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Suffrage is the right to vote. Suffragists in the United States fought for decades to gain this right for women.

"To get the word 'male' in effect out of the Constitution cost the women of the country fifty-two years of pauseless campaign... During that time they were forced to conduct fifty-six campaigns of referenda to male voters; 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to get State constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses."

- Carrie Chapman Catt, suffragist leader

What was the suffrage campaign like in California?

Suffrage banners Pro 2-01Suffragette Or Suffragist?

Although used interchangeably today, the word suffragette was originally meant as an insult. The suffix “-ette” is used to feminize nouns that are typically associated with male roles. A British reporter coined the word in 1906 to ridicule those fighting for women’s voting rights in England. British suffragists embraced the word as a way to lessen its effect, in the United States however, the term was thought offensive and never used by the movement.

Why Did Suffragists Wear White?

It was a marketing tool! Suffragists wanted to represent themselves as a cleansing force on a corrupt political system. Three colors were actually employed by the suffrage movement: purple, white, and gold, which stood for loyalty, purity, and hope.

Suffrage banners Pro 1-01How Women’s Suffrage Passed in California

In 1911 California’s diverse communities played an essential role in passing voting rights for women. Flyers were printed in Spanish, Chinese, Yiddish, Portuguese, and Italian. Los Angeles suffragist Maria de Lopez campaigned and translated in Spanish at rallies around Southern California. Fellow Angeleno, Charlotta Bass Spears, published pro-suffrage editorials in the African-American owned newspaper, The California Eagle, while working-class women, Progressives, and unions helped to bridge economic and racial divides and broaden support in urban areas.

California Was an Early Supporter of Women’s Suffrage

Women in California have had the right to vote in all elections, including federal, since 1911. It was the sixth state to fully enfranchise women after Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Washington.

Suffrage timeline graphic Digital 4-01Women’s Clubs and Voting Rights

During the late 1800s, women’s clubs like Los Angeles’ Friday Morning Club propelled women’s interests into the political sphere. Programs from club meetings covered a variety of topics including public sanitation, housing, industrial legislation for women, child labor, industrial education, and dress reform.