On October 10, 1911, the women of California went to sleep thinking that they had lost the vote just as they had in the 1896 election. But upon waking the next morning they discovered that their campaigning had paid off as California legislators passed women’s suffrage.
To honor the plotting done at kitchen tables 100 years ago by women who paved the way for nondiscriminatory voting rights, the public is invited to dress in 1911 attire and attend the Laguna Beach suffrage tea this Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club, one of many centennial celebrations of women’s suffrage throughout the state this year.
The 2-4 p.m. tea is co-sponsored by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, OC Now and the local League of Women Voters.
Dr. Kim Salter, a board member of the National Women’s History Project, is one of three co-chairs of the suffrage tea. She’s involved because women’s rights made an impression on her when growing up. She recalls discussing her beliefs with her father, asking, “ ‘do you think I should be able to do anything my brother can do if I am able?’ He said of course.” She asked, “Should I get the same education, and get the same job and same pay if I do the same work?” Again, he said of course. Salter then replied, “well dad, I hate to tell you this but you are a feminist.”
Now Dr. Salter of Laguna Niguel speaks at local schools, educating students about the history of the women’s suffrage movement both in California and nationally.
“The way I see it is we educate everyone, because if we know our history we are less apt to repeat it. When I talk at schools during women’s history months it’s amazing the amount of people who don’t know that women haven’t always had the vote or the right to stand up and speak in class,” said Salter.
In fact, not only did women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony have to have men like Frederick Douglass read their speeches for them in public forums, across the board women of the United Sates had to convince their fathers and brothers to give them the right to vote.
The campaigning began at the kitchen table where women would gather, sip pink lemonade and tea and draw up posters and leaflets to be distributed throughout their communities. True innovators, the women of California had from January to October to distribute pamphlets at grocery stores and travel from town to town speaking from the running boards of cars called blue liners in the hope of convincing the men of the state to give them the right to vote.
“What the suffragists in 1911 found out is that when they talked to their husbands, fathers and brothers one-on-one, they agreed with them and thought women had good ideas and solid logic,” said Salter, of the suffragists. “Then because the California suffragists had won by campaigning and leafleting, they started traveling across the states fighting for national suffrage.”
In order to continue to educate the public about women’s history, a ‘suffrage gazette’ released this year by the National Women’s History Project will be handed out at the tea and a nonpartisan guide detailing the propositions on the upcoming ballot will be handed out by the League of Women Voters. Although the event is free to the public, donations are encouraged and a raffle will be held in the hope of raising enough money to distribute the suffrage gazette throughout Laguna Beach middle and high schools.
“My goal is to get every single person of voting age registered to vote, because I think it is essential to make use of that privilege. A lot of people died not having that right,” Salter said.
For more information on centennial events throughout the Sate of California this year, please visit www.ca2011centennial.com.