The Women’s Suffrage Movement Started with a Tea Party

The Women’s Suffrage Movement Started with a Tea Party

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On the surface, it was just another tea party—a well-behaved group of women passing cups of brewed beverages around the genteel table of Jane Hunt, a well-to-do New York woman who had invited four others to dine with her.

But this tea party was not for shrinking violets. Hunt’s guests were about to air their grievances about the world’s injustices toward women—and to give birth to the convention on women’s rights that resulted in the formation of the American women’s movement.

The fateful meal took place on July 9, 1848, when Jane Hunt invited Elizabeth Cady Stanton to her house for tea. Hunt was a Quaker, and she invited three other Quakers—Lucretia Mott and her sister, Martha Wright, and Mary Ann McClintock—to the gathering, too. All five women started the afternoon as individuals. But by the end of the day, they were at the helm of a collective movement that would change women’s lives forever.

Stanton had known Mott for eight years, and the first time they met was not in a quiet gathering of women, but a rowdy group of men committed to ending slavery worldwide. Both women were ardent abolitionists, and Mott had traveled to London for the World Anti-Slavery Convention as an official American delegates. (Stanton was there on her honeymoon with her husband, an ardent abolitionist. But when they arrived, they learned that many delegates didn’t want women to attend. They were told they’d have to sit in a roped-off gallery and that they couldn’t speak or vote.)

Neither woman went without a fight, and they were joined by several of the movement’s more influential men. But in the end they were forced to sit on the sidelines, humiliated and furious. “As Mrs. Mott and I walked home arm in arm, commenting, on the incidents of the day,” Stanton recalled, “we resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and to form a society to advocate the rights of women.”

Mott and Stanton had never gotten a chance to sit down together, though, until Hunt hosted them for tea. As soon as they did, the discontentment of their lives boiled over.

Stanton had spent years caring for a sickly husband and three children (she’d eventually have seven), and felt lonely and isolated in Seneca Falls, where she’d moved in an attempt to help her husband’s health. She felt exhausted and exasperated by the endless, unappreciated toil her society expected of women.

Meanwhile, her Quaker friends were frustrated by what they saw as the Quaker faith’s unwillingness to engage with important social issues like the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. A few months before, they had walked out of their church’s annual meeting and helped establish a new, more progressive branch of the Quaker movement. Their new group, the Congregational or Progressive Friends, allowed women and men to worship together.

As Stanton and her friends talked, they began to home in on the issues that made their lives so hard to bear. Women couldn’t get an education or vote; whether they were married or single, their livelihoods and property all belonged to the men in their lives. They felt chained by a moral code that expected women to be flawless examples and submissive wives and mothers without giving them anything in return.

“I poured out, that day, the torrent of my long-accumulating discontent,” Stanton later recalled. Her “vehemence and indignation” was met with sympathy and similar stories from her friends. They kept returning to what they’d considered before: a convention to advocate for women’s rights.

It’s unclear who decided to actually move forward with their idea; the Hunt family always held that a grandfather who felt that “faith without works is dead” encouraged them to pursue it.; Stanton wrote that all of the women resolved to “do and dare anything” after she poured out her frustrations. Either way, they decided to move forward—and quickly. Before long, they were writing an advertisement to appear in the local paper. It encouraged women and men to gather in Seneca Falls just 10 days later for “a Convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition and rights of women.”

It may have been hastily planned, but the Seneca Falls convention would draw hundreds of attendees and be remembered as the spark that kindled the American women’s movement. Few of the women had any public-speaking experience—women were discouraged and often completely barred from speaking in public—and the women were uncertain how to organize a convention.

Despite their inexperience, they drafted an agenda and an organizing document, the Declaration of Sentiments, that would galvanize American women. Together, Hunt and her guests envisioned an equality that would smash the sexist norms of their day—and they did it with cups of tea in hand.

How Tea Helped Women Sell Suffrage

Private-labeled teas helped fund success during the suffragist movement. Today’s activists might learn from their model. An Object Lesson.

Access to daily necessities has long been a priority for social-reform movements. As tea had been on British shopping lists since at least the early 17th century, Boston turned its harbor into a tea party to protest a tax on the quotidian beverage while lacking the ability to vote on that tax.

When it came time for women to get the vote, tea played a role, too. Women such as the wealthy Alva Vanderbilt-Belmont held “suffrage teas,” where support for the cause was proclaimed. The tea parties also served as fund-raisers, a practice that extended to the teas themselves.

In California, suffragist women showed how both tea and the national movement of women’s suffrage could be democratized at the state level. Two suffrage teas generated revenue for political organizing in the run-up to the 1911 election on women’s suffrage. Equality Tea sprang up in Northern California and spread throughout the state. In Southern California, Nancy Tuttle Craig used her position as one of the only female grocers in the state to package a “Votes for Women” tea.

Both of these teas proved that support for women’s expanded role in politics permeated the electorate. For California women, a tea wasn’t a party that meant one had been anointed to run—it was a commodity that meant that women’s votes were commercially and politically viable. As new, urgent women’s causes proliferate, the suffragettes’ lesson might be worth revisiting today.

By the late 19th century, the suffragette cause had stalled in the Golden State. San Francisco tried and failed to elect women to the school board in 1886. They had run on a reform ticket, and a Democratic sweep meant that all reform candidates lost. San Francisco in particular remained anti-suffrage in 1896, when the state voted on the matter. That same year, Utah and Idaho joined Wyoming (1890) and Colorado (1893) in allowing women to vote.

California Republicans had initially supported suffrage in the 1896 election, just as they had in 1894. But as populists and Democrats coalesced to support William Jennings Bryan, state Republicans dropped their support for suffrage to compete against the Democratic threat. At the same time, the liquor lobby ran a successful campaign to get prohibition ordinances overturned, undoing the work of earlier women reformers. The defeat of women’s suffrage in San Francisco’s precinct doomed the statewide effort.

It took a decade and a half for California women to prove that they had a broad base of support to gain the right to vote in state elections. The 1911 vote was hard-fought. Suffrage leagues and reform-minded women organized feverishly, but women’s suffrage still did not pass in San Francisco. This time, the rest of the state made up the difference. Tea smoothed over the gap between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in supporting women’s suffrage.

Equality Tea was based in Northern California. Distributed by the Woman’s Suffrage Party, it spread through the state. San Francisco storerooms served the tea in tearooms decorated with a Chinese theme. Suffrage-minded consumers could purchase Equality Tea in half-pound, whole-pound, and five-pound boxes. Varieties included Ceylon, English breakfast, young hyson, gunpowder, and oolong. Some suffrage organizations, like the Club Women’s Franchise League, served Equality Tea at their headquarters in the St. Francis Hotel on Saturday afternoons.

However, Equality Tea was also sold at regional fairs and by mail order. Ads appeared in venues ranging from local newspapers to medical journals. Some grocers carried the tea, and there were women who refused to pay their grocery bills if their grocer did not carry Equality Tea. The ability to order by mail assured that the tea’s purveyors did not discriminate against rural or lower-class residents, groups of the population with stronger support for women’s suffrage.

Tea became a central feature of the political strategy of San Francisco suffragists. On August 22, 1911, The San Francisco Call reported that the Votes for Women club had prepared a “suffrage special” train that would carry feminist speakers to the state fair in order to be heard by people from all parts of the state. The train bore the message Eighth amendment, suffrage special, votes for women, drink equality tea . (The sign referred to the proposed amendment to the California Constitution.) By emphasizing tea on the suffrage train, the Votes for Women club focused on how accessible the basic civic right could be. The locomotive advertising signaled that women’s suffrage was a movement modern enough to spur consumers to adopt an equality-branded tea.

Votes-for-Women Tea, meanwhile, sprang up in Los Angeles. According to the proceedings of the main suffrage organization, National American Woman Suffrage Association (or NAWSA , founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton), the tea was a publicity tactic that turned out to be as big as the 93,000 buttons and 13,000 pennants suffragists distributed across Los Angeles. Proceeds from the tea supported the campaign for suffrage in Southern California. It was recommended as a “novelty” strategy for other suffrage groups to follow.

Mrs. R. L. Craig spearheaded the tea. She headed one of the largest grocery firms in California, and at the time she was the only female member of the National Wholesale Grocers’ Association. She had taken over R. L. Craig & Company following her husband’s death, and she used her position to be involved in civic affairs. She was a staunch supporter of women’s rights, a former teacher educated in Watsonville public schools and the State Normal School of San Jose.

According to the Los Angeles Herald, several leading grocers already carried the tea by August 1911, and more were following suit. The tea could also be ordered at the Van Nuys Hotel, the Lankershim café, and the Pig ’n Whistle café. However, the Herald relayed that “the Copper Kettle and the Hotel Angelus have refused absolutely to consider the possibility of serving this drink to patrons.” Fortunately for thwarted suffragists, California men and women could still donate the money they would have spent on the tea to the “Self-Denial Week” fundraiser for women’s suffrage in the state.

In addition to championing women’s right to vote with tea, Craig ran for office herself in the same year that women won the vote in California. Voters twice elected her to the Los Angeles Board of Education by a significant majority. Craig was able to achieve a trifecta by being an actual teacher who could represent business interests and pioneer new roles for women. The tea supported all women, but it indirectly supported her own venture into politics as a woman.

Tea helped make California the sixth state to give women the vote in 1911. California had seconded Washington’s 1910 revival of the women’s suffrage movement. Oregon (1912), Kansas (1912), Arizona (1912), Illinois (1913), Montana (1914), and Nevada (1914) kept the trend of giving the vote to women going. Tea and tea parties also remained in fashion. In 1934, the first woman cabinet member, Frances Perkins, was said to have gotten the idea of taxation as a revenue base for Social Security at a tea.

The idea of literally buying into feminism—with the wallet as much as the mind—has coursed under the surface of contemporary American culture for the past few decades. Many of the women behind the recent #WhyIDidntReport, #YesAllWomen, #MeToo, and #BelieveWomen hashtags on Twitter came of age going to Lilith Fair concerts and reading Sassy magazine in the 1990s. By listening to bands ranging from the Dixie Chicks to the Indigo Girls and devouring Bust and Ms., women pumped financial stability into socially conscious forms of entertainment.

In the past few years, perhaps in the wake of the multinational corporation’s triumph over the coffeehouse and small-venue music businesses of the 1990s, women activists have gone for currency-free forms of organizing. With the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, the Pussyhat Project was born. Women in the United States and around the world downloaded knitting patterns and crafted their own head apparel for various marches and demonstrations. The project embraced its DIY ethos, celebrating women’s ability to self-organize through coordinated volunteerism.

