Women driving vehicles of any kind was making a statement. By 1915, women cyclists had gone from a novelty to a normalcy. A woman wagon driver would be unusual and get some attention such as Edna Buckman Kearns’ suffrage wagon and suffrage hiker Elizabeth Freeman’s gypsy wagon, but a woman driving one of those new fangled cars...now that was something to see.
Illinois suffragists had already made several cross-state suffrage publicity tours in 1909 - 1910 that coincided with the “Good Roads” campaigns to create better highway systems. Many suffragists were part of the Illinois Woman’s State Good Roads association founded in 1912. A main argument for suffrage was that women had a vested interest in improving communities. Women would vote for things like good roads so it was very natural for these two campaigns to overlap in Illinois. Indiana had some cross-state driving campaigns as well.
In 1915, Alice Paul’s Congressional Union (later rebranded as the National Woman’s Party) had sponsored a “Freedom Booth” at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in January and many people had signed a formal petition in favor of suffrage. The CU chose two envoys to take part in a cross-country drive to deliver a suffrage petition to President Wilson in Washington D.C. Two Swedish women, Maria Kindberg (the driver) and Ingeborg Kindstedy (the mechanic) agreed to drive the suffragists across the country. With the petition on board, envoys Sara Bard Field and Frances Joliffe set out from San Francisco on September 16th, 1915. Joliffe left in the middle of the trip but Sara carried on. She gave speeches, handed out suffrage literature, and collected signatures. After traveling over 5000 miles through 20 states, visiting 48 major cities, and many small towns in between, they arrived in D.C. on December 6th, 1915. They had a personal meeting with President Wilson and gave him a petition that was over 18,000 feet long, with over 500,000 signatures in favor of suffrage.
In 1916, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) led by Carrie Chapman Catt sponsored the most famous cross-country suffrage trip and the Saxon car company donated a yellow Saxon Roadster automobile, dubbed the “Golden Flyer”, for the journey. Alice Burke, Nell Richarson, and a kitten named “Saxon”, headed out in April of 1916 to make the round trip from New York to California and back. They were celebrities in every town and people loved to follow the story of the kitten as it grew. There were many adventures during the 10,000 mile drive and after their return to New York the Saxon Company made a full page ad with the headline “Two Noted Suffragists Travel 10,000 Miles in a Saxon Roadster” promoting the ease and reliability of their product.
This week’s song pick:
“Freight Train” by Elizabeth “Libba” Cotton https://youtu.be/IUK8emiWabU
Episode 65 Sources:
Photograph of Bard, Kindberg, and Kindstedy
Photograph of Burk and Richardson
Indiana Suffrage Tours