Author Kenneth Florey is a go-to source for anything to do with the upcoming 100th anniversary of women voting in the United States. It’s for good reason. Ken’s three books on suffrage memorabilia are items increasingly part of the libraries of historians and advocates of bringing the early waves of women’s rights activism into the limelight. One of his recent contributions is an image from his collection that appeared in The New York Review of Books to illustrate an article by Judith Shulevitz—”Forgotten Feminism: Ernestine Rose, Free Radical.” (November 3, 2018)
Judith Shukevitz pointed out about Rose: “I can’t think of another woman in history who reinvented herself as often and with as much cool audacity.” Rose also commented on women who lagged behind their sisters in preferring patriarchy to liberation. “Superstition keeps women ignorant, dependent, and enslaved beings,” she said. “The churches have been built upon their necks.”
Sure, the names of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are vaguely familiar to many in the mainstream today. But as writer Judith Shukevitz points out, there are many more who deserve placement on the larger stage of a significant social movement. This has led to a remarkable effort to build a database of voting rights activists, an effort by Dr. Thomas Dublin and many others to build databases of well known as well as those who slipped through the cracks of history.
Ask even seasoned feminists and many haven’t heard of Ernestine Rose, the book reviewer points out. And don’t you know, but Ken Florey had a great print in his collection that was one of the illustrations in the book review journal.
There may be a statue of Stanton and Anthony planned for an unveiling in NYS’s Central Park, but did you know that Ernestine Rose mentored the two activists? And in her day, she was more well known. Rose was to the left of the left of Anthony and Stanton, if this could be possible. And there’s more about Ernestine to keep scholars in women’s history busy.
Of course, when an illustration was needed for The New York Review of Books, retired professor and suffrage memorabilia collector Kenneth Florey stepped forward with an illustration of Rose and others that almost jumped off the page. It isn’t easy when writing about the early stages of the women’s rights movement.
Florey has been consistently generous with his illustrations and perspectives in order to bring this part of the past into the light. His three books are classics, and they provide a rare look into the artifacts of a movement that deserves more than a superficial glance. For example, take a look at Florey’s 2013 book:
Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study by Kenneth Florey: Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-7293-2 Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-0150-2 ca. 215 photos (16 pages in color), notes, bibliography, index softcover (7 x 10) 2013
While historians have long recognized the importance of memorabilia to the woman suffrage movement, the subject has not been explored apart from a few restricted, although excellent, studies. Part of the problem is that such objects are scattered about in various collections and museums and can be difficult to access. Another is that most scholars do not have ready knowledge of the general nature and history of the type of objects (postcards, badges, sashes, toys, ceramics, sheet music, etc.) that suffragists produced.
New techniques in both printing and manufacturing that grew side-by-side with the suffrage movement created numerous possibilities for supporters to develop campaigns of “visual rhetoric.” This work analyzes 70 different categories of suffrage memorabilia, while providing numerous images of relevant objects along the way, and discusses these innovative production methods. Most important, this study looks at period accounts, often fascinating, of how, why, when, and where memorabilia was used in both America and England.
Kenneth Florey, professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University, is a long-time specialist in woman suffrage memorabilia. He has lectured on the subject both here and abroad, appeared on television, and written articles for a variety of publications. He has also served as an auction appraiser on suffrage material. His collection of suffrage artifacts, consisting of postcards, buttons, ribbons, sashes, sheet music, and other objects, may be the largest ever accumulated by a private individual in this country.
LetsRockTheCradle.com is a public service provided to the news media, policy makers, citizens, and all those interested in the national suffrage centennial in 2020 that will celebrate the first wave of the women’s rights movement in the United States. LetsRockTheCradle.com started as a blogging tour of the Finger Lakes region of New York State in 2013 by Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine in order to bring to the attention of the public the long and difficult struggle for women to win voting rights and the urgent need for public education about this time in US history.