It was probably awkward when the man whom the Press Democrat had branded as a killer walked into the office. I imagine the conversation in the newsroom that day in 1911 went something like this:
"Why, it's Bill! Look, everyone, it's Billy Boyd! Gee, we haven't seen you since the quake. You're looking swell! Say, no one was sending you PD clippings a couple of years ago, were they? Ah, I'm asking for no particular reason, just curious if you were staying in touch, that's all, heh, heh..."
In its small notice about W. A. Boyd's visit, the paper correctly reported that he was their usual press operator in April, 1906, but had the night off when the earthquake hit. His replacement was caught in the building's collapse and killed.
The 1911 item continued by mentioning Boyd returned briefly to Santa Rosa in the chaotic days after the quake but quickly moved on, finding work in Oregon and Washington. But that wasn't what the Press Democrat had reported two years earlier.
In a 1909 article headlined, "IS FORMER SANTA ROSAN A MURDERER?" the PD told readers that when Boyd worked at the paper they believed "J. L. Byrd" was his actual name. "Byrd never gave any reason why he went under an assumed name here to those who knew the fact, but requested that it not be made known." That remark was part of an editorial comment attached to an article that stated J. L. Byrd had recently confessed to a Tennessee murder. Boyd/Byrd was also a cad, the 1909 Press Democrat editorial comment further sneered, because he applied to the local union for earthquake victim fund money even though he wasn't in Santa Rosa at the time of the disaster. A rewrite of the PD story appeared the same day in the San Francisco Call, and probably other Bay Area newspapers as well.
The 1909 Press Democrat piece tainted him thoroughly, what with the suspicion about his name, dubious union fund claim and apparent murder confession; the PD's 1911 article ignored all of that and wrote only about a friendly visit from a former employee, which only makes the story more bizarre. What part of the earlier item was true? Newspapers of that day rarely printed retractions or corrections but then again, small town papers rarely defamed residents (or former residents) as thoroughly as poor Mr. Boyd.
VISIT RECALLS A TRAGIC STORY OF QUAKEW. A. Boyd, who was employed by The Press Democrat at the time of the earthquake and has not been here since, arrived in Santa Rosa yesterday from San Francisco where he has been taking a course of instruction at the Mergenthaler Linotype school. He has recently been working in Oregon and Washington.
Mr. Boyd was employed as a pressman at the time of the disaster and his wife had died but a few days before. The night of the earthquake Boyd went to San Francisco to send his young son back to relatives in Texas, getting Milo Fish to take his place and run off that morning's edition of the paper. Fish had previously filled the position of night pressman but a few months before had resigned and purchased the Campi restaurant, then located next door to the Press Democrat office on Third street.
Although Fish had worked all day at his business, he accommodated Boyd under the circumstances by taking the latter's place for the night, and was thus in the building when the crash came. He rushed into the street, but was caught by falling walls and killed, together with three boys employed as newspaper carriers. Altogether The Press Democrat lost four of its employees at the time of the disaster.
Boyd returned to Santa Rosa as soon as he could after the earthquake, and was appalled to learn of the extent of the disaster. Like everyone else at that time he was without funds but he finally managed to get hold of two dollars and with this sum left town, unnerved by the combination of circumstances he had experienced.
- Press Democrat, December 8, 1911
When worlds collide: There I was, writing about old newspapers when a contractor demolishing a kitchen cabinet found old newspapers.
In the gap between the subfloor and bottom of the cabinet were a few pages from both the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle dated Friday, February 17, 1905. At that time the home (that would become known as) Comstock House was nearly finished, with about seven more weeks of construction ahead. The entire project, from preparing the site to the Oates family taking up residence, took less than eight months. To accomplish so much in so short a time - without power tools, remember, and during an exceptionally rainy winter - the contractors must have recruited a small army of journeyman carpenters from San Francisco, which would explain why newspapers from the city were being read instead of either of the Santa Rosa dailies.
Those papers were from a pretty slow news day; the big headline in the Chronicle concerned Johann Hoch, a "fat little German" in Chicago who married dozens of women and usually killed them after emptying the bank accounts. These pages were so yellowed and brittle that it took awhile to assemble them as seen above, and image processing was required to make the fragments legible at all. Alas, none of the pages survived intact for very long after these photos were taken. (CLICK or TAP image to enlarge and focus)
Finding those old newspapers is an apt excuse to announce this is also entry #500 here at "I See by the Papers..."
This journal began in 2007 as the lesser of four blogs on comstockhouse.org to document bits of history about the house and Oates/Comstock families, usually foraged from newspapers items. A few entries a year, I figured. Maybe. Once it began, of course, I also had to include news reports about "the juice" being unreliable in those days since it explains why the combo gas-electric lighting fixtures in the house were necessary. And then there were items so funny and/or interesting that they begged to be shared. After reading a few months' worth, I was hooked.
While I had some experience researching specific topics in old newspapers, it was quite a different experience to read each day's paper front to back, as they were intended. As the pages slide through the microfilm reader you come to live a bit in the skin of the times, looking forward to finding out "what happens next" and forgetting it all actually happened more than a century ago. So immersive is the experience that I carefully proofread every posting for verb use - too often I catch myself using present tense and even slipping into a weird kind of "future pluperfect," writing horrible ungrammatical convolutions such as, "will have been."
But what a rewarding adventure it's been to explore that era. In my starting year of 1904, autos were rarely seen on Santa Rosa's unpaved streets and many homes didn't have electricity because it cost around 25 times more than it does today, adjusted for inflation. Reading and playing cards were the most common forms of entertainment; there were about 100 social groups for women and more than three dozen downtown saloons for men, plus their fraternal lodges. Jump forward just five years and the culture was rapidly changing because of technology. Phonograph records were now popular home entertainment, there were three movie theaters downtown and buggy owners were complaining of so many cars around Courthouse Square they were left with nowhere to hitch their horses. And, of course, the downtown area looked completely different because it had been rebuilt in the modern style after the 1906 earthquake.
The earthquake typifies another reason for writing this journal; I originally planned to pass over the disaster quickly, presuming it had been thoroughly documented. Instead I found the the tale larded with myth and misinformation, mostly because writers haven't gone back to the original sources. There are now over forty articles here related to the quake, the most important ones listed on an index page. There's also an FAQ to clarify some of the most common misconceptions still being told today.
Readership has grown steadily and because of the nature of this being a history blog, the day's most popular articles are rarely the newest ones posted. Here's a quick tour of some interesting landmarks.
The three most viewed stories:
WHEN THE FAIRIES CAME FOR THOMAS LAKE HARRIS This profile of the mystic of Fountaingrove holds the #1 position by a considerable margin. Who knew there was still so much interest in a 19th century "sex magic" commune?
DANDERINE, THE HEAVY PRICE OF LUSTROUS HAIR Danderine was a hair conditioner that promised thick, luxurious tresses in the early 20th century, and was followed later by "Double Danderine" shampoo, which supposedly killed "dandruff germs." Oddly, most hits on this article come from Russia or other countries in the former Soviet bloc.
1906 EARTHQUAKE: WHAT OTHERS SAID ABOUT SANTA ROSA For reasons unexplained, Google chose to list this minor article about the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake on its first page of search results.
LOSING MAH HO A heartbreaking tale of a child taken from her loving mother because authorities deemed she didn't belong with a family of a "lesser race."
THE FIRST AIRMAN OF THE REDWOOD EMPIRE The first airplane flight north of the Golden Gate - possibly the first anywhere on the West Coast - was made by Blaine Selvage, who also built the aircraft by himself. Selvage spent most of his life in Santa Rosa and is buried in an unmarked grave at Santa Rosa's Memorial Park.
ON TUESDAY THE MONSTER CAME TO TOWN James Ferdon was a showman and a psychopath, conning sick people out of their savings with promises that his "bloodless surgery" could cure everything from blindness to cancer. Some newspapers refused to print his expensive ads and called him out as a fraud; the Santa Rosa papers went along with his scam, then failed the public's trust a second time when they didn't later report he was being sought by police in several states.
THE MAN WHO STOLE BODEGA BAY The amazing story of Tyler Curtis, who lost Bodega and Bodega Bay while destroying the lives of everyone around him.
| THE 1907 BANK PANIC: LONG ROAD TO A FAST CRASH This article receives steady national readership because there sadly isn't another thorough discussion of this important banking crisis available on the Internet. Also: The mystery of who poisoned a U.S. Senator during a filibuster.
WHO HATED THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS? Santa Rosa attorney James Wyatt Oates, among others, who thought the speech was inflammatory and hypocritical. For more than fifty years after the Civil War it was still banned in Southern textbooks and memorial ceremonies.
