The Long and Winding Journey to Women's Rights in Contra Costa County, California

The journey to women's suffrage in California began in 1896, when San Francisco had 25% of the voters. Women's suffrage associations were established in 1869, with the first one being founded in Martinez County. Livia Cox, from San Ramón, was a major figure in the cause, likely due to her five daughters. Two of her daughters, Mary and Panthea, married R.

Carrie Chapman Catt, a rancher, president of the American National Association for Women's Suffrage between 1915 and 1920, and founder of the League of Women Voters. In 1911, the San Ramón Hall was completed and several San Ramón women promoted and raised funds for it. By 1910-11, there were five equal suffrage leagues in Contra Costa County (Concord, Walnut Creek, Danville, Martinez, and Oakley) and local newspapers supported the initiative. In the new century, many changes took place in society: more women graduated from universities or regular schools for teachers; organizations were formed to restrict child labor; and legislation was passed on pure milk. In 1971, four local women founded NOW (National Organization for Women) Contra Costa County with the mission statement: “Enough is enough.” Petitions were circulated throughout the state for signature to amend article II of the 1849 constitution which granted “all white men in the state the right to vote.” The San Ramón Valley in eastern San Francisco Bay provides a rural microcosm of women's efforts to achieve equality in society. Saylor and Elizabeth Hughes were the first four women elected to the California State Assembly; these women were among the first to hold prominent roles in state government in defense of women's rights. Granting rights to women both in California and across the United States was a long and arduous process that lasted nearly 100 years. Because the general public attitude toward women's vote was more amusing, indifferent, and incredulous than hostile, suffragist leader Louise Wall wrote that it was better to present positive arguments of a hopeful and constructive type rather than arguments that ended in criticism or irony.

Women from all counties organized clubs and associations to win the support of prominent men, newspaper publishers, businessmen and clergy as well as individual voters. However, women persisted, organized, and continued to fight for their right to vote in the following years. Within the all-male body of delegates, several opponents expressed fear that women would participate in politics and repealed the amendment.

Myrtle Seen
Myrtle Seen

Typical bacon geek. Hipster-friendly bacon evangelist. Professional bacon maven. Freelance beer geek. Unapologetic web aficionado. Typical reader.