The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Over a hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution extended voting rights to women. In 2021, the Historical Society of Long Beach plans to commemorate this event and celebrate women’s history with an initiative entitled A Woman’s Place in the Spotlight. We will tell the story of often ignored local women. We are working with the Long Beach Suffrage Circle Women, a community group commemorating the centennial to collect biographical information about local women.
Biographical Spotlights of local women will be featured in our storefront windows at 4260 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach and online.
Looking at local history through women’s eyes will reveal new insights. HSLB researchers and volunteers will mine our collections and other archives to learn about the activities of local women. There were housewives, nurses and teachers, as well as maids, cooks and laundresses in tourist hotels. Some organized the Ebell Club and lobbied leaders to improve parks and streets; other women joined the PTA to help in local schools. Members of the League of Women Voters scrutinized the work of local officials and encouraged voters to make informed choices. Women joined unions and fought for equal wages and safer working conditions. In the 1970s, some women served on commissions and held elected offices while others worked in low-paying jobs or earned less money than men in comparable positions.
It’s a big undertaking. We need your help. Please make a contribution today!
Long Beach Suffrage History
Long Beach played a special role in women’s suffrage. While federal law did not allow women to vote until the historic 19th Constitutional Amendment was ratified in 1920, women in California earned the right to vote in October 1911 through a referendum. California was the largest democracy in the world where women could vote. Long Beach played an exemplary role in that election; it was the only city where the majority of men in every precinct voted yes. Even before that vote, women secured critical roles in Long Beach’s history.
On May 17th, 1911 hundreds of female delegates gathered in our lovely city of Long Beach at the Hotel Virginia for the Tenth Annual Convention of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, representing 25,000 members throughout the state. The meeting was inspirational and yet support for the 19th Amendment was controversial.
Long Beach Suffrage Circle of Women, Community Group
On March 5, 2019, Long Beach City Council recognized The Long Beach Suffrage Centennial and the Suffrage Circle of Women (LB Suffrage 100). The Suffrage Circle has begun making plans for events, performances, and educational programs. Their mission is to lift the City of Long Beach in a year-long celebration acknowledging the work of all women’s struggles for the right to vote, including the central role that Long Beach played in the fight for women’s rights, which is celebrated annually on August 26th as National Women’s Equality Day.
Visit the Long Beach Suffrage website, Facebook Page, Instagram, or contact Zoe Nicholson for more information.
A Woman’s Place in Long Beach History
Belle Lowe suggested re-naming Willmore City Long Beach. Lowe and Susan Bixby petitioned for a school and hired the city’s first teacher, Grace Bush Eads.
Long Beach resident Cora Morgan was the second woman to register to vote in Los Angeles County.
Long Beach Day Nursery was established to provide child care for working mothers.
Mary Humiston proposed the adoption of a Council-Manager form of government.
Kimi Sugiyama helped Japanese farmers recoup losses from oil companies who destroyed their farms.
Soroptimist club organized as a group of “public spirited business women interested in child welfare.”
Jessie Nelson received the most votes in the election for Signal Hill’s first governing board and became its first mayor.
Darthula Bouggess conducted a WPA-sponsored study entitled “Survey of the Negro in Long Beach.” In 1954, she and Willie White created a foundation to help students attend college.
Women of the Air Corps Ferrying Command flew airplanes assembled at the Long Beach Douglas plant to bases where they helped win the war.
Ruth Bach became the first woman elected to Long Beach City Council.
Mary Dell Butler was the first African American to be elected president of a Long Beach PTA.
Librarian Blanche Collins defied attempts to force the library to censor the novel The Last Temptation of Christ.
Ellen Ward opened the Que Sera to give lesbians a safe place to find community.
Olivia Herrera founded Centro Shalom to help people find shelter, clothing, food, and legal services.
Sheila Pokras was the first woman appointed as Judge of Long Beach Municipal Court.
Harriet Williams and Virginia Laddey created the Literary Women festival of authors to bring women authors to town and celebrate their work.
Long Beach librarian Barbara Davis, and others, primarily women, received pay raises when a study demonstrated pay inequities based on education and responsibility.