The 19th Amendment: How Women's Voting Rights Were Changed in California

On November 1, 1919, California ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote and be elected to public office. This momentous event marked a major milestone in the struggle for gender equality, as it enabled women to take part in the democratic process and occupy prominent roles in state government. Saylor and Elizabeth Hughes were the first four women elected to the California State Assembly, blazing a trail for future generations of female leaders. Despite this victory, women of color were largely barred from exercising their right to vote for decades after the passage of the 19th Amendment. This was due to a number of discriminatory practices related to voting, which were federally enforced by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The amendment was met with resistance from men in positions of power who feared that women would participate in politics and repeal the amendment. In 1879, petitions were circulated across the state for signature, in an effort to amend article II of the 1849 constitution, which granted “all white men in the state the right to vote.” By 1918, with the support of President Woodrow Wilson, an amendment for equal voting rights was on the brink of being passed.

When the lengthy recount was completed several days later, equal suffrage had been approved by just 3,587 votes. In order to gain support for their cause, suffragists distributed more than three million literary items and more than 90,000 buttons with the slogan “Vote for Women” throughout Southern California. This effort paid off when California became the sixth state in the nation to grant women the right to vote. Although nearly 100 years have elapsed since then, there is still a need to increase female representation both in number and ethnic diversity. The 19th Amendment was a major step forward in achieving gender equality and granting women their right to vote. It allowed women to participate in politics and hold prominent roles in state government.

Despite this victory, many women of color were excluded from the movement and were unable to express their right to vote for decades after its passage. The fight for equal representation is still ongoing today.

Myrtle Seen
Myrtle Seen

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