Room Six

A Vote of Their Own

While President Benjamin Ide Wheeler's stance on suffrage was not clearly stated, he did hold traditional views toward women and believed in their education only as a preparation for marriage and motherhood. In February 1911, his wife, Amey Webb Wheeler, hosted the campus visit of a leading anti-suffragist from Massachusetts.

Benjamin Ide Wheeler
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Benjamin Ide Wheeler
BANC PIC Wheeler, Benjamin Ide--POR--2

That summer, Charlotte Anita Whitney, head of the local chapter of the national College Equal Suffrage League, an organization of college and professional women that included several UC alumnae, tried in vain to persuade President Wheeler to allow the group to have a pro-suffrage program in the Greek Theatre. Whitney argued that granting women the right to vote was an educational issue for women, but Wheeler considered it a political one.

Charlotte Anita Whitney
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Charlotte Anita Whitney
BANC PIC Whitney, Anita (Charlotte Anita)--POR--9

For their annual intercollegiate debate in April 1910, University of California and Stanford University students exchanged words on the topic of suffrage for women in the United States. Stanford chose to argue for women getting the vote, but its three seniors proved no match for Cal's three underclassmen, Frederick Shipper, Newton Drury, and John Miller. The Cal team contended that suffrage was a privilege given by the government because of some direct benefit to a state; not only would women voters contribute no new benefit to political life, but they would even somewhat lower the standards. Stanford tried to rally by noting the reforms that had been established in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, which had already legalized suffrage. Cal pointed out that those sparsely settled areas hardly represented the country as a whole and still had problems like other states. The judges, impressed by the Cal students' performance (perhaps their concluding three-section pie chart did not hurt), ruled in their favor.

1910 Cal Debate Team
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1910 Cal Debate Team
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UC philosophy professor and alumnus Harry Allen (H. A.) Overstreet delivered an address to the Women's Club for Equal Suffrage in California Hall in November 1910. He spoke in favor of women's participation in civic affairs, such as voting, believing it to be their duty.

Basketball Game
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Page from scrapbook of Kate Bigelow, Class of 1911
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Suffragists frequently found themselves the subject of humor in poems and cartoons that appeared in student publications, such as the Blue and Gold and the California Pelican. Sometimes one turned up as a comedic character in dramatic activities like the Curtain Raiser, the opening act for the Junior Farce. In The Neophyte, members of the Class of 1912 presented a short piece that described the problems of a young politician whose "well meaning but misguided" wife is a suffragette (which is described as a "malady"). Yet other students took the issue quite seriously, one worthy of consideration, if not support. In August 1911, The Daily Californian reported that the Equal Suffrage Study Club had been newly formed by University of California students to address all aspects of the voting question. Officers included its president, Dorothy Baldwin, Class of 1911, and vice president Italia de Jarnett, Class of 1912. The club invited out-of-state speakers to campus during early fall. With the suffrage measure passed in October, members decided to change its name and mission to the Civic Study Club, a co-educational organization.

Election Day on the Campus
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Election Day on the Campus
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Black and White
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Black and White
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Sorority Sisters
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Sorority Sisters
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If Dreams Would Come True
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If Dreams Would Come True
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Politics: A Poem in Two Sexes
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"Politics: A Poem in Two Sexes" by Lawrence Livingston Levy, Class of 1914
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Votes for Women
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"Votes for Women" by Lawrence Livingston Levy, Class of 1914
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Co-Ed Number
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California Pelican, October 1912
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Reform Number
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California Pelican, March 1912
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Junior Farce Curtain Raiser: The Neophyte
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Junior Farce Curtain Raiser: The Neophyte
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