When setting the dial on your time machine, there were few better years to be in Santa Rosa than 1911. Yeah, it wasn’t that long ago I said the same thing about 1910, but I was young and ignorant back then, eight months ago.

This was the year Santa Rosa finally was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric signs and several vaudeville and movie theaters. We were even in the movies; the popular Essanay Film Company came to Santa Rosa and shot a few scenes in town, including a chase down Fourth street. There were car ads in nearly every edition of the Press Democrat and autos or motorcycles were everywhere, thanks in great part to the new option of buying on credit.

The big event of 1911 was Fred J. Wiseman’s flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. Decades later we found out it was kinda historic, but at the time everyone was cranked up for three days waiting to hear the factory whistles, bells, and “succession of bomb explosions” which would cue them to dash quickly outside in hopes of a glimpse of Wiseman soaring over downtown. He actually crashed outside city limits, of course, but it was still exciting that he almost made it. And then there was the enjoyment of reading the juvenile (but hilarious!) squabbling between the editors of the two papers over which of them liked Fred best.

This was also the year when (male) voters would decide whether women had a right to vote, and two of the most prominent fighters on both sides were in the North Bay. Passage was by no means assured; passions ran high for months as both sides tried to persuade the public it was the right thing to do – or that it would lead to the end of civilization. Before it came down to the nail-biting vote, Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the “anti’s.”

On the seamier side, Santa Rosa was mesmerized by two big events. The year began with the jury verdict in the Burke trial, where an esteemed local physician and health spa owner was charged with trying to kill his mistress and infant son with dynamite. And in late autumn, there was a terrible scandal that involved poison pen letters and a prominent women’s social club acting as vigilantes. Although both local papers tried to downplay the scandal, before it was over there were two suicides that could not be ignored.

As this is the last main entry for 1911, here are some little updates to previous stories and other bits of “string too small to save,” followed by a selection of ads that captured the spirit of the times.

* Shortly after the women’s right to vote was placed on the ballot, California passed a law that limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. Loopholes exempting women who did the hardest manual labor was one reason it was controversial; it also gave employers an incentive to fire women who worked in stores and offices (read more details here). Once it was enacted Santa Rosa businesses were heard to gripe loudly – apparently many women had been expected to work 55 hours a week or more. Store managers complained it would force them to stagger shifts or have male employees pick up the extra work. Read between the lines of the article below, however, and you’ll find they were worried men couldn’t be trusted with the cash register or keep from screwing up the inventory.

* The Santa Rosa papers were unabashedly parochial when it came to doings around town, reporting on who grew a big turnip and who had invited friends over for cards, but very rarely did they scrape up news about someone getting new furniture. The only exceptions I recall are for pieces made by master craftsman Frank S. Smith, who created them in his home workshop on Ripley street. He was last mentioned in 1909 when he built a 14-foot dining room table for the owners of Hood Mansion (photo here), and in 1911 he finished a complete living room and reception hall set for pharmacist Hahman and his family. The interesting angle is that the furniture was intended to harmonize with the house – which was built the year before and designed by Brainerd Jones. The home at 718 McDonald Avenue is the fourth Shingle Style design that Jones created in Santa Rosa and is the most conventional. Where the 1902 Paxton House, 1905 Comstock House and 1908 Saturday Afternoon Club were in the Eastern Shingle Style that tried to be both rustic and elegant, the Hahman House is more like an example of the Prairie School – an American Foursquare with Craftsman features. Still, it must have seemed shockingly modern amidst McDonald Avenue’s row of dull Victorian mansions.

* Now out of jail and 50 years old, the life of Joe Forgett continued to be a slow-motion train wreck. Back in 1907 he made headlines by leading a breakout at the Sonoma County jail where ten prisoners overpowered the guard. Among the inmates was his wife, behind bars for “vagrancy” – the usual charge for prostitution – and later at trial, Joe said he had to escape because jailor “old Fred” was putting the moves on his wife. His family pled for mercy because he had been an opium addict for fifteen years. Joe’s wife left him in 1911 and he petitioned for divorce which was a bit unusual, seeing that the couple was childless and poor (Joe lived until 1940 and was buried in the county’s Potter’s Field as an indigent). He was also in the papers earlier that year for failing to return a horse and buggy he borrowed in order to talk to someone about a job. “After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called,” reported the Santa Rosa Republican.

