In 1911, Santa Rosa threw a grand party to honor a men’s club. Naturally, some very uppity women crashed it.
The event was the annual state convention of the “Native Sons of the Golden West,” a fraternal organization whose local chapter had recently built a magnificent lodge hall on Mendocino Avenue (it’s still there, too). That gathering of members of the California-born Native Sons – and to be fair, there was/is a “Native Daughters of the Golden West” as well – drew the most visitors to Santa Rosa to that date. They arrived by the thousands on that September 9th weekend in special trains; in the local papers the Chamber of Commerce pleaded with residents to make a room or two available to out-of-towners, and hundreds did. Santa Rosa’s population doubled as a crowd estimated at up to 10,000 pushed into Fourth street and Courthouse Square for the parade and carnival-like celebration.
Among the masses was a hardy band of suffragists eager to encourage men to grant women the right to vote. “RAID ON SANTA ROSA,” read the subhed in an article about suffrage events that week in the San Francisco Call. “It was a fixed policy with us to go wherever we were not wanted,” wrote Louise Herrick Wall in a report about the suffrage campaign of 1911:
|Into the pretty town of Santa Rosa we made one of these forced entries. It was during the week of the Native Sons’ celebration and both the Golden Sons and the Golden Daughters assured us, with leaden emphasis, that suffrage was entirely out of place. But we felt that where so many thousands of idle people were gathered was exactly the place for us.
A store building on a lively corner, just across from a Ferris wheel, and next door to the knife-throwing booth, became the headquarters of the Blue Liner. The place was made as pretty as time alloted with flowers and banners and posters, and the doors set very wide upon the street. There was music and singing; and, as we had planned, hundreds of people sauntered in and out, and stopped and chatted or listened. One day we had a seven-hour continuous performance. In the evenings we held big street meetings from the Blue Liner that we kept up until our constellation waned in the brighter conjunction of the Native Son and the native grape.
(RIGHT: The “Blue Liner” and crew, San Francisco Call, August 16, 1911)
The “Blue Liner” was the big touring car that stayed constantly on the roads of Northern California in advance of the state constitutional amendment vote, as discussed in part I of this story, “WILL MEN LET THE LADIES VOTE?” That article points out passage was not assured; suffragists had only the eight months of California spring and summer before election day and faced an array of anti-suffrage interests that together were simply called the “anti’s” in the press.
A sizable number of men (AND women) were social conservatives who thought voting was unladylike; the loudest voice in this faction was state Senator J. B. Sanford (D-Ukiah), who was also editor and publisher of the Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat. There Sanford penned several editorials insisting women would lose rights and privileges if they could vote. A sample passage: “The men are able to run the government and take care of the women…as long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more protection and more consideration than man gets.” Sometimes Santa Rosa’s own Frances McG. Martin would write her own op-ed for sympathetic newspapers, poking fun and/or slinging scorn over some of his more nitwit remarks. In an exchange transcribed below, Sanford sank to open fear-mongering: “Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and ‘wifey’ locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means.” Martin deftly countered that suffrage had nothing to do with women serving on juries, as the legislature would have to pass a new law because juries were restricted to being property-owning men. And also, she asked (with appropriate snarkasm), why did he always presume there would be just ONE woman on the jury?
The other flank of the anti’s was the liquor industry, which feared suffrage would inevitably lead to passage of prohibition laws. Better funded and well organized, they represented national, state, and local interests – everyone from brewery owners to saloon barkeeps to members of the Beer Wagon Drivers’ Union – whom had already joined together to form a coalition called the “Associated Industries of California” (wonderful generic name, that). Their original objective was to block or modify passage of a proposed state law which would allow communities “to regulate or prohibit retail liquor business,” and that usually boiled down to a town voting on whether it would go “dry.” Their man in the state legislature was Senator Louis Juilliard (D-Santa Rosa) who tried to amend the bill so that votes would be only cast by entire counties, which would have probably ensured prohibition would not have passed anywhere in the state. His efforts failed and in April, the Local Option Law (AKA “The Wyllie Act”) passed. After that, the focus was entirely on defeating the suffrage amendment, bringing in East Coast celebrity speakers and cranking out reams and reams of leaflets, including reprints of Senator Sanford’s editorial bile.