SONOMA COUNTY AND EUGENICS Sonoma County's shameful role in the 20th century eugenics movement, when "Eldridge" - currently the Sonoma Developmental Center - took the lead in forced sterilizations nationwide.
| THE SPEECH NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR Herb Slater's speech is as close as we come to having a true history of what happened in Santa Rosa on April 18, 1906.
| 1906 EARTHQUAKE: WHO DESERVES RELIEF MONEY? Donations poured into Santa Rosa after the disaster, but few knew at the time that Santa Rosa was liberally dipping into the fund for everything except humanitarian aid. At the end of the year the Press Democrat argued Scrooge-like that the victims didn't deserve a damn cent more because no one was "suffering." |
| THE 1906 EARTHQUAKE GRAVESTONE: WHO LIES BENEATH? The only memorial of the earthquake is the mass grave at Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, but the marker is deceiving; it lists one man who isn't there at all, and there are remains of more people than are named.
THE LAWSUIT THAT WOULDN'T DIE The feud over which man owned Queen, "a valuable varmint dog," dragged through the courts for years, even after the pooch was killed in the Great Earthquake.
THE ABDUCTIONS OF GENEVA EAGLESON It's an old, old story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl to another boy, boys bicker over whom girl truly loves, both boys separately abduct girl and end up in jail. It was like a demented episode of Archie Comics.
|COP PUSHED INTO ARRESTING SELF This is my all-time favorite story; young Fred J. Wiseman was given a speeding ticket, then a few days later forced the selfsame cop to arrest himself for spitting on the sidewalk. At night. And during a downpour.|
Santa Rosa probably looked like it was evacuated that spring. From houses with drawn curtains could be heard the ringing of unanswered telephones, I imagine, and screen doors were likely jammed with calling cards. Or maybe it looked like the town was under quarantine; those who couldn't avoid going downtown to shop or work no doubt hurried as fast as possible, avoiding eye contact at all costs. Was there an outbreak of plague? A great natural disaster? A bank collapse? Nope; it was the Press Democrat's Kline Kar Kontest of 1911.
Oh, it started off innocently enough, all sunshine and roses. It was just the "Press Democrat Popular Ladies' Voting Contest" to build up newspaper circulation. Someone would win a nice prize. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Everything about the contest was unusual, starting with the prize. The lucky winner would take home a "Kline Kar" which was no cheap jalopy; it was a handmade, high-end roadster that was arguably the finest automobile sold in America at the time. Why, it was such a terrific car that young Hilliard Comstock purchased one and drove it back to Santa Rosa from Sausalito in high gear without destroying the engine (he apparently did not know how to use a gearshift) - an otherwise minor news story the PD featured on the front page because the contest had just launched.
Also quite unusual was that the contest was only open to "any woman (married or single) residing in Sonoma County." In those days there were very few women drivers, much less women car owners; the only exception ever mentioned in the PD was the amazing Dorothy Farmer (think Farmer's Lane) who bought a Packard in Los Angeles three years earlier and drove it all the way home on the rutty wagon trails that passed for roads. But this was also 1911, which was the year of the campaign for women's suffrage in California and making the contest women-only could have been a nod towards bringing a bit more equitable balance to the roadways. Cynics might also wonder if eliminating men from the contest was a sexist gambit expecting the guys would help the gals "cheat."
And make no mistake, it was certain to be a hard-fought contest. Newspapers were far more expensive than today, compared to the median household income in Santa Rosa. A subscription cost 50¢ a month, no discount for longer signups - that's over twice the present relative cost to have the Press Democrat land on your doorstep every morning. Thus if Miss Newton convinced Uncle Charlie, a typical wage-earner, to subscribe to the PD for five years, he would be sending in nearly three weeks pay. Or once again, in modern terms: She was asking someone to write the Press Democrat a check for over $3,300 - quite the pricey commitment.
The contest was also set up to disguise the actual number of subscriptions and renewals. Signing up a new subscriber for three months gained you 500 votes; a five year signup was good for 25,000. Subscription renewals were good for half as many. There were bonus votes for enrolling in the contest early and there were promotions that awarded extra votes for longer subscriptions.
The sixty day contest began March 22 and the paper urged women to move fast: "Enlist the aid of your friends and neighbors in securing subscriptions and coupons for you," read the instructions in the first ad, shown at right. "Keep 'Central' busy; use your telephone. Let everyone know that you are a candidate before they promise their help to someone else."
Two weeks later, the newspaper turned up the heat; for the next seven days, subscriptions for a year or longer would be triple value - a five year commitment was now worth 75,000 votes. "No Greater Offer, Nor as Good an Offer as This Will be Given Again, Nor Will This Offer be Repeated," the PD headline clamored. It was also when we were introduced to Mr. Contest Editor.
Over the next six weeks he cheered, encouraged, cajoled and bullied contestants into working harder. He was never named; we can't even be sure he was a "he" although he sometimes referred to himself with male pronouns. From his snappy style it is apparent he was not a regular Press Democrat staffer. He was probably youngish, aspired to write the Great American Novel (or certain he already had) and believed he was 110 percent smarter than thou. I can picture him with his feet up on a desk, a straw boater tipped back on his head and chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit as he sarcastically read his latest contest advice to chortling newsboys.
His early columns sounded earnest and friendly: "The contest editor does not say what will be doing in votes after April 12, but this increase of votes will be changed and it will be surprisingly LOWER than it is now. Vote values will decrease from NOW on, they will never be higher; this the Press Democrat promises you...There are more than six weeks left until the close, and you could go over this whole county a dozen times before then."
Nearly every day the Press Democrat printed portraits of the leaders along with their totals in the "Roll of Honor." Mrs. Crone is out front on Wednesday; the next day it's Miss Liggett of Third Street. The daily article about the contest sometimes had a sentence or two about each of them. Mrs. E. Crone: "If grit counts for anything, look out." Miss Nellie Hansen of Sebastopol "bids fair to give her friendly opponents a merry chase." Miss Doris Sullivan of Graton "is determined to represent that little town good and strong." Mr. Contest Editor was proud of them all.
But after fifteen days, only four contestants had reached the 75,000 vote mark. It looked like there were no generous Uncle Charlies writing big checks to favorite nieces.
With the contest almost halfway around the track, it's reasonable that Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley probably worried that it was starting to look like a flop, and the paper could even lose money on the promotion. And that was when the tone turned less cheery. The first hint of exasperation appeared: "It takes absolutely no experience to get subscriptions to the Press Democrat. It's a staple article...so many people want the paper that they cannot be reached by an agent, and subscriptions by the hundreds are waiting all over the county for candidates to simply come and get them for the asking." Goodbye peppy cheerleader, hello, angry sales manager. Let's show some hustle out there, people!
The paper also launched new promotions. Despite the promise vote values will "never be higher" than the first promo, a limited offer was announced: For a few days, new bonuses would be awarded for subscriptions that could be bundled together into multiples of five years and the offer was retroactive to the previous Thursday (don't even try to figure this out). Again Mr. Contest Editor promised: "Subscriptions will never be worth as many votes again." Except three days after that promotion ended, there was another "big offer" increasing the base vote values for all subscriptions.
Obviously, there was some grumbling about these one-time-only deals that weren't. Mister Contest Editor wanted it known this hurt his feelings:
|You know that the Contest Editor has kept his promise. You know that the Contest Editor will continue to keep his promises, and you know that the Press Democrat has never broken faith with any of its candidates both in the past and present. Heed the word and promises of the Contest Editor. He is your only counselor. If the Press Democrat had ever broken faith with any of its candidates it never would have inaugurated this contest.|
Aside from developing headaches and whiplash trying to follow the latest voting offers, the thirty women who were the most serious contenders must have been experiencing something like battle fatigue. Winning a deLuxe auto sounded like fun and the contest was fun at the start but after several weeks you've signed up everyone you know and everyone your friends know and now you dread getting up in the morning to spend another awful day of bothering people who don't want to be bothered and already had been bothered by several of your competitors. It would also be natural if they felt despair; after two months of work, 29 of them would come away with...nothing. There was no second or third prize, no sales commission, no tote bag. Not even a complementary newspaper subscription.
The later columns by the Contest Editor address the women in the competition directly, and are more than a little creepy as he resorted to using shame as a motivation.
