Movers and shakers filled the Museum of the San Ramon Valley on Sunday afternoon -- and they were all women. The crowd was there to recognize the museum's current exhibit, "Remember the Ladies: An Exhibit Celebrating the California Centennial of Woman Suffrage 1911-2011."
"Men voted for women to vote in 1911, and that makes it a century," said Beverly Lane, museum curator, as she welcomed everyone. Lane is an elected director of the East Bay Regional Park District.
"We have to make sure girls know what women went through to win the vote," Lane said.
Looking around the room at the dozens of elected officials, Lane said, "All of us have stories to tell," referring to struggles in the 1970s and 1980s. She was elected to the first Danville Town Council when the town was incorporated in 1982.
Now there is broad acceptance of both men and women serving in public office in our area, she noted afterward.
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan presented Lane with a plaque from herself and state Sen. Mark deSaulnier, saying that he, too, is a big supporter of women in public office.
"In every endeavor of mine I know women make a difference," Buchanan said.
"In the tech field women are now actually earning more than men," she added, to applause. "You've all paved the way."
Also in attendance from the San Ramon Valley were Supervisor Mary Piepho, Danville Mayor Karen Stepper and Vice Mayor Candace Andersen, San Ramon Councilwoman Carol Rowley, BART director Gail Murray and San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District directors Roxanne Lindsay and Jennifer Price. There were also officials and present and former council members from other Contra Costa cities.
Elizabeth Cady Station wrote in 1848: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal," launching a movement that continues today. After the Civil War, the effort for civil rights for women was pursued more vigorously, and Woman Suffrage Associations were formed. San Ramon Valley pioneers Elmer and Livia Cox were two early members locally.
The vote for woman's suffrage was on the California ballot on Nov. 3, 1896. It did not pass statewide although it passed in Contra Costa County -- 1,638-1,002. But it lost in the San Ramon Valley, where the men voted as follows:
Alamo: Yes - 27; No - 25
Danville: Yes - 45; No - 72
San Ramon: Yes - 38; No - 32
Tassajara: Yes - 21; No - 29
Walnut Creek: Yes - 48; No - 45
A sign at the museum exhibit states: "A smug correspondent from Danville wrote on October 10, 1896: 'Woman suffragists seem to have met with rather a cold reception in this vicinity...which leads us to believe that our women are satisfied that their condition cannot be improved by a change, and they might not have so good a time as at present.'"
Woman suffrage was debated at the Danville Grange Hall on Aug. 20, 1911, and a Danville Equal Suffrage Club was formed that included Danville downtown landowner Lillian Close as president, and Libbie Wood, a Sycamore Valley farmer, as first vice president.
Fewer local men voted on the statewide issue on Oct. 10, 1911:
Alamo: Yes - 11; No - 13
Danville: Yes - 23; No - 48
San Ramon: Yes - 12; No - 11
Tassajara: Yes - 5; No - 12
Walnut Creek: Yes - 44; No - 36
Woman suffrage passed statewide by 2 percent, leading to a headline in the New York Times: "California Farmers Give Vote to Women." California was the sixth western state to support woman suffrage.
The "Remember the Ladies" exhibit will be open through July 16 at the Museum, 205 Railroad Ave. For more information, visit www.museumsrv.org.
The reception was sponsored by the museum, East Bay Chapter of California Women Lead, and Contra Costa Commission for Women, which was formed in 1975 to allow women's voices to be heard and to address social issues affecting women and children.