The various anti’s offered a spirited opposition, but at least there was never violence; no beer baron hired thugs to crack suffragist heads and cops didn’t brutally attack women demonstrators at rallies, as happened in London just a few months earlier during the Black Friday police riot. Instead, the greatest adversary the suffragists faced was simple indifference. The public apparently didn’t want to argue with suffragists that women should not have voting rights – they instead shrugged and politely demurred. Even progressive hero Teddy Roosevelt said he thought there were more important things to worry about, and populist Governor Hiram Johnson offered tepid support. In Santa Rosa to make a speech less than a week before the special election, he encouraged voters to support other amendments to the state constitution, but newspaper accounts do not mention any remarks at all made about the suffrage amendment. And if progressives with keen minds like Roosevelt and Johnson didn’t get that there was something fundamentally wrong with half the adult population being forbidden to vote, what were the odds that Mr. Archie Average – a Santa Rosa family man who gleaned his political information via bull sessions at one of the town’s thirty downtown saloons – had a good handle on this civil rights issue?
But here’s the thing: After reading everything I could find on this 1911 suffrage campaign – including the book written by the participants and an excellent 1974 thesis by Donald Waller Rodes which pops up quite often in histories of women’s rights in America – it seemed puzzling that the anti’s managed to gain as much traction as they did. Were their supporters paralyzed by fear of temperance laws that might follow? Sure, many were. Did a number of male voters believe women were just hormonally incapable of handling full citizenship? Undoubtedly. There were other subtle and complex reasons why some might have opposed suffrage, however.
Mr. Average – and maybe Mrs. Average as well – also might well have resented the suffragists for trying to inculcate themselves as spokespersons for all women. In his classic book on the California progressives, George Mowry wrote that the progressive movement here was mainly driven by a small crowd of college-educated, middle-aged WASP professionals – the “fortunate sons of the upper-middle class.” If so, the suffragists were mostly their sisters and wives. In their own report on the 1911 campaign, a whiff of condescending noblesse oblige emerges from many pages. Here again is Louise Herrick Wall, writing this time of a visit by the Blue Liner crew to the workers at the Navy Yard on Mare Island:
|…They crowded in closer, they lifted their faces up to us, listening, with the look on theirs that a child turns to its mother, of confidence and the will to believe. On the lips of a street lad the cigarette died out and hung, and on every face the smile faded. One should speak as a God to speak on the street, or as one knowing good and evil. It must have been so when words first came to interpret between man and man. Street-speaking is unspeakably difficult, an anguish of misunderstanding beforehand, and an anguish of understanding while it lasts and afterwards a strange, humbling revelation of the simple sincerity of men.
When, at last, each one in turn had spoken, and the Blue Liner drew out, leaving the crowd half-tottering, for it seemed to have built itself up on all sides around the car, we said to each other in hushed voices: “Isn’t it wonderful how they took it? They seemed to understand.”
And then there was the problem that many men still clutched to their sentimental hearts the Victorian notion of a social contract – that women were decidedly the weaker sex and men MUST be entrusted to protect them and decide what was in their best interests. As mentioned previously, the suffragists cited the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to put the lie to that, but it’s hard to comprehend today how deeply this paternalistic fantasy was ingrained in American culture. Consider the “eight hour for women” law, for example.
Just months after the suffrage amendment was placed on the ballot, California limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. The law also required “suitable seats” when women were not “engaged in the active duties” of their job. Sponsors in the state legislature vowed it was a “concession to womanhood over the dollar and as a protection to the mothers of future generations.”
As the bill awaited the governor’s signature, it came out that it wasn’t quite as beneficial to women as it seemed. There was an exemption for “harvesting, curing, canning, or drying” any fruit or vegetable, which was the hardest work performed by women in California; the Press Democrat noted, “Sonoma county representatives and other members from the great fruit handling sections of the state where only a few months’ work is given, had fruit packing and canning eliminated from the bill.” Other newspapers at the time remarked there was also a loophole – employers couldn’t require women to work additional hours, but the boss could still suggest workers might like to volunteer to stay at their jobs a few hours longer. Made aware of these and other problems, Governor Hiram Johnson called for an unusual public hearing before he would decide whether to sign it into law. Women telegraph operators testified the law meant they would be replaced by men, who had no restrictions on how many hours they could work. Governor Johnson said that he wished the law wasn’t so inflexible, but he would sign it anyway, because the bill written by the all-male legislature was so darn important to protect women.
(RIGHT: Illustration that appeared in the Press Democrat and many other pro-suffrage newspapers. Note the feminine cuff above the wrist)
By the time election day dawned on October 10 – an odd date for an election, even then – Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the anti’s (the suffragists even glued posters to the duck blinds that dotted the shoreline around San Francisco Bay). Mr. Voter faced an imposing ballot of 22 proposed state constitutional amendments, concerning everything from standardization of weights and measures to a sort of “Prop 13” property tax cap for veterans to judicial reforms allowing the impeachment of judges. The suffrage amendment was the only item on the ballot that sought to rectify a problem which was not a tangible thing, which additionally might have worked against it.
