Who Won the Vote in California

“The central figure in the seal of California is the presiding goddess of that state… But the constitution limits the franchise and thus makes outlaws of all the noble women who endured the hardships… who helped make (California) all that it is… The position of the real woman who shares the everyday trials and hardships… inspires no corresponding admiration and respect.”  -Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1876

On October 10, 1911, California become the 6th state in the union to grant women the right to vote with the passage of Proposition 4.

The campaign for California women’s suffrage was an effort that was organized up and down the state. African American women advocated for the vote since the 1890s and women’s clubs in Alameda County played a crucial role as leaders in the movement. Latina Suffragists served as translators and organizers, especially in southern California. To promote the cause suffragists passed around posters, buttons, and leaflets. In Southern California alone they distributed over 90,000 “Votes for Women” buttons.

After securing the vote in 1911 many of the women went on and focused on the national effort which would result in the 19th amendment to the US Constitution.

Get to know four influential women who won the vote in California in 1911.

1.) Lydia Flood Jackson

“Who can break through a phalanx of determined, noble-minded, upright women, backed by the power of the Holy Spirit? Suffrage stands out as one of the component factors of democracy; suffrage is one of the most powerful levers by which we hope to elevate our women to the highest planes of life…Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw by an eye of faith this gleaming field sixty years ago, and their determination, true judgement and executive ability has made it possible for you and me to sit in the shade of the Suffrage Oak, a grand old tree, whose branches will soon top every State in the Union.”

-Lydia Flood Jackson

Lydia Flood Jackson was born in the Bay Area in 1862, her family was on of the earliast African American residents of Oakland.

Lydia was an activist and clubwoman who campaigned for both civil rights and women’s rights throughout her life. She was the first legislative chair and first citizenship chair of the California Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Her activism took her all over Latin America and the Caribbean where she campaigned for women’s rights and challenged women to fight against white male supremacy.

On her 100th birthday the city of Oakland honored her by proclaiming her as its “oldest living native”. She passed away in 1863 at the age of 101.

2.) Clara Elizabeth Chan Lee

Clara Lee, along with Emma Hoo Tom, was the first Chinese American woman to vote in the United States.

Clara was born in Portland, Oregon in 1886 and moved to her family to Oakland, California. Her husband,  Charles Goodall Lee, the first Chinese American licensed as a dentist in California.

Clara was the founder of the Chinese Women’s Jeleab Association, an  advocacy group and social club for Chinese women in the Bay Area, and was active in other women’s clubs including the YWCA. After the successful October 1911 suffrage campaign, Clara registered to vote at the Alameda County courthouse on November 8, 1911

3.) Selina Solomons

We had kept back our womanish tears. Now we gave free rein to our emotions in both manly and womanly fashion, with handshaking and back slapping as well as hugging and kissing one another. October 10, 1911 proved to be the greatest day in my life.”

Selina Solomons

Selina Solomons, daughter of a distinguished Sephardic Jewish family in San Fransisco, was a key player in 1911 California suffrage campaign.

After the failure of the 1896 campaign Selina dedicated her time to reach out to working class women. She believed that the 1896 campaign was too elitist and did not connect with the majority of the people. As a result she founded the Votes for Women Club in downtown San Fransisco to educate shop girls, clerks, and other working people on the suffrage cause. The club also took aim at other social issues of the time like prostitution and workers rights.

In 1912, Selina published How We Won the Vote in California, an account of the lobbying efforts endured during the suffrage campaign.

4.) Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez

Maria Lopez. Lopez was a leader in the California suffragist movement, the first person to translate suffrage speeches into Spanish, an active clubwoman, and educator in Los Angeles. 

Maria Lopez, , among other like-minded women of her time, was an active a member of the Votes for Women Club.  One of Lopez’s major contribution to the suffrage movement was her continuation of her previous translation service. The Votes for Women Club held a large rally in 1911, the year Californians were to vote on women’s suffrage and during the rally Lopez rose up to give her speech in Spanish, which was unprecedented at the time.  One of her most notable contributions to the movement was her Spanish translation work throughout the 1911 campaign. 

Mari’s work on the successful 1911 California campaign was so influential that in 1913, the Los Angeles Herald published that Maria Lopez ought to be selected as a suffragist representative California that would march in the 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C.

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