Long Beach marchers adorned in ‘suffrage whites’ launch year-long celebration of equal rights – Daily News

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“Be it resolved that the California Federation of Women’s Clubs endorses the principle of equal suffrage.”

These were the words brought to the floor at the Virginia Hotel in Long Beach during the 10th annual California Convention of Women’s Clubs on May 17, 1911, laying the groundwork for women’s right to vote. Some 300 delegates representing more than 25,000 statewide members voted nearly unanimously in the passing of Amendment 8 to the state Constitution that October, giving California women the right to vote nine years prior to the ratification of the Constitutional Nineteenth Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.

With almost a century passed since its ratification, community members gathered at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, just blocks away from the grounds where the Virginia Hotel once stood, Saturday, Aug. 24. They honored the activists of 1911 — and those who have continued to lead fight for equality.

The event served as an early celebration of what became Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 in 1971.

“Each women is capable of being in charge of their own lives,” said Zoe Nicholson, director of Long Beach Suffrage, at the beginning of the gathering.

Adorned in their elegant “suffrage whites,” nearly 50 participants made the mile-long walk down Ocean Boulevard to Cesar E. Chavez Park, leading marchers past the new City Hall in a proud display of remembrance.

Prior to the march, community members convened at the Cesar E. Chavez Park Amphitheater in the afternoon for a children’ singing circle with a communal singing of historic songs from the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Christina Wilson.

During the walk the marchers, or suffragettes as some called themselves, recalled many of history’s most prominent women who’ve dedicated their lives to equal rights, including Susan B. Anthony and Clementina Rind.

“We’ve been in neutral,” said Deborah Betance, a teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, in regard to the spotlight notable women have received in public education. “But now we’re kicking it into high gear.” Betance, along with her Little Suffragettes, plans to host educational events in the near future that tasks young women with highlighting prominent women in history.

Though women’s struggle for equality has continued since the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification, participants spoke of the accomplishments reached since 1920. Women receiving education, serving in the armed forces, and experiencing diversity in government (especially within Long Beach) were just a few, according to marchers Martha Duncan and Jane Hansen.

“Were at a pinnacle,” said marcher Amy Eriksen. “The suffrage work is never finished.”

After arriving at the park, a one-woman show hosted by Nicholson led spectators through a live memoir saluting American suffragist, feminist, and founder of the National Women’s Party Alice Paul. Nicholson told the story of Paul’s history of nonviolent direct action with historic photographs and newspaper clippings accompanying the presentation.

These events marked the beginning of what will be a year-long celebration organized by Long Beach Suffrage 100 for the centennial anniversary of women gaining the right to vote next August. Suffrage! A History in Word and Song, an event showcasing historical protest songs and even one original song, will take place at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach Saturday, Sept. 21.

Community members are also invited to submit notable women who have contributed to Long Beach throughout its history. Striving to highlight 100 women leading up to a gala set for March 2020.

“Ask where the women are,” Nicholson said to the crowd of marchers. “They’re always just a thought away.”

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