In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal..” and set in motion a movement which continues today.
Women and enlightened men pursued civil rights for women in the nineteenth century, including the right to be recognized as citizens and to vote. In California, Woman Suffrage Associations were formed beginning in 1869 and, when suffrage came to the California ballot in 1896, Susan B. Anthony herself came and gave impassioned speeches in Martinez and San Francisco.
California men voted on woman suffrage in 1896 and rejected it, due in large part to the powerful Liquor Dealers League in San Francisco, the state’s major city. According to suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, a number of Chinese were brought to the polls and paid to vote no on the franchise for women.
But times were changing as the 20th century began. More women were educated and were involved in schools and community improvement clubs. And California’s population was more broadly distributed, decreasing the clout of San Francisco’s hospitality interests.
In 1911 Women Win the Vote in California
After the earthquake in 1906, a suffrage convention of considerable size convened in San Francisco. The fight was on.
An impressive campaign was mounted statewide with special attention to voters in Central Valley rural towns and Southern California. Suffragists drove a handsome touring car and, when men gathered to look at the car, gave speeches urging them to support woman suffrage on October 10, 1911. They sponsored parades, staged plays and wooed the press. A compelling poster (drawn by Berta Boyle) showing a woman with a Votes for Women banner and the Golden Gate was posted all over San Francisco.
Five Equal Suffrage Leagues were founded in Contra Costa County, the largest being in Martinez where suffrage pioneer Mary Louise Swett was the honorary President.