* The “wild man of Mendocino county” was found dead at the entrance to his cave near Hopland, and predictably the news was reported in Santa Rosa and other papers around the Bay Area. As mentioned here earlier, newspapers loved “wild men” stories and reprinted them even if the poor lunatic was wandering in the woods hundreds of miles away. Often it was followed with an ancillary item about someone hoping the guy might be a long-lost relative; after “Aemldo” Secso – also called Amedo Sesco and earlier, Amelio Regoni – was caught in 1909, a mother contacted Cloverdale police to ask if the man could be her son. And sure enough, while searching for updates to that story in a newspaper database, I found another “wild man of Mendocino county” account from 1949, and this time a woman thought the hermit could be her hubby, who suffered PTSD from his time in a German prisoner of war camp.

* San Francisco doctor Eugene West, who performed a 1909 abortion on a young Santa Rosa woman who later died, was again arrested after 22 year-old Laura Taylor also developed life-threatening complications. As with the earlier case, no charges were apparently filed against him. It was the second abortion that year for the former Santa Rosa resident, who was now cutting cloth in San Francisco. As per usual, the newspapers never mentioned the word “abortion” and called it the “malpractice” or “criminal operation.”

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their convention in Santa Rosa, which tripled the town’s population for the weekend as residents were asked to register any available rooms in their home to accommodate visitors. This odd front page of the Republican might have been a giveaway to conventioneers. 

Constitutionality of Law to be Tested In Los Angeles

The law making it compulsory not to employ women over eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week, has upset the routine of work in stores and factories in this city to a considerable extent, just as it has all over California. The law went into effect Monday morning. Most of the merchants find little trouble in regulating the work for most of the days of the week, but Saturday is the day that bothers the merchants. How to arrange for keeping open stores on Saturday night, there’s the rub. Most of the merchants believe that eight hours a day is long enough for women to work, but find themselves at a loss just how to arrange that Saturday night proposition. This may result in an effort to have the stores close Saturday evening the same as on other evenings. With this idea in view the question will be presented to the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring about some agreement among the merchants in the matter.

The merchant is confronted by another feature that is troublesome. That is, shortening the hours of the cashier. In most cases there is one cashier, who has the complete handling of the cash and in that way she is entirely responsible for her cash balance, but she cannot now be employed over eight hours a day. The proprietor of the place of business that is open from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock will take care of the cash for those hours that the cashier is not present until he has figured out some other way it can be carried out just as safe as at present.

This being open on Saturday night would be all right if any person without experience could go into a store and be a competent clerk. An experienced clerk must get acquainted with his stock to be capable. The employment of inexperienced persons invariably result in stock becoming badly disarranged and in unintentional blunders. For that reason the stores do not like to put on additional help. The question has been raised, “Does the law affect the employment of girls doing housework?”

A. T. Sutherland, of the Santa Rosa Department Store, says he has not arranged for the Saturday evening difficulty. He is complying with the eight hour law by having the women help come to the store at 9 o’clock, the men clerks attending to the customers who come to work earlier than that.

The Pioneer laundry has discontinued paying by the day, and instead pays by the hour. The flat work price has been raised a trifle and the girls come to work at different hours and quit according to the time they begin work.

The Domestic French Laundry states that their help will begin at 8 o’clock and quit at 5 o’clock.

The Santa Rosa French Laundry states that the law does not affect it, as it has always observed the eight hour day.

The Red Front, Max Rosenberg proprietor, has not completed his arrangements for Saturday nights. He is an advocate of the plan favoring the closing of the dry goods department at 6 o’clock Saturday nights. The week is fixed for in this store by having the girls go to work at 8 o’clock one week and quitting at 5 o’clock, and the other half beginning at 9 o’clock and quitting at 6 o’clock. Each week the girls are to change these hours, the girls going to work at 9 o’clock this week being those to go to work next week at 8 o’clock and vice versa.

Carithers & Forsyth have their women help come to work at 9 o’clock. For Saturday night they plan to have their men clerks handle all the trade at present.

