This week marks the 109th anniversary of the election that awarded California women the right to vote…though initially, it appeared that the cause had lost once again.
Women’s Suffrage had strong opposition, and a similar measure had been defeated in 1896 by well-populated San Francisco and Alameda counties. In 1911, however, organized suffragists strategically targeted Southern California and small towns statewide. Suffragists created pin-on buttons, pennants, posters, postcards, playing cards and shopping bags imprinted with their slogans. They also used 8-foot tall billboards, and lantern slides at night to flash their message. The ladies visited churches, clubs, schools, and private homes door to door, handing out leaflets and copies of newspaper articles to explain the rightness of their campaign and to deflect the opinions of critics—male and female—who felt that suffrage would somehow lower the standards of womanhood.
On Election Day, October 10, 1911, the measure was soundly defeated in San Francisco and barely passed in Los Angeles County…but late reports from rural counties began to swing the tally in favor of political equality for women. When the ballot-count was completed days later, Equal Suffrage had passed—by just 3,587 male votes. California was the sixth state to grant women the right to vote, following Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Washington (state). Nearly a decade later, passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment at the federal level gave women the right to vote in all states of the Union.