An article by Hunter Lee in the Torrance Daily Breeze, Monday, August 26th:
Be it resolved that the California Federation of Women’s Clubs endorses the principle of equal suffrage.”
These were the words brought to the floor at the Virginia Hotel in Long Beach during the 10th annual California Convention of Women’s Clubs on May 17, 1911, laying the groundwork for women’s right to vote. That October, some 300 delegates representing more than 25,000 state-wide members voted nearly unanimously for the passing of Amendment 8 to the state constitution, giving California women the right to vote nine years before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.
With almost a century having passed since its ratification, community members gathered Saturday at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, just blocks away from the grounds where the Virginia Hotel once stood. They honored the activists of 1911 — and those who have continued to lead the fight for equality.
The event served as a slightly early celebration of what became Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 in 1971.
“Each women is capable of being in charge of their own lives,” said Zoe Nicholson, director of Long Beach Suffrage, at the beginning of the gathering.
Adorned in their elegant “suffrage whites,” nearly 50 participants made the mile-long walk down Ocean Boulevard to Cesar E. Chavez Park, leading marchers past the new City Hall in a proud display of remembrance.
Before the march, community members convened at the Cesar E. Chavez Park Amphitheater for a children’ singing circle with a communal singing of historic songs from the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Christina Wilson.
During the walk, the marchers, or suffragettes as some called themselves, recalled many of history’s most prominent women who’ve dedicated their lives to equal rights, including pioneering feminist Susan B. Anthony and Clementina Rind, who in the 1770s published a newspaper in Virginia that printed submissions from women.
“We’ve been in neutral,” said Deborah Betance, a teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, in regard to the spotlight notable women have received in public education. “But now we’re kicking it into high gear.” Betance, along with her Little Suffragettes, plans to host educational events in the near future that tasks young women with highlighting prominent women in history.
Although women’s struggle for equality has continued since the 19th Amendment’s ratification, participants spoke of accomplishments since 1920. Women receiving education, serving in the armed forces, and experiencing diversity in government (especially within Long Beach) were just a few examples, according to marchers Martha Duncan and Jane Hansen.
“ We’re at a pinnacle,” said marcher Amy Eriksen. “The suffrage work is never finished.”
After arriving at the park, a one-woman show hosted by Nicholson led spectators through a live memoir saluting Alice Paul, an American suffragist, feminist and founder of the National Women’s Party.
Nicholson told the story of Paul’s history of nonviolent direct action with historic photographs and newspaper clippings accompanying the presentation.
Saturday’s events marked the start of a yearlong celebration by Long Beach Suffrage 100 of women gaining the right to vote.
“Suffrage! A History in Word and Song,” an event showcasing historical protest songs and an original song, will take place at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach on Sept. 21.
Community members also are invited to submit the names of notable women who have contributed to Long Beach throughout its history, with the goal of highlighting 100 women leading up to a gala set in March 2020.
“Ask where the women are,” Nicholson said to the crowd of marchers. “They’re always just a thought away.”