Posts Tagged ‘suffragist’


Photo: Library of Congress
This powerful image symbolizes the awakening of the nation’s women to the desire for suffrage. The torch bearer is striding across the western states, where women already had the right to vote, toward the east where women are reaching out.

This month I’ve been enjoying a different tea every day after my daughter-in-law had the kind thought of giving me a teabag-a-day Advent calendar. I do like trying new teas. Today I’m thinking about the role tea has played in American history. No, not just when men threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest “taxation without representation,” but when women urged people to buy Equality Tea.

Janelle Peters writes at the Atlantic, “Access to daily necessities has long been a priority for social-reform movements. … When it came time for women to get the vote, tea played a role, too. Women such as the wealthy Alva Vanderbilt-Belmont held ‘suffrage teas,’ where support for the cause was proclaimed. The tea parties also served as fund-raisers, a practice that extended to the teas themselves.

“In California, suffragist women showed how both tea and the national movement of women’s suffrage could be democratized at the state level. Two suffrage teas generated revenue for political organizing in the run-up to the 1911 election. … Equality Tea sprang up in Northern California and spread throughout the state. In Southern California, Nancy Tuttle Craig used her position as one of the only female grocers in the state to package a ‘Votes for Women’ tea. …

“By the late 19th century, the suffragette cause had stalled in the Golden State. … It took a decade and a half for California women to prove that they had a broad base of support to gain the right to vote in state elections. The 1911 vote was hard-fought. Suffrage leagues and reform-minded women organized feverishly, but women’s suffrage still did not pass in San Francisco. This time, the rest of the state made up the difference. Tea smoothed over the gap between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in supporting women’s suffrage.

“Equality Tea was based in Northern California. Distributed by the Woman’s Suffrage Party, it spread through the state. San Francisco storerooms served the tea in tearooms decorated with a Chinese theme. Suffrage-minded consumers could purchase Equality Tea in half-pound, whole-pound, and five-pound boxes. Varieties included Ceylon, English breakfast, young hyson, gunpowder, and oolong. Some suffrage organizations, like the Club Women’s Franchise League, served Equality Tea at their headquarters in the St. Francis Hotel on Saturday afternoons.

“[Equality Tea] was also sold at regional fairs and by mail order. Ads appeared in venues ranging from local newspapers to medical journals. Some grocers carried the tea, and

there were women who refused to pay their grocery bills if their grocer did not carry Equality Tea.

“The ability to order by mail assured that the tea’s purveyors did not discriminate against rural or lower-class residents, groups of the population with stronger support for women’s suffrage.

“Tea became a central feature of the political strategy of San Francisco suffragists. On August 22, 1911, The San Francisco Call reported that the Votes for Women club had prepared a ‘suffrage special’ train that would carry feminist speakers to the state fair in order to be heard by people from all parts of the state. … By emphasizing tea on the suffrage train, the Votes for Women club focused on how accessible the basic civic right could be.”

Read more at the Atlantic, here, while I head off for tea at Pamela’s home.

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