Bay Area celebrates women's suffrage in Calif.

February 9, 2011 8:42:05 PM PST
This year marks the 100th anniversary of women in California getting the right to vote. Not a lot of people are aware of this, so ABC7 turned to the San Francisco League of Women Voters for a history lesson on what it took to get the right to vote for women in California and the rest of the country.

"It's such a milestone in the history of voting rights," San Francisco League of Women Voters President Karen Clopton said.

Clopton says the fight to win voting rights for California women was long and sometimes very painful.

"We started in 1893, with different initiatives; a bill passed the legislature to have women's right to vote, and the governor vetoed it," Clopton said.

People can see the images of the battle in California to grant women the right to vote in an exhibition at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at San Jose State University.

Nationally, the battle for voting rights for women started much earlier, in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, at the first-ever convention to discuss women's rights. The grim fight is graphically depicted in a movie called Iron Jawed Angels.

"There were hunger strikes, women were arrested in front of the White House and during the Wilson administration, there were hunger strikes in prison and force feeding," Clopton said.

The suffragettes said the reason women should have voting rights was obvious.

"Taxation without representation; women were working and contributing to the tax base, women were involved in all aspects of running everything else," Clopton said.

City by city, the women lobbied the men. The momentum grew and was finally successful. In 1911, California was the sixth state to grant women the right to vote. Then, women were harassed at the polls.

"That was one of the reasons the League of Women Voters was formed, to make sure women were informed and educated voters," Clopton said.

Nationally, it would take 72 years for Congress to finally approve the 19th Amendment, granting all women in the United States the right to vote in 1920.

100 years later, the San Francisco League of Women Voters celebrates and honors the mission of those courageous, determined suffragettes.

Thursday night, the San Francisco League of Women Voters will hold a celebration at the City Club in San Francisco.