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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Our Heritage, the Right to Vote

Why is Natalie smiling?

Because this beautiful dress is only a costume, it's not 1913, and she's not a real suffragist. She's already got the right to vote, thanks to the women who came before her.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing women the right to vote. To commemorate the anniversary, Heritage Square Museum presents Their Rights and Nothing Less, an exhibit of information and ephemera from the suffragist era. The exhibit is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to September 26th.

It's a quiet exhibit, one you'll want to contemplate, as there are plaques to read and ideas to consider. I found myself especially interested in the biographies of Los Angeles- and Pasadena-area women who fought for the cause, and I was touched by the small buttons they wore to support their efforts. I got nostalgic when I saw the items related to the Equal Rights Amendment. They brought back my own memories of the march on Springfield, Illinois in the early 1980's. My friend who attended the exhibit with me said, "Whatever happened to the Equal Rights Amendment?" We both looked at each other and said, "Nothing."

I like voting. I vote every chance I get. You know the teeny, tiny elections you hear of where only 18% of the population showed up to decide the fate of everyone else? That was me.

It's not that I'm power-mad, though I like having my say. It's not that I'm fond of hanging out with election officials in cleared-out schoolrooms. But a while back I read about the suffragettes/suffragists. They didn't just march for the vote. They didn't just argue with their husbands. They went to jail. They went on hunger strikes. They were force-fed, ridiculed, vilified and beaten so we women could have the vote. So I just really appreciate the opportunity.

We met Mitzi March Mogul, the curator of Their Rights and Nothing Less, who told us no other museum in the U.S. is commemorating this anniversary. I note the Autry Musem is featuring an exhibit entitled Home Lands: How Women Made the West, which is timely. Since the museums are close together, the two might make a nice day trip.

Our beautiful model Natalie, by the way, has been volunteering at Heritage Square for 17 years. She was all smiles, and believe it or not she made that gorgeous dress and hat herself. You might have guessed that at Heritage Square, she's in charge of costumes.
vintage images courtesy of Heritage Square Museum

28 comments:

Katie said...

90 years? Hard to believe women have only had the right to vote for 90 years. Thanks for this reminder that a lot of women fought really hard for the vote. I would love to see this exhibit, especially all the ephemera. And for the costumes. Great job Natalie!

Petrea said...

It doesn't seem very long, does it? My grandmothers would have voted for the first time after all their kids were already old enough to be in school. I wish I'd known enough to ask both grandmothers about this when they were alive.

Anonymous said...

ginab: see Wikipedia for "suffragist" and "suffragette"

Petrea said...

Thanks, Ginab. I thought about that, and linked to the Wikipedia article in the post. Because the article said "active members of the movement began to reclaim the word, the term became a label without negative connotations," I decided to go ahead and use "suffragette."

Anonymous said...

SLW: I came of age to vote in 1968. When other people my age were looking forward to their first "legal" beer, I was looking forward to being able to take part in the election. I volunteered for Bobby Kennedy at a campaign reception where he appeared in Indiana, but as I did not live in Indy, I missed the moving speech he gave to the crowd the night Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated. I watched that campaign eagerly, wanting my first vote to Mean Something, and was plunged into the awful reality as my First Vote was taken away by a gunman in a hotel hallway. Well, you know the rest. Of course, I still vote, I still hope, but always with the stark confusion of the black and white images I saw on my TV that night in the back of my mind.

Tash said...

I'm listening to a bio of FDR...kind of dry what with all the political campaigns, etc...but it certainly puts the time in perspective - including the battle for women's right to vote.
Great picture - fanatstic post.

Susan Campisi said...

I agree with Tash: fantastic post. Thanks for bringing these exhibits to my attention. Love the "Votes for Women" posters and Natalie's dress.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Suffragist vs. Suffragette, its not so simple. "Suffragette" was used originally in the diminutive form for those who opposed the movement, but was eventually usurped by those who wanted "action" not just words. Visit http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/vtc/20050422/History/Keystage4/protestan/votesforw/suffragis/ for a brief discription. Even if you go to that post on Wikipedia, turn to the discussion portal, and you will see that its not so straitforward.

Petrea said...

The "suffragist" vs. "suffragette" discussion turns fascinating with that link, Anonymous. I suggest you all read it, it's short and very interesting.

I held out, but I'll go back and change one of my "suffragettes" to a "suffragist."

Anonymous said...

ginab: I would like to read the discussion, but I can only get to http://www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk/eng/index-new.htm. Where do I go from there?

Desiree said...

Truly a domino effect-- no wonder the powers were worried--

Anonymous said...

ginab: OK, I found it. Thanks, Anon Anon. The Wikipedia discussion link is extremely illuminating!

altadenahiker said...

