Women of Lassen

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 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.

 
A grayscale portrait of a seated woman facing the side
Portrait of Elizabeth Kent

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Muir Woods Collection, GOGA 32470.0002

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.

California narrowly voted in favor of recognizing a woman’s right to vote in 1911. Women’s suffrage organizations in both northern and southern California succeed after focusing on getting their state―instead of the federal government―to recognize their right to vote. Once California women won the right to vote, they used their new political power to continue to push for suffrage for women across the country.

Following the success in California, Elizabeth Thatcher Kent moved to Washington D.C. with her children to join her husband who was in Congress. There she brought her suffrage advocacy to the national stage and was arrested twice while participating in protests with the National Women's Political Party in front of the White House.

 

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.

 
Three black and white photos of climbers on a mountain summit and two of a woman
Left to right: Eaton holds a "Votes for Women" sign on the summit of Mount Rainier; Eaton in Yellowstone in 1902; Dr. Cora Smith King, Treasurer of National Council of Women Voters leading the delegations from nine suffrage states in a suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. in 1913.

Top: Washington State Historical Society
Bottom left: Yellowstone National Park Archives YELL 192400
Bottom right: Shanna Stevenson Collection

 

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: August 26, 2020

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