105 Years of Women’s Suffrage in California

This post comes from Sonia Kahn, one of our student employees who has been digging into some of our favorite digital collections. Today we discuss voting!

With the possibility of a female president now a real possibility, it’s hard to imagine that less than 100 years ago, all women did not have the right to vote in the United States. Many students across the nation now memorize the infamous 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, as granting American women the right to vote. But in fact many women to the west of the Mississippi had gained the right to vote long before their East Coast sisters joined them in 1920. At the beginning of 1920, women had already achieved full equality in suffrage in 15 states, and partial suffrage in another 20, leaving only 12 states where women were completely left out of the voting process. Indeed, here in California, women have had the right to vote since 1911, when the Golden State joined a total of five other Western states in granting women the full right to vote in all elections.

Women vote for President... why not in California? [broadside]
Women vote for President… why not in California? [broadside]
California was not the first state to give women the right to vote. That title belongs to Wyoming, which granted full suffrage to its citizens in 1869 while still a territory. Wyoming was followed by the likes of Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, all giving women the right to vote in the 19th century. California had also attempted to pass equal suffrage before the turn of the century but the motion failed. Today the Bay Area is considered a progressive stronghold but in 1896 it was actually San Francisco and Alameda counties that crippled the suffrage attempt that year. Strong business interests, particularly the producers and sellers of alcohol, virulently opposed female suffrage, convinced that women with their conservative mindsets would vote for prohibition. All hope was not lost, however, and Californian suffragettes and their allies would try again 15 years later.

With the memory of defeat ever present, California suffragettes implemented a new strategy when the topic of equal suffrage came up for a vote once more. Recalling that business had a strong hold on the state’s major cities, supporters of equal suffrage targeted voters in rural and southern California. To get the word out they used traditional tactics such as handing out more than 90,000 “Votes for Women” buttons and distributing three million pieces of promotional literature across southern California alone. But the suffragettes did more than put up posters and hand out buttons. They also pasted their message on billboards and often used electric signs, relaying their message with a spark.

Equal Suffrage League of San Francisco (ribbon)
Equal Suffrage League of San Francisco (ribbon)

October 10, 1911, was the day of reckoning in which allies of equal suffrage would see if their efforts bore fruit. Again both San Francisco and Alameda counties voted down the measure, and suffrage passed by just a hair in Los Angeles, to the dismay of many suffragettes. But all was not lost, and the tide began to turn as votes from California’s rural districts were tallied. When the final tally was made, equal suffrage had just barely come out on top with a miraculously small margin of just 3,587 votes, out of a total 246,487 ballots cast.

Today in California 73% of eligible adults are registered to vote, but just 43% of those adults turned out for the November 2014 election, a record low. This is a significant decrease from 2012 in which 72% of registered voters turned out to the polls.

One-hundred five years ago, fewer than 4,000 people were pivotal in changing the course of California history. Had they not voted, women in California might have had to wait another nine years to have their voices heard. To the women in California in 1911, a handful of votes were essential in advancing civil rights for thousands, proving that your vote truly does matter.

Check out the collection here: https://calisphere.org/collections/11601/


A Taste of History

Today’s blog post comes to us from Sonia Kahn, one of the student employees in the Digital Collections Unit. Sonia has been digging into some of our favorite digital collections and writing posts to highlight some of the fabulous digitized material from the Bancroft collections.

With Halloween just around the corner, many of us have chocolate on our mind, and some of you may have already dipped into the sugary arsenal meant for potential trick or treaters. But having a sweet tooth isn’t a seasonal event and many of us crave chocolate year-round, especially here in the Bay Area, where tourists from all over the world flock to Ghirardelli Square to sample the offerings of one of San Francisco’s most famous companies.

But the Ghirardelli chocolate company’s history stretches back much farther than the 1964 opening of now iconic Ghirardelli Square. Did you know that the Bancroft Library is home to a Ghirardelli company photo album that contains 56 photographs of the chocolate making process? This short and sweet collection includes photos dating from 1882 to the early 1920s.

[Factory workers in canning area.]
[Factory workers in canning area.]
The Ghirardelli company’s story began in 1849, when Italian immigrant Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli, hoping to prosper from the excitement over the California Gold Rush, set sail for California and established a general store in Stockton to serve the local miners. In 1852, Ghirardelli opened a confectionary store in San Francisco, and by 1893 success led the company to purchase a building and move manufacturing to the current site of Ghirardelli Square. In 1923, the brightly illuminated Ghirardelli sign, which still shines today and has become synonymous with San Francisco, was revealed to the world.