Turnout for the special election was light, with only about one in three registered voters casting a ballot statewide. In the 72 nail-biting hours it took to finalize the count, suffrage appeared to be a toss-up. The San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner reported it was defeated and the SF Call claimed victory; likewise the Santa Rosa Republican headline said it probably failed and the Press Democrat predicted it would win.
In the final tally it won in Santa Rosa by 14 points; it was defeated in Petaluma, Sonoma, Windsor and Healdsburg. Suffrage passed in the county overall by four percent. San Francisco, Alameda, and Marin Counties all opposed giving women the right to vote.
In the official state total, women’s suffrage squeaked by with a mere two percent margin of victory.
PROMINENT PEOPLE ESPOUSE CAUSE OF EQUAL SUFFRAGEWomen Speak from an Auto to Large Crowds
Francis R. Wall, a prominent San Francisco attorney and speaker; Mrs’ Louise Wall, a cultured woman and forceful speaker; Miss Elizabeth Baker, elocutionist, Miss Ruth Parkhurst, who sings and dances very prettily, and who is a grand daughter of John Swett one of the best known and prominent pioneer educators of the state and Mrs. Frank B. Patterson, compose a party of distinguished members of the College Political Equality League, who arrived here yesterday to espouse the cause of Equal Suffrage, which is one of the Constitutional amendments to be voted upon at the October election. They are here and elsewhere in a campaign getting votes for Constitutional Amendment No. 8, which proposes to extend the right to vote to the women of California just for the love of the work. They have selected Santa Rosa at this time on account of the thousands of men and women who are gathered here for the celebration.
The headquarters of the College Political League in Santa Rosa are in the large room in the Odd Fellows’ building at Third street and Exchange avenue, and there last night the first meeting was held at which Attorney Wall and Mrs. Wall spoke; Mrs. Baker recited and Miss Parkhurst sang and danced.
The headquarters are attractively decorated, special attention being given to a display of the banner designed by Miss Bertha Boyd. A large crowd of people were attracted to the headquarters.
Speak from Automobile
The meetings at the headquarters were followed by street meetings at which Mrs. Wall spoke. It was something of a novelty here to hear a talented woman speaking in the open air. Mrs. Wall spoke from Mr. Wall’s handsome big touring car and Mrs. Frances McG. Martin and Mrs. Patterson were heard on their presentation of the subject of suffrage by large crowds.
More meetings will be held today at the headquarters and there will be more addresses from the automobile.
Mrs. Patterson drove here in her big “Blue Liner” touring car, the car in which she made the campaign in Washington state.
[..]– Press Democrat, September 8, 1911
Vote Against Woman’s Suffrage
Because man is man and woman is woman. Nature has made their duties and functions different and no Constitutional Amendment can make them the same.
Because the basis of government is force. Its stability rests on its physical power to enforce its laws; therefore it is expedient to give the vote to women. Immunity from service in executing the law would make women irresponsible voters.
Because the suffrage is not a question of right or of justice but of expediency, and if there is no question of right or of justice, there is no cause for woman suffrage.
Because it is a demand of a minority of women and the majority of women protest against it.
WOULD YOU STAND FOR IT?
Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and ‘wifey’ locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means.
An attempt to confer upon woman those duties and responsibilities that are distinctly for men will blunt the finer sensibilities of woman and cheapen her in the eyes of men and will bring to the front a political type of women whose conduct and characteristics are repellant to those who cherish conservative and reverent ideals of womanhood.
DOULBING THE VOTE [sic]
Every hobo and bum has his mate. Woman suffrage means simply doubling this illiterate and irresponsible vote. The result of the elections in the big cities of Colorado prove this. Here the immoral women are forced to vote and their votes are controlled by the police force and the party in power. The home loving modest women do not crowd into the throng and vote as a rule.
MAN REPRESENTS WOMAN
Women are represented at the ballot box by fathers, brothers, husbands and sons and they are content to be represented by them in the corn field and on the battle field and in turn they represent the men in the school room, at the fireside and at the cradle.
As long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more consideration and protection than man gets. She will have more influence in the home without the ballot than she than she will out of the home with it. When she abdicates her throne she throws down the scepter of her power and loses her influence.
WOMAN SUFFRAGE MEANS MORE DIVORCES
Woman suffrage has had a demoralizing effect in Colorado and Utah. The sanctity of the home has been invaded by every little candidate that was running up and down the highway for office. The home was neglected. Divorces have increased 37½ percent and the number of juvenile offenders and the number of young girls gone wrong has increased at an alarming ratio. The court records show that 60 percent of the divorces granted were on the ground that the wife had failed to properly take care of the children and had been gadding the streets “doing politics”. Do the people of California want to hold up Colorado and Mormon Utah as the shining example to follow?
WOMAN AND TAXES
The thread worn argument that women pay taxes and should vote. It is the property that is taxed and not the individual. A minor may have property in several different counties, but he votes in only one. No one is mistreating the women of the country. They have more rights now than men have.
Woman suffrage carries with it that power that makes it irrevocable. As it has had a demoralizing effect on Colorado and Mormon Utah, can California afford to take chances on an experiment that is so fraught with danger?
A few misguided but well meaning people, in an effort to correct some political evils, want to pull woman down from her exalted position and throw her into the dirty pool of politics along with man, not realizing that by so doing they will not cleanse the pool but will leave a great deal of dirt on fair woman.
The home loving, patriotic men of the country who love, cherish, protect and honor woman should go to the polls Oct. 10th and defeat this political hysteria that is sweeping over the country. That is the greatest service they can do their country.– Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat editorial, October 6, 1911SENATOR STANFORD’S SILLY SCARE
Editor REPUBLICAN: On the front page of Senator Sanford’s circular being so widely circulated by the anti-suffragists appears the following:
“Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and ‘wifey’ locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means.”
Why always have ONE woman on the suppositious juries?
[…Martin explains state law allowed only property-owning men could serve on juries…]
The circular referred to herein is made up of extracts from the speech of Senator Sanford against women suffrage in the California Senate at the last session of the legislature. His logic and eloquence must have failed ignominiously on that occasion, since but four senators in addition to himself voted against Senate Amendment No. 8, fourth on the ballot next Tuesday. I think the consideration accorded him by the intelligent members of the Senate, representing the great majority of the people of California, is a fair example of the weight his warmed-over, rehashed speech will carry with the men of California at large.
Another threat made to women is, “If you vote, you must pay poll tax.” If it becomes the law that women must pay poll tax, rest assured it will be paid; but the constitution will first have to be amended…
…A short time ago, in a talk with Hon. Rolfe L. Thompson, our governor, Hiram W. Johnson, said: “Formerly I was passively against woman suffrage, but now I am actively in favor of it.”
If politics is a “dirty pool” as alleged by anti-suffragists and has been bad for men and women should be refused the ballot on that account, then we must conclude that it was a great mistake in the first place to give the ballot to men and it should be taken from them as soon as possible.
Our very efficient county assessor says women own at least one-fourth of the taxable property in this county at the present time, or about ten million dollars worth of property taxed for governmental purposes; is it just to tax these women without representation?
Hon. John D. Connolly, in his admirable address at the Columbia theater last night , said that after eleven years spent in New Zealand, as consul at Auckland, and close observation of the practical workings of woman’s suffrage there, he is unqualifiedly in favor of giving the ballot to the women of California. New Zealand has an area of 105,000 square miles, almost as great as both Great Britain and Ireland, and has about one million inhabitants, the city of Auckland alone having a population of 89,577 by the last census. Mr. Connolly say there are fewer divorces each year in the whole of New Zealand than in Sonoma county for the same length of time. So much for the disruption of homes foretold by the “anti’s,” if women have the right to vote.
Voters of Sonoma county, in the name of right and justice, stamp a cross in the space at the right of “yes” following Senate Amendment No. 8 on the ballot.
FRANCES McG. MARTIN.
President Santa Rosa Political Equality Club– Santa Rosa Republican, October 6, 1911
CANVASS OF THE VOTESAnti’s Expect to Try to Beat Measure
Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson received a telephone message from San Francisco, and also a telegram, stating that the anti-suffragists are going to make a determined effort to beat the woman’s suffrage movement by hook or crook when it comes to the official canvass of the vote by the Board of Supervisor and advised the local committee to have a watcher present during the canvass of the votes. The telegram gave the name of a man and description of him, which it was stated had been sent to the county for the purpose of defeating the measure. The local supporters of the eighth Senate constitutional amendment will have the count here watched by one of their number as a precautionary measure, though they state they have perfect confidence in our Board of Supervisors and are confident the precaution is not necessary. The official canvass of the election returns by the Board of Supervisors will begin next Monday at the supervisors’ chambers in the court house.– Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911