F. C. Loomis has made provision for compliance with the law by employing extra help.

The law is to be tested in Los Angeles and it is the belief of many that the law will be declared unconstitutional.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 23, 1911
Designed and Made by Decorator F. S. Smith

Frank S. Smith has just completed and delivered to Paul T. Hahman one of the handsomest sets of furniture which graces the homes of the City of Roses. Mr. Smith is a decorator, and does special works in furniture and draperies. The set which he has manufactured for Mr. And Mrs. Hahman is artistic and handsome in every way. The entire work was done in Mr. Smith’s small workshop on his premises at 1209 Ripley street.

The furniture made by the Santa Rosan was for the reception hall and living room of the handsome Hahman residence. A reception chair, cozy arm chair, table and tabouret were designed and made for the reception hall. The furniture for the living room included a mammoth Davenport, two large rockers, one large easy chair, a window chair, pedestal tabouret and large table with drawer.

Mr. Smith claims for this set of furniture that there has been nothing made where the identical lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines as in the pieces he has turned out for Mr. Hahman. It was designed and made exclusively for the Hahman home, and to harmonize with the other furnishings and draperies of the residence. Mr. Smith manufactures furniture of different designs for each particular home. He has made an elegant dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood.

All of the furniture for Mr. Hahman is upholstered in a silk damask of conventional figure, in two tones of brown. The elegant Davenport is 78 inches long and 30 inches deep. All of the furniture is equipped with sunken leather casters, which prevents scratching the polished floors of the home. It is all made of heavy quarter sawed oak and finished with a handsome piano polish, which makes it have an appearance of elegance seldom found in furniture.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1911

Joe Forgett, the cement contractor of this city, had an absent minded spell on Monday, and forgot to return a horse which he borrowed from Stewart & McDoughall, local plumbers.

The horse and vehicle were loaned Forgett to drive to the home of a prospective customer, and the firm did not know where the man had driven the animal. After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called.

When the animal was not returned at closing time for the plumbing firm, Charles Stewart made a tour of many sections of the city looking for the animal. Many people were notified of the missing property and these were also on the lookout for the horse and wagon.

About 8:30 o’clock Monday evening Jack Sarraihl discovered the missing property out on Charles street. In the mean time Stewart had ridden many miles on a bicycle seeking his property.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, February 21, 1911
Failed to Return; Husband Seeks Divorce

Joseph N. Forget, who has resided here for many years, has petitioned the Superior Court for a decree of divorce. The papers were filed on Monday and in due time the petitioner expects that the decree will be awarded him. The defendant is Jessie Isadore Forget and she is charged with desertion. That Mrs. Forget went away and forgot to return is the burden of the complaint of the husband. Attorney Ross CAmpbell represents Forget.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1911

Death last week ended the career of Aemldo Secso, who was for a number of years known as the “wild man of Mendocino county.” The man lived for years on the pilferings he made from logging camps, and although every endeavor was made to capture him, he avoided arrest for several years. Finally he was captured and after being imprisoned he returned to his old haunts, but forgot some of his wildness. He died in Mendocino county.

– Press Democrat, September 24, 1911
The Police of San Francisco Acted Friday

Dr. Eugene West of San Francisco  has been charged with having committed an unlawful operation on Miss Laura Taylor, a Sonoma county girl, by the police of that city.

Miss Taylor has been removed from the Central Emergency hospital to the Lane hospital, where on Friday she was hovering between life and death. It is not believed she can survive, her condition being such as to almost preclude the possibility of her being saved.

William Patterson, an electrician, is being held as an accomplice to the alleged crime. He admits that he knew the girl had an operation performed by Dr. West last March, and says that recently she telephoned him asking for financial assistance for another operation. Patterson denies that he has seen the girl for three months past.

 – Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911

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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.

Women 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.


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.


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.


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 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?


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, 1911

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.

President Santa Rosa Political Equality Club

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 6, 1911

Anti’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

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It was good news, bad news for California women in 1911: There would finally be a vote on changing the state constitution so they would no longer be second-class citizens. The bad news was that the suffrage movement had eight months to convince male voters that allowing women these basic rights was not a radical thing. It would be an uphill battle all the way; only three other states had given women full suffrage, and those were in much smaller states and their campaigns had been ramping up for years. In 1911 broadcast media did not yet exist and state roads were still little more than unpaved wagon trails, so simply reaching voters would be an accomplishment itself. And opposing them was a well-funded, national coalition of social conservatives, the liquor industry – which feared women would vote in prohibition – and old-timers (male and female alike) who plainly didn’t like uppity women.

