Suffragists of Muir Woods and Beyond

Members of the Women’s Save the Redwoods League in 1919.
Members of the Women’s Save the Redwoods League in 1919.

Freeman Art Company from Humboldt County Historical Society Collection

Starting in the mid 1800's, women started to gather together in clubs. Sometimes the intent was political, and sometimes it was purely social. Facing intense gender norms, racial discriminations, and a lack of autonomy, women's clubs quickly gained momentum and turned political. As women gathered, they realized that while individually their voices often went unnoticed, together they had power. Some women immediately began to fight for suffrage, while others leaned into gender norms and fought for things considered to be "a woman's domain": playgrounds, city beautification, nature, etc. As many early suffrage campaigns failed, leaders turned to "safer" advocacy projects, like Forestry. In the early 1900's, the Forestry movement became closely associated with women's clubs, as women continued to use gender norms in their favor to enact change.
 
Portrait of Laura Lyon White
Laura Lyon White

Bushnell photo published in the Sunset Journal, 1902.

"I was born a suffragist but have not actively identified myself with their [suffrage] organizations, because voting is only a small part of our rights. I've been busy getting women ready for the ballot." - Laura Lyon White

In 1896, Laura Lyon White went to work for the first campaign in California for women's suffrage, and was the leader of the 41st Assembly District Club. After the proposition for women's suffrage failed, Laura Lyon White decided that suffrage was too radical, and it's time had not yet come. She pivoted to less divisive, yet still effective tactics. She instead founded the California Club, a women's civic club that ultimately was instrumental in the preservation of Muir Woods. While internally the California Club favored suffrage, the organization did not fight for it. The woman's suffrage movement and forestry movement dovetailed together and amplified in unison. Many women first entered the political world through civic action like city beautification, or fighting for the preservation of places like Muir Woods. This cultivated leadership skills, helped women find confidence in their voices, and helped the public as a whole trust that women were indeed capable of civic duties.
 
Elizabeth Kent posing for a portrait.
Elizabeth Kent posing for a portrait.

NPS

Some women connected to the preservation of Muir Woods did fight fiercely for suffrage. One such person was once the co-owner of this land, Elizabeth Kent.

“It took courage in those days to speak on suffrage at every gathering where opportunity offered; to distribute literature at public meetings and clubs; on trains and streetcars; to put up posters; to speak from automobiles in little towns; to wear suffrage badges and to engage in conversation on the subject with friend or stranger wherever that timely word would count.” - Elizabeth Kent

Elizabeth Kent was a conservationist, suffragist, and an important part of the history of Muir Woods. She organized and protested in order to gain the right for women to vote. After incredible work and effort, California gave women the right to vote in 1911. After this win, she moved to Washington DC to fight for suffrage nationally. She lobbied, spoke and was arrested twice in her work for suffrage.

Elizabeth Kent did great work to give women the right to vote. She was one of many inspiring and incredible women who took on the fight for suffrage. Women who inspired Elizabeth Kent or who fought for people Kent would not. All of these women advocated for their communities and did what they could to uplift others.
 
 
Side Portrait of Jane Addams reading a book, ca. 1899.
Side Portrait of Jane Addams reading a book, ca. 1899.

Bain News Service, Collections of the Library of Congress.

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” - Jane Addams

Jane Addams was a reformer, a pacifist, a suffragist and an American Hero. She founded the Hull House in Chicago with her partner Ellen Gates Starr. The Hull House was a settlement house, a safe place for new immigrants to stay and flourish. She was a prominent voice in the Progressive Era and spoke passionately in support of suffrage. She even helped to influence the Kents, the family that owned Muir Woods at the time, to become more progressive. Jane Addams and her new life partner Mary Rozet Smith ran the Hull House together for 30 years and this was Addam’s most proud endeavor. Her influence and reach as an advocate for all people earned her a Nobel Peace Prize.

Jane Addams also spoke out about environmental health concerns and was adamant about every person's right to a healthy and safe environment no matter their income or ethnicity, making her an early advocate for environmental justice.
 
Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance".
Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance".

Library of Congress.

“I feel that if I have to answer for the deeds done in my body just as much as man, I have a right to have as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before.” - Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist, suffragist and American Hero. When speaking at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, she asked the room of mostly White women, “Ain’t I a Woman?” After escaping from slavery, Sojourner Truth spent her the rest of her life fighting for the rights of African Americans and women. She fought for the right to vote and was a strong advocate for prison reform. Click the link to learn more about this American
 
Portrait of Ida B. Wells, ca. 1893.
Portrait of Ida B. Wells, ca. 1893.
"The alleged menace of universal suffrage having been avoided by the absolute suppression of the negro vote, the spirit of mob murder should have been satisfied and the butchery of negroes should have ceased." - Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was a civil rights advocate, suffragist and American Hero. She fought for Black women to have the right to vote and organized women in her community to become politically engaged. She was asked to march in the 1913 Suffrage Parade with other suffragists from Chicago, but they told her to walk in the back of the parade because she was Black. Instead of giving in to this act of racism, Ida B. Wells waited on the sidelines until her group came up and stepped into the front of the parade.She worked tirelessly to end lynching, segregation and to guarantee Black women’s right to vote.
 
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, wearing her Medal of Honor
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, wearing her Medal of Honor

NPS

"Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom." - Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was a surgeon, a suffragist, and an American Hero. Even though she was denied commission because she was a woman, she served during the Civil War as an unpaid surgeon and won the Medal of Honor. She was an early advocate for women to have the right to vote and testified in the US House of Representatives for this fight. She spent her life rejecting restrictive gender norms and wore “men’s” clothing her entire adult life. She opened her home up to others who were arrested and excluded because they dressed differently than there assigned gender.
 
https://www.nps.gov/people/zitkala-sa.htm
Zitkala-Ša with her violin.

