The Suffrage Movement in Glen Park: Backstory to the First March for Suffrage in America

Learn More: Glen Park's Johanna Pinther and the First March for Suffrage in America.

Over a century ago, the San Francisco Call in 1910 said this about the new district of Glen Park

 

"Nowhere else in San Francisco are their so many women’s improvement clubs in existence … The women’s clubs pursue a line slightly different from that of the men’s clubs … the necessity of cleanliness, beauty, and charity, at the same time helping in other matters ... This district is destined under proper supervision to become a charming residence section of this city."[1]
 

We see in this statement an important part of the genesis of the beloved character of today's Glen Park, a sylvan suburban enclave highlighted with rural tones in the heart of a metropolis of 850,000 people, a population that swells to over 1 million on any given weekday. Who were these women, and why were there so many women's clubs in Glen Park? Moreover, what were the paths and connections that would help navigate a Glen Park resident, Johanna Claussenius Kunigk Pinther Kane of 1006 Bosworth Street, to a position at the front of the line in the first march for suffrage in the United States, along with her step-daughter-in-law, Jeanette Wall Pinther, and California suffragist leader, Lillian Harris Coffin?

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Historic Overview of the Struggle for Women's Suffrage

The U.S. Bill of Rights proclaims, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."[2] Yet, American women after 1776 had no right to property or to their children upon separation from their husband, could not participate in jury service or have access to fair wages and working conditions, and significantly, did not have the right to vote. Abigail Adams, wife of the second president of the United States, was not blind to the inequality and implored her husband to , " ... remember the Ladies, … If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”[3,4]

 

The Seneca Falls (New York) Convention in 1848 was the first official gathering to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition of women. Attended, among others, by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and black social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the convention resolved that as "citizens of these United States, ... woman is man's equal -- was intended to be so by the Creator." Moreover, that it was "the duty of the women …   to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise."[3,5]

 

By 1851, Elizabeth Cady Stanton had teamed up with Quaker teacher Susan B. Anthony to address women's issues at abolitionist and temperance gatherings. While they were able to have property laws revised in the state of New York in 1860, changes elsewhere came ever so slowly. In 1862, the Homestead Act allowed any head of household to own land, including women, but in the same year the 2-year-old property laws in New York were repealed. By 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation had freed enslaved African Americans, and 2 years later, the Thirteenth Amendment would outlaw slavery altogether. With these successes in human rights, women hoped that the achievement of full civil rights, regardless of gender or race, would soon follow.[6]  

Those hopes were dashed in 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment failed to provide women of any race and African American men a clear right to vote. In response, two opposing suffrage strategies emerged. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) to work toward national enfranchisement based on the rights of citizenship. On the other hand, Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe organized the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), opting to target enfranchisement on a state by state basis, and encourage formation of suffrage organizations locally. They also supported achieving voting rights for African American men before women as a path towards enfranchisement. This philosophy was akin to that of the Republican Party, which in pursuit of African American civil liberties, had placed the rights of women "on the back burner."[3,6,7]

The Democrats, on the other hand, and quite contrary to today's party ideology, opposed voting rights for African Americans (Note: Republican/Democratic attitudes would undergo a gradual flip based on social and economic issues starting around the turn of the 20th century), and instead took up the cause for women's suffrage.[7,8] By 1869, the legislature of Wyoming Territory was controlled by Democrats. One politician, William Bright, a saloonkeeper by trade, led Wyoming Democrats in support of women's rights while opposing the Republican cause of rights for African Americans. As a saloonkeeper, Bright had seen first hand the paucity of women in his Territory. Moreover, the gold rush in his hometown of South Pass was waning, and people were leaving the Territory to seek fortune elsewhere. While a transcript of the debate is not recorded, recollections of those in attendance point to discussions of making Wyoming more attractive for settlement.[7]

 

At the time, there was 1 woman for every 6 men in Wyoming. So, apparently to help attract more women and families (and not necessarily for the achievement of social justice), Wyoming Democrats voted in 1869 to not only give women the right to vote, but also granted women property rights, and equal pay for female teachers. With this action, Wyoming Territory became the first government in the world to grant enfranchisