealogy research and the amount of effort associated with managing the finances and actions.
I published the book. It could have been better. It would have been worse if I had done nothing. I find that few people today know much or care about this part of history, especially since the 2020 suffrage centennial. I have, therefore, shifted my focus to today.
WHAT IS STILL TRUE TODAY IN TERMS OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS
In 2023, US women will have been working for an equal rights amendment to the US Constitution for 100 years.
Yes, I care whether or not the New York State Museum places my grandmother’s suffrage campaign wagon on permanent exhibit in the years ahead. Yes, I am delighted at the amount of attention given to women’s history over the past decade. It is a major step forward. My writing has uncovered insights about myself and family I never fully realized, even though many of the revelations could be traced to the landscape right in front of my face.
I am finished with the book. It exists. Many people pitched in and assisted me over time. I hope I gave the story the importance it deserves. The next step is to pass the torch to the future. We Americans have done an admirable job of uncovering the diversity of those who participated. The “why” is less well known without probing and immersing one’s self in mystery and the unknown.
I TRY TO BE DETACHED AND KEEP AN EMOTIONAL DISTANCE—I CAN’T.
These are concerns that others may share with me. And there are other nuances that may never be known. This is a limitation for everyone who studies and comes to know about the past. Even scholars may not have a full grasp of what it may have been like to face injustice and take appropriate action during that era.
I hope this gives others some of the difficulty in writing and producing my first book. At a certain point, I am exhausted and thankful the content has two covers. That is all I can think of in terms of responding to what may have once been a passion. This is true, just as much as the satisfaction I experience when crossing it off of my “to do” list.
A PART OF HISTORY THAT NEEDS FRESH EYES AND PERSPECTIVES
I had a direct connection to a part of history the professionals and “experts” claim to know all about by reading books. I did my best in.relating how my limited knowledge and experience was nourished by my family members and how this impacted my life. The main thing is that my grandmother Edna influenced four generations in my family. She passed on her spirit to my mother, me, and others.
For this, I am grateful.
We have sent another LETTER TO SENATE MAJORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER…to get him paying attention to the reminders to make an equal rights amendment to the US Constitution possible in 2023. Let’s get the ratification time limit restrictions onto the Senate floor for a vote!
SuffrageCententennials.com published almost a decade with only the efforts of volunteers.
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