The Early Years

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In 1867, Charley Parkhurst registered to vote in Santa Cruz County, In fact, Charley’s name can be found quite often on the California Voter Register and hence it is highly likely that Charley voted. Charley was perhaps the first person who had been assigned female at birth to vote in California.

Their Stories:

Charley Parkhurst

Excerpt: History of Woman Suffrage 1876-1885
By Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper, and Susan B. Anthony, 1887.

"The advocacy of woman's rights began in Santa Cruz county, with the advent of that grand champion of her sex, the immortal Eliza Farnham, who braved public scorn and contumely because of her advanced views, for many years before the suffrage movement assumed organized form Mrs. Farnham's work rendered it possible for those advocating woman suffrage years later, to do so with comparative immunity from public ridicule.

A society was organized there in 1869, and Rev D[uncan] G. Ingraham, E[dwin] B. Heacock, H[arriet] M. Blackburn, Mrs. Georgiana Bruce Kirby, Mrs. [Ellen] Van Valkenburgh, W[illiam] W. Broughton and wife [Amanda Anthony], and Mrs. [L'Aimee Perkins] Jewell were active members."

Santa Cruzan Ellen Van Valkenburgh was one of the founders of a local temperance movement, “Friends of Universal Suffrage,” and in 1871, tried to register to vote. Accomplice Albert Brown, the Santa Cruz County clerk, formally refused to register her. Albert was among many of the county’s esteemed residents that had signed a petition in 1870 to the California Legislature “to secure to the women of this commonwealth the right of suffrage.

In the ensuing suit, Ellen argued that under the 14th Amendment many American women like herself were granted citizenship, and therefore, the rights of citizenship which included voting.

In August 1871, nationally renowned suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Emily Pitt Stevens were in Santa Cruz with Ellen when California's Third District Court ruled against her. Elizabeth Stanton delivered these words at a lecture at the Unity Church in Santa Cruz: “in the eye of the civil law we are persons, but in representation we are not persons, and have no political rights which men are bound to respect."

Ellen's lawyer, Santa Cruz Judge Albert Hagan appealed arguing that women had a right to vote under the Constitution by virtue of their absolute rights as citizens of the United States under the 14th Amendment. Among those rights, as recognized in the 15th Amendment, was the right to vote. The case was heard by the State Supreme Court 149 years ago in 1872, which upheld the lower court’s decision on August 16. The reasoning was that Ellen had civil rights before the 14th Amendment and it gave her no political rights. The 15th Amendment specifically applied to males who had been slaves.

In a speech given after the ruling, Albert Brown proclaimed: “The right of voice in government does not belong exclusively to race or sex. It belongs equally to woman as it does to man, it is a right of human nature, and our government gives the lie to all its boasted principles when it denies the right of suffrage to women. They are as justifiable in rebelling against the United States, as our forefathers were in rebelling against Great Britain… Before every true woman I bow in reverence and do homage. Their cause is man’s cause, and we must rise or sink together.

Their Stories:

Ellen Van Valkenburg

Albert Brown

In 1896, the men of California would vote on the 6th Amendment – to give women equal suffrage. The California Equal Suffrage Association raised funds to bring Eastern suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt to California to campaign for the amendment. It did not pass, losing by a vote of 110,355 to 137, 099. Santa Cruz County voted in favor; the cities of San Francisco and Oakland did not.

Former San Lorenzo Valley resident and writer for the San Francisco Call, Florence Percy Matheson, believed that the loss was because these women from the East campaigned here against the “tyrant man” which may have been appropriate in the East, but not in California.

Others blamed the failure on the formation of a “Saloon League” that, just prior to the election, lobbied strong and hard against the measure fearing it would lead to statewide prohibition.

Their Stories:

Florence Matheson

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