Not since the Civil War had California been so divided on an issue. Some newspapers remained neutral, but they were few; it was more about how strongly the paper was “for” or “anti.” The most supportive daily was the San Francisco Call and the most hostile was the Los Angeles Times. Within their pages, war raged daily.

Two of the most prominent fighters were in the North Bay. In Santa Rosa was Frances McG. Martin, a lawyer who countered anti-suffrage letters and editorials with crushing rebuttals. (In her 19th century history, Gaye LeBaron has quite a nice profile of Frances and her two equally remarkable sisters, one a pharmacist and the other a physician – their maiden name was “McGaughey” and it was never explained why all three abbreviated it to “McG.”). in the other corner was state Senator John Bunyan Sanford (D-Ukiah), who said he held women in such high regard that they should not be allowed to enjoy the same rights he had – and damn them for even asking: “I have a new definition for a suffragette,” he quoted from a letter on the Senate floor, “a suffragette is a woman who wants to raise hell, but no children.”

California suffrage had already failed to pass in 1896, and Senator Sanford tried everything he could to keep it off the ballot in 1911. He proposed there should first be a special election where only women could vote on whether they wanted the right to vote, and only if that passed would the legislature consider an amendment. Such a pre-vote had taken place in Massachusetts, and amazingly, women there voted 3 to 1 against placing suffrage on the ballot. Sanford’s proposal failed to pass, although he brought in witnesses to testify that women didn’t really want to vote and suffrage would end up denying them of privileges “written and unwritten.”

When it finally passed the California legislature, “Constitutional Amendment No. 8” did not mention women at all. It only stated “every native citizen of the United States” who was over 21 and a citizen could vote. It specified instead who could not cast a ballot: “No native of China, no idiot, no insane person, no person convicted of any infamous crime, no person hereafter convicted of the embezzlement or misappropriation of public money, and no person who shall not be able to read the Constitution in the English language and write his or her name.” That pesky “educational qualification” didn’t apply to current voters, of course, or anyone with some physical disability that kept him from being able to write or read, or anyone sixty years or older. With that established, the race to the voting booth was on.

To the dismay of suffragists, former president Teddy Roosevelt didn’t help, giving a speech a month later at the UC/Berkeley Greek Theater where he remarked, “Personally I’m very tepidly in favor of woman suffrage, but it seems to me it is infinitely less important than innumerable other questions which are worthy of our thought and effort.” This was a painful reminder to the public about the hissing flapdoodle a few months earlier, when President Taft told a convention of suffragists it could be dangerous to allow women to vote and then dressed down the audience when someone hissed at the condescending remark.

The legislature’s approval caught the suffrage movement by some surprise. Fortunately, in the dormant previous five years, Mabel Craft Deering, a prolific writer whose articles appeared in some of the best magazines of the day, had taken on the work of being State Press Correspondent – we might call her the “PR director” today. She sent a query letter to all 700 newspapers in the state asking if they would be interested in receiving regular updates concerning “suffrage matter.” Most were agreeable, and soon there were little items in the papers about women happily voting in Colorado and cheering that Norway had embraced gender equality. (Deering’s history of the movement is quite interesting, but seems to be mostly overlooked by researchers.)

Once the special election was approved by the legislature, Deering quickly appointed a press manager in every county to pepper the editors with local news as well as reporting back to her about local coverage. (There was only a single county where she could not claim a foothold – she identified it only as “a very remote, sparsely populated mountain county” – but in the end it voted for suffrage, anyway.)  Deering mentioned specifically seven women she relied upon, including Frances Martin. But at the top of Deering’s list of effective county chairmen was Sarah Latimer Finley, whose son, Ernest, happened to be editor and publisher of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Ernest Finley seemed an unlikely champion of women’s rights. As discussed here earlier, he was virulently opposed to the progressive movement of the day, using the PD to denounce those who wanted reforms in Santa Rosa as agitators stirring up “hard feelings” in town using “cowardly and un-American” tactics.” Now, the paper was praising those same progressives because they were speaking out for suffrage. Finley had attacked civic groups seeking to rid the town of its underground economy based on gambling and prostitution, charging they were secretly prohibitionists who wanted to turn the county “dry.” Now, he was aligned with a cause strongly supported the temperance movement. But whether Ernest Finley was stirred by filial devotion or a sudden bout of ethics, Mrs. Finley’s suffrage columns were featured in the PD, and pro-suffrage letters began appearing regularly in both Santa Rosa papers; a typical example is excerpted below, written by William Keith, a Berkeley landscape architect and husband of a veteran leader of the movement.

