Dec 08

Susan B. Anthony speaks for a woman’s right to vote

Susan B. Anthony dollar coin

Can you name two faces from American currency who have visited San Luis Obispo County?
The first was Susan B. Anthony. Born into a activist Quaker family, they were involved in the anti-slavery movement. She was disappointed when a woman’s right to vote was not included in the the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. Male slaves were granted the vote and citizenship, but all women would have to wait another half-century.
Women were banned from speaking at public temperance rallies and she soon became involved in woman’s rights issues. Her first public speech was in 1848 at a Daughters of Temperance supper.
The temperance and woman’s rights are not as far apart as it seems today. Women then had few opportunities and low earning potential. A man with an alcohol problem could ruin a family leaving the destitute mother and children with few options.
Anthony would later distance herself from prohibition not wanting to alienate men who were sympathetic to woman’s voting rights.
Anthony died March 13, 1906 at the age of 86. The Nineteenth Amendment to the constitution granting all women the right to vote passed in 1920. It passed a year after the Eighteenth Amendment passed abolishing liquor.

From the October 13, 1896 edition of the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

October 13, 1896 edition of the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Anthony article is in upper right corner.

She Addresses a Tremendous Audience in Maennerchor Hall

San Luis Obispo has heard that distinguished exponent of woman’s suffrage, Miss Susan B. Anthony. At least a great many people of this city have. A great many were turned away being unable to even reach the door. It was a fair sample of what the campaign meetings of 1898 will be.
Rev. W.H. Whelan called the meeting to order and asked the audience to join in singing America, which was done with much fervor.
A.L. Johnson then introduced Miss Anthony amid tremendous applause and waving of handkerchiefs, and she spoke for about an hour. The history of the movement to give women the right to vote was reviewed, and some very telling points were made. Miss Anthony is well advanced in years, but gaining strength with the enthusiasm which inspires her in the cause, she soon had the audience cheering every good point, something of a frequent occurrence. If California did not vote favorably upon the amendment this year the fight would be waged again, and to settle the matter and have peace in the family the men might just as well vote “yes” this time.
With a new song by Messrs. Bradford, Cohin, Sandercock and McIntire and a rousing cheer the meeting closed.

The Tribune took a sympathetic tone in the coverage. It was a partisan Republican paper at the time and few political issues outside the Republican sphere were covered favorably or otherwise by editor Benjamin Brooks.
Wikipedia defines Maennerchor as “men’s chorus”, and the name often turns up on German social clubs in the northeastern United States.

Historian Dan Krieger writes that Wyoming, Colorado and Utah had all granted women the right to vote and California had a referendum on the ballot in 1896. He wrote a column based in part on a research paper by Carol McPhee.

From Krieger’s Times Past column from March 25, 2007:

The National American Woman’s Suffrage Association sought the support of California’s political parties. The Populist and, ostensibly, the statewide Republican Party supported the referendum. But mainstream Republicans and the Democrats Party did not. In California, the Populists were an uneasy alliance of farmers, laborers and other reformers who were held together by issues such as the unlimited coinage of silver, Chinese exclusion and reigning the railroad powers.
The Populists were especially strong among the membership of the Farmers Alliance, wheat and barley ranchers in northern and eastern San Luis Obispo County. The suffrage referendum also had the support of members of the temperance oriented Congregationalists and Methodists in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Arroyo Grande.
McPhee, points out that Anthony had tried to keep the prohibition issue out of the 1896 election in California. She thought that it would alienate many working-class men, especially those from recent immigrant groups such as the Italians and the Portuguese.
She persuaded Frances Willard’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to refrain from holding its annual meeting in San Francisco, a bastion of hearty drinkers.
Anthony’s trip to San Luis Obispo was at the request of the Women’s Suffrage Committee of the Farmer’s Alliance, which wanted her for their Oct. 8 meeting.
On Oct. 8, the Committee was told that Anthony could not come until the 12th.
Anthony integrated her visit into a statewide train tour from San Francisco through Santa Barbara and on to Southern California, returning north through towns in the San Joaquin Valley.
She committed herself to two speaking engagements in San Luis Obispo. On Oct. 12, she addressed the Political Equality Club meeting at Maennerchor Hall on Marsh Street. The following evening, she was scheduled to say a few words at a rally for Republican Sen. George C. Perkins. Anthony always emphasized that the suffragist movement did not support any political party. Her appearance on a Republican platform enraged the editor of the Populist newspaper, The Reasoner, who “wrote with some bitterness that she had kept any political sense she had ‘along with her best gown safely locked in her trunk.’ “At the same time, McPhee points out that “the chairman of the state Republican Central Committee had written to each county chairman to advise against allowing the women’s speakers on the platforms so that women in each county had to go to the county politicians to request space for one of their speakers for suffrage every time a party candidate was scheduled to speak.”

Oh, almost forgot.

The second face? President William McKinley visited the county and intrepid blogger Sarah Linn assures me that his face graced the $500 bill. Having never seen one I have my doubts.
Anyone wising to prove the existence of the $500 William McKinley bill can send as many original editions as they like to David Middlecamp care of The Tribune. I promise any bills received will be quickly put to use jump starting the economy.

Let me know if Salmon P. Chase visited, and feel free to send me one of his notes as well, even if he hasn’t been here.

Related posts:

  1. The promise of a right to vote, 54 years later