The City Council will adopt a resolution tonight recognizing women’s equality and supporting the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
“Whereas, the year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of women’s right to vote in the United States, and City of Pasadena actively supports the 2020 celebrations of the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which recognized women’s right to vote,” the resolution reads.
The resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, the sole woman on the City Council.
McAustin has been working with several local women, including Mayor Terry Tornek’s wife Maria, planning events to honor the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment.
“We have been planning how we can incorporate that celebration of women’s suffrage into the many events that the City does over the year,” McAustin said. “And in addition, we are planning some special events. All of this will be taking place in 2020. Now that we’re at the beginning of the year, one of the first things we’re doing is celebrating it by recognizing the City’s commitment to women, through its formation of the Commission on the Status of Women, which we established in 1977.”
Like other groups denied the right to vote, women faced physical abuse and even death in the fight for their rights.
On Nov. 14, 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, 33 women were arrested for picketing outside the White House and endured what has become known as the “Night of Terror” at the Northern Virginia prison.
The male prison guards at the Northern Virginia prison chained Lucy Burns’ hands to the bars above her cell and forced her to stand all night. Another member of the group, Dorothy Day, was brutally slammed twice on an iron bench.
Suffragist Dora Lewis was knocked unconscious after she was thrown into a dark cell and her head smashed against an iron bed, knocking her out. Lewis’s cellmate, Her cellmate Alice Cosu, suffered a heart attack and was denied medical care until the next morning.
“It’s just enormous when you think the fight that women had to go though,” McAustin said. “They weren’t given the vote, they had to fight for the vote to get it.”
“My grandmother was born in 1900 and I remember her telling me about when she was first able to vote. It’s in my lifetime memory — I know someone who was directly affected by it. I’m the only [Pasadena] City Councilmember who’s a woman, and that’s sad. I’m embarrassed about that when I go outside the city and people ask me how many women are on the City Council.”
Not too long ago, Pasadena City Hall was led by women. In 2007 City Manager Cynthia Kurtz, City Clerk Jane Rodriguez, City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris and Public Information Officer Ann Erdman held some of the highest positions at City Hall.
Of that group only Bagneris remains. Lisa Derderian was named Public Information Officer after William Boyer resigned.
Women are running for three of the four council seats in the March 3 election.
McAustin has announced she is not seeking reelection. Felicia Williams and Tricia Keane are running to capture the District 2 seat she currently holds. Charlotte Bland is running in District 4 and Tamerlin Godley in District 6.
“Pasadena is such a progressive city, we should have far more women on the City Council,” McAustin said. “And when we look at what’s happening today in the world at large, and you see the efforts of voter suppression that are occurring across the United States, celebrating women’s suffrage just reminds us how essentially important it is to have the right to vote and to exercise that right to vote. And I think we’re going to see women exercising their right to vote in record numbers this year.”
No woman is competing in this year’s mayoral race, although former District 1 Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, who made it to the runoff election in the 2016 race, did contemplate a run.
“Women are taken seriously as candidates, but at a much higher bar for minimum qualifications compared to men,” said Robinson, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, greater Pasadena area chapter. “There is definitely a double standard or more by gender and race.”