Women have played an important—though often lesser-known—role in the history of northern California, the Lassen region, and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Women from at least four American Indian groups gathered in the Lassen area and were skilled naturalists and basket makers. In the 1800s, women were expected to play a traditional role in the private world of the family and home. With the birth of the railroad and as the Gold Rush drew people to California in the late 1800s, pioneering women found ways to broaden traditional roles. Clothing reforms, such as the advent of "bloomers," allowed women to participate in outdoor pursuits, while women organizing for suffrage in the West spurred change across the nation. Women's contribution to the park began well before its establishment and continues to this day with women serving in nearly every position from volunteer to Superintendent.
Women of Lassen
Women of the West Win the the Right to Vote
Women of the West were the first in the United States to enjoy full voting rights. Decades before passage of the 19th Amendment, western women voted and served in public office. In the diverse West, woman suffragists campaigned across mountains, plains, and deserts, finding common cause with a variety of communities and other political movements.
From Redwoods to the White House
Elizabeth Thacher Kent, co-owner of the redwood forests that would become Muir Woods, was one of the women who founded and led suffrage organizations. Elizabeth became a leader in both the California and national suffrage movements. She emphasized the hard work of organzing to win the right to vote.
From the Summit of Mountain Rainier to Washington, D.C.
On July 31, 1909, Dr. Cora Smith Eaton hoisted a "Votes for Women" pennant at the summit of Mount Rainier. Dr. Eaton was an experienced climber and founding member of The Mountaineers club. She also served as the treasurer of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association. The Mountaineers offered suffragists attending the 41st Annual American Women Suffrage Association convention a side trip to the summit of Mount Rainier. The twenty women climbers may have outfitted themselves for the climb by reading Dr. Eaton's "Women's List for the Mountains," which included knickerbockers, bee veils, and cold cream. Washington State passed a law to allow women to vote in 1910 and ratified the 19th Amendment on March 22, 1920. Eaton married Judson King and moved to Washington, D.C. In 1913, as the National Council of Women Voters congressional chair, she organized one of the first groups to meet with the newly inaugurated President Woodrow Wilson to push for national women's suffrage.
Across the Nation (with Exclusions)
In June 1919, the US Congress finally approved the 19th Amendment. By August 18, 1920, 36 states (including California on November 1, 1919) ratified the 19th Amendment, ensuring that the right to vote could not be denied based on sex. However, not all women received the vote with ratification of the 19th Amendment. Women of color were often kept from the polls, women living in US terriorities were not permitted to take part in elections due to their status, and Native American women were not considered US citizens and thus were not able to vote. State suffrage laws also excluded indigenous women, unless they had renounced their connection to their tribe. In 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act defined Native American as US citizens, however, many western states continued to disenfranchise indigenous people.
Last updated: March 15, 2022