You are letting yourself down:
|Good merry contestants, here's another chance. If in the past few days you have been dissatisfied with the efforts you have been making; if you think you have not done right by yourself and the ones who have stood by you for the past five weeks, here is an opportunity to make restitution and repent, an opportunity within a few days time to eclipse the vote of your closest rival, an opportunity to rid yourself of the anxiety of having enough votes to be assured of success. It is given as an opportunity to allow those a fair chance who were visited with illness last week. Several of the candidates, or their families, were under the weather.|
Your friends are letting you down:
|Now, candidates all--are you going to keep up this fierce struggle for all times until the end. Why don't some one of you be the exceptional one. Do as the Contest Editor has been advising you to do for weeks. Get your friends in tow. Hand each and every one of them a receipt book and pledge them by their friendship to you to see that they all get a few subscriptions each. You have been trying it single handed for eight weeks. There is something the matter.|
You are letting the Contest Editor down:
|If there is any good reason why you can't stay at the top, the Contest Editor would like to hear it. the Contest Editor would like to have a personal talk every day with every candidate in the race. That's why he is writing to you every day through the Press Democrat. There are perhaps many candidates who will read these paragraphs, and that is all. Had the Contest Editor ever advised you in error you would have a good excuse not to consider every word that is written every day.|
The Contest Editor is disappointed and disgusted by you:
|Ask yourself this question: Have you heeded the advice of the Contest Editor from the beginning of this contest? In other words, have you kept busy, and will you keep busier than ever during the last three days of this contest? Of course, if you are satisfied with what you have and feel that you have all the votes you need, there is no reason in the world why you should exert yourself another moment.|
Mr. Contest Editor was probably wise not to use his real name, as by that time there probably were thirty husbands or boyfriends who would have liked to give him a good poke in the snoot.
But finally it was over, and the winner was to be announced at 10PM on Saturday evening, May 20. The front page story the next morning - decidedly not written by Mr. Contest Editor - described what happened:
|...The mass of people that the contest editor predicted would witness the closing of the contest commenced to gather at 9:30 last evening and from that time on until 10 o'clock a steady stream of people worked their way into the Press Democrat office.|
The loyal candidates with their representatives were all present, and the great throng became a guessing machine as to who would win. Patiently they waited until the town clock tolled 10 o'clock. The doors were promptly locked and all the candidates that were inside were given an opportunity to cast their last ballots...
...The candidates grouped themselves together while the count of votes were going on, chatted good naturedly and joked regarding their chances. They went into the race knowing that but one of them could win and were ready to abide by the decision of the ballots...
...The judges then pronounced the count correct and the throng held themselves spellbound for the name of the winner.
Mayor Edwards then called off the totals and pronounced Mrs. Ed Crone of Santa Rosa the winner of the big five-passenger Kline Touring Kar.
A cheer went up from the crowd and Mrs. Crone and all that could pile in to it went out of the Press Democrat doors with a jubilant "Honk-Honk."
Boy, what a surprise! In the last published "Roll of Honor," Mrs. Crone was back in fifth place, with 739,260 votes - and now she was the big winner with 3,143,660. Wait - huh? She had concealed millions of votes until the last minute? Apparently so, and likewise four other finalists had kept their cards close, ending with million-plus totals.
If Gentle Reader thinks there's something fishy about those astronomical numbers, you have company. My first question is how these mountains of subscriptions were credited; did the judges apply whatever screwy vote multiplier happened to be in effect at the time of the subscription order? Could the judges have physically counted that many new paper ballots on a late Saturday night? And what was to prevent the contestants from backdating all her "reserve subscriptions" to the earliest days of the contest, when votes had the highest values? If I were someone like Lillian Norris - whose final count was only a realistic 13,000 votes above her last Roll of Honor tally - I'd have called foul.
Still, there was nothing suspicious about identity of the winner: Mary J. Crone was the 36 year-old wife of Edwin Crone, the manager of Santa Rosa's three nickelodeon and vaudeville theaters. It's doubtful anyone else in Sonoma County came into contact with so many people on a regular basis. (Your OBL Believe-it-or-not angle: Her brother-in-law, Raymond, later worked in Hollywood as the production manager for Orson Welles, Fred Astaire and others. Ed and Mary stayed around and ended up as chicken farmers south of town).
Although the event is now completely lost in history's dust, the Kline Kar Kontest left a sizable impact crater. In its front page article on the results, the PD crowed, "without the slightest doubt the circulation of the Press Democrat is now the largest in any city North of the Bay Counties, and has a great deal more than double the circulation of any paper in Sonoma County." And the greater the circulation, the more they could charge for ads, so the promotion went far to entrench the PD as the voice of "Imperial Sonoma."
Thanks in great measure to the goadings of Mr. Contest Editor, the acrimonious contest no doubt left scars in the community, destroying friendships and straining family ties; I imagine it became one of those regrettable events one hopes relatives won't bring up at reunions. But if you climbed into a time machine and went back to the 1920s or 1930s and asked Santa Rosans what they remembered about 1911, chances are they wouldn't remember the suffrage vote (memory of it would have been eclipsed by passage of the 19th amendment) or Fred Wiseman's flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa (it wasn't recognized as the historic first airmail delivery until much later). But they likely remembered it was the spring of the damn car contest, when the doorbell and telephone rang so often it left everyone a bit twitchy.
In 1911, Jack London was fast becoming a local celebrity and Sonoma County's second favorite adopted son, after Luther Burbank. The pages of the Santa Rosa newspapers were salted with more items about him than all previous years combined, which is a bit surprising because Jack and his wife, Charmian, really weren't around here that much - except for a few weeks in the autumn, the pair followed their usual pattern of brief stays at "Wake Robin Lodge," the Glen Ellen home of Charmian's aunt, where they had a cottage and frequently entertained Jack's retinue. The new interest from the newspapers was probably due in part to the changing times; the progressive era was in high gear by then and Jack's enthusiasm for socialism no longer seemed so radical. Also, there was significant work at their expanding ranch even when the Londons were away; the Press Democrat, for example, was particularly interested in all the eucalyptus trees he was planting.
(RIGHT: Jack London on the porch at Wake Robin Lodge c. 1911. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)
The PD also took note of what he was building, undoubtedly hearing gossip that a big house was in the works. Yet the paper - which deserved praise for earlier debunking claims that London was fighting in the Mexican Revolution - bollixed up a simple item about construction activities that spring.
"Jack London Building a Fine Bungalow," the headline read, explaining he was pouring a concrete foundation for a two-story house "on his place at Glen Ellen." Now, Mr. or Ms. Armchair Historian might well hyperventilate at reading that news, believing it's an understated announcement that serious work was underway on Wolf House. But according to Russ Kingman's essential reference, "Jack London: a Definitive Chronology," the concrete work was simply for an addition at Wake Robin Lodge. Confusing matters further, Jack and Charmian had just purchased the old winery property with the cottage where they would soon live and were talking about making some improvements. The PD reporter dumped the two events together into the same pot and stirred. What made that item noteworthy, however, was that London insisted he would only hire local workers. Given that it's been decided that Wolf House burned down a couple of years later because careless workmen left oily rags piled together, perhaps his egalitarian interest in "patronizing the home folk" was the undoing of his great house.
(This is the second post about Jack London during 1911; an earlier article, "JACK LONDON'S EVIL TWINS," described his ongoing problems with con artist impersonators and the Mexican Revolution rumors.)
Jack and Charmian spent that summer making a twelve-week road trip to southwest Oregon and back with a wagon and four-horse team - 1,500 miles, covering thirty miles on most days. That was actually a pretty good rate of progress; a recent article by Gaye LeBaron described the perils of North Coast roads in those days.
The trip was a working vacation; Jack wrote a number of inconsequential short stories which she typed up and mailed off to publishers from little towns along the road. It was also a much-needed getaway for the both of them. He missed adventuring out-of-doors and jawing with average folk; Charmian was determined to use the journey prove she was still his equal as an adventuring companion.
Their only child, Joy, had died almost exactly a year earlier, only 36 hours after birth. In her later memoirs, Charmian wrote that during this trip her "health was not the best; but I was wary to avoid giving any possible impression to Jack that I linked my lack of freshness in any way with maternal misfortunes. I had early discovered that the slightest suggestion of such a thing irritated him instantly and beyond sympathy." Jack London, it seems, who was a staunch advocate of women's rights in all things, "harbored a deep-rooted, resentful opinion that the majority of womenfolk held their men responsible for all the consequences of reproduction!" [emphasis hers] In the same section of the book, she brought up that Jack later ranted about "his superb 'disgusts' with the universe of which I was an important part." He cooled down and she remarked "Jack's retractions and apologies, generous if rare, were among the sweetest of the silken ties that bound us forever." Although her memoirs are mostly hagiography, it's to Charmian's credit that she also included these unflattering views of London in her book.