Also in Deering’s campaign arsenal was the “Blue Liner,” a seven-seat touring car that rattled over the pre-highway roads in Northern California for the six months prior to the vote, bringing the suffrage message to every town and every gathering they could find. And instead of trying to badger men into supporting the cause by appealing to better nature and higher principles, the troupe that arrived in the big auto sought “to conquer prejudice with laughter,” according to Louise Herrick Wall, (who also penned a memorable first-hand description of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by the way):

A mock debate, parody songs and a suffrage monologue made up the program. For the debate we put up a man of straw, as an anti-suffrage advocate. He discoursed, in throaty tones, on the horrors of the woman movement–a movement that would destroy society so completely that all that would be left would be an effigy in some National Museum of History of a Home, done in wax, representing “a father, a mother and rosy, healthy, happy children of some perfectly definite sex.”

To the dismay of Wall and the others, they found a portion of the audiences were so anti-suffrage that their satirical arguments against women’s rights were applauded and not considered absurd at all. “From that hour the Blue Liner was dedicated to ‘straight talk,'” she wrote.

(RIGHT: “Girls wanted” drawing by Henry Glintenkamp of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ruins. Image courtesy Library of Congress)

And while it’s horrible to contemplate, it has to be recognized that the California suffrage campaign received a boost from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which occurred in New York City just as the Deering’s publicity machine was shifting to higher gears. There were 146 young women killed in that sweatshop tragedy, most of them teenagers, working in a ten story firetrap when a careless cigarette ignited a pile of cuttings; in the fast-moving fire they found themselves trapped with doors locked (to prevent pilfering) and other exits useless because the doors only opened inward. Many jumped to their deaths.

Details of the Triangle fire unrolled in newspapers nationwide over the course of several days like a serialized horror story. It was reported instead of jumping, some were pushed out of the windows by the press of panicked women behind them; dismembered bodies were found closest to the exit doors; 50 people crowded into the single working elevator meant to carry no more than a dozen. Most terrible of all was the account of a a United Press reporter who happened to be on the scene: “I saw every feature of the tragedy visible from outside the building. I learned a new sound–a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk.” And that is one of the least nightmarish passages in his report. Not everything that appeared in print was true, but you can bet every new horrific detail was being chewed over in every saloon, every fraternal clubroom, every parlor.

The Triangle fire was the antidote to claims by obstructionists such as Senator Sanford. It was hard to still argue “men could be counted upon to protect women” when even the weak safety laws weren’t being enforced. It also put the public’s focus on working women which helped dispel the sentimental, lace-bordered fantasy of every woman (well, every good woman) being a domestic goddess and mother; women also worked hard jobs and sometimes died in the workplace – in the fire the Maltese family, for example, lost their mother and two daughters, including a 14 year-old. And finally, it deflected attention from the concern that once suffrage passed, women would likely vote for prohibition laws.

Newspapers reflected the public’s outrage mostly through editorial cartoons, but the angriest – and most eloquent – op/ed to be found anywhere appeared in the Press Democrat (and apparently, only in the PD). Most often identifying the victims as girls, the writer bitterly remarked, “this is a free country, and it has women to burn.” If the impoverished young women didn’t want to work in dangerous conditions they could quit like any other worker, because under the law, “all are equal.” The editorial was unsigned, but dripped with the irony that flowed from the righteous pen of one Frances McG. Martin.


The frightful catastrophe in New York less than two weeks ago was even more frightful than was told by the telegraphic news. The most outrageous feature, as told by the New York papers, was that of the causes of the tragedy wherein 150 women and girls were roasted to death or smothered in smoke, or dashed to pieces on the pavement. The sacrifice was caused by oppression, greed and tyranny– by inadequate laws for protection of the poor; by rich men’s defiance of the law and by compliance of weak officials when rich men deemed it inexpedient to observe the law.

