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October 11, 2011 > A Celebration of Women's Rights

A Celebration of Women's Rights

By Jessica Noel Waymire

California has always been a trendsetter and politics is no exception. One hundred years ago, the Golden State, following years of disappointments including a governor's veto in 1893 and a defeat at the polls in 1896, became the sixth in the nation in which male voters approved a referendum to grant women the right to vote. That was nine years before congressional passage of the nineteenth amendment to the constitution providing universal women's suffrage in the United States of America (Note: Although 36 states ratified the amendment by 1920 making it law throughout the United States, it wasn't until 1984 that Mississippi ratified the amendment to make state votes unanimous). In honor of this tremendous achievement, the Fremont Main Library is hosting a special celebratory event, an afternoon of entertainment and education.

The purpose of this event is to call attention to the historical significance of women's suffrage and the influence of local people who promoted the suffrage movement. Celebration is the theme and all are welcome to participate. Three key organizations came together to organize this event: American Association of University Women (AAUW), League of Women Voters (LWV), and National Organization for Women (NOW). The Fremont Main Library and the Patterson House have also made significant contributions.

Participants from the three sponsoring organizations will present a Reader's Theater production "highlighting women who were prominent in the suffrage movement in California." Five main characters will tell their story in their own words, sharing what they accomplished and how the suffrage campaign proceeded. The script was written as a collaborative effort. Shirley Gilbert from the American Association of University Women is one of the authors. A slideshow on women's history and a question and answer board will round out the presentation. This is a good opportunity for attendees to network with each other and become informed about issues that may impact them.

Miriam Keller is the mastermind behind this event. She has been actively involved in the Women's Movement since 1963 through the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. Currently serving as president of the local branch of LWV, Miriam has a very full schedule. The League holds candidate forums for the mayoral and council elections, as well as discussing ballot measures, and producing a balanced, non-partisan brochure to inform voters of upcoming issues and candidates.

The inspiration for Miriam's involvement in women's groups is very personal. As a student at Purdue University, she majored in chemistry. Her desire was to become a teacher of chemistry, math, and physics. When the time came for her to find a master teacher to fulfill her student teaching requirement, she had a difficult time finding someone willing to take on a female student teacher. At this time, the modern women's rights movement was becoming established. She recalls the passion of the time and how the lack of equality impacted her own life. Since then, Miriam has been active in two women's groups in six different states.

Although uncertain about the perspective of young women today, Miriam hopes that they appreciate the work that the women before them did. Women today continue to do very important work in the area of gender equality-equal pay for equal work, family leave for new parents, and respect for women in the workplace. "I think that reminding ourselves that women did a lot of work to get the right to vote is important," Miriam says. "We hope people will come and celebrate with us."

100th Anniversary Celebration of Women's Right to Vote
Saturday, October 15
2:30 p.m.
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 745-1401

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