A Woman’s Place in The Spotlight

Women's suffrage in long beach

One hundred years ago the 19th Amendment 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 exhibition entitled A Woman’s Place in the Spotlight.  It 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. 

To recognize a local woman, complete the Recognition Form and return it to our Program Coordinator

Most history is written from the perspective of men. Despite this, women have played significant roles of the city’s development.  Looking at local history through women’s eyes will reveal new insights. HSLB researchers 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. 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. Our exhibition, A Woman’s Place in the Spotlight, will tell the stories of these women along with the stories of those whose work further developed the community.

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 clubs across California dedicated their efforts to the suffrage movement. These pioneering women successfully earned the right to vote for California women nine years prior to the Federal Constitutional Amendment, making California the largest democracy in the world where women could vote.

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.

The 19th Amendment to the US 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.

A Woman’s Place in Long Beach History

1884      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.

1911      Long Beach resident Cora Morgan was the second woman to register to vote in Los Angeles County.

1912      Long Beach Day Nursery was established to provide child care for working mothers. 

1921      Mary Humiston proposed the adoption of a Council-Manager form of government.

1922      Kimi Sugiyama helped Japanese farmers recoup losses from oil companies who destroyed their farms.

1924      Soroptimist club organized as a group of “public spirited business women interested in child welfare.”

1924      Jessie Nelson received the most votes in the election for Signal Hill’s first governing board and became its first mayor.

1935      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.

1942      Women of the Air Corps Ferrying Command flew airplanes assembled at the Long Beach Douglas plant to bases where they helped win the war.

1954      Ruth Bach became the first woman elected to Long Beach City Council.

1960      Mary Dell Butler was the first African American to be elected president of a Long Beach PTA.

1962      Librarian Blanche Collins defied attempts to force the library to censor the novel The Last Temptation of Christ.

1975      Ellen Ward opened the Que Sera to give lesbians a safe place to find community.

1977      Olivia Herrera founded Centro Shalom to help people find shelter, clothing, food, and legal services.

1978      Sheila Pokras was the first woman appointed as Judge of Long Beach Municipal Court.

1982      Harriet Williams and Virginia Laddey created the Literary Women festival of authors to bring women authors to town and celebrate their work.

1987      Long Beach librarian Barbara Davis, and others, primarily women, received pay raises when a study demonstrated pay inequities based on education and responsibility.