But decoupling feminism from economics comes with consequences. There are some benefits: Women can resist getting transformed into a market for pink-washed products hawked for limited political benefit. But there are also downsides. The Pussyhat Project was successful, yet plagued by its own sustainability, a problem that persists at a broader scale. And given the persistent wage gap between men and women (and particularly minority women), one wonders if movements circulating American dollars to socially conscious causes might not be ripe for a comeback. While there are well-known brands such as Newman’s Own that support charities, the concept of an equality tea that promotes a specific social outcome like women’s suffrage does not have a precise parallel today. That might pose a problem: It’s difficult for activism to persist if it cannot be sustained—especially when that sustenance becomes exhausting, stretching over years. Whether it’s teas or knit hats or something else entirely, social-justice products offer an opportunity worth letting steep anew today.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement Started with a Tea Party - HISTORY

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London. This prompts them to hold a Women's Convention in the US.

Seneca Falls, New York is the location for the first Women's Rights Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton writes "The Declaration of Sentiments" creating the agenda of women's activism for decades to come.

The first state constitution in California extends property rights to women.

Worcester, Massachusetts, is the site of the first National Women's Rights Convention. Frederick Douglass, Paulina Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth are in attendance. A strong alliance is formed with the Abolitionist Movement.

Worcester, Massachusetts is the site of the second National Women's Rights Convention. Participants included Horace Mann, New York Tribune columnist Elizabeth Oaks Smith, and Reverend Harry Ward Beecher, one of the nation's most popular preachers.

At a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth, a former slave, delivers her now memorable speech, "Ain't I a woman?"

The issue of women's property rights is presented to the Vermont Senate by Clara Howard Nichols. This is a major issue for the Suffragists.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published and quickly becomes a bestseller.

Women delegates, Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony, are not allowed to speak at The World's Temperance Convention held in New York City.

During the Civil War, efforts for the suffrage movement come to a halt. Women put their energies toward the war effort.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to the goal of suffrage for all regardless of gender or race.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Parker Pillsbury publish the first edition of The Revolution. This periodical carries the motto “Men, their rights and nothing more women, their rights and nothing less!”

Caroline Seymour Severance establishes the New England Woman’s Club. The “Mother of Clubs” sparked the club movement which became popular by the late nineteenth century.

In Vineland, New Jersey, 172 women cast ballots in a separate box during the presidential election.

Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas introduces the federal woman’s suffrage amendment in Congress.

Many early suffrage supporters, including Susan B. Anthony, remained single because in the mid-1800s, married women could not own property in their own rights and could not make legal contracts on their own behalf.

The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified. "Citizens" and "voters" are defined exclusively as male.

The American Equal Rights Association is wrecked by disagreements over the Fourteenth Amendment and the question of whether to support the proposed Fifteenth Amendment which would enfranchise Black American males while avoiding the question of woman suffrage entirely.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), a more radical institution, to achieve the vote through a Constitutional amendment as well as push for other woman’s rights issues. NWSA was based in New York

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, and other more conservative activists form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) to work for woman suffrage through amending individual state constitutions. AWSA was based in Boston.

Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision.

The Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the right to vote. NWSA refused to work for its ratification and instead the members advocate for a Sixteenth Amendment that would dictate universal suffrage. Frederick Douglass broke with Stanton and Anthony over the position of NWSA.

The Woman’s Journal is founded and edited by Mary Livermore, Lucy Stone, and Henry Blackwell.

Victoria Woodhull addresses the House Judiciary Committee, arguing women’s rights to vote under the fourteenth amendment.

The Anti-Suffrage Party is founded.

Susan B. Anthony casts her ballot for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election and is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York. Fifteen other women are arrested for illegally voting. Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot to vote she is turned away.

Abigail Scott Duniway convinces Oregon lawmakers to pass laws granting a married woman’s rights such as starting and operating her own business, controlling the money she earns, and the right to protect her property if her husband leaves.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important proponent in the fight for woman suffrage. As a result, one of the strongest opponents to women's enfranchisement was the liquor lobby, which feared women might use their vote to prohibit the sale of liquor.

Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage disrupt the official Centennial program at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, presenting a “Declaration of Rights for Women” to the Vice President.

A Woman Suffrage Amendment is proposed in the U.S. Congress. When the 19th Amendment passes forty-one years later, it is worded exactly the same as this 1878 Amendment.

The first vote on woman suffrage is taken in the Senate and is defeated.

The National Council of Women in the United States is established to promote the advancement of women in society.

NWSA and AWSA merge and the National American Woman Suffrage Association is formed. Stanton is the first president. The Movement focuses efforts on securing suffrage at the state level.

Wyoming is admitted to the Union with a state constitution granting woman suffrage.

The American Federation of Labor declares support for woman suffrage.

The South Dakota campaign for woman suffrage loses.

The Progressive Era begins. Women from all classes and backgrounds enter public life. Women's roles expand and result in an increasing politicization of women. Consequently the issue of woman suffrage becomes part of mainstream politics.

Olympia Brown founds the Federal Suffrage Association to campaign for woman’s suffrage.

Colorado adopts woman suffrage.

600,000 signatures are presented to the New York State Constitutional Convention in a failed effort to bring a woman suffrage amendment to the voters.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman’s Bible. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from Stanton because many conservative suffragists considered her to be too radical and, thus, potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign.

Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Frances E.W. Harper among others found the the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Utah joins the Union with full suffrage for women.

Idaho adopts woman suffrage.

Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage.

Washington State adopts woman suffrage.

The Women’s Political Union organizes the first suffrage parade in New York City.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) is organized. Led by Mrs. Arthur Dodge, its members included wealthy, influential women, some Catholic clergymen, distillers and brewers, urban political machines, Southern congressmen, and corporate capitalists.

The elaborate California suffrage campaign succeeds by a small margin.

Woman Suffrage is supported for the first time at the national level by a major political party -- Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party.

Twenty thousand suffrage supporters join a New York City suffrage parade.

Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona adopt woman suffrage.

In 1913, suffragists organized a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The parade was the first major suffrage spectacle organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

The two women then organized the Congressional Union, later known at the National Women’s Party (1916). They borrowed strategies from the radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England.

Nevada and Montana adopt woman suffrage.

The National Federation of Women’s Clubs, which had over two million women members throughout the U.S., formally endorses the suffrage campaign.

Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field are involved in a transcontinental tour which gathers over a half-million signatures on petitions to Congress.

Forty thousand march in a NYC suffrage parade. Many women are dressed in white and carry placards with the names of the states they represent.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts continue to reject woman suffrage.

Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Woodrow Wilson states that the Democratic Party platform will support suffrage.

New York women gain suffrage.

Arkansas women are allowed to vote in primary elections.

National Woman’s Party picketers appear in front of the White House holding two banners, “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” and “How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?”

Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, is formally seated in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman’s Party, was put in solitary confinement in the mental ward of the prison as a way to “break” her will and to undermine her credibility with the public.

In June, arrests of the National Woman’s party picketers begin on charges of obstructing sidewalk traffic. Subsequent picketers are sentenced to up to six months in jail. In November, the government unconditionally releases the picketers in response to public outcry and an inability to stop National Woman’s Party picketers’ hunger strike.

Representative Rankin opens debate on a suffrage amendment in the House. The amendment passes. The amendment fails to win the required two thirds majority in the Senate.

Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma adopt woman suffrage.

President Woodrow Wilson states his support for a federal woman suffrage amendment.

President Wilson addresses the Senate about adopting woman suffrage at the end of World War I.

The Senate finally passes the Nineteenth Amendment and the ratification process begins.

August 26, 1920

Three quarters of the state legislatures ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
American Women win full voting rights.

02. A queenly introduction

In 1662, a Portuguese princess named Catherine of Braganza arrived in England to marry the newly restored King Charles II. And because she was a princess of one of the most powerful European empires of the day, she brought new territories, trade routes, and a chest of Chinese tea with her. Though the beverage had been served before, it did not become truly popular until her arrival. The new queen of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland began to serve the drink at court and it quickly became the fashionable beverage of choice for high society. Of course, at this point, tea was far too expensive to be available for the masses, but Catherine had given England its first taste for the beverage that it would soon fall head over heels for.

How This Historic Nashville Hotel Became the Epicenter of the Women's Suffrage Movement

August 18 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women's suffrage.

The 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment takes place on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, and The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville is celebrating the historic win for women in our country and the pivotal role the hotel played in the summer of 1920 leading up to its ratification. In the final days before the 19th Amendment was ratified, Tennessee was the final vote needed to deliver the 36th state victory for this federal decision. The Hermitage Hotel quickly became an illustrious backdrop for pro- and anti-suffragists, lobbyists, and legislators to campaign and struggle at in one place.

Those for and against women's suffrage differentiated themselves with pro-suffragists wearing yellow roses and anti-suffragists wearing red, leading to the hotel's nickname, "The War of the Roses." Telegrams sent to The Hermitage once the decision was made in favor of women's suffrage are proudly on display in the hotel's lobby, and this year, the Hermitage Hotel is celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment's first centennial with experiences, programming, events, and menus throughout the summer (and some throughout the remainder of 2020). From special vacation packages to a women's suffrage&ndashthemed cocktail menu, discover all the incredible ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage below.

Suffrage High Tea | Beginning June 18 and every Thursday through Sunday through the end of August

The beginnings of the Women&rsquos Suffrage Movement started over a simple afternoon tea among five women discussing moral and political injustices toward women. Soon, it became the launching platform as the movement gained momentum, allowing women a place to gather and organize their efforts in advancing the cause. A century later, the hotel invites both visitors and locals alike to experience a suffrage tea on their veranda and learn about the events that transpired inside the hotel leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Suffrage-Themed Craft Cocktail Menu | Throughout all of 2020 at Oak Bar

In the summer of 1920, pro- and anti-suffragists lobbied the men of Capitol Hill inside the Oak Bar in The Hermitage Hotel. Although forbidden by Prohibition, many legislators and lobbyists winked at the 18th Amendment while fighting for and against the 19th. Travel back in time to the final battleground of women&rsquos suffrage and honor this unique moment in history with an immersive tasting experience inside the storied Oak Bar. Each cocktail is hand-crafted to fit the personality of Nashville's most prominent suffrage leaders. Be sure to experience the Carrie.

Suffrage Sundays at Capitol Grille | June through August 2020 at Capitol Grille

Executive Chef Derek Brooks features culinary delights dating back to the 1920s in The Hermitage Hotel&rsquos stalwart restaurant, Capitol Grille. These throwback dishes provide a taste of what suffrage leaders and politicians of the time enjoyed as they worked to pass the 19th Amendment. Chef Brooks collaborates with Farmer Evans at our Garden at Glen Leven, to feature heirloom varieties of legumes dating back to the suffrage period. In addition, suffrage-themed cocktails are available at reduced pricing.

Suffrage Getaway Experience | Available through December 31, 2020

Having been the headquarters for the final weeks of the suffrage movement, the hotel is offering a suffrage-themed vacation getaway that includes the following:

  • Luxurious guest room or suite with a Capitol view
  • Welcome packet including information on area suffrage tours, events, and displays
  • Welcome amenity of yellow roses and suffrage-era shortbread cookies
  • Breakfast daily for two people in Capitol Grille
  • A $50 credit to enjoy suffrage cocktails in the Oak Bar
  • Walk in the suffragists' footsteps with an autographed copy of Elaine Weiss&rsquos book, The Woman&rsquos Hour
  • Limited edition suffrage poster created for The Hermitage Hotel

Suffrage History Tour | Every Friday through the end of August 2020

Join Tom Vickstrom, resident historian and director of finance, at the History Corner in the Grand Lobby at 10 a.m. as he provides a 45-minute hotel tour complete with the locations and stories that took place for six weeks in the hot summer of 1920 as the entire suffrage movement descended upon The Hermitage Hotel and ultimately ratified the 19 th Amendment.