If you scroll down, you'll see how various countries shake out. Interesting to see those that were early and late to the party.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_suffrage

Shanna said...

I have read much of a book that Jim actually bought for himself about more recent rights and changes:

WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED
The Amazing Journey of American women From 1960 to the Present

The author is Gail Collins.

I remember and was early in this change. It reads as really true to me.
Can you believe that before the 20th century, females were not allowed to take Life Drawing. So I grew up to be a Prof. of Life Drawing - little Southern me , here in big bad Los Angeles. That's change.

Petrea said...

The table at the Hiker's link can be sorted by year, age or country. It's interesting to see it in all its variations.

Shanna, we've gone through a lot of changes even in my short lifetime. And from the sound of the music I heard on a car radio at the end of my block yesterday, we are still in need of change.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'd go for the illustrations.


(note to self: get ye to the Autry and Tim Hawkins exhibitions)

John Doe and Exene/Judith Freeman....I love that museum

Amy said...

Less than a hundred years, wow.

But then again, it shocks me to watch the reasonably close to life mimicries of Madmen and realize that was only 50 years ago.

Women have come a long way.

Great post.

I covet her costume.

Petrea said...

PA, I like the Autry too and it's been far too long since I've been there.

It's amazing to me, Amy, that even when I was in high school (which wasn't that long ago, we had almost no sports programs for girls. It just never occurred to anyone.

J+P said...

To be specific: women have always had the right to vote, but they were prevented from exercising that right.

Some rights derive from nature (are you paying attention, Mr. Jefferson?). Hence the outrage we feel at the memory of the suffrage movement; the threat of violence divorced women from their social franchise. Everybody knows the Bob Dylan Rule applies.

Bellis said...

One of the reasons women weren't given the vote earlier was that the poor dears wouldn't be well-informed enough to make a reasoned choice. But there were lots of ignorant men as well in those days. Still are - both sexes. Voting takes time and a degree of independent thought. It's a big responsibility.

support heritage square said...

Petrea - thanks for the great post. I hope everyone gets a chance to stop by and look at the exhibit, which comes with a tour of the historic structures. Those of you who live in the Arroyo, be sure to check out one particular story of a house in Garvanza (near South Pasadena) that it was just discovered has a fascinating history all its own.

TheChieftess said...

Well I'll be!!! I've known Natalie for a number of years!!! Her hubby and the Hubman worked together for many years in LA...
That's only one of many costumes Natalie has made. She's an awesome seamstress, a lovely lady, and a kick to walk around the Heritage Square with!!!

USelaine said...

This is marvelous to see. As you noted, Petrea, so much has changed just in our short lives. When I was a kid, women could only get bank credit by having a male relative co-sign for it. Self-determination was a step far beyond the vote, but that vote had to come first.

Petrea said...

Please articulate the Bob Dylan rule for us, J. I might not get it right.

Bellis, you are so right. Due to the confusing way ballot measures are worded, one has to read up on them to know what they mean, and pay close attention to who's paying to put them on the ballot. And candidates will say whatever it takes to get elected, so one has to look at their record (and who's endorsing them) to decide whom to vote for.

Hello Support Heritage Square: Can you tell us more about the house in Garvanza? Sounds intriguing.

What a small world, eh, Chieftess? Natalie said she's on the board of the Costumers Guild West but she spends more time at Heritage Square!

USElaine, what a travesty. It's not like women have only just begun making a living. We've only just begun having a say in what happens to the money we make.

Margaret said...

Did you know California women actually did get the vote in 1913? What I love about the suffragists is that they fought for almost 70 years to get the national right to vote. Some women never got to see it, but they kept fighting. Sometimes there were doldrums, sometimes it was very chaotic, but they kept going through it all. It's good perspective. And whenever I feel to lazy to go to the polls, I remember that that it took almost 70 years for me to take my one minute in the booth, and then I get up and go.

Petrea said...

Margaret, I think you'll like the exhibit. It's small, just a couple of rooms, and it requires some reading and thinking. But you like to read and think, and you know so much of the history already.

chasmiller said...

The house in Garvanza has a few histories to it. One fact is that Wilbur McClure (an engineer of the Hoover Dam) was a prospector in Garvanza and sold the existing property to Cora Scott Pond Pope and Anna H. Shaw. I research the deed with historian Charles Fisher and found this information in the log books in Norwalk as the sale was around 1886. So this house is now standing on this parcel and looks to be around 1886. We are still trying to connect the dots as to Cora and Anna building this house. Anna took over the Suffragette movement in the US from Susan B. Anthony. And Cora did the "Pageants" telling the tales of women in the movement. A major find indeed.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks for the good info, Chas!