The local story of the successful statewide campaign to win women the right to vote in California one hundred years ago will be unveiled this Sunday, September 18, 2011, at the Berkeley Historical Center.
A 3:00 pm program and reception, free and open to the public, opens the new “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011” exhibit at the headquarters of the Berkeley Historical Society in the Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center Street, in Downtown Berkeley.
Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., author of Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement will be the keynote speaker, against a backdrop of the exhibit that was organized by a team of local volunteers led by Phyllis Gale and Nancy Bickel.
The coalition of organizers included the Berkeley Historical Society, League of Women Voters, Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, American Association of University Women, Berkeley Branch, and the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library.
The exhibit tells the story of the involved and ultimately successful effort in Berkeley in 1911 to convince male voters to approve votes for women. Berkeley voted with the winning side, while San Franciscan male voters turned down suffrage. California was the sixth state to grant women equal voting rights, and the adoption of suffrage here was pivotal in the decades-long national campaign for women’s rights.
Aspects of the local campaign include the role of Hester Harland, a widow who lived about where Lower Sproul Plaza is now, and devoted most of a year to heading up the Berkeley effort from a Bancroft Way headquarters, as well as the participation of noted suffrage leaders such as attorney Mary McHenry Keith.
The exhibit organizers have uncovered materials including a 1911 photo of a suffrage rally in front of Sather Gate, and Hester Harland’s papers in the Bancroft Library.
A “Pink Tea” and refreshments will follow the keynote talk. While the organizers of the exhibit will be serving pink lemonade, in 1911 the term “Pink Tea” was a code word for a suffrage organizing meeting. Women who went whose husbands didn’t approve of votes for women could legitimately tell their family that they had been to a “tea”, and the name was also seen as creating imagery that would discourage men from desiring to attend.
Suffrage postcards, and $1 replicas of 1911 “Votes for Women” buttons will be available for purchase.
The exhibit will be open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1-4 PM, and will run through the end of March 2011. A number of other local exhibits and events are planned to commemorate the Centennial, including an October 9-10 celebration at the State Capitol in Sacramento. October 10 is the exact anniversary of the 1911 election.