Edna Buckman Kearns

Lived:December 25, 1882—June 1, 1934 (aged 51)

Edna Buckman Kearns was a militant suffragist, peace activist and member of Alice Paul’s National Women’s Party.

Born on Christmas Day, 1882, Kearns was the daughter of an established Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art where she studied art and, in 1903, met her future husband, Wilmer Rhamstine Kearns. After they married in 1904, they moved to New York City where Kearns became a mainstay in the suffrage movement.

Inspired by her Quaker faith, Kearns became involved in women’s rights broadly and worked with the New York Yearly Meeting, the largest Quaker organization in the tri-state area, to educate people about women’s voting rights. She began her formal work with the suffrage campaign when she joined the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women. From there, she began to organize demonstrations, fundraisers and letter-writing campaigns. Her most famous demonstration occurred in July of 1913 when she took her 8-year-old daughter, Serena, to Long Beach, New York, to display their “Spirit of 1776” suffrage wagon. The suffrage wagon is now housed in the New York State Museum in Albany.

Kearns was a major part of the 1915 effort to ratify suffrage in New York and was honored with a special certificate from the New York State Woman Suffrage Association. Kearns first became associated with Alice Paul when she marched with a Quaker contingent in Alice Paul’s famous 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. She eventually joined the National Women’s Party in 1916 and served as their congressional chair in Long Island during the final push for suffrage. Kearns also took her daughter, Serena, then twelve, to picket the White House in 1917.

Kearns died of cancer in 1934 at the age of 51.

Information taken from:

Kearns, Marguerite Buckman. “Biographical Sketch of Edna May Buckman Kearns.” Alexander Street Documents. Alexander Street. https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/d/1009755078.