History Corner | Throughout all of 2020

Explore a display of The Hermitage Hotel&rsquos private collection of historic information and artifacts in the Grand Lobby dating from the summer of 1920, when both pro- and anti-suffrage leaders were headquartered in the hotel. This display is located in the lobby next to the Reception Desk and will be open for all to see throughout the centennial year.

The Hermitage Hotel was also designated a National Historic Landmark by the Trump administration on July 28. Under the direction of its first-ever female managing director, Dee Patel, the hotel plans to serve as a place to educate all visitors on the significance of the suffrage movement and as an advocate for the preservation of that history and female voters in this country.

&ldquoDuring this milestone year, visitors can explore the story of the suffrage movement through national parks, national historic landmarks, and other places where history happened,&rdquo said National Park Service South Atlantic-Gulf Regional Director Stan Austin in a press release. &ldquoThe Hermitage Hotel&rsquos role in the history of ratification of the 19th Amendment was so significant it earned the name &lsquoThird House&rsquo of the Tennessee State Legislature, referring to the extraordinary presence and influence of the major stakeholders and dealmakers who convened there.&rdquo

Now, who's up for the ultimate girls' weekend at this fabulous national landmark?

Tea Started the Women’s Suffrage Movement

On July 9, 1848 five women met for afternoon tea in Waterloo, NY at the home of Jane Hunt. Her guests were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary Wright, and Mary Ann McClintock. This gathering would be the launch pad for the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s convention in the Americas.

Women such as the wealthy Alva Vanderbilt-Belmont held “suffrage teas,” where support for the cause was proclaimed. She also commissioned special china printed with “Votes for Women.” Guests were given the cups and saucers as favors. This helped get the word out. The tea parties also served as fund-raisers, a practice that extended to the teas themselves.

Equality Tea was based in Northern California. Distributed by the Woman’s Suffrage Party, the tea was sold to suffrage supporters. Varieties included Ceylon, English breakfast, young hyson, gunpowder, and oolong. Proceeds from the tea supported the campaign for suffrage in Southern California

Equality Tea was also sold at regional fairs and by mail order. Ads appeared in local newspapers to medical journals. Some grocers carried the tea, and there were women who refused to pay their grocery bills if their grocer did not carry Equality Tea. The ability to order by mail assured that the tea’s purveyors did not discriminate against rural or lower-class residents, groups of the population with stronger support for women’s suffrage.

In acknowledgement of this historic event and to honor the courageous women (and men) who worked so hard to get the vote, The Larkin Tea Company is offering a special 20% discount on all its products featured on-line.



(Cannot be combined with other discounts)

The White House and hundreds of other buildings across the county will be illuminated in purple and gold on Wednesday night to recognize women’s long battle to gain the vote.


Titus H. Mundine, an early leader in the Republican Party from Burleson County, brought up a proposition to allow every eligible voter the right to vote, regardless of sex during the 1868-1869 Texas Constitutional Convention. [1] [2] A small group of women were also behind the push for the proposition and out of the ten African American delegates to the convention, six supported women's suffrage. [3] Martha Goodwin Tunstall spoke in support of women's suffrage in Austin at a meeting of the Austin Friends of Female Suffrage before the final vote. [4] The proposal of granting women's suffrage was defeated by a vote of 52 to 13. [5]

Tunstall went on to become the vice president of the Texas chapter of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). [4] In 1872, the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) contacted the Texas Legislature to petition for women's suffrage. [3] In 1873, Texas senator, Albert Jennings Fountain of El Paso, proposed extending suffrage to women. [6] His proposal was defeated in the Texas senate. [6]

In the second Texas Constitutional Convention held in 1875, women's suffrage was again introduced. [1] W.G.T. Weaver from Cooke County was one of the men who introduced a resolution to grant women's suffrage, but his proposal died in the committee. [7]

In 1884, minister and suffragist Mariana Thompson Folsom came to Texas. [8] She acted as the main Texas contact for the AWSA and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). [9] Folsom was in contact with Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell who both felt that Texas needed to organize, but that the state may not yet be ready for women's suffrage. [10] Folsom did some tours of the state in 1884. [11] On her tours, Folsom recorded that she was surprised by the "timidity" of women in Texas, who seemed to be afraid to be seen in public spaces. [12] In 1885, a suffragist in Texas attempted to send one thousand signatures on a women's suffrage petition to the Texas legislature. [10] However, she found that many supporters of suffrage were hesitant to publicly add their names for fear of "losing 'prestige.'" [10]

Rebecca Henry Hayes, a suffragist living in Galveston, began to correspond with Laura Clay of NAWSA in late 1892 and early 1893. [13] In April 1893, Hayes and ten other women in Texas sent out invitations for a convention to be held to create a statewide women's suffrage group which would be called the Texas Equal Rights Association (TERA). [13] The first meeting took place at the Grand Windsor Hotel in Dallas on May 10, 1893 and Hayes was elected the first president of the organization. [13] Around fifty people came together to form TERA, and one-fifth of the members were men. [14] Many of the women involved in the formation of TERA were members of the Texas chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). [15] TERA advocated for women's right to vote, but also supported other rights, such as a women's right to serve on juries. [14] TERA had local chapters formed in Beaumont, Belton, Circleville, Dallas, Denison, Fort Worth, Granger, San Antonio, and Taylor in 1893 and 1894. [14] During 1894, Folsom toured Texas, speaking about women's suffrage in 83 different locations. [16] In 1895, Elizabeth Good Houston became the TERA president and the group sponsored a lecture tour from Folsom. [14] On these later tours, Folsom found that more Texas were interested in women's suffrage. [16]

In the summer of 1894, suffragists attempted to get women's suffrage added as planks in the major political party platforms. [15] Suffragists reached out to the Democratic, Populist and Republican parties. [17] Mrs. L. A. Craig spoke to the Democratic convention on behalf of the Dallas TERA, but they declined to endorse women's suffrage in the Democratic party platform. [18] Other parties also declined. [17] In August, the Dallas group called on Governor James Stephen Hogg to visit Dallas and listen to the women make their case for equal suffrage. [19]

TERA was seriously divided in late 1894 over the question of bringing Susan B. Anthony to speak in Texas. [20] As a Northerner, a "Yankee" and an abolitionist, she was not seen as a welcome guest to some Texans who had been part of the Confederacy. [21] TERA members who wanted her to visit Texas felt that she would invigorate the fight for women's suffrage in Texas. [20] The group could not reach a decision and when Hayes declared that she would not support Anthony's visit, she was removed as president by the executive committee. [20] Elizabeth A. Fry was elected president, but Hayes would not recognize her authority, leaving the organization run by two presidents for a period of time. [20] Fry gave in and Hayes served as president again, but in 1895 Elizabeth Good Houston was elected the next president over Hayes. [22]

Houston toured several Texas cities and helped to organize suffrage days there. [22] She set up county presidents to help organize smaller local clubs in their respective counties. [22] However, there was less interest in women's suffrage after 1895, despite what Houston tried. [22] In 1895, another legislative attempt at granting women's suffrage is introduced by Representative A.C. Tompkins of Hempstead, but it was unsuccessful. [15] There was some work on TERA done by Mrs. L. A. Craig of Waco in 1897. [23] TERA, however, never had a large amount of funds and by 1898, the group had basically dissolved. [14] After the dissolution of TERA, there was a decline in interest in women's suffrage in Texas. [24] The Texas chapter of NAWSA did not pay its national dues for the year of 1900 and NAWSA decided that the chapter was defunct. [24]

Annette Finnigan and her sisters, Elizabeth Finnigan Fain and Katherine Finnigan Anderson, began to revive the women's suffrage movement in Texas in 1903. [25] Between the three of them, they created equal suffrage leagues in Houston and Galveston. [26] These led to the creation of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA), organized in Houston in December 1903. [26] [27] TESA was affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). [27] TESA sponsored a visit from Carrie Chapman Catt in 1903. [22] Finnigan tried to get women in Austin, Beaumont and San Antonio to organize chapters of TESA, but while she reported the women there wanted to form clubs, overall they were "too timid to organize". [28] She was only able to set up a chapter in La Porte that year. [28] The group held a small convention in 1904 in Houston with all of the local chapters reporting. [28] When Annette Finnigan and her sisters moved out of Texas in 1905, the group became temporarily inactive. [27] [28]

In 1907 Representative Jess A. Baker introduced women's suffrage as an amendment to the Texas constitution. [29] Mariana Thompson Folsom was working with Baker as an advisor on women's suffrage issues. [30] Baker requested Texas suffragists to testify about women's suffrage. [31] The suffragists included May Jarvis, Helen Jarvis Kenyon, Emma J. Mellette, Elisabet Ney, and Helen M. Stoddard. [31] The amendment failed, but a positive minority decision was prepared. [31] In addition, the effort helped revive interest in suffrage in Texas. [31] Baker reintroduced the amendment in 1911. [29]

In 1908, Anna Howard Shaw visited Texas, sponsored by the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs (TFWC). [28] [30] A few months after she visited Austin, twenty-five people, including Folsom's daughter, Erminia Thompson Folsom, started a women's suffrage club, which quickly almost doubled in size in a few weeks. [32] [1] The group was called the Austin Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). [33] AWSA affiliated itself with NAWSA in 1909. [30] AWSA was the only suffrage group in the state for several years. [32]

When Annette Finnigan returned to Houston and became involved with the Houston Suffrage League in 1912, the women's suffrage movement in Texas was again gaining movement. [27] Suffrage organizing was reported in San Antonio with both men and women involved. [34] Shaw again visited Texas in May 1912. [32] There were around four hundred members of AWSA in November 1912, growing from only fifty-four in 1911, and the group "had distributed fifteen thousand pieces of literature". [32]

In 1913, TESA held a convention in San Antonio at the Saint Anthony Hotel, and seven chapters sent delegates, electing Mary Eleanor Brackenridge president of the group. [27] [32] The convention had a minor controversy over whether the group should work towards federal women's suffrage, which might be seen "as an infringement on the rights of the states." [32] It was eventually decided to endorse a federal women's suffrage amendment. [35]

Interviews with women in Texas reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram found that many women felt that "they are human beings and have a right to vote if they want to do so." [36] The suffrage movement was growing in Texas. [36] In October 1913, Suffragists began hosting activities in support of women's suffrage at the Texas State Fair. [37] A booth was rented and decorated with white and yellow and pennants reading "Votes for Women." [37] From the booth, they were able to provide literature and gave out free women's suffrage magazines. [37] This became an annual event. [37]

