The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
One hundred years ago the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women. In 2021, the Historical Society of Long Beach plans to commemorate this event and celebrate women’s history with an exhibition entitled A Woman’s Place in the Spotlight. It will tell the story of often ignored local women. We are working with the Long Beach Suffrage Circle Women, a community group commemorating the centennial to collect biographical information about local women.
Most history is written from the perspective of men. Despite this, women have played significant roles of the city’s development. Looking at local history through women’s eyes will reveal new insights. HSLB researchers will mine our collections and other archives to learn about the activities of local women. There were housewives, nurses and teachers, as well as maids, cooks and laundresses in tourist hotels. Some organized the Ebell Club and lobbied leaders to improve parks and streets; other women joined the PTA to help in local schools. Members of the League of Women Voters scrutinized the work of local officials and encouraged voters to make informed choices. Women joined unions and fought for equal wages and safer working conditions. In the 1970s, some women served on commissions and held elected offices while others worked in low-paying jobs or earned less money than men in comparable positions.
Long Beach played a special role in women’s suffrage. While federal law did not allow women to vote until the historic 19th Constitutional Amendment was ratified in 1920, women in California earned the right to vote in October 1911 through a referendum. Long Beach played an exemplary role in that election; it was the only city where the majority of men in every precinct voted yes. Even before that vote, women secured critical roles in Long Beach’s history. Our exhibition, A Woman’s Place in the Spotlight, will tell the stories of these women along with the stories of those whose work further developed the community.
On May 17th, 1911 hundreds of female delegates gathered in our lovely city of Long Beach at the Hotel Virginia for the Tenth Annual Convention of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, representing 25,000 members throughout the state. The meeting was inspirational, and clubs across California dedicated their efforts to the suffrage movement. These pioneering women successfully earned the right to vote for California women nine years prior to the Federal Constitutional Amendment, making California the largest democracy in the world where women could vote.
Long Beach Suffrage Circle of Women, Community Group
On March 5, 2019, Long Beach City Council recognized The Long Beach Suffrage Centennial and the Suffrage Circle of Women (LB Suffrage 100). The Suffrage Circle has begun making plans for events, performances, and educational programs. Their mission is to lift the City of Long Beach in a year-long celebration acknowledging the work of all women’s struggles for the right to vote, including the central role that Long Beach played in the fight for women’s rights, which is celebrated annually on August 26th as National Women’s Equality Day.