Also significant about the Oregon trip are the snapshot photos (the Sonoma County Library has about twenty), many showing Yoshimatsu Nakata with the Londons. Only 22 at the time, the Hawaiian-Japanese Nakata (1889-1967) already had been with them for four years, ever since he was hired on as the substitute cabin boy for the ill-fated voyage of the Snark. His eight-year role in the London family history is rarely acknowledged and there are few, if any, other pictures of them all together, although he was a constant and indispensable companion to the couple until he entered dentistry school and married. He was usually described as their "valet" but Charmian's memoir referred to him as "our loving and beloved shadow" and that "our loss of Nakata, to marriage and career, at the end of 1915, constituted more than a domestic flurry. He had nearly every prerequisite of the close and confidential servitor and it is hard to decide which suffered more from his absence, Jack or myself."
(RIGHT: Jack, Charmian and Yoshimatsu Nakata at an unidentified Oregon town on their way back to Sonoma County. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)
The Press Democrat also took the opportunity to run an article that presented a thumbnail profile: "Day by Day With Jack London" (transcribed below) was supposed to portray "the daily routine through which Jack London, novelist, goes through on his farm at Glen Ellen, 'Wake Robin Lodge.'" Credited only to "a "metropolitan paper," the article was actually excerpted from a Sunday feature in the San Francisco Call by Henry Meade Bland, which included similar miniatures of other writers as well. Like the article's author, most of them were part of London's bohemian circle sometimes called "The Crowd."
But aside from the tease that Jack was "building a new residence...[which] will rise on a beautiful height overlooking a fertile valley," Mr. Bland's account of a typical day was rather, uh, bland. More interesting is the description of his writing habits left by Nakata in his reminisce, "A Hero to His Valet," which was published in the Jack London Journal:
|After he dressed, Mr. London would start to work. He had a certain way of writing, and it was the same every day. He has a cigarette in his left hand and a blunt fountain pen with a wire tube at the end--a stylograph. He always used this instead of a fountain pen. The idea is that he doesn't have to watch the nib to see if it is turning to one side. When he is writing he is always humming something or singing. It is called "Redwing" [listen here]. He played that all the time on the phonograph on the Snark, and at home he still hums and sings it. Then he puffs a cigarette and writes some more and he does that for twenty minutes and then he gets up and takes a drink of Scotch whiskey. Then he eats a Japanese fish, the small white dried fish called creme iriko [anchovies] that they use for bait. He eats that once in a while and then writes. Every twenty minutes he counts the pages. he writes so big, I suppose there are a thousand words to about twenty pages. After he writes about an hour, he begins to count and then writes about twenty minutes again. About four or five times he does this, and then he figures he is finished with his work.|
"Study, recreation and talk, with what he considers most important of all, the cultivation of eucalyptus, occupy the balance of his time," wrote Bland and eucalyptus farming was the common thread that weaved through almost every article about London that appeared in the PD that year; "He will continue to plant the trees until he has 100,000 and they will cover a wide area of land," another item stated. In letters earlier he mentioned fifty thousand were already growing and wrote a few months later that another 40,000 were added. Soon Beauty Ranch would be stinking like cheap menthol cough drops.
That year was about the peak of the eucalyptus boom, when otherwise sensible West Coast ranchers and farmers were convinced they could get rich quick via such eucalyptus plantations. It was believed that weedy eucalyptus trees were a miraculously fast-growing hardwood that could be used for lumber, railroad ties or almost any other purpose, including building fine furniture and constructing violins. But entrepreneurs like Jack London didn't grasp its reputation was based on samples from Australian old-growth trees that were probably hundreds of years old; wood from younger trees had to be carefully milled and long seasoned, otherwise it was good for little more than firewood. It was exactly the opposite of a cash crop and additionally harmed the soil by driving out native species and sucking up its weight in groundwater. Lose-lose, no matter how you squinted at it.
London's particular form of eucalyptus mania was that it would be in great demand for wharf pilings. He believed that the wood-boring worms that normally destroyed wharves wouldn't touch eucalyptus because of its oil. He was wrong. The oil wasn't a repellant at all.
Jack London was a savvy guy and certainly believed he had properly done his research; according to the chronology, he could recite data on the number of wharves destroyed annually by Limnoria and Teredo worms. How could he - and numerous other investors - be so wrong?
Chances are you can rummage through his bookshelves and find a copy of "Eucalypts Cultivated in the United States", a 1902 bulletin from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which was filled with misinformation and outright lies. Start with the claims of curative powers; the author described eucalyptus leaves being used to dress wounds or made into a tea to cure bronchitis and other respiratory problems. Leaves would also purify "germ-infested matter" when they fell to the ground. The book states without qualification that eucalyptus "has been used for piles in several wharves on the Pacific Coast with very satisfactory results" and specifically, "the piers at Santa Barbara and at neighboring sea towns are maintained with piles of this Eucalypt."
The latter statement was simply untrue. Santa Barbara had experimented with eucalyptus pilings back in the early 1890s and given up on the wood. And London certainly should have also read a more recent pamphlet from the California State Board of Forestry, "A Hand Book for Eucalyptus Planters", which specifically warned against placing it in seawater: "It is attacked and ultimately destroyed by borers, notwithstanding contrary statements." Still, the state foresters wrote, it was great wood when it came from "old, slow-grown trees cut during the winter and seasoned thoroughly." Which completely defeated the notion of eucalyptus being a quick moneymaker. Again.
Even when their funds were low, Jack London kept dumping money into eucalyptus seedlings from W.A.T. Stratton's nursery in Petaluma and the Eucalyptus Agency in Monterey; he apparently went to his grave in 1916 not realizing he had been duped and wasted a fortune. In her memoirs Charmian only wrote happily about what the trees meant to him. Remembering the spring of 1910 before the birth of their daughter, Joy, she fondly recalled, "...Not the least of our blisses was wandering in the eucalyptus 'forest,' not yet knee-high, dreaming of when they should some day be over our heads on horse-back. 'They'll only be a few months older than our boy!' Jack would say."
JACK LONDON BUILDING A FINE BUNGALOWJack London, the novelist, is to erect a fine bungalow on his place at Glen Ellen. Already work on the foundation has started and it will be of concrete. The best of material will be used in construction and the work will be done by day labor. The superintendent of the building is a San Francisco man, but Mr. London has declared that the labor shall be done by the men of Glen Ellen and vicinity, believing in patronizing the home folk, and in giving Glen Ellen the benefit of the money he spends. It will be a two story house and it will be an artistic home.
- Press Democrat, May 24, 1911
JACK LONDON ORDERS MANY EUCALYPTUS TREESJack London, the famous writer, has placed an order for 30,000 eucalyptus trees and delivery will be made in January, when the heavy rains have set in. The trees will be shipped to Glen Ellen, where Mr. London will set them out on his property and in a number of years expects to have a big grove.
He will continue to plant the trees until he has 100,000 and they will cover a wide area of land.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 23, 1911
DAY BY DAY WITH JACK LONDONIncidents Marking Novelist's Life at "Wake Robin Lodge" at Glen Ellen--1,000 Words Daily
A metropolitan paper has this to say concerning the daily routine through which Jack London, novelist, goes through on his farm at Glen Ellen, "Wake Robin lodge":
Jack London is at last showing signs of forgetting the wanderlust and is settling down on the hill slopes of the ranch he has selected for his home. He is building a new residence at Glen Ellen, Sonoma county, in which he intends to continue the making of books with less strenuosity than heretofore. London's home will rise on a beautiful height overlooking a fertile valley--a favorite location for California writers.
The author of "The Call of the Wild" has wandered in so many lands and domiciled among so many people, all for the intenser study of human nature, that it is a great joy for him to spend a few months on the ranch. His temporary abiding place is the Ames [sic] cottage. Wake Robin lodge, a homelike dwelling nestled among white and live oaks. His friends know him best when he swings at ease in a hammock on the shady creek bank. But whoever visits Wake Robin must be prepared to live a vigorous intellectual day, for the author of "The Iron Heel" feeds upon heavy brain pabulum, such as Nietsche, Schopenhauer and Henry George. He delights to have his company appreciate his favorites.
Every morning London goes into his den and holds to a strict regime of work. A thousand words a day is his literary task. This he ordinarily accomplishes between 7 and 12; but if the allotment is not done at noon, be writes after luncheon. Study, recreation and talk, with what he considers most important of all, the cultivation of eucalyptus, occupy the balance of his time.
For more than a year the Snark, the "two-master" in which he sailed the south seas, was his home, yet even while on the broad seas, save when storms kept him and his crew busy, he kept up his literary work.