Finnigan took over the presidency of TESA again in 1914 and worked to lobby state lawmakers and support local groups. [27] Finnigan was in contact with various Texas state legislators in 1914, lobbying them to include a referendum for a constitutional amendment on women's suffrage. [26] She moved to Austin in January 1915 in order to continue her lobbying efforts. [26] On January 18, 1915, Frank H. Burmeister introduced a suffrage resolution in the Texas Legislature. [38] The debate in the Texas House, taking place on February 23, included anti-suffragist politicians alleging that it was "abnormal" for women to vote and that giving women the vote would lead to socialism. [39] Anti-suffragist, Pauline Kleiber Wells from Brownsville was active in testifying against the provision. [40] Her testimony may have helped stop the passage of the amendment. [40] Wells claimed that women voting would cause "feminism, sex antagonism, socialism, anarchy and Mormonism". [40] The vote had 90 proponents, 32 against and 19 not voting however, the resolution needed a two-thirds majority to pass. [41] The Texas Senate also had a resolution introduced in the same legislative session, but no action was taken after its introduction. [41]

TFWC came out in support of women's suffrage in 1915, helping to bolster the cause. [42] Across the country, there were now eleven states that allowed women to vote. [43] The 1915 State Fair Suffrage Day on October 23 was a successful event. [44] Suffragists in Dallas and delegates from other Texas cities held an automobile parade to the Fair. [44] The cars were decorated and bore the "Votes for Women" slogan. [44] In 1915, Minnie Fisher Cunningham became president of TESA and held that role until 1919. [27] Finnigan retired from her work lobbying the Texas legislature in 1916 when she became partially paralyzed. [25]

Minnie Fisher Cunningham, now president of TESA, began a new plan to reorganize women's efforts to fight for suffrage in Texas. [45] Cunningham divided the work of lobbying legislators by organizing them into state senate districts. [45] Cunningham, Perle Penfield and Eva Goldsmith were very active in lobbying the Texas Legislature. [1] Cunningham had obstacles in various anti-suffragist opponents including the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (TAOWS) run by Pauline Kleiber Wells and Ida M. Darden, and the governor of Texas, James E. Ferguson. [45] [1]

El Paso sent a delegate, Mrs. George Ferguson, to the 1916 suffrage demonstration held in Chicago and hosted by the new National Woman's Party (NWP). [46] [47] Clara Snell Wolfe and 100 other women established a Texas chapter of the NWP in 1916. [1] The Texas chapter was less militant than other NWP groups. [1] In Dallas County, by 1916, there were thirteen local women's suffrage associations active. [48] The Dallas suffragists again participated in a successful parade in the city in March 1916, entering their decorated car in the Style Show Parade that spelled out "Votes for Women" and "Victory in 1917." [44] Also in March 1916, anti-suffragists organized, forming TAOWS in Houston. [49] TAOWS was led by Pauline Wells and published and distributed anti-suffrage fliers. [49]

Jess Baker and other legislators introduced a new Texas constitutional amendment for women's suffrage on January 13, 1917. [41] Baker wrote:

"Remember that the women are one-half of the human race, and, therefore, are entitled by inherent right to all the privileges accorded to men. Many women are taxpayers and should have a vote in the election of officials who make and execute laws. Women are eligible to nearly all the offices of Texas, and why shall they not be allowed to vote?" [41]

Baker's resolution didn't receive the necessary two-thirds vote. [50] There were 76 legislators for and 56 against. [50]

Governor Ferguson was reelected in 1916. [51] He began to agitate against the University of Texas (UT). [51] Ferguson felt that UT was an elitist institution and he wanted to take control of the board of regents, which he was able to do by January 1917. [51] The El Paso Equal Franchise League protested his actions against UT, saying they didn't want the school to become "part of governor Ferguson's political or financial machine." [52] Some alumni of UT called for Ferguson's impeachment. [53] In July 1917, Ferguson was indicted on charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds. [53] In August, F. O. Fuller, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives called a special session to consider impeaching Ferguson. [53] As legislators came into Austin, Jane Y. McCallum, other suffragists and even more conservative women organized protests on the Texas Capitol against Ferguson. [53] As part of the marathon sixteen hour protest, McCallum was one of the speakers who called Ferguson the "implacable foe of woman suffrage and of every great moral issue for which women stood." [53] Ferguson, who was an obstacle to women's suffrage, was impeached on August 25, 1917. [53]

The United States entry into World War I on April 6, 1917 also affected suffragists in Texas. [53] Suffrage groups helped support the war effort. [53] In Dallas, suffragists marched in the Patriotic Parade held on April 9, 1917. [54] Suffragists and suffrage organizations volunteered for the war effort. [55] Many planted victory gardens and knitted clothing for the Red Cross to send to soldiers overseas. [55] In Houston, suffragists ran a "food conservation education drive" in the summer of 1917. [56] The war was one of the topics addressed at the TESA convention held in May 1917 in Waco. [57] At the convention, the suffragists agreed with Lavinia M. Engle that "Texas and every part of Texas is ready for suffrage organization." [57] In June 1918, Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas criticized the U.S. Congress for taking too much time in passing a women's suffrage amendment, especially in the midst of a war in which women had shown their own worth to the American people. [58]

In the fall of 1917, suffragists in Texas gathered signatures in support of a woman's suffrage bill in the United States Congress. [59] Suffragists in Houston contacted influential business leaders and secured their endorsements for women's suffrage. [60] Suffragists in Texas also started working with the new Texas governor, William P. Hobby. [59] Ferguson again attempted to run in the Texas primary, despite his impeachment. [61] Suffragists pledged their support of Hobby for his next full-term election if he would, in turn support women's right to vote in the Texas primary elections. [59] [62] This provision would only need a majority of votes, not two-thirds, to pass. [59] [62] Since Texas was, at the time, mostly a one-party state, the primary elections were very important. [63] Suffragists lobbied for the primary vote provision to be included in the special legislative session of 1918. [59]

Charles B. Metcalfe from San Angelo introduced the provision to allow women to vote in the Texas primary elections. [59] Cunningham had helped negotiate this provision with Metcalfe. [61] Dallas representative, Barry Miller only promised to support the provision if the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association (DESA) could get 5,000 signatures supporting the provision. [55] Suffragist Nona Boren Mahoney got more than 10,000 signatures and delivered them to Austin by suitcase. [55] She presented these to Miller on the floor of the Texas House. [55] Miller would go on to chair the women's suffrage caucus. [64] The anti-suffragists in TAOWS had lobbied against the provision, but their efforts failed. [49] The women's primary vote provision passed both houses easily on March 21 with a vote of 84 for and 34 against in the House and 18 for and 4 against in the Texas Senate. [50] [65]

Governor Hobby signed it into law on March 26, though the law would not go into effect for ninety days. [59] This meant that women would only have 17 days to register to vote before the Texas primaries. [59] The registration started on June 27 and would end on July 11. [66] Women were exempt from paying the Texas poll tax for this vote. [50] The suffragists worked together to mobilize. They called the women who signed the petition to Miller and also contacted women through their children's school districts. [64] Suffragists delivered fliers to places where women worked. [64] Over 386,000 women registered to vote during those 17 days before the vote on July 27. [59] In Dallas, the oldest woman to register was 97. [64] In El Paso, around 300 women a day registered to vote. [67] However, many Black women in various Texas communities were turned away from registering to vote. [68] TESA organized workshops for new voters. [27] An instruction pamphlet, written by Hortense Sparks Ward was distributed throughout Texas. [69] El Paso suffragist, Belle Critchett, provided voting tips for voters in the El Paso Herald. [70] In the primary vote, Hobby won by eighty percent of the total vote. [62] Women's votes had a significant impact on his win. [71]

After the Texas primary in 1918, women became more politically active and started attending party conventions. [72] In August 1918, 233 different Democratic county conventions chose to support women's suffrage in Texas. [72] Cunningham began to lobby the United States Congress on a federal suffrage amendment. [73] [74] She was part of the team that helped convince President Woodrow Wilson to openly support women's suffrage in 1918. [61] McCallum and Ward worked locally to lobby Texas politicians for a federal amendment. [75] [69] Jessie Daniel Ames disagreed about the tactics and wanted Texas to pass a state amendment for the women's vote. [75]

Governor Hobby called for a change in state law to allow women to vote in Texas. [72] When the state legislature came to Austin in January 1919, Hobby asked for this provision but also asked that a provision to disallow resident alien voting in Texas be included as well. [72] TAOWS distributed more than 100,000 pieces of anti-suffrage literature opposing the measure. [49] Cunningham returned to Texas to campaign for the provision and McCallum aided her as head of publicity. [75] Both houses passed this measure, combining the enfranchisement of women with the disenfranchisement of aliens in one voter referendum. [76] It would go before Texas voters on May 24, 1919. [77] On February 8, suffragists held a high society "Colonial Ball" to raise money for the campaign to support the referendum. [44] The NWP sponsored the Prison Special to tour the US and the train stopped in San Antonio on February 24 and in El Paso on February 26. [78] [79] The tour hosted well-known suffragists who had been imprisoned for their activism and was designed to create support for the movement in Southern states. [80] In Austin, Cunningham and TESA hosted a "suffrage school" to train volunteers to work in the women's suffrage campaign. [81] Overall between the time the referendum left the Texas legislature and went to the voters to decide, suffrage groups hosted around 1,500 speakers and put out more than 300,000 pieces of pro-suffrage literature. [75] President Wilson, Senator Charles Allen Culberson and Senator Morris Sheppard endorsed the referendum. [82] Nevertheless, the voter referendum failed by around 25,000 votes. [27] Anti-suffragists considered the failure to pass the provision a victory, while suffrage groups argued that the measure failed because resident aliens didn't want to lose the right to vote and had voted against it. [49]

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment. [83] Cunningham was involved in helping to support the ratification effort in the West and the South for the federal women's suffrage amendment. [73] She would daily send several pro-suffrage editorials to politicians who were uncertain about supporting women's suffrage. [84] McCallum again led the Texas lobbying effort. [83] In the special session to ratify the women's suffrage amendment, anti-suffragists Wells and Charlotte Rowe testified against the bill. [49] They argued that since women's suffrage had just been defeated by voters in May, that indicated that voters really didn't want women to have equal suffrage. [83] Suffragists argued that the measure was defeated because of the resident alien clause. [83] Governor Hobby put the ratification of the amendment on the legislative agenda. [83]

On June 28, 1919, Texas ratified the amendment. [85] The house approved it by a vote of 96 to 21 on June 23 and the senate passed it by a voice vote five days later. [86] Texas was the ninth state and the first Southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. [62] That same month the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (TAOWS) disbanded. [49] TESA held a victory convention in October 1919 where the organization was dissolved and converted into the Texas League of Women Voters. [27]

Groups led by white women in Texas often excluded African American women and even used racist tactics to further the goal of promoting women's suffrage. When former Confederate soldiers rebelled against Reconstruction laws in the 1890s, there was also a backlash against the idea of giving Black women the vote. [21] When the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) was formed in 1903, Black people were not encouraged to join. [27] Most white women in Texas believed that excluding Black women in the movement was the best way of ensuring that women's suffrage was achieved. [45] Despite this, suffragists did continue to organize and register both Mexican and Black women to vote in El Paso and surrounding areas. [87]

