Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vallejo Women Struggle to Win the Vote

Over the next few weeks both the Democratic and Republican Parties will hold their national conventions to select candidates for the November presidential election. Other political parties (the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Peace & Freedom Party, etc.) have also recently chosen candidates to vie for the top office. The right to vote for our political leaders - whether conservative, liberal, or elsewhere on the political spectrum - is a right that far too few Americans exercise. And for many Americans that right was only attained after years of struggle.

In Vallejo, as in the rest of the United States, women fought for decades to win the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement in California was strident, vocal - and ultimately successful. California women gained the right to vote in 1911, nearly a decade before passage of the 19th amendment granted that right nationwide.

The women’s suffrage movement came to Vallejo as early as 1870. Recently, Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum researcher Marilyn Armstrong uncovered this interesting article from the Semi-Weekly Vallejo Recorder of January 7, 1870:

Lecture On Woman Suffrage

“We listened last evening to a portion of the lecture delivered by Mrs. Gordon at Eureka Hall on the subject of women’s rights. The audience was quite meager showing that our citizens are not duly interested in the movement. The lecture possessed some merit and was delivered in a calm dispassionate and graceful manner, but had evidently been well studied, cut and dried. The object of the lecture was explained fully which was to keep up the agitation of the question. Many of the positions taken by the lecturess were untenable and the conclusions drawn were fallacious. She rehashed much of that nonsense and simple stuff which has long since become ‘weary, stale, flat and unprofitable’ and attempted to answer the arguments which any sensible person who is opposed to woman’s transcending the sphere for which she was intended by nature, could urge. No doubt Mrs. Gordon is a woman of some education and accomplishments but that she has mistaken her calling is apparent."

Questions arise:

Did the otherwise unidentified “Mrs. Gordon” live long enough to exercise her legal right to vote in California nearly forty years later?

Did the editors of the Vallejo newspaper rethink the condescending attitude shown in this article and eventually come around to support women’s suffrage?

Have women’s voices (and votes) influenced the course of American politics since this important right was attained?

The lesson learned?

Get out and vote!

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