The London library is most interesting to the visitor. Besides a working quoto of books it contains photographs and curios gathered from every part of the globe, from the mummified head of a South American Indian to a toy book with which he plays a practical joke on the unsuspecting.
The loyal Californian finds satisfaction in the intention of the Londons to make California an abiding home. It is well known that Bret Harte, the novelist's predecessor in the art, wrote nothing after he deserted the coast equal to the work done here. It is felt by many that Edwin Markham. who forsook Berkeley hills for metropolitan New York, might return to his old haunts, much to the advantage of his muse. In fact, Markham keeps promising himself a home in the west once more. London, lover of the out of doors, knows what the home land has done for him and holds to it as ths kingdom of his heart's desire.
- Press Democrat, November 25, 1911
In 1911, Santa Rosa threw a grand party to honor a men's club. Naturally, some very uppity women crashed it.
The event was the annual state convention of the "Native Sons of the Golden West," a fraternal organization whose local chapter had recently built a magnificent lodge hall on Mendocino Avenue (it's still there, too). That gathering of members of the California-born Native Sons - and to be fair, there was/is a "Native Daughters of the Golden West" as well - drew the most visitors to Santa Rosa to that date. They arrived by the thousands on that September 9th weekend in special trains; in the local papers the Chamber of Commerce pleaded with residents to make a room or two available to out-of-towners, and hundreds did. Santa Rosa's population doubled as a crowd estimated at up to 10,000 pushed into Fourth street and Courthouse Square for the parade and carnival-like celebration.
Among the masses was a hardy band of suffragists eager to encourage men to grant women the right to vote. "RAID ON SANTA ROSA," read the subhed in an article about suffrage events that week in the San Francisco Call. "It was a fixed policy with us to go wherever we were not wanted," wrote Louise Herrick Wall in a report about the suffrage campaign of 1911:
|Into the pretty town of Santa Rosa we made one of these forced entries. It was during the week of the Native Sons' celebration and both the Golden Sons and the Golden Daughters assured us, with leaden emphasis, that suffrage was entirely out of place. But we felt that where so many thousands of idle people were gathered was exactly the place for us.
A store building on a lively corner, just across from a Ferris wheel, and next door to the knife-throwing booth, became the headquarters of the Blue Liner. The place was made as pretty as time alloted with flowers and banners and posters, and the doors set very wide upon the street. There was music and singing; and, as we had planned, hundreds of people sauntered in and out, and stopped and chatted or listened. One day we had a seven-hour continuous performance. In the evenings we held big street meetings from the Blue Liner that we kept up until our constellation waned in the brighter conjunction of the Native Son and the native grape.
(RIGHT: The "Blue Liner" and crew, San Francisco Call, August 16, 1911)
The "Blue Liner" was the big touring car that stayed constantly on the roads of Northern California in advance of the state constitutional amendment vote, as discussed in part I of this story, "WILL MEN LET THE LADIES VOTE?" That article points out passage was not assured; suffragists had only the eight months of California spring and summer before election day and faced an array of anti-suffrage interests that together were simply called the "anti's" in the press.
A sizable number of men (AND women) were social conservatives who thought voting was unladylike; the loudest voice in this faction was state Senator J. B. Sanford (D-Ukiah), who was also editor and publisher of the Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat. There Sanford penned several editorials insisting women would lose rights and privileges if they could vote. A sample passage: "The men are able to run the government and take care of the women...as long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more protection and more consideration than man gets." Sometimes Santa Rosa's own Frances McG. Martin would write her own op-ed for sympathetic newspapers, poking fun and/or slinging scorn over some of his more nitwit remarks. In an exchange transcribed below, Sanford sank to open fear-mongering: "Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and 'wifey' locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means." Martin deftly countered that suffrage had nothing to do with women serving on juries, as the legislature would have to pass a new law because juries were restricted to being property-owning men. And also, she asked (with appropriate snarkasm), why did he always presume there would be just ONE woman on the jury?
The other flank of the anti's was the liquor industry, which feared suffrage would inevitably lead to passage of prohibition laws. Better funded and well organized, they represented national, state, and local interests - everyone from brewery owners to saloon barkeeps to members of the Beer Wagon Drivers' Union - whom had already joined together to form a coalition called the "Associated Industries of California" (wonderful generic name, that). Their original objective was to block or modify passage of a proposed state law which would allow communities "to regulate or prohibit retail liquor business," and that usually boiled down to a town voting on whether it would go "dry." Their man in the state legislature was Senator Louis Juilliard (D-Santa Rosa) who tried to amend the bill so that votes would be only cast by entire counties, which would have probably ensured prohibition would not have passed anywhere in the state. His efforts failed and in April, the Local Option Law (AKA "The Wyllie Act") passed. After that, the focus was entirely on defeating the suffrage amendment, bringing in East Coast celebrity speakers and cranking out reams and reams of leaflets, including reprints of Senator Sanford's editorial bile.
The various anti's offered a spirited opposition, but at least there was never violence; no beer baron hired thugs to crack suffragist heads and cops didn't brutally attack women demonstrators at rallies, as happened in London just a few months earlier during the Black Friday police riot. Instead, the greatest adversary the suffragists faced was simple indifference. The public apparently didn't want to argue with suffragists that women should not have voting rights - they instead shrugged and politely demurred. Even progressive hero Teddy Roosevelt said he thought there were more important things to worry about, and populist Governor Hiram Johnson offered tepid support. In Santa Rosa to make a speech less than a week before the special election, he encouraged voters to support other amendments to the state constitution, but newspaper accounts do not mention any remarks at all made about the suffrage amendment. And if progressives with keen minds like Roosevelt and Johnson didn't get that there was something fundamentally wrong with half the adult population being forbidden to vote, what were the odds that Mr. Archie Average - a Santa Rosa family man who gleaned his political information via bull sessions at one of the town's thirty downtown saloons - had a good handle on this civil rights issue?
But here's the thing: After reading everything I could find on this 1911 suffrage campaign - including the book written by the participants and an excellent 1974 thesis by Donald Waller Rodes which pops up quite often in histories of women's rights in America - it seemed puzzling that the anti's managed to gain as much traction as they did. Were their supporters paralyzed by fear of temperance laws that might follow? Sure, many were. Did a number of male voters believe women were just hormonally incapable of handling full citizenship? Undoubtedly. There were other subtle and complex reasons why some might have opposed suffrage, however.
Mr. Average - and maybe Mrs. Average as well - also might well have resented the suffragists for trying to inculcate themselves as spokespersons for all women. In his classic book on the California progressives, George Mowry wrote that the progressive movement here was mainly driven by a small crowd of college-educated, middle-aged WASP professionals - the "fortunate sons of the upper-middle class." If so, the suffragists were mostly their sisters and wives. In their own report on the 1911 campaign, a whiff of condescending noblesse oblige emerges from many pages. Here again is Louise Herrick Wall, writing this time of a visit by the Blue Liner crew to the workers at the Navy Yard on Mare Island:
|...They crowded in closer, they lifted their faces up to us, listening, with the look on theirs that a child turns to its mother, of confidence and the will to believe. On the lips of a street lad the cigarette died out and hung, and on every face the smile faded. One should speak as a God to speak on the street, or as one knowing good and evil. It must have been so when words first came to interpret between man and man. Street-speaking is unspeakably difficult, an anguish of misunderstanding beforehand, and an anguish of understanding while it lasts and afterwards a strange, humbling revelation of the simple sincerity of men.
When, at last, each one in turn had spoken, and the Blue Liner drew out, leaving the crowd half-tottering, for it seemed to have built itself up on all sides around the car, we said to each other in hushed voices: "Isn't it wonderful how they took it? They seemed to understand."
And then there was the problem that many men still clutched to their sentimental hearts the Victorian notion of a social contract - that women were decidedly the weaker sex and men MUST be entrusted to protect them and decide what was in their best interests. As mentioned previously, the suffragists cited the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to put the lie to that, but it's hard to comprehend today how deeply this paternalistic fantasy was ingrained in American culture. Consider the "eight hour for women" law, for example.
Just months after the suffrage amendment was placed on the ballot, California limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. The law also required "suitable seats" when women were not "engaged in the active duties" of their job. Sponsors in the state legislature vowed it was a "concession to womanhood over the dollar and as a protection to the mothers of future generations."
