California’s Suffrage CentennialApril 08, 2011
In October, Berkeley, California, will see a blast from the past in the form of early 20th-century suffragists. In celebration of the centennial of women gaining the right to vote in California, a parade will march down the streets of Berkeley. This is just one of the many events the California Women Suffrage Committee and their community partners are planning to celebrate this occasion.
While various organizations in Berkeley celebrate women’s suffrage every year, this year will be different. In order to make it a memorable event, various groups have joined together to organize a major celebration that includes a costume parade, exhibits at the California Museum, and a celebration in Sacramento. The purpose of this centennial celebration is not only to honor the suffragists who fought for the vote but also to encourage women and men to remember the struggle for civil rights in this country.
When the AAUW Berkeley (CA) Branch asked me to participate in these activities, I was both honored and surprised that it had been 100 years since women gained the vote in the state. Like many young women of my generation, I have come to take some of my civil rights for granted. In my mind and in the minds of many young women, voting is something that we have always had, and it is hard to picture being denied that right. We forget our fellow women who fought so hard for the right to be represented in government, the right to have a voice in our country.
Remembering the victories and defeats of feminists before us is important because it reminds us that there is still work to be done in the area of gender equality. The struggle for suffrage is a major part of women’s history in the United States, but it is often excluded from the history books. The history of women must be celebrated and remembered so that generations to come can feel encouraged to continue forward in the fight against inequality.
When women in 2011 march down Solano Avenue in Berkeley wearing the classic suffragette attire, it will not only be a reenactment of a piece of history but also a tribute to a period in women’s history that should never be forgotten.
This post was written by AAUW National Student Advisory Council member Anita Botello-Santoyo.