Bancroft celebrates a century of women’s suffrage in California

A hundred years ago this month, the eyes of the nation were on California. On Oct. 10, 1911 (almost a decade before ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution), male voters went to the polls and — by a margin of 3,587 — granted the state’s women the right to vote. 

Suffragist Maud Younger“In securing good laws, influence, however sweet and gentle, is never so effective as votes.”

— Maud Younger, founder of the Wage Earners’ Equal Suffrage League for Working Women

It had taken women suffragists and their male supporters well over a decade to achieve their victory, with a furious barrage of pamphleteering, speeches, pageants, parades, rallies, door-to-door and automobile campaigning across the state leading up to the 1911 special election.

Two exhibits, drawn from the Bancroft Library’s rich trove of California historical materials, are tied to the centennial.

Horace Bushnell“Women having once gotten the polls will have them to the end, and if we precipitate our American society down this abyss, and make a final wreck of our public virtue in it, that is the end of our new-born, more beneficent civilization.”

— Horace Bushnell, prominent figure in the establishment of the College of California (later to become UC)

Women at Cal, 1910-1915,” which opened Oct. 7, looks at the status of campus women — who during the era of the suffrage battle were free to study at the university but had limited access to the institution’s intellectual, social, recreational and athletic resources.

The exhibit is located in the second-floor corridor between Doe and Bancroft Libraries, and will be on view through March 30, 2012.

A related display, “A Centennial Celebration: California Women and the Vote,” highlights prominent California suffragists and anti-suffrage campaigners, including many from the Bay Area. Visitors will also find a wide variety of pamphlets, church women’s calendars, cartoons, graphics and newspapers articles related to the state’s suffrage movement.

That exhibit will be on display in the Bancroft Library Exhibition Corridor through November. An online version is found here.

The campus exhibits are part of a series of commemorative happenings throughout the state, including local activities and exhibits sponsored by the Berkeley Historical Society and the Berkeley-Emeryville-Albany League of Women Voters.

Related information:

Centennial of Women’s Vote in California is 2011: Berkeley Celebrations Planned (Berkeley Daily Planet article by Steve Finacom)

S.F. women helped forge suffrage victory in state (SFGate article, Oct. 9, 2011)