As the bill awaited the governor's signature, it came out that it wasn't quite as beneficial to women as it seemed. There was an exemption for "harvesting, curing, canning, or drying" any fruit or vegetable, which was the hardest work performed by women in California; the Press Democrat noted, "Sonoma county representatives and other members from the great fruit handling sections of the state where only a few months' work is given, had fruit packing and canning eliminated from the bill." Other newspapers at the time remarked there was also a loophole - employers couldn't require women to work additional hours, but the boss could still suggest workers might like to volunteer to stay at their jobs a few hours longer. Made aware of these and other problems, Governor Hiram Johnson called for an unusual public hearing before he would decide whether to sign it into law. Women telegraph operators testified the law meant they would be replaced by men, who had no restrictions on how many hours they could work. Governor Johnson said that he wished the law wasn't so inflexible, but he would sign it anyway, because the bill written by the all-male legislature was so darn important to protect women.
(RIGHT: Illustration that appeared in the Press Democrat and many other pro-suffrage newspapers. Note the feminine cuff above the wrist)
By the time election day dawned on October 10 - an odd date for an election, even then - Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the anti's (the suffragists even glued posters to the duck blinds that dotted the shoreline around San Francisco Bay). Mr. Voter faced an imposing ballot of 22 proposed state constitutional amendments, concerning everything from standardization of weights and measures to a sort of "Prop 13" property tax cap for veterans to judicial reforms allowing the impeachment of judges. The suffrage amendment was the only item on the ballot that sought to rectify a problem which was not a tangible thing, which additionally might have worked against it.
Turnout for the special election was light, with only about one in three registered voters casting a ballot statewide. In the 72 nail-biting hours it took to finalize the count, suffrage appeared to be a toss-up. The San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner reported it was defeated and the SF Call claimed victory; likewise the Santa Rosa Republican headline said it probably failed and the Press Democrat predicted it would win.
In the final tally it won in Santa Rosa by only thirty votes out of nearly a thousand cast; it was defeated in Petaluma, Sonoma, Windsor and Healdsburg. Suffrage passed in the county overall by four percent. San Francisco, Alameda, and Marin Counties all opposed giving women the right to vote.
In the official state total, women's suffrage squeaked by with a mere two percent margin of victory.
Predictably, the anti's carped about the measure passing. There were noises about a Sonoma County recount, but nothing came of it. Senator Sanford put his unique spin on the results, making it sound as if men had foolishly decided to force women to vote against their will: "The ballot on Equal Suffrage was not a fight between the men and women, but was rather a fight between the women, and the men were called in to decide the matter...it seemed that a majority of women did not wish to assume the extra duty, but the men have said, 'Ladies, you must vote.'" Still, he encouraged the women of Ukiah to register "...and thus offset the evil that might arise from giving the ballot to some women in the large cities."
Sanford also couldn't resist throwing one final misogynist bomb: "[Women] will have to go to the county clerk's office and submit to many formalities, among which will be to give their visible marks and scars, age and previous condition of servitude, all of which will be open to inspection."
(RIGHT: This April, 1912 advertisement ran in the Santa Rosa Republican a few days before the first local elections where women could vote, one of several display ads that month with a similar voting theme)
Some confusion arose in the following weeks. Technically the amendment didn't become law until 90 days after the election, but women were already lining up to register in some places; county clerks added women registrars to help. The language on the official state voter registration form still read "male" and it was unclear if registrations would be valid. It was uncertain whether or not women would have to pay the poll tax to vote, as that part of the election law also named only males; it was quickly decided that women were exempt unless voters passed another amendment to change the language.
The first woman to register in Sonoma County on Jan. 2, 1912 was Mrs. Jennie Colvin, a milestone little noticed by either Santa Rosa paper.
There was much interest in the local elections that April, when women would vote for the first time and about twenty California towns had ballot items to decide if their community would go "dry." Locally, Cloverdale held a series of spirited public meetings; at the weekend rally before the vote, Andrea Sbarboro (male), the founder of the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, made a rare public appearance to speak against the proposal. In the end the township of Cloverdale voted for leaders who promised to clean up the saloons - particularly gambling and serving liquor to minors - but rejected outright prohibition by an almost 2:1 majority. Overall, about half of the towns voting on alcohol went dry; in the Bay Area, only Los Gatos and Mountain View closed their saloons. "FEMALE OF SPECIES AS THIRSTY AS THE MALE," quipped the Santa Rosa Republican headline.
But suffrage did not equality make. It would still be a decade in Sonoma County before women were seated on a Superior Court jury, for example. And although Senator Sanford tried to frighten men in 1911 with the image of a helpless mother sequestered late at night with eleven leering men, there were five women jurors on that trial in 1922. Turns out they didn't need Sanford's protection at all. Never did.
PROMINENT PEOPLE ESPOUSE CAUSE OF EQUAL SUFFRAGEWomen Speak from an Auto to Large CrowdsFrancis R. Wall, a prominent San Francisco attorney and speaker; Mrs' Louise Wall, a cultured woman and forceful speaker; Miss Elizabeth Baker, elocutionist, Miss Ruth Parkhurst, who sings and dances very prettily, and who is a grand daughter of John Swett one of the best known and prominent pioneer educators of the state and Mrs. Frank B. Patterson, compose a party of distinguished members of the College Political Equality League, who arrived here yesterday to espouse the cause of Equal Suffrage, which is one of the Constitutional amendments to be voted upon at the October election. They are here and elsewhere in a campaign getting votes for Constitutional Amendment No. 8, which proposes to extend the right to vote to the women of California just for the love of the work. They have selected Santa Rosa at this time on account of the thousands of men and women who are gathered here for the celebration.
The headquarters of the College Political League in Santa Rosa are in the large room in the Odd Fellows' building at Third street and Exchange avenue, and there last night the first meeting was held at which Attorney Wall and Mrs. Wall spoke; Mrs. Baker recited and Miss Parkhurst sang and danced.
The headquarters are attractively decorated, special attention being given to a display of the banner designed by Miss Bertha Boyd. A large crowd of people were attracted to the headquarters.
Speak from Automobile
The meetings at the headquarters were followed by street meetings at which Mrs. Wall spoke. It was something of a novelty here to hear a talented woman speaking in the open air. Mrs. Wall spoke from Mr. Wall's handsome big touring car and Mrs. Frances McG. Martin and Mrs. Patterson were heard on their presentation of the subject of suffrage by large crowds.
More meetings will be held today at the headquarters and there will be more addresses from the automobile.
Mrs. Patterson drove here in her big "Blue Liner" touring car, the car in which she made the campaign in Washington state.
- Press Democrat, September 8, 1911
Vote Against Woman's SuffrageBecause man is man and woman is woman. Nature has made their duties and functions different and no Constitutional Amendment can make them the same.
Because the basis of government is force. Its stability rests on its physical power to enforce its laws; therefore it is expedient to give the vote to women. Immunity from service in executing the law would make women irresponsible voters.
Because the suffrage is not a question of right or of justice but of expediency, and if there is no question of right or of justice, there is no cause for woman suffrage.
Because it is a demand of a minority of women and the majority of women protest against it.
WOULD YOU STAND FOR IT?
Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and 'wifey' locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means.
An attempt to confer upon woman those duties and responsibilities that are distinctly for men will blunt the finer sensibilities of woman and cheapen her in the eyes of men and will bring to the front a political type of women whose conduct and characteristics are repellant to those who cherish conservative and reverent ideals of womanhood.
DOULBING THE VOTE [sic]
Every hobo and bum has his mate. Woman suffrage means simply doubling this illiterate and irresponsible vote. The result of the elections in the big cities of Colorado prove this. Here the immoral women are forced to vote and their votes are controlled by the police force and the party in power. The home loving modest women do not crowd into the throng and vote as a rule.
MAN REPRESENTS WOMAN
Women are represented at the ballot box by fathers, brothers, husbands and sons and they are content to be represented by them in the corn field and on the battle field and in turn they represent the men in the school room, at the fireside and at the cradle.
As long as woman is woman and keeps her place she will get more consideration and protection than man gets. She will have more influence in the home without the ballot than she than she will out of the home with it. When she abdicates her throne she throws down the scepter of her power and loses her influence.
WOMAN SUFFRAGE MEANS MORE DIVORCES
Woman suffrage has had a demoralizing effect in Colorado and Utah. The sanctity of the home has been invaded by every little candidate that was running up and down the highway for office. The home was neglected. Divorces have increased 37½ percent and the number of juvenile offenders and the number of young girls gone wrong has increased at an alarming ratio. The court records show that 60 percent of the divorces granted were on the ground that the wife had failed to properly take care of the children and had been gadding the streets "doing politics". Do the people of California want to hold up Colorado and Mormon Utah as the shining example to follow?
WOMAN AND TAXES
The thread worn argument that women pay taxes and should vote. It is the property that is taxed and not the individual. A minor may have property in several different counties, but he votes in only one. No one is mistreating the women of the country. They have more rights now than men have.