[Factory buildings, seen from south.]
[Factory buildings, seen from south.]
In the 1960s, manufacturing was once again relocated, this time just slightly southeast of San Francisco to San Leandro. The old manufacturing site was purchased by a couple of affluent San Franciscans who worried that Ghirardelli Square might be torn down in the midst of urban redevelopment. In November 1964, Ghirardelli Square was reopened as the dining and retail site it is today, and in 1982 the site received National Historic Register status to ensure its preservation for the future.

In 2012 the Ghirardelli company celebrated its 160th anniversary, and today Ghirardelli Square continues to beckon to tourists and locals alike with its tantalizing sweets. The history of the Ghirardelli company is just one of the many collections on California’s cultural heritage that the Bancroft is working to preserve.

Check out the collection here: https://calisphere.org/collections/8416/


Bancroft hosts #HackFSM, the first interdisciplinary hackathon at UC Berkeley

By Charlie Macquarie and Mary Elings, Bancroft Digital Collections

In April, The Bancroft Library and the UC Berkeley Digital Humanities Working Group organized #HackFSM, a digital humanities hackathon using the data of the Free Speech Movement digital collections at Berkeley. In preparation for the fiftieth anniversary of the FSM at Berkeley coming up in fall 2014, the event was an opportunity to engage the UC Berkeley community around the materials and history of the movement and align that conversation with the movement’s legacy of open discourse and access to information in new ways for the digital age.

This was the first interdisciplinary, digital humanities hackathon on the Berkeley campus. All participants had to be current UC Berkeley students and had to be members of a team of between two and four participants. Each team was required to include at least one humanist and one programmer (defined by their program of study).

The teams were tasked with creating a compelling web-based user interface for the materials from the FSM digital archive, one of Bancroft’s early digital initiatives. The hackathon teams were provided access to the collections data through an Apache Solr-indexed API which was put together by the UC Berkeley Library Systems Office.

The event kicked off on April 1 when teams gathered or were formed and received API keys to the data. We also had a speaker who framed the time period historically for the participants. The closing event on April 12 offered each team time to present their project and then judges deliberated and announced the winners.

The #HackFSM hackathon was different from traditional hackathons in several ways. First, we extended the traditional compressed 24-48 hours hackathon format to 12 days. This was intended to give teams more time to explore the data and develop their projects more fully.

The expanded timeframe also allowed more opportunity for collaboration between members of each team and was intended to increase participation by students who were not necessarily part of the hackathon community or shied away from the typical compressed format — particularly women. The interdisciplinary teams also had to fulfill another requirement of the hackathon: that the web application designed would enable a researcher to answer a humanities research question, so the teams actually had to learn to communicate across their disciplines, which ended up being very successful.

Teams had access to mentors (academic and industry) throughout the 12 days. At the final event, projects were judged by two panels. One panel assessed the usability, appearance, and value of the interface from a humanist standpoint and another reviewed the quality of the code and the deployability of the tool from a technical point of view. Additionally, each team’s project had to comply with the campus policies for web accessibility and security. Compliance to these criteria was verified by running automated testing tools on each contestant site.

After presentations were completed first place was awarded to the team of Alice Liu, Craig Hiller, Kevin Casey, and Cassie Xiong, and second went to Olivia Benowitz, Nicholas Chang, Jason Khoe, and Edwin Lao. The winning team’s website has been deployed at http://hackfsm.lib.berkeley.edu/. Collectively, we were surprised and pleased by the high-quality of all the projects, both visually and functionally.

Overall, The Bancroft felt the hackathon was a very valuable experience and one we hope to build upon in the near future. It was a highly collaborative and engaging event, both for the students and for us. The event required reaching out across campus and our community, to students, IT, and administrators. The students also felt the interdisciplinary nature of the event was positive for them. They had to learn to talk to one another, teach one another, and build something together. Other feedback we received from the students included their excitement about our materials, as well as the fact that they thought the challenge we presented and having the opportunity to see their site hosted by the library was sufficient reward for participating (but the prizes were also cool).

We look forward to engaging more community around our collections and supporting digital humanities efforts in the future. They say that imitation is sincerest form of flattery; The Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, a fellow UCB institution, has just announced their first hackathon. That is great news.

Mary W. Elings, Head of Digital Collections

Charlie Macquarie,  Digital Collections Assistant

(this text is excerpted and derived from an article written for the Society of California Archivist Newsletter, Summer 2014).