That towering building, ten stories tall and crowded with 2,000 working women, had previously been on fire six times within twelve months. Each fire was a warning and a prophecy of the terrible disaster that was to come.

That is not the full measure of the of the iniquity. To make sure that none of these girls could steal a yard of cloth [illegible microfilm] the Triangle Shirtwaist Company locked them behind an iron-barred door at the foot of a narrow stairway, and each evening when their work was done the company had them subjected to personal search–such search as policemen subject a sneak-thief to when they take him to jail. This door opened inward when opened at all and could not be opened when the door keeper fled with the key. When the lock was broken the door could not be opened because of the pile of dead bodies that weighed against it–about 80 girls piled on top one another.

When the girls went on strike because of the closed doors and the lack of sanitary appliances and the lack of fire escapes, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company’s directors did not miss a meal. They calmly waited for starvation to drive the girls back again. They broke the strike, and the girls, driven by poverty and hunger, went back to work, those of them who could get back. Those who could not get back, went on the streets or went to work in other places probably equally dangerous. Fire Chief Croker say there are scores of them in New York City. Not many weeks ago twenty girls went to death in the same way in the same sort of building in New Jersey. The girls had their choice. They could either go to work in such places, or they could starve, or they could go on the streets.

This is a free country, and it has women to burn. There is the brutal essence of the industrial condition that “protect” a factory-owner’s profits with a benevolent tariff, but deny protection to the lives of young women who toil and moil to earn their bread, and to make dividends for the mill-owners. Most of the girls in those factories work for starvation wages. Some of them who were killed in New York were earning only $3.50 a week, and only 22 among 2,000 wer earning as much as $18 a week apiece.

Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” fits New York as well today as it fitted London when it was written:

“O, men with sisters, dear!
O, men with mothers and wives!
It is not linen you’re wearing out,
But human creatures’ lives.”

Apostle of things as they are tell us that laws are made for rich and poor alike. Of course they are! The law forbids the rich as well as the poor, to steal milk from doorsteps, to beg in the streets, or to sleep in box-cars. This is a free country, and if girls object to working in ten-story firetraps for $3.50 a week, the law, before which all are equal, allows them the privilege of “quitting the job.”

– Press Democrat editorial, April 7, 1911

At the meeting of the Woman’s Suffrage League, held Saturday in Judge Emmet Seawell’s court room, there was a large attendance of the ladies interested in the movement. Attorney F. McG. Martin made a splendid opening address and resided at the meeting. In her address she took up the suffrage movement point by point and explained them. Rev. C. Augustus Turner, formerly of New Zealand, made the principal address of the afternoon and gave his audience a talented presentation of the question.

– Santa Rosa Republican,  April 21, 1911

Santa Rosa, Cal., May 26, 1911

Editor REPUBLICAN: The women of California decidedly object to being called “suffragettes,” a name that was first applied to the women of Great Britain, when they felt that they must actually fight to win the vote. Our women feel that no such procedure is necessary for, nor would it be becoming to, the women of America. They feel that the justice of their cause should appeal to every man who has mother, wife, sister or sweetheart, and that no coercion will be necessary to induce the men to roll up an overwhelming majority for women suffrage next October…

…A great many say, “But the women will not vote, if they should be given the right.” The best women will vote, however, for when a duty is imposed upon a good woman, she never shirks her responsibility. On an average, about twenty per cent of the men do not vote, but is that any argument for disfranchising all men?


Count me on the right side of the woman suffrage question. – William Keith.

– Santa Rosa Republican,  May 27, 1911
Mrs. Mabel Craft Deering, State Chairman, and Mrs. W. A. Finley, County Press Chairman

Mrs. Mabel Craft Deering, who as Mabel Craft was widely known as one of California’s brightest writers, has been chosen State Press Correspondent of the Woman’s Suffrage movement. Mrs. Deering has returned to California and is now in San Francisco, where she will take active interest in the coming campaign. Attorney Frances McG. Martin, President of the Santa Rosa Political Equality Association, has received word from Mrs. Deering regarding her acceptance of the appointment as State Press Correspondent.

Mrs. W. A. Finley of this city has been asked to act as County Press Chairman and has accepted the position.

– Press Democrat, June 21, 1911

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