Yesterday was the 94th anniversary of the 19th ammendment, granting women the right to vote. August 26th is officially known as Women’s Equality Day though I don’t remember hearing about it in school or very often as an adult. To celebrate, my brother and I attended a celebration of Women Suffragists at the Kate Sessions Statue at Balboa ParkPark which was presented by the California Womens Museum. Local women dressed up as famous suffragists in historical clothing and read biographies pertaining to those women whose work spurred the suffragist movement.
My only disappointment, other than such a small turnout, was the lack of any representation of women suffragists who were Native, Mexican, African, or Asian American. We all know about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, but there were so many more women who sacrificed and risked their livelihoods to give all women equal standing to men. The history, or “herstory”, of women in America is very rich and interesting; here are some of my favorite heroes of the past 100+ years.
Prior the 1920 federal law proclaiming women could vote, California granted women this right in 1911. The first Chinese-American women to vote were Emma Hoo Tom and Clara Chan Lee in Oakland, CA. This is a really impressiveimpressive feat since in 1882 the U.S. government passed the totally racist Chinese Exclusion Act basically prohibiting Chinese from becoming citizens or gaining entry into the country.
Maria Latigo Hernandez was a Mexican-American civil rights activist and midwife in the early and mid 1900’s. She marched, lectured, and rallied for equal rights and education. She refused to accept the idea that assimilation meant only speaking and writing in English and she continued to include Spanish in her speeches.
Ida B. Wells was an African-American woman born enslaved just before the Emancipation proclamation. She was a teacher, journalist, and lecturer. In 1884 she refused to give up her seat for white passengers on a train, long before Rosa Parks, but was still dragged off the train. Her journalism focused on lynchings and racism and she was actively involved in the suffragist movement.
Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren was one of New Mexico’s first female government officials, an educator, businesswoman, historian, and activist in the early 1900’s.
In the late 1800’s Sarah Winnemucca, an educator an interpreter of the North-American Paiute tribe, lectured across the country about Native affairs and the mismanagement in the hands of the government.
Susan La Flesche Piccote was a Native-American activist of Omaha and European descent, and the first Native women physician. She founded a hospital on the Omaha reservation in 1913.
Josephine St. Pierre was editor of The Womens Era newspaper and an activist in the late 1800’s through early 1900’s. Despite her success creating organizations for colored women and knowing Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, she faced racism from mostly white women’s organizations and sexism from African-American males.
This is just a sampling of women suffragists in the U.S.. If you know of an amazing native, Asian, African or Mexican American women please leave a comment below. The suffragist movement spread far and wide from West coast to East and everywhere in between. In 1890 Wyoming became the first state to ratify voting rights for women. You can see a map and timeline of he suffrage movement at constitutioncenter.org/timeline.
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