The Austin Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in 1913 used a racist dog-whistle in a distributed flier as a response to the anti-suffrage talking point that letting women vote would "endanger white supremacy." [88] In the flier, the states that allowed women to vote were marked in white, emphasizing a white suffragist response that women's suffrage would double the white vote. [88] It was also argued by anti-suffragists that "woman suffrage would result in Negro rule in those sections of the South where colored women outnumbered white women." [38] The Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (TAOWS) had members that explicitly believed and spread the idea that women's suffrage would lead to socialism and an end to white supremacy. [89]

Jovita Idar began writing articles in favor of women's suffrage in the Spanish language newspaper, La Cronica in 1911. [90] In September 1911, Idar was involved in the progressive and feminist First Mexican Congress in Laredo. [91] Idar and her brother, Eduardo Idar, printed pro-suffrage articles in their Laredo newspaper, the Evolución which they began in 1916. [92]

Between 1918 and 1920, in the cities of El Paso and Kingsville, which had a large number of Mexican immigrants, women of disparate backgrounds worked together on women's suffrage. [93] In El Paso, the president of the local TESA chapter, Belle Critchett, attempted to get black women to serve as clerks in the county election, though she was unsuccessful. [93] She worked with Maud Sampson on this project and both women found the rejection disappointing. [93] The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and particularly, president of NAWSA, Carrie Chapman Catt, advised TESA to try to keep black women's voices out of the issue of promoting women's suffrage. [94] TESA denied the El Paso Colored Women's Club application to become affiliated in 1918. [27]

During the first election that Texas women could vote in the primary, the San Antonio La Prensa published information about voting in Spanish. [95] Mexican-American women were legally considered white in Texas and did not have much trouble registering to vote. [96] In Kingsville, Christia Adair organized women to get out the vote during the 1918 primary, however, she and the others were not allowed to vote. [97] In Waxahachie, a judge ruled that Black women could vote in the 1918 primary. [68] In Houston, around 500 Black women were able to register to vote after threatening a lawsuit from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). [68] [98] In Dallas, nearly one hundred Black women were turned away from voting by the Dallas County sheriff. [68] Again, in 1920, Adair along with a large group of African American women attempted to vote, but were not allowed. [99] Two groups, the Galveston Negro Women's Voter League and the Colored Welfare League of Austin not only registered voters, but also sued election officials who turned away Black women. [100]

In 1921, women born in Mexico who were in the process of becoming citizens lost the right to vote in Texas. [63] White primaries were created in 1923, excluding Black voters until they were overturned in 1944. [97] Lulu White in Houston helped overturn the white primary system. [97] Her lawsuit against the practice was argued by Thurgood Marshall and went to the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Smith v. Allwright. [97] SCOTUS determined that white primaries were unconstitutional and Black women gained the right to vote in the primaries. [97]

Black women and women living in poverty still had other issues to face in order to vote. [97] Texas had a poll tax that often kept these women from voting. [97] The poll tax could equal a day's wages for many women. [97] This tax wasn't abolished until 1964. [97] The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 which provided Black women the legal backing to exercise their right to vote. [97]

Anti-suffragists in Texas believed that allowing women to vote would result in changes in society they felt were undesirable. [45] They worried that allowing women to vote would interfere with their roles as mothers and homemakers. [45] There was also a fear in white or Anglo Texas that allowing women to vote would lead to "black domination" of the state. [45]

Other groups of people, such as those involved in the liquor industry, textile factory owners, and those already in political power opposed women's suffrage in Texas because they did not want the status quo to change. [45] A men's social club in Houston staged a mock suffrage parade in 1913. [101] The social club members dressed as suffragists and mocked the suffrage movement. [101]

One of the most active leaders in the anti-suffrage movement in Texas was Pauline Kleiber Wells who was from Brownsville, Texas. [40] Pauline Wells was married to a powerful Democratic Party "boss," James B. Wells, Jr. [40] Pauline Wells began to campaign against women's suffrage in Texas in 1912. [40] She spoke out against women's suffrage in front of the Texas Legislature in 1915. [49] When Wells testified in front of the Texas Senate that year against women's suffrage, it was the first time a woman had spoken to that voting body. [49] Wells told the Senate that women really didn't want the vote and giving women the vote would lead to "feminism, sex antagonism, socialism, anarchy and Mormonism." [40] [49] She was successful at helping to stop women's suffrage in Texas in 1915.

In 1916, Wells and other women formed the Texas Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (TAOWS) in Houston. [49] Ida Darden of Fort Worth worked as the publicity director of the group. [89] Darden and Wells spread the idea that women's suffrage was a "socialist plot that would undermine white supremacy." [89] TAOWS received assistance from the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). [49] TAOWS worked against the women's suffrage initiatives in Texas, passing out literature and testifying against women's vote. [49] The group dissolved in June 1919 after Texas ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. [49]

Other challenges to women's suffrage came in trying to nullify the women's primary vote in 1918. After women earned the right to vote in the Texas primaries, some individuals tried to say that women voting was unconstitutional. [102] There were plans to challenge the legal basis for the provision for women to vote in the primary. [102]

The Colonial Tea Trade and Women’s Suffrage

Days before the first Women’s Rights Convention took place in the U.S. in 1848, renowned suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and other attendees sat around a parlor table, suitable for serving tea on, at Stanton’s home in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and drafted the Declaration of Sentiments. In 1920, the movement based on this declaration—which pronounced men and women equal—would culminate in the historic decision to grant the nation’s 27 million women the right to vote, also known as the 19th Amendment, the largest extension of voting rights in American history.

While the fact that the suffragists drafted this document on a tea table might appear an incidental or casual detail, it is testimony to tea’s powerful and unexpected role in the suffrage movement. The suffragists didn’t just drink tea for refreshment, but used it as a central feature of their political strategy. Across the nation, women like the wealthy Alva Belmont held “suffrage teas” as fundraisers where women could gather and discuss the cause.

Some suffragist organizations also sold tea to raise funds, like the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Northern California’s brand “Equality Tea,” “Votes for Women” tea in Southern California and “Suffrage Tea in a Special Box” in Pennsylvania. These teas came in varieties like Ceylon, English breakfast, young hyson, gunpowder and oolong, and many women boycotted the grocers who did not stock these brands. They sold ancillary products like cups and saucers and creamers inscribed with “Votes for Women” in elegant lettering as well. The suffragist cookbooks, which contained propaganda folded into elaborate recipes like those for Lady Baltimore cake and Almond Parfait, also contained basic guides for brewing tea. Throughout the movement, tea was closely linked to women and the way they exercised their political agency.

Tea appears in many charged historical moments like the Boston Tea Party, the Chinese Opium Wars and the Indian freedom movement, assisting in political protests, making and breaking empires, and empowering colonial enterprises. But tea itself has remained an adaptable agent. It has been used for both protest and plunder, sometimes simultaneously: The tea that helped American women take a leap forward in their quest for equality came from British tea estates in India, where colonial subjects worked under appalling labor conditions.

What is it about the humble beverage that makes it such a powerful and shapeshifting political agent? And despite its bloody history, how did it become so culturally feminized?

Before Stanton, Mott and Anthony could sip tea at fundraisers to campaign for their right to vote, American colonists dressed up as Native Americans dumped crates of imported tea into the Boston harbor to protest the unfair British-imposed taxation on the commodity. “No taxation without representation,” they exclaimed during the protest which would later become known as the Boston Tea Party of 1773. At the time of this event, nearly all the tea sold globally was grown in China and exported in huge quantities by the British, who were facing losses because the Chinese weren’t importing enough goods from them in return.

So, in the early 19th century, through careful acts of economic manipulation and two bloody wars between Britain and China known as the Opium Wars, the British wrested control of tea production and began to grow it on their plantations in India and Sri Lanka. But slavery was banned in the British Empire in 1834 under the Slavery Abolition Act, so the plantation owners hired indentured laborers or “coolies.” Nearly 80 percent of these laborers were women who were forcibly relocated and violently coerced in conditions modeled on the plantations in the antebellum U.S.

Not long after, tea, which was once an expensive and aristocratic drink, became cheap and plentiful around the world and found its way onto the suffragists' tables.

“Tea is a very malleable commodity: It can be used for both good or evil,” says Erika Rappaport, author of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World, a book on how the tea industry shaped the global economy as we know it today. “Since it was originally produced or imported under controlled colonial conditions, it has always been politicized. And because tea is a mass commodity and can be taxed, it can pay for state-funded war but is also cheap enough to be effective for a consumer movement.”

In the early 19th century, the British wrested control of tea production and began to grow it on their plantations in India and Sri Lanka. Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels.

Even though coffee was the more popular drink in the U.S. at the time, drinking tea was a symbol of groomed femininity, and it was particularly attractive to suffragists like Stanton and Belmont, who were educated, white, upper class women. Tea parties were a respectable way for women to gather, and the healthy, sobering quality of tea was considered antithetical to immoral beverages like alcohol.

“The story of tea connects in a large narrative arc, what I call the feminization of labor with the feminization of commodity,” says anthropologist Piya Chatterjee, expanding on the thesis of her book A Time for Tea: Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation. “When tea became one of the first globalized commodities, it was immediately connected to women and fantasies of the Orient. By the 19th century, though tea had become an extraordinary staple, the tea-coffee juxtaposition was sexualized, with coffee becoming masculinized as a virile American drink. And despite American Anglophobia, tea retained its deep DNA of feminization.”

Tea growing was associated with women as well: In the 18th century, the British were fascinated with the Chinese fetishism around pure tea plucked by the “nimble, virginal fingers,” as Chatterjee says, belonging to female plantation workers, which was then drunk by aristocratic Chinese women. Chinese culture remained very popular among American women well into the 19th century—Belmont held suffrage rallies in her specially decorated “Chinese Tea House” chinoiserie room in Marble House, her Newport, R.I., mansion.

The murky connection between the colonial tea trade, racism and the suffrage movement runs deep but is often overlooked. Jaime Sunwoo, a Korean-American performance artist, illustrates these fraught connections in her film Equality Tea, which was made for the Park Avenue Armory’s 100 Years 100 Women exhibition in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020.

Alva Belmont held suffrage rallies in Marble House, her Newport, R.I., mansion. Photo by New York Times, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Sunwoo’s film uses paper puppets, pots of blooming jasmine tea, scenes from suffrage tea parties and an original score based on a suffragist anthem by Augusta Gray Gunn to bring the hypocrisies of the movement to life.

“The history of suffrage in the U.S. is often told through the big names like Stanton and Mott,” says Sunwoo. “But there are so many under-appreciated suffragists of color in our nation. And a lot of people were neglected and even actively attacked in the process. Yet, the glorious American history we learn centers white Americans.”