Photo by Gertrude Kasebier, 1898. Smithsonian Institution.

“In the land that was once his own — America … there was never a time more opportune than now for America to enfranchise the Red man!” - Zitkala-Ša

Zitkala-Ša was an advocate for suffrage, a powerful voice for Native Americans, and an American Hero. She was a member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux. She was kidnapped by missionaries and taken to a residential school for forced assimilation. Leaving the experience with conflicting feelings, she spoke out against Native American boarding schools and worked to preserve Native culture. She fought for voting rights for Native Americans, strongly believing in suffrage for all Native people.
 
Black and White Photo of Mary Church Terrell sitting in a chair, circa 1880s-1890s.
Black and White Photo of Mary Church Terrell sitting in a chair, circa 1880s-1890s.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“So, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst forth into glorious fruition ere long.” - Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell was a suffragist, civil rights leader and American Hero. She was a founder of the NAACP. Terrell was an educator, supporting education reform and increased support for segregated schools for students of color. After loosing a friend to a lynching mod, she became a fierce advocate for anti-lynching policy. Mary Church Terrell was present at the 1913 Suffrage Parade and strongly believed that all women should have the right to vote.
 
A black and white photo of a young Nannie Helen Burroughs wearing a black hat
A black and white photo of a young Nannie Helen Burroughs wearing a black hat

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“When the ballot is put into the hands of the American woman, the world is going to get a correct estimate of the Negro woman. It will find her a tower of strength of which poets have never sung, orators have never spoken, and scholars have never written.” - Nannie Helen Burroughs

Nannie Helen Burroughs was a leader in Black women’s and girl’s education, a suffragist, and an American Hero. Nannie Burroughs was denied employment in public schools because of colorism. She decided to start her own school. She worked hard to raise money and volunteer support from her community, feeling it was important for Black people to invest in their own futures. She founded the National Training School for Women and Girls. She taught her students the importance of suffrage and everyone having the right to vote.
 
1911 photo of Marie Bottineau Baldwin, from her personnel file
1911 photo of Marie Bottineau Baldwin, from her personnel file.

: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. National Archives, St. Louis.

“The trouble in this Indian question which I meet again and again is that it is not the Indian who needs to be educated so constantly up to the white man, but that the white man needs to be educated to the Indian.” - Marie Louise Borrineau Baldwin

Marie Louise Borrineau Baldwin was an advocate for the preservation of Native culture, a suffragist, and an American Hero. She spent many years working for the federal government with the Office of Indian Affairs and refused to assimilate despite pressure. She spoke out in support of women's suffrage and marched in the 1913 Suffrage Parade with other lawyers. She spent her life fighting for Native women and preserving Native traditions and culture.
 
Portrait of Tye Leung Schulze
Portrait of Tye Leung Schulze

Los Angeles Public Library

"My first vote? - Oh, yes, I thought long over that. I studied; I read about all your men who wished to be president. I learned about the new laws. I wanted to KNOW what was right, not to act blindly...I think it right we should all try to learn, not vote blindly, since we have been given this right to say which man we think is the greatest...I think too that we women are more careful than the men. We want to do our whole duty more. I do not think it is just the newness that makes use like that. It is conscience" - Tye Leung

Tye Leung was a civil rights activist and suffragette from San Francisco! She was the first Chinese woman to be employed by the federal government at Angel Island Immigration Station. She then became the first Chinese American woman to vote. Because of her interracial marriage, both she and her husband lost their federal jobs. She was known in her community as an advocate for women and the disenfranchised.
 
Janette Rankin writing at a table
Black and white portrait of Jeannette Rankin sitting at a desk writing

Library of Congress

"We reasoned that the men would find it difficult to vote against the women in their home states when a woman was sitting with them making laws." - Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to congress, a strong advocate for human rights, a suffragist, and an American Hero. Jeannette Rankin joined the suffrage movement and traveled to many states lobbying for women's right to vote. She was beloved as a public speaker. She was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives and was even elected before all women had the right to vote. She never married and had close relationships with other women. She was a firm believer in pacifism, voting against war even if it cost her re-election.
 
Black and White Portrait of Rose Schneiderman, 1909
Black and White Portrait of Rose Schneiderman, 1909

Library of Congress

"Surely these women won't lose any more of their beauty and charm by putting a ballot in a ballot box once a year than they are likely to lose standing in foundries or laundries all year round. There is no harder contest than the contest for bread, let me tell you that." - Rose Schneiderman

Rose Schneiderman was a labor movement leader, a suffragist, and an American Hero. Rose Schneiderman was born in Poland to a Jewish family and immigrated to the United States in 1890 and worked in garment factories in New York. She fought for labor unions and became a leader in this movement. Rose Schneiderman never married and had close relationships with other women in the labor movement. She was the only woman on the labor advisory board for the New Deal. She went on a speaking tour for women's suffrage and served as the secretary of The New York State Department of Labor.
 
Dolores Huerta in 2009, after giving a talk at the University of Chicago.
Dolores Huerta in 2009, after giving a talk at the University of Chicago.
"We as women should shine light on our accomplishments and not feel egotistical when we do. It's a way to let the world know that we as women can accomplish great things!" - Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta is an organizer, a suffragist, a believer in non-violence, and an American Hero. She helped to create The United Farm Workers of America and started voting drives for farm workers. She believes in non-violence and pioneered the need to see intersectionality in resistance movements. To this day her organizations continue voting drives for Latina women in California. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in human rights and suffrage.
 
All of these women have made incredible contributions to this country and to guarantee the rights of all people to be able to vote. There is still work to be done and even more people that need to be honored. To learn about more suffragists in history, check out: 20 Suffragists To Know for 2020.

Last updated: October 7, 2020

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