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Honoring suffrage pioneer with plaque at entrance to boardwalk in Long Beach

Natalie Naylor of the Nassau County Historical Society,

Natalie Naylor of the Nassau County Historical Society, left, Antonia Petrash of the Long Island Women's Suffrage Association and Ellyn Okvist of the Lake Ronkonkoma Heritage Association unveil the historic marker at the entry to the Long Beach Boardwalk on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Activists and Long Beach officials dedicated a plaque on the Long Beach Boardwalk on Tuesday to honor the work 108 years ago of the Long Island suffrage movement.

The plaque was placed at the entrance of the boardwalk at National Boulevard and dedicated to women’s suffrage pioneer Edna Buckman Kearns.

Kearns, who lived in New York City and Rockville Centre, held demonstrations on the boardwalk in 1912 and in 1913 brought her famous "Spirit of 1776" horse and wagon to the Long Beach Boardwalk for a "voiceless" speech as part of a July 4 demonstration to draw attention to giving women the right to vote.

"We stand here today to honor the truth, to honor the woman and Edna Buckman Kearns, who came to Long Beach with her supporters, that wore yellow bathing suits and banners, ‘Votes for Women,’" Long Beach City Councilwoman Elizabeth Treston said at the unveiling. "And asking the world to recognize our existence. That women have voices and our voices matter."

The historical National Votes for Women Trail marker on the boardwalk was donated by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation after a four-year campaign by Kearns granddaughter Marguerite Kearns and Long Island suffrage leaders.

Former Newsday Editor Bob Keeler spoke on Kearns’ behalf along with members of the Long Island Woman Suffrage Association.

"This was a long, hard-fought battle," Long Island suffrage leader Antonia Petrash said. "The underlying truth is Long Island was disproportionately affected by the suffrage movement and so many women worked so hard and the battle is not over."

Petrash said activists should continue to fight for equal voting rights for men and women and for equal pay.

Sarah Conway, an 18-year-old Long Beach HIgh School senior, said her parents immigrated from Ireland when she was 3. Although she vowed to always hold on to her immigrant heritage, she gained dual citizenship when she learned about the importance of voting in the United States.

"I realized voting is so much more than just a choice," Conway said. "It didn’t click for me how much women had to go through to just even think about voting until I read about women in the Middle East. I realized giving women the right to vote is not just adding a few more names to a list. It gives women an opportunity to show we are so much more than a pretty face and to give anyone who believes otherwise a wake-up call."

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