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BJ Blanchard: Notes from Glen Ellen, Aug. 29

Picketing the White House, January 2, 1917 - New York State Day: photo 5

BJ BLANCHARD,

Every time I go to vote at our little Glen Ellen firehouse I think of my grandmother, Beatrice Reynolds Kinkead. On Aug. 26 this year I thought of her more as we celebrated Women’s Equality Day.

Grandmother Bea was, by all accounts, genius-smart and an early graduate of UC Berkeley in 1895. Frustrated by the mundane muddy horse-filled streets of Upper Lake, Lake County, she and her sister Grace bolted early out of Lake County and traveled by wagon to Ukiah, by coach to probably Sausalito, and ferry to Berkeley, for their educations.

Later, by 1899 she was teaching Latin back east at Vassar, was a “Fellow by Courtesy” at Bryn Mawr, and happily married with four handsome boy children. But she, a proud American, did not have a voice in her country’s politics; she wasn’t allowed to vote. So, when Alice Paul and others announced a call to arms for women’s suffrage, Grandma Bea trained down to Washington D.C. to participate.

Grandma Bea was part of the banner-carrying, well-dressed “Silent Sentinels” of upper-middle class educated women who picketed along the White House fence in February 1917 for Women’s Right to Vote. She and 15 other picketers chained themselves to the fence, were arrested for “obstructing traffic” on the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk, and sent to Occoquan Workhouse. At the workhouse, conditions were unpleasant, with only water in a bucket with a communal dipper, inedible food and crowded conditions.

Apparently, public opinion was in favor of the Sentinels and against President Wilson’s apathy toward women’s participation in democracy, so the tide turned. Though willing to serve their full terms of 60 days, the first picketers, Grandma included, were quickly pardoned by the President, so Grandma Bea was in Occoquan for only three days.

This year marks the 97th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, ensuring women the right to vote. A proclamation is being made by the City of Sonoma:

“Whereas on Aug. 26, 2017, we mark the 97th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution which secured the right to vote for women;

And, Whereas, women now constitute nearly 50 percent of our workforce, the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools, and an increasing number of primary breadwinners;

And Whereas, even with the gains women have made, work remains to be done in many areas and especially regarding equal pay for equal work;

Therefore, the City of Sonoma proclaims Aug. 26, 2017 as Women’s Equailty Day, marking the 97th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment, celebrating the achievements of women and recommitting to realizing gender equality in the City of Sonoma, including equal pay for equal work.

Congratulations, women and men of America.”