Podcast gives voice to pioneering women in politics

woman smashing a toilet

California Assemblywoman March Fong Eu smashes a toilet during a protest against paid toilets. (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library)

In a historic year for women in politics, the Bancroft Library’s Oral History Center debuts a new podcast series, From the Outside In, which highlights the daring women who fought the odds to gain their rightful place in the nation’s political system.

In six episodes, narrator and award-winning journalist Belva Davis explores the hard work and dedication of 10 women who changed the political scene forever, from a leading activist for women’s equality to the rise of women advisers in the structure of party politics, and looks at women today who continue to chip away at the glass ceiling in politics.

In one podcast episode, you can hear Alice Paul, who fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote and played a key role in securing the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, saying that because she grew up in the Quaker religion, she always believed men and women were equal.

“I had never heard of anyone being opposed to the idea of women voting,” says Paul. “I just knew women didn’t vote. I know my father supported the suffrage movement and I remember my mother taking me to suffrage meetings. From that point on, I became very anxious to help in this movement.”

March Fong Eu won election to the California Assembly and became the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. to hold a constitutional office when she was elected California secretary of state in 1966. She took the lead on a bill that would ban paid toilets in public buildings, a practice that was particularly discriminatory against women, as men could use free public urinals.

In 1970, Eu introduced a bill to allow schools to educate students about sexually transmitted diseases, which had become an epidemic among young people. Although it met opposition from Republican leaders, her bill eventually passed. “It made me seem to be someone dedicated to principle who was unafraid to fight for a cause, which I felt was right, in the face of powerful opposition,” Eu says.

Listen to the From the Outside In podcast series on Berkeley’s Oral History Center’s website.