Woman suffrage carries with it that power that makes it irrevocable. As it has had a demoralizing effect on Colorado and Mormon Utah, can California afford to take chances on an experiment that is so fraught with danger?
A few misguided but well meaning people, in an effort to correct some political evils, want to pull woman down from her exalted position and throw her into the dirty pool of politics along with man, not realizing that by so doing they will not cleanse the pool but will leave a great deal of dirt on fair woman.
The home loving, patriotic men of the country who love, cherish, protect and honor woman should go to the polls Oct. 10th and defeat this political hysteria that is sweeping over the country. That is the greatest service they can do their country.
- Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat editorial, October 6, 1911
SENATOR STANFORD'S SILLY SCAREEditor REPUBLICAN: On the front page of Senator Sanford's circular being so widely circulated by the anti-suffragists appears the following:
"Mr. Voter: How would you like to come home some evening and find the children dirty and hungry; no supper for you and 'wifey' locked up in a jury room with eleven men? This is what woman suffrage means."
Why always have ONE woman on the suppositious juries?
[...Martin explains state law allowed only property-owning men could serve on juries...]
The circular referred to herein is made up of extracts from the speech of Senator Sanford against women suffrage in the California Senate at the last session of the legislature. His logic and eloquence must have failed ignominiously on that occasion, since but four senators in addition to himself voted against Senate Amendment No. 8, fourth on the ballot next Tuesday. I think the consideration accorded him by the intelligent members of the Senate, representing the great majority of the people of California, is a fair example of the weight his warmed-over, rehashed speech will carry with the men of California at large.
Another threat made to women is, "If you vote, you must pay poll tax." If it becomes the law that women must pay poll tax, rest assured it will be paid; but the constitution will first have to be amended...
...A short time ago, in a talk with Hon. Rolfe L. Thompson, our governor, Hiram W. Johnson, said: "Formerly I was passively against woman suffrage, but now I am actively in favor of it."
If politics is a "dirty pool" as alleged by anti-suffragists and has been bad for men and women should be refused the ballot on that account, then we must conclude that it was a great mistake in the first place to give the ballot to men and it should be taken from them as soon as possible.
Our very efficient county assessor says women own at least one-fourth of the taxable property in this county at the present time, or about ten million dollars worth of property taxed for governmental purposes; is it just to tax these women without representation?
Hon. John D. Connolly, in his admirable address at the Columbia theater last night , said that after eleven years spent in New Zealand, as consul at Auckland, and close observation of the practical workings of woman's suffrage there, he is unqualifiedly in favor of giving the ballot to the women of California. New Zealand has an area of 105,000 square miles, almost as great as both Great Britain and Ireland, and has about one million inhabitants, the city of Auckland alone having a population of 89,577 by the last census. Mr. Connolly say there are fewer divorces each year in the whole of New Zealand than in Sonoma county for the same length of time. So much for the disruption of homes foretold by the "anti's," if women have the right to vote.
Voters of Sonoma county, in the name of right and justice, stamp a cross in the space at the right of "yes" following Senate Amendment No. 8 on the ballot.
FRANCES McG. MARTIN.
President Santa Rosa Political Equality Club
- Press Democrat, October 6, 1911
CANVASS OF THE VOTESAnti's Expect to Try to Beat MeasureAttorney Rolfe L. Thompson received a telephone message from San Francisco, and also a telegram, stating that the anti-suffragists are going to make a determined effort to beat the woman's suffrage movement by hook or crook when it comes to the official canvass of the vote by the Board of Supervisor and advised the local committee to have a watcher present during the canvass of the votes. The telegram gave the name of a man and description of him, which it was stated had been sent to the county for the purpose of defeating the measure. The local supporters of the eighth Senate constitutional amendment will have the count here watched by one of their number as a precautionary measure, though they state they have perfect confidence in our Board of Supervisors and are confident the precaution is not necessary. The official canvass of the election returns by the Board of Supervisors will begin next Monday at the supervisors' chambers in the court house.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911
It was good news, bad news for California women in 1911: There would finally be a vote on changing the state constitution so they would no longer be second-class citizens. The bad news was that the suffrage movement had eight months to convince male voters that allowing women these basic rights was not a radical thing. It would be an uphill battle all the way; only three other states had given women full suffrage, and those were in much smaller states and their campaigns had been ramping up for years. In 1911 broadcast media did not yet exist and state roads were still little more than unpaved wagon trails, so simply reaching voters would be an accomplishment itself. And opposing them was a well-funded, national coalition of social conservatives, the liquor industry - which feared women would vote in prohibition - and old-timers (male and female alike) who plainly didn't like uppity women.
Not since the Civil War had California been so divided on an issue. Some newspapers remained neutral, but they were few; it was more about how strongly the paper was "for" or "anti." The most supportive daily was the San Francisco Call and the most hostile was the Los Angeles Times. Within their pages, war raged daily.
Two of the most prominent fighters were in the North Bay. In Santa Rosa was Frances McG. Martin, a lawyer who countered anti-suffrage letters and editorials with crushing rebuttals. (In her 19th century history, Gaye LeBaron has quite a nice profile of Frances and her two equally remarkable sisters, one a pharmacist and the other a physician - their maiden name was "McGaughey" and it was never explained why all three abbreviated it to "McG."). in the other corner was state Senator John Bunyan Sanford (D-Ukiah), who said he held women in such high regard that they should not be allowed to enjoy the same rights he had - and damn them for even asking: "I have a new definition for a suffragette," he quoted from a letter on the Senate floor, "a suffragette is a woman who wants to raise hell, but no children."
California suffrage had already failed to pass in 1896, and Senator Sanford tried everything he could to keep it off the ballot in 1911. He proposed there should first be a special election where only women could vote on whether they wanted the right to vote, and only if that passed would the legislature consider an amendment. Such a pre-vote had taken place in Massachusetts, and amazingly, women there voted 3 to 1 against placing suffrage on the ballot. Sanford's proposal failed to pass, although he brought in witnesses to testify that women didn't really want to vote and suffrage would end up denying them of privileges "written and unwritten."
When it finally passed the California legislature, "Constitutional Amendment No. 8" did not mention women at all. It only stated "every native citizen of the United States" who was over 21 and a citizen could vote. It specified instead who could not cast a ballot: "No native of China, no idiot, no insane person, no person convicted of any infamous crime, no person hereafter convicted of the embezzlement or misappropriation of public money, and no person who shall not be able to read the Constitution in the English language and write his or her name." That pesky "educational qualification" didn't apply to current voters, of course, or anyone with some physical disability that kept him from being able to write or read, or anyone sixty years or older. With that established, the race to the voting booth was on.
To the dismay of suffragists, former president Teddy Roosevelt didn't help, giving a speech a month later at the UC/Berkeley Greek Theater where he remarked, "Personally I'm very tepidly in favor of woman suffrage, but it seems to me it is infinitely less important than innumerable other questions which are worthy of our thought and effort." This was a painful reminder to the public about the hissing flapdoodle a few months earlier, when President Taft told a convention of suffragists it could be dangerous to allow women to vote and then dressed down the audience when someone hissed at the condescending remark.
The legislature's approval caught the suffrage movement by some surprise. Fortunately, in the dormant previous five years, Mabel Craft Deering, a prolific writer whose articles appeared in some of the best magazines of the day, had taken on the work of being State Press Correspondent - we might call her the "PR director" today. She sent a query letter to all 700 newspapers in the state asking if they would be interested in receiving regular updates concerning "suffrage matter." Most were agreeable, and soon there were little items in the papers about women happily voting in Colorado and cheering that Norway had embraced gender equality. (Deering's history of the movement is quite interesting, but seems to be mostly overlooked by researchers.)
Once the special election was approved by the legislature, Deering quickly appointed a press manager in every county to pepper the editors with local news as well as reporting back to her about local coverage. (There was only a single county where she could not claim a foothold - she identified it only as "a very remote, sparsely populated mountain county" - but in the end it voted for suffrage, anyway.) Deering mentioned specifically seven women she relied upon, including Frances Martin. But at the top of Deering's list of effective county chairmen was Sarah Latimer Finley, whose son, Ernest, happened to be editor and publisher of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Ernest Finley seemed an unlikely champion of women's rights. As discussed here earlier, he was virulently opposed to the progressive movement of the day, using the PD to denounce those who wanted reforms in Santa Rosa as agitators stirring up "hard feelings" in town using "cowardly and un-American" tactics." Now, the paper was praising those same progressives because they were speaking out for suffrage. Finley had attacked civic groups seeking to rid the town of its underground economy based on gambling and prostitution, charging they were secretly prohibitionists who wanted to turn the county "dry." Now, he was aligned with a cause strongly supported the temperance movement. But whether Ernest Finley was stirred by filial devotion or a sudden bout of ethics, Mrs. Finley's suffrage columns were featured in the PD, and pro-suffrage letters began appearing regularly in both Santa Rosa papers; a typical example is excerpted below, written by William Keith, a Berkeley landscape architect and husband of a veteran leader of the movement.
