On Saturday, October 10th, 2020, an intentionally small group (for purposes of social distancing) of 9 dedicated women from the La Palma – Cerritos Branch of the American Association of University Women, rallied at the 4 corners of Bloomfield and 183rd street in Cerritos to encourage the public to remember to vote in the upcoming Presidential Election on November 3rd. Getting out the vote is a major priority for the nationwide AAUW with its 170,000 members, 1,000 branches and 800 college and university partners.
One hundred nine years ago, October 10th, 1911, California women won the right to vote in a special referendum with a narrow victory of only 3,587 votes which represented a majority of only one vote in every precinct in the state! The total votes were 125,037 to 121,450. California became the 6th state in the union to enfranchise women, 9 years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women this right.
From 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. these 9 women stood silently with handwritten signs that stated: “VOTE for Democracy, VOTE for World Peace, VOTE Early, VOTE like Your Life Depended on It” and many more sign slogans. Signs also stated the location of voting centers and ballot boxes in Cerritos and La Palma. In addition, new voting registration forms (which must be postmarked by October 19) were distributed to interested new voters who attended the nearby Cerritos Farmers Market. They were greeted by friendly motorists with car honks, thumbs up, smiles and waves. Many pedestrians acknowledged that they had already voted.
By their silent demonstration, the participating AAUW members re-enacted the historical women suffragists, the “Silent Sentinels” who from 1917 to 1919, at the height of World War I, stood outside the White House, in the nation’s capital, six days a week, even in inclement weather, asking President Woodrow Wilson through their banners: “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” Unlike today’s women who received a warm welcome from the public and motorists, the original women suffragists were met with jeers, mobs of angry men, arrests and imprisonment for demanding the right to vote. On August 26th, 1920, the 72 years that women suffragists struggled for the sacred franchise finally ended with the passage of the 19th Amendment, which states:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
In 2020, the one hundredth anniversary of women winning the vote, La Palma-Cerritos AAUW continued this legacy by reminding ALL Americans that the sacred vote is their voice in strengthening our democratic way of life.
For more information on La Palma-Cerritos AAUW and how to join their efforts to improve the lives of women and girls through public legislation and service projects, visit their website at: https://lapalma-cerritos-ca.aauw.net. For more information regarding AAUW Public Policy, contact La Palma-Cerritos AAUW Branch Public Policy Co-Chair Norma Williamson at 562-472-7433.
This article was written by Norma Williamson, Public Policy Co-Chair of the La Palma-Cerritos Branch of the AAUW.