In the film, Sunwoo traces the long, bloody trail left by the British empire to sustain their tea habit. And while she acknowledges the suffragists’ many victories, she highlights the women of color who were instrumental in the suffrage movement, like the Black feminist Ida B. Wells and the women of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, a Native American tribe that is the oldest continuously functioning democracy in the world. In the mid-19th century, when the American state considered women as little more than the property of their husbands, the Haudenosaunee women had the right to vote, hold political office, act as judges and own property. Not only did they pave the way for the 19th Amendment, but they directly inspired suffragists like Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, who frequently interacted with the women of the confederacy. Despite this, the suffragists did not believe that racial disenfranchisement was a feminist issue—Equality Tea did not promote equality for all.

The movement’s racial conflict comes to a head in a scene from Sunwoo’s film where Stanton is seated around a table much like the famous tea table on which the Declaration of Sentiments was drafted and is seen to proclaim:

“Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung who do not know the difference between a Monarchy and a Republic, who never read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for Lydia Marie Child, Lucretia Mott or Fanny Kemble.”

Stanton said these words in a speech at a women’s rights convention in 1869, and they speak to the suffragists’ belief in upholding white supremacy. Even when the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, many Black Americans and Native Americans did not have access to the ballot, and Asian Americans were not even eligible for citizenship.

“I wanted to have the moment where Anthony and [Mott and Carrie Catt] say those things, to show that while they did amazing work, they weren’t perfect people,” said Sunwoo. “They struggled with intersectionality. The rights of black Americans were just as intertwined with those of women.”

The gloried history of the American suffrage movement contains many contradictions, including its simultaneous advocacy for both white supremacy and women’s rights, and its use of tea grown by indentured laborers in slavery-like conditions to promote women’s political equality. And while today, a century after the 19th Amendment, Black and Asian American women can vote, universal suffrage is still not a reality for the people of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, who have no say in presidential or congressional elections. Even on the plantations in India, labor conditions are better than a century ago, but a new kind of post-colonial class supremacy has emerged, as the laborers tend to be marginalized Adivasi and Dalit women.

“You cannot remove the questions of gender equality from race, caste, religion, and class,” says Chatterjee. “There is no pure woman subject, but multiple feminisms which are constantly in debate with each other.”

Tea is still the most widely drunk beverage in the world and continues to show up as a mascot in political struggles in countries like Russia, India and Thailand. Frances Perkins, the first American woman cabinet member, is believed to have gotten the idea of taxation as a revenue base for Social Security at a tea party in 1934. The suffragists’ use of tea as a novel commercial strategy has parallels in contemporary American culture, where socially conscious consumerism is considered a legitimate form of political engagement. While sipping a cup of tea, it is easy to forget what the suffragists knew well: that tea was an economic powerhouse that facilitated wars and revolutions, and that brewing a cup of tea can be a much more powerful statement than it appears to be.

Sneha is a writer and designer, based between Mumbai and New York. Her writing draws inspiration from cultural connotations of design and food, and from how the objects we surround ourselves with shape our identities. She is a passionate advocate for the healing powers of chocolate cake. You can find her on Instagram as @snemeh.


The drive for women’s suffrage has evoked images of militant women in long skirts and broad-brimmed hats marching in parades, carrying “Votes for Women” signs, and struggling with determined police. Unfortunately for the sake of drama, little of this happened in San Diego. The movement was a concerted effort of dedicated citizens, who tried to persuade rather than protest. The demand for extending the ballot to women began in earnest after the Civil War. Negroes could vote why not women? While San Diego had its share of advocates for women’s rights, 1 there was no concerted movement. Activity was limited to an occasional announcement of a suffrage meeting or a comment in the press. 2 Excitement and interest rose, though, when the great Susan B. Anthony herself 3 and her close associate, Anna Howard Shaw, 4 spoke to a full house at the First Methodist Church in June of 1895. 5

By this time, women could vote in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. In 1896, the year after Miss Anthony visited San Diego, women’s suffrage appeared on the California ballot as the Sixth Amendment. Even though it received more attention than any of the other amendments and even though there was extensive campaigning, the Bryan-McKinley presidential race and the debate over free silver far overshadowed it. Suffrage passed in San Diego County, but statewide it went down to a narrow defeat. Northern California carried the brunt of the failure. The “no” vote in San Francisco and Alameda Counties alone made the difference. 6 Suffragists were disappointed but not unduly discouraged.

Yet, surprisingly, it would be fifteen years before the people of California would again express an opinion on this subject. The legislative action of 1909 served as a model for the frustrations its proponents encountered. That year, the measure did not even come to a vote in the State Senate in the Assembly, there were forty Assemblymen for it, thirty-six against, with fifty-seven votes required to submit such an amendment to the people. 7

In 1910, control of the Republican organization and of the state legislature passed to the Progressives, forerunner of the national party of the same name. In their platform they pledged such reforms as initiative, referendum, and recall, as well as women’s suffrage. Under the leadership of the newly elected governor, Hiram Johnson, 8 they kept their promises. When the legislature began its session in 1911, it voted to submit twenty-three amendments, these among them, in a special election to be held October 10. The principal legislative opposition came from the “Old Guard” Republicans of the five state senators 9 who opposed the idea, one of them was San Diego’s Leroy A. Wright. 10

Northern and Southern California conducted separate campaigns. Southern California was working to improve its 1896 record, while Northern California wanted to avert the disaster of the same year. Their campaigns featured many innovations: huge billboard ads, electric signs, high school prize essay contests, pageants, plays, and other kinds of special entertainment. 11 The National Suffrage Association and its affiliates in other states provided much assistance in the forms of speakers, literature, and funds. While such aid was nothing new to a state campaign, the amount of support that poured in from all over the country was unprecedented. San Diego received its share of speakers, among them one of Illinois’ best, Helen Todd, 12 and Kansas’ Laura Johns. 13 These ladies spoke at open air rallies and at club meetings, primarily in the city and its suburbs.

Support came from other areas, too. The press was generally sympathetic. 14 Political parties, all women’s and most men’s organizations, schools, and churches all worked together for the passage of the amendment. 15

Two remarkable, civic-minded women spearheaded the San Diego campaign. These were Dr. Charlotte Baker, 16 president of the Equal Suffrage Association, and Mrs. R. C. Allen, 17 its corresponding secretary. There were other workers of importance, too, namely Mrs. Florence Watson Toll, 18 Mrs. George Ballou, 19 Mrs. George Norton, 20 and Mrs. Annie Sloane. 21 Nor was all the activity confined to women. One of the most tireless suffrage workers was Judge William A. Sloane. 22 Another prestigious gentleman who lent his active support was a former San Diegan, the newly elected United States Senator John D. Works. 23

In the weeks that followed the legislative action, the Equal Suffrage Association made plans for the upcoming campaign. Mrs. Toll outlined the group’s initial strategy.

Every house is to be invaded. Every man whose name appears on the register will be interviewed by a committee of women. Of course, if we find out a man isn’t with us, we intend to keep right on after him until he is convinced. 24

Each precinct of the city was to have its “captainess,” whose sole duty was to organize the precinct and to attend to house-to-house canvassing. The Association also planned a rainbow shower of literature, consisting of multi-colored pamphlets containing arguments for suffrage. The women thought they might use this device at the July 22 parade for the ground-breaking ceremonies of the 1915-1916 Panama Exposition. They planned, too, to have a float in that parade. 25

During the late spring and summer, members of the Association and their other supporters set to work. Finding their YWCA meeting place too cramped, they set up new headquarters at 312 Granger Street. They spoke and debated at churches and at various organizational meetings around the town. Under Mrs. Allen’s direction, they entered a float in the groundbreaking ceremony parade—a flower-laden bark, floating in a sea of green, manned by a group of “Indians” and drawn by six yellow-draped horses, also led by “Indians.” The yellow sails of the bark read “The Modern Boston Tea Party.” 26 The slogan of the float was “Taxation without Representation Is Tyranny Now as It Was in 1773. 27

The suffragists also endured a “Week of Self-Denial.” During this week, California and New York women did without “candy, sodas, theatres, excursions, ribbons, laces, and everything claimed not necessities.” 28

With the coming of September, the pace of the campaign quickened. Early in the month, Dr. Baker, Mrs. Allen, her daughter Eleanor, 29 and Miss Lydia Harris 30 set out in the Allen’s decorated automobile for a tour of San Diego’s back country. The women visited Oceanside on Monday, where they spoke from benches while the people ate their lunches. 31 They stopped in Escondido that evening, visited Fallbrook on Tuesday, and Ramona on Wednesday, all the while presenting their views and distributing literature. 32

In the city there were nightly meetings as both local and outside speakers tried to persuade the voters on street corners and from automobiles. 33

Their arguments appealed to a sense of justice and fair play. They objected to women being placed in the same category as idiots, paupers, criminals, the insane, and Indians who had not abandoned tribal relations. 34 By payment of taxes on property and indirect taxes on food and clothing, women contributed to government revenues. Denying them the vote thus subjected them to taxation without representation. Furthermore, women’s special cares, home and children, were not legally protected. California’s women were well-educated, almost every woman in the state being able to read and write, and more women than ever were earning a living. 35 These suffrage proponents felt that women would be nobler when they found their opinions mattered 36 They contradicted the assertion that women did not feel interested enough in public affairs to vote by citing that more women than men voted in Colorado. 37 Giving women the ballot would insure better government, for only first-class men could get the support of women voters. 38 The fact that the opponents of suffrage were gamblers, saloon keepers, and corrupt politicians was a good argument for it, too. 39 They countered the idea that the voting privilege implied an obligation to military service by saying that women had done their share during wars 40 and that voting was no substitute for fighting 41

Of course, there was opposition to the amendment, but it seemed minimal, almost negligible. Senator Wright promised to vote against suffrage. He felt that it would not bring the results its advocates predicted, that it would only provide more voters for the demagogues to deceive. It would neither benefit society nor improve woman’s condition, he maintained. 42 There were occasional negative letters to the editors of both the Union and the Sun. Said one irate writer:

Those who have witnessed the contortions of a hen trying to crow like a rooster will wonder why any woman should be anxious to distort herself trying to do politics like a man… What could women gain by depositing a piece of paper in the ballot box? As voters they would still have to depend upon men for protection, support, and employment 43

Another letter by the same author stated: Consider the case of Mrs. Helen Dixon, the noted politician of Colorado.. .’Politics caused my downfall and drink my ruin. Late caucuses and conferences put me on the highball route and I never got off.’ 44

The Sun printed excerpts from Molly Seawell’s book, The Ladies Battle. She reasoned:

If voting is a natural right, not only men and women, but children may vote, for a natural right is acquired at birth and lasts until death… The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that voting is not a moral right but a privilege. 45

Opposition was not limited to letters and newspaper articles. Anti-suffragists spoke at public and organizational meetings, too. At one debate a Colorado minister contended that the legislature there was the worst in the United States, proof that women were unfit for a political careers. 46 A group of Los Angeles businessmen dedicated to fighting the amendment sent a Mrs. William Force Scott of New York as a speaker at the San Diego Women’s Press Club meeting. 47 She maintained that:

There is no relation between taxation and the vote. Taxation is a method of raising money to meet the expenses of government for the protection of life and property. The vote is the symbol of the power to enforce law… Equality of right does not imply identity of function. 48

Such statements kept suffrage supporters busy rebutting their arguments.