Also in Deering's campaign arsenal was the "Blue Liner," a seven-seat touring car that rattled over the pre-highway roads in Northern California for the six months prior to the vote, bringing the suffrage message to every town and every gathering they could find. And instead of trying to badger men into supporting the cause by appealing to better nature and higher principles, the troupe that arrived in the big auto sought "to conquer prejudice with laughter," according to Louise Herrick Wall, (who also penned a memorable first-hand description of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by the way):
|A mock debate, parody songs and a suffrage monologue made up the program. For the debate we put up a man of straw, as an anti-suffrage advocate. He discoursed, in throaty tones, on the horrors of the woman movement--a movement that would destroy society so completely that all that would be left would be an effigy in some National Museum of History of a Home, done in wax, representing "a father, a mother and rosy, healthy, happy children of some perfectly definite sex."|
To the dismay of Wall and the others, they found a portion of the audiences were so anti-suffrage that their satirical arguments against women's rights were applauded and not considered absurd at all. "From that hour the Blue Liner was dedicated to 'straight talk,'" she wrote.
(RIGHT: "Girls wanted" drawing by Henry Glintenkamp of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory ruins. Image courtesy Library of Congress)
And while it's horrible to contemplate, it has to be recognized that the California suffrage campaign received a boost from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which occurred in New York City just as the Deering's publicity machine was shifting to higher gears. There were 146 young women killed in that sweatshop tragedy, most of them teenagers, working in a ten story firetrap when a careless cigarette ignited a pile of cuttings; in the fast-moving fire they found themselves trapped with doors locked (to prevent pilfering) and other exits useless because the doors only opened inward. Many jumped to their deaths.
Details of the Triangle fire unrolled in newspapers nationwide over the course of several days like a serialized horror story. It was reported instead of jumping, some were pushed out of the windows by the press of panicked women behind them; dismembered bodies were found closest to the exit doors; 50 people crowded into the single working elevator meant to carry no more than a dozen. Most terrible of all was the account of a a United Press reporter who happened to be on the scene: "I saw every feature of the tragedy visible from outside the building. I learned a new sound--a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk." And that is one of the least nightmarish passages in his report. Not everything that appeared in print was true, but you can bet every new horrific detail was being chewed over in every saloon, every fraternal clubroom, every parlor.
The Triangle fire was the antidote to claims by obstructionists such as Senator Sanford. It was hard to still argue "men could be counted upon to protect women" when even the weak safety laws weren't being enforced. It also put the public's focus on working women which helped dispel the sentimental, lace-bordered fantasy of every woman (well, every good woman) being a domestic goddess and mother; women also worked hard jobs and sometimes died in the workplace - in the fire the Maltese family, for example, lost their mother and two daughters, including a 14 year-old. And finally, it deflected attention from the concern that once suffrage passed, women would likely vote for prohibition laws.
Newspapers reflected the public's outrage mostly through editorial cartoons, but the angriest - and most eloquent - op/ed to be found anywhere appeared in the Press Democrat (and apparently, only in the PD). Most often identifying the victims as girls, the writer bitterly remarked, "this is a free country, and it has women to burn." If the impoverished young women didn't want to work in dangerous conditions they could quit like any other worker, because under the law, "all are equal." The editorial was unsigned, but dripped with the irony that flowed from the righteous pen of one Frances McG. Martin.
"PLENTY OF WOMEN"The frightful catastrophe in New York less than two weeks ago was even more frightful than was told by the telegraphic news. The most outrageous feature, as told by the New York papers, was that of the causes of the tragedy wherein 150 women and girls were roasted to death or smothered in smoke, or dashed to pieces on the pavement. The sacrifice was caused by oppression, greed and tyranny-- by inadequate laws for protection of the poor; by rich men's defiance of the law and by compliance of weak officials when rich men deemed it inexpedient to observe the law.
That towering building, ten stories tall and crowded with 2,000 working women, had previously been on fire six times within twelve months. Each fire was a warning and a prophecy of the terrible disaster that was to come.
That is not the full measure of the of the iniquity. To make sure that none of these girls could steal a yard of cloth [illegible microfilm] the Triangle Shirtwaist Company locked them behind an iron-barred door at the foot of a narrow stairway, and each evening when their work was done the company had them subjected to personal search--such search as policemen subject a sneak-thief to when they take him to jail. This door opened inward when opened at all and could not be opened when the door keeper fled with the key. When the lock was broken the door could not be opened because of the pile of dead bodies that weighed against it--about 80 girls piled on top one another.
When the girls went on strike because of the closed doors and the lack of sanitary appliances and the lack of fire escapes, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company's directors did not miss a meal. They calmly waited for starvation to drive the girls back again. They broke the strike, and the girls, driven by poverty and hunger, went back to work, those of them who could get back. Those who could not get back, went on the streets or went to work in other places probably equally dangerous. Fire Chief Croker say there are scores of them in New York City. Not many weeks ago twenty girls went to death in the same way in the same sort of building in New Jersey. The girls had their choice. They could either go to work in such places, or they could starve, or they could go on the streets.
This is a free country, and it has women to burn. There is the brutal essence of the industrial condition that "protect" a factory-owner's profits with a benevolent tariff, but deny protection to the lives of young women who toil and moil to earn their bread, and to make dividends for the mill-owners. Most of the girls in those factories work for starvation wages. Some of them who were killed in New York were earning only $3.50 a week, and only 22 among 2,000 wer earning as much as $18 a week apiece.
Hood's "Song of the Shirt" fits New York as well today as it fitted London when it was written:
"O, men with sisters, dear!
O, men with mothers and wives!
It is not linen you're wearing out,
But human creatures' lives."
Apostle of things as they are tell us that laws are made for rich and poor alike. Of course they are! The law forbids the rich as well as the poor, to steal milk from doorsteps, to beg in the streets, or to sleep in box-cars. This is a free country, and if girls object to working in ten-story firetraps for $3.50 a week, the law, before which all are equal, allows them the privilege of "quitting the job."
- Press Democrat editorial, April 7, 1911
LARGE CROWD ATTENDS THE SUFFRAGE MEETINGAt the meeting of the Woman's Suffrage League, held Saturday in Judge Emmet Seawell's court room, there was a large attendance of the ladies interested in the movement. Attorney F. McG. Martin made a splendid opening address and resided at the meeting. In her address she took up the suffrage movement point by point and explained them. Rev. C. Augustus Turner, formerly of New Zealand, made the principal address of the afternoon and gave his audience a talented presentation of the question.
- Santa Rosa Republican, April 21, 1911
VOTES FOR WOMENSanta Rosa, Cal., May 26, 1911
Editor REPUBLICAN: The women of California decidedly object to being called "suffragettes," a name that was first applied to the women of Great Britain, when they felt that they must actually fight to win the vote. Our women feel that no such procedure is necessary for, nor would it be becoming to, the women of America. They feel that the justice of their cause should appeal to every man who has mother, wife, sister or sweetheart, and that no coercion will be necessary to induce the men to roll up an overwhelming majority for women suffrage next October...
...A great many say, "But the women will not vote, if they should be given the right." The best women will vote, however, for when a duty is imposed upon a good woman, she never shirks her responsibility. On an average, about twenty per cent of the men do not vote, but is that any argument for disfranchising all men?
Count me on the right side of the woman suffrage question. - William Keith.
- Santa Rosa Republican, May 27, 1911
SUFFRAGE AND THE NEWSPAPER
Mrs. Mabel Craft Deering, State Chairman, and Mrs. W. A. Finley, County Press Chairman
Mrs. Mabel Craft Deering, who as Mabel Craft was widely known as one of California's brightest writers, has been chosen State Press Correspondent of the Woman's Suffrage movement. Mrs. Deering has returned to California and is now in San Francisco, where she will take active interest in the coming campaign. Attorney Frances McG. Martin, President of the Santa Rosa Political Equality Association, has received word from Mrs. Deering regarding her acceptance of the appointment as State Press Correspondent.
Mrs. W. A. Finley of this city has been asked to act as County Press Chairman and has accepted the position.
- Press Democrat, June 21, 1911