Winning California: The 1911 Suffrage Victory

Like suffragists in other states, California women faced two key political challenges to winning the vote: first, persuading the state legislature in 1911 to amend the state constitution in favor of women’s enfranchisement by submitting a suffrage referendum to the male electorate; and second, convincing male voters—especially, in the case of California, white workingclass men—to vote for women’s suffrage. Two branches of the state suffrage movement—one, white middle-class clubwomen, and the other, white working-class labor activists—addressed these challenges. Affluent clubwomen helped build the state’s Progressive Republican Party, and when Progressives gained control of the state government, the women used their political clout to push them to place women’s suffrage on the ballot. Working-class women organized their own suffrage groups and vowed to working men that they would vote for organized labor. In both cases, suffragists achieved victory because they made direct appeals to their constituent groups.

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