The time for debate ended with the arrival of election day. Twenty of the suffrage workers were out that morning, mostly in automobiles. Those not on duty at the polls were at the Granger Street Headquarters. Dr. Baker and Mrs. Allen stayed there until two in the morning, awaiting the election returns. As in 1896, suffrage carried San Diego County, 49 although it received the smallest majority of the twenty-three amendments. Statewide the results were not encouraging. The amendment seemed to be going down to defeat.

When reporters asked Dr. Baker about her reaction to the returns, she replied:

I haven’t lost hope, but I’m not going down to register in the morning. I am very much gratified at the showing made by San Diego both city and county. Indeed the city surpassed my most sanguine expectations. The result here is far better than what it was in the election of fifteen years ago. The returns from the state at large have afforded many surprises. In some cases, 1 have been agreeably disappointed in others, quite the reverse. Thus, while I am a little disappointed made by the showing of Los Angeles, I am surprised that San Francisco did not do worse. Again, while I thought that we would carry Santa Barbara, 1 did not expect that we would get a majority in Fresno. At all events I am not giving up at this hour by any means. The vote so far announced has been mostly from the larger communities, while our greatest strength seems to lie in the rural regions. The lead against us is not so great but that it may be overcome. 50

Privately, she was not quite so optimistic. “Between five and six bad reports from San Francisco,” she wrote in her diary. “Made us feel blue. But cannot give up hope.” 51

Dr. Baker’s analysis of the situation proved to be an accurate one. As reports came in from the rural communities, the tide turned. By Friday, October 13, the amendment was definitely carrying. 52 The final count was 125,037 for the amendment, 121,450 against the margin of victory was little more than 3500, an average of one vote in every precinct 53

Disturbed at rumors that “lowbrows” 54 had left San Francisco and were heading south with the intention of “jobbing the count,” Dr. Baker sat down at the telephone and sent out instructions to be on guard when ballot boxes were opened to see that no unauthorized hands touched them. 55

On October 16, almost one week after the election, Dr. Baker received a phone call from the City Clerk telling her to go ahead and register. She did so and had herself and three other women sworn in as deputies so they could begin registering others. 56 She was anxious to accomplish this as quickly as possible so that women would be able to vote in the upcoming November harbor bond elections. 57 There was some concern over the legality of women voting in this particular election and that if they did vote, the results might be invalidated. 58 The State Attorney General, wired for a ruling on the matter, replied immediately. 59 The election of November 14, 1911, was the first city-wide 60 election in which women of San Diego voted. The result was a municipal pier constructed at the foot of Broadway. 61

The Equal Suffrage Association did not disband but devoted itself to becoming a political education society in which the issues of the day were discussed and debated. 62

At a “jollification” at the YWCA the women of San Diego celebrated their hard-won victory. Prominent among the decorations was a green mascot banner sent by the women of Washington . 63 They had sent it with the understanding that it would be forwarded to each state in succession in which women were struggling for the vote. 64 This was a sobering reminder that the victory was an incomplete one. In some ways the battle was just beginning. There was still the necessity for making women’s suffrage a reality throughout the country, and in this campaign, for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the suffragists of San Diego would play their part.

1. One of the earliest references to a San Diego suffragette is of an otherwise-anonymous Mrs. Kingsbury, who “delivered an off-hand, spicy, interesting, and exceedingly sensible address” at a suffrage convention in San Francisco. “Woman Suffrage Convention Held in San Francisco,” San Diego (Weekly) Union, February 6, 1871, page 1.

Two of the more interesting of the early feminists were Mrs. Flora Kimball and Clara Shortridge Foltz. Mrs. Kimball was the wife of Warren Kimball, one of the founders of National City. A teacher, a writer, and a horticulturalist, she also maintained an active interest in civic affairs. For further information, see Irene Phillips, Women of Distinction Under Three Flags (National City, California: South Bay Press, 1956) pages 34-37, Laura De Force Gordon, “In Memoriam,” an identified newspaper clipping, October 13, 1898, and “A Noble Life Ended,” San Diego Union, July 2, 1898, no pagination.

Clara Foltz, known as the “Portia of the Pacific,” finished two terms of teaching when she was fifteen, eloped shortly thereafter, and, while raising five children, taught herself law. Presumably, she was California’s and San Diego’s first woman lawyer, practicing in the city from 1887 to 1890. Many of her cases involved women’s rights. Leland G. Stanford’s Tracks on the Trial Trail (San Diego: San Diego Law Library Justice Foundation, 1963), page 37, Reda Davis’ California Women (San Francisco: 1967), pages 150-151, and Illustrated History of Southern California, (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1890), pages 110-111, deal with Mrs. Foltz.

2. Among the articles of this nature are “Women’s Rights Talk Senseless Clamor,” San Diego (Weekly) Union, June 8, 1871, page 2, column 1, “Fallacy of Argument Against Women’s Inferiority,” San Diego (Weekly) Union, September 28, 1871, page 1, column 3, and Nell Wayne, “Letters from San Francisco,” San Diego (Weekly) Union, February 24, 1870, page 2, column 5.

3. Susan B. Anthony was the organizer of the suffrage movement and gave it force and direction for more than half a century. Born in 1820 of a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts, she turned to teaching. Dismayed with the discrimination she encountered, first as a woman schoolteacher and later as a paid agent for the temperance movement, she turned to fighting for women’s rights. With Elizabeth Cady Stanton she launched the National Woman Suffrage Association. Although she stepped down from the presidency of this organization in 1890, she remained active in the movement until her death in 1906. Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1959), passim.

4. Anna Howard Shaw was the orator of the suffrage movement. Born in England in 1847, she came with her family to the United States when she was four. She persuaded Albion College in Michigan to accept her, then attended Boston Theological School, graduating in 1878. She preached as a supply pastor for two Cape Cod churches, but in 1880 the Methodist Episcopal Church refused to ordain her. The rival Methodist Protestant Church did accept her, and she was the first woman to be so honored. She added a medical degree in 1885 and worked in the Boston slums. For several years after leaving her ministerial work, she headed the suffrage department of the WCTU. Later she devoted her whole career to suffrage. When Susan B. Anthony stepped down in 1890, Miss Shaw expected to succeed her, but the post passed to Carrie Chapman Catt. However, she did become the Association’s president in 1904, serving until 1915. Mildred Adams, The Right to Be People, (Philadelphia, New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1967), pp. 78-84, and Flexner, Century of Struggle, pp. 237-8.

5. For details of the Anthony-Shaw visit, see “Woman Suffrage: Two Fine Speakers Address a Large Audience,” San Diego Union, June 18, 1895, page 5, column 1.

6. The “aye” vote was 110,355, the “nay” vote was 137,099 . a difference of 26,744 votes. The “no” margin in San Francisco County was 23,772 and in Alameda County 3627, both counties otherwise returning the Republican ticket.

Liquor interests apparently had a great deal to do with the amendment’s defeat. A few days before the election the Liquor Dealers’ League sent a letter to saloon keepers, hotel proprietors, druggists, and grocers throughout the state, urging them to vote no. Flexner, Century of Struggle, p. 224.

Such interests may also have had a hand in rounding up some 5000 eligible Chinese voters, who, if they did nothing else, voted against the amendment. Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics, (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1923), p. 123.

7. Franklin Hickborn, “The Constitutional Amendments: Equal Suffrage,” San Diego Sun, October 2, 1911, page 9, column 3, asserts that suffrage was also opposed as a moral issue in the 1909 session. Machine leaders wanted the State Senate to go on record on the local option bill before the Assembly considered it. They managed to achieve their ends by saying that the Assembly had acted first on two other “moral issues,” namely equal suffrage and racetrack gambling, and that it was unfair to compel the lower house to lead off on every moral issue. The local option bill became sidetracked in the Senate hence, the suffrage bill never reached it.

8. Hiram Johnson, 1866-1945, challenged the power of the old railroad machine and won the California governorship in 1910. After two terms, he entered the United States Senate, where he served until his death. He was Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose running mate in 1912. He had presidential ambitions himself, but lost out to Harding in the 1920 convention. In 1932, he left the Republican Party to campaign for Franklin D, Roosevelt. Throughout his career, he was a consistent isolationist.

9. “Vote for Suffrage,” San Diego Sun, January 26, 1911, page 3, column 1.

10. Leroy A. Wright, a Republican attorney, served as State Senator from both the Thirty-Seventh and Fortieth Districts from 1907 to 1913. He not only opposed woman suffrage but also such other progressive measures as an eight-hour working day for women. See “`Big Business’ Senators Apply ‘Gag’ to Women,” San Diego Sun, February 27, 1911, page 1, column 1, and “Wright Defends His Position on Eight-Hour Bill,” San Diego Sun, March 1, 1911, page 1, column 4.

Frederick C. O’Brien, political writer of the Sun, felt Wright was “honest and able and even lovable” but wrong for the times as he marched “to corporation music.” Frederick C. O’Brien, “Wright Is in Wrong,” San Diego Sun, February 7, 1911, page 4, column 4. Mrs. Mary E. Mansfield, a Coronado laundress who heckled a Wright speech on the eight-hour day, was less charitable. “Wright is a Senator for the rich people, not the poor. He is dictatorial and autocratic and ought to have lived before the war when they had overseers of slaves with big whips in their hands to beat the slaves if they didn’t do enough work.” “Woman Who Beat Senator L. A. Wright in Eight-Hour Argument Went to Aid Sex,” San Diego Sun, April 13, 1911, page 1, column 3.

11. How many of these techniques San Diego used is hard to ascertain. The movement did have its own campaign song, “Mother Dear,” composed by one of the local suffragettes, Addie Woolsey. There is evidence, too, that suffrage propaganda extended to children. See “Children, Too, for Suffrage,” San Diego Sun, October 9, 1911, page 5, column 2.

12. Helen Todd was a state factory inspector in Illinois. She struggled to obtain the ten-hour law for women and to improve sanitary conditions. “Suffragist’s Plea Impresses Crowd,” San Diego Union, September 27, 1911, page 5, column 3.

13. Laura Johns, a Republican, was the former president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. Catt and Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics, p. 120.

14. In San Diego, the Sun went all out for suffrage. There was a special column devoted to the subject, advertisements, urging people to vote for the amendment, and periodic blurbs. The Union was more cautious in its support, but was generally favorable.

15. Adams, The Right to Be People, p. 112.

16. Charlotte Baker was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1855. While she was attending the University of Michigan medical school, she met and married Fred Baker, a fellow medical student, who was distinguished in his own right. They began their medical practice in Akron, but when she developed malaria, they moved to New Mexico for a change of climate. There, their two children were born. In January of 1888, the Bakers arrived in San Diego where they were welcomed into the Medical Society only two days after their arrival. In San Diego she delivered more than 1000 babies and used to express her gratitude that she never lost a mother. She was the first and only woman president of the San Diego County Medical Society. She worked in local vice crusades, advocated shorter hours for labor, served in the city civil service commission for eleven years, nine of them as president, headed the movement to build the Children’s Home in Balboa Park, and was honorary president of the YWCA. With all these accomplishments to her credit, she felt the campaign of 1911 was the highlight of her life in San Diego because it was “a triumph for justice and right.” See Robert Hippen, “The Bakers—Drs. Fred and Charlotte,” San Diego Physician, July, 1970, pp. 64-5, “Private Rites for Pioneer Doctor,” San Diego Evening Tribune, November 1, 1937, “Dr. Fred Baker and Wife Pass 50th Milestone,” San Diego Union, March 31, 1932, no pagination, and “She Would Only Fight Harder in Living Long Life Over Again, Dr. Charlotte Baker Declares,” unidentified newspaper clipping, December 3, 1933.

17. Mrs. Allen was born Ella Bradford Copeland in Boston. In 1888, she married Russell C. Allen, who organized the Sweetwater Fruit Company. They settled in Bonita. Like Dr. Baker, she was active in civic affairs. She was especially interested in children and was one of the founders of the Boys’ and Girls’ Society of San Diego and of the San Diego Door of Hope. “The Context of Mr. Richard Allen’s Speech to the Children of Ella B. Allen School on May 10, 1957,” Mrs. R. C. Allen, “The History of Bonita,” and Carl H. Heilbron, History of San Diego County, (San Diego: San Diego Press Club, 1936), p. 115.

18. Little information was available on Mrs. Toll, other than that she was a widow, lived at 467 Twentieth Street, and served as publicist and as vice president of the local suffrage association. “Suffrage Society Elects Officers,” San Diego Union, September 23, 1911, and “Suffragists Promise Sizzling Campaign,” San Diego Union, April 27, 1911, page 16, column 2.

19. Mrs. George Ballou was born Harriet A. Whitcher. She and her husband came to San Diego January 18, 1889. He established the G. H. Ballou Company, one of the largest wholesale dealers in tea, coffee, and spices.

20. Mrs. George Norton was a friend and neighbor of Mrs Allen. According to Mrs. Allen, she was the first to serve on a county school board after the winning of equal suffrage. Allen, “The History of Bonita.”

21. Mrs. Annie Sloane was born Annie Kimball in Croyden, New Hampshire. She had a musical education and wrote several light operas. She married William A. Sloane when he was editor of the Sedalia, Missouri, Eagle Times. The couple moved to San Diego where they were leaders in both the suffrage and temperance movements. Sloane Biographical File, San Diego History Center Library and Manuscripts Collection.

22. William A. Sloane was born October 10, 1854, in Rockford, Illinois. He divided his early career between journalism and the law. In 1887, he opened a law office in San Diego in 1889, he was elected justice of the city court. In May, 1911, Governor Johnson appointed him a judge of the Superior Court. Later he served on the California Supreme Court. In 1929, he was appointed presiding judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeals. Heilbron’s History of San Diego County, p. 404, Samuel Black’s San Diego County, California, Volume II (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913), pp. 91-2, and Leland G. Stanford’s Footprints of Justice.. . In San Diego and Profiles, (San Diego: San Diego County Law Library, 1960), p. 63, provide biographical sketches of Judge Sloane.

23. John D. Works came to San Diego where he served as city attorney. He moved to Los Angeles, where he served as president of the city council and as both superior and supreme court judge. At the time of the 1911 campaign, he was a newly elected United States Senator, serving in this capacity from 1911 to 1917.

24. “San Diego Suffragists to Wage Sizzling Campaign,” San Diego Union, April 27, 1911, page 16, column 2.

25. Mrs. Toll felt that Mary E. Mansfield, Senator Wright’s laundress adversary should be the central figure in the float. She would be shown at her ironing board, surrounded by bright, smiling girls in scholastic gowns. From the ironing board would stream Abraham Lincoln’s statement: “I go for all sharing the privilege of the government who assist in bearing its burden, by no means excluding women.” Also featured would be the poem:

For the long work day,
For the laws we obey,
For the taxes we pay,
We want something to say.

“San Diego Suffragists to Wage Sizzling Campaign.” The actual float turned out to be quite different.

26. “Floral and Historical Parades Gorgeous Pageants, Streets Last Night Seething Mass of Merry Revelers,” San Diego Union, July 21, 1911, page 1, column 7.

27. Beth Mohr, “San Diego Battleground 50 Years Ago: Women Win Vote,” San Diego Union, August 20, 1961, Section D, page 1, column 1.

28. Mohr, “San Diego Battleground,” page 1.

29. Eleanor Allen, now Mrs. Collis Mitchum, was a young woman at the time of the campaign. She drove the family car, as her mother was unable to manage it. She, the Allen sons, and their friends were the figures on the July float. Mrs. Mary Allen Ward, private interview held at her Bonita home, March 23, 1972.

30. No biographical information was available on Miss Harris.

31. Mohr, “San Diego Battleground,” p. 1.

32. “Suffrage Trip in the Back Country,” San Diego Sun, September 13, 1911, page 1, column 5.

33. Information on the various meetings and rallies may be found primarily in the September and October issues of both the Sun and the Union.

34. “Suffragists Speak from Automobile,” San Diego Union, September 23, 1911, page 5, column 2.

35. “Clubs: Equal Suffrage,” San Diego Sun, January 28, 1911, page 5, column 3.

36. Judith Parsons, editor, “Reasons and Arguments Why California Women Should Vote Given by Speakers,” San Diego Sun, August 17, 1911, page 5, column 2.

37. “Suffrage Meeting Held at Booklovers Hall,” San Diego Union, September 8, 1911, page 7, column 5.

38. “Suffragists Hold Meeting at Plaza,” San Diego Union, October 7, 1911, page 3, column 3.

39. Clifford Howard, “Why Man Needs Woman’s Ballot,” San Diego Sun, August 9, 1911, page 5, column 3.

40. Parsons, ed., “Reasons and Arguments,” p. 5.

41. “Suffrage Battle Closes with Good Rally,” San Diego Union, October 10, 1911, page 10, column 1. Occasionally, the logic in the arguments was a bit weak. For example, Mrs. Sloane maintained that giving women the vote would lower the divorce rate. Colorado had had the highest percentage of divorce, but since the granting of suffrage, had dropped to eighth place. “Suffrage Is Cure for Divorce Evil, Says Speaker,” San Diego Union, October 4, 1911, page 18, column 1.

42. Leroy A. Wright, “Senator Wright Explains Meaning of Amendments,” San Diego Union, October 5, 1911, page 8, column 1.

43. Leroy Cummings, “Why These Suffragettes?” San Diego Union, September 8, 1911, page 10, column 2.

44. Leroy Cummings, “Raps Recall and Woman Suffrage,” San Diego Union, September 23, 1911, page 4, column 4.

45. Molly Elliot Seawell, “Women Suffrage Illogical, According to Molly Elliot Seawell Who Writes a Book to Prove It,” San Diego Sun, July 22, 1911, page 7, column 3.

46. “Club Hears Debate on Women Suffrage,” San Diego Union, June 14, 1911, page 18, column 1.

47. “Campaign Against Equal Suffrage Is Launched,” San Diego Union, September 12, 1911, page 15, column 1.

48. “Mrs. Scott Argues Against Woman Suffrage,” San Diego Union, September 13, 1911, page 5, column 1.

49. Ironically, Dr. Baker’s Roseville district voted more than two to one against suffrage. “Result Woman’s Suffrage Vote is in Doubt,” San Diego Union, October 11, 1911, page 1, column 1.

50. “Result Woman’s Suffrage Vote Is in Doubt,” page 5, column 1.

51. Mohr, “San Diego Battleground,” page 1.

52. “Suffrage Wins by Steadily Increasing Majority,” San Diego Union, page 1, column 1.

53. Catt and Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics, p. 176.

55. “Suffragists Jubilant Planning Celebration,” San Diego Union, October 13, 1911, page 18, column 6.

56. Mohr, “San Diego Battleground,” page 1.

57. “Women Determined to Register for Bond Election,” San Diego Union, October 15, 1911, page 14, column 1. 58. “Ask Webb If Women May Vote,” San Diego Sun, October 16, 1911, page 1, column 1.

59. “Sixty-one Women Registered by Clerk Butler As Voters,” San Diego Union, October 17, 1911, page 13, column 1.

60. According to the Union, a Miss Emma Hanley of Normal Heights was the first woman to vote, as she cast her ballot over a proposed lighting district. October 24, 1911, page 18, column 2.

61. George White Marston: A Family Chronicle, Volume II, compiled by Mary Gilman Marston (Ward Ritchie Press, 1956), page 85.

62. “Scores of Women on New Lists,” San Diego Sun, October 18, 1911, page 1, column 8.

63. Women had won voting rights in Washington in 1910.

64. “Great Gathering of Women Hold Jubilee over Victory of Suffrage,” San Diego Union, October 20, 1911.

Marilyn Kneeland received her B.A. degree in History from Tufts University in Massachusetts and her M.A. degree from the University of San Diego. The article published here is a part of her Masters Thesis and was an award winning paper at the 1972 San Diego History Center Institute of History.

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The Woman Suffrage Movement

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the legal right to vote, was signed into law.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, women and men of all backgrounds and ethnicities aided in the fight for universal suffrage. Despite this, the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not guarantee full voting rights for all women. The work needed to grant this right to women of color endured many obstacles in the coming years. Still, the law became the first in many steps along the United States’ journey to full voting rights for all people.

While the fight started by the early suffragists continued past 1920, Texas Woman’s University proudly celebrates the trajectory of this historic moment and the events that made it possible, while also acknowledging the work that must continue in regards to voting rights for all.

Thank you, suffrage pioneers!

History of the woman suffrage movement in the U.S.

The first women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. After two days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women’s rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

The first National Women’s Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, Mass., attracting more than 1,000 participants. National conventions are held yearly (except for 1857) through 1860.

Ratification of the 14th amendment declaring “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” and that right may not be “denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States.”

Congress ratifies the 15th amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Split among the suffragist movement. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.

Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through the individual state constitutions.

Susan B. Anthony arrested for voting for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election.

The Women’s Suffrage Amendment is first introduced to Congress.

The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the movement’s mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote.

The National Association of Colored Women is formed, bringing together more than 100 black women’s clubs. Leaders in the black women’s club movement include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell and Anna Julia Cooper.

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage. Their focus is lobbying for a constitutional amendment to secure the right to vote for women. The group is later renamed the National Women’s Party. Members picket the White House and practice other forms of civil disobedience.

Alice Paul and her colleagues form the National Woman’s Party (NWP) and began introducing some of the methods used by the suffrage movement in Britain. Tactics included demonstrations, parades, mass meetings and picketing the White House over the refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to actively support the Suffrage Amendment.

In July, picketers were arrested on charges of “obstructing traffic,” including Alice Paul. She and others were convicted and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. While imprisoned, Paul began a hunger strike.

In January, after much bad press about the treatment of Alice Paul and the imprisoned women, President Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure.”

The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

August 18, 1920
Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, clearing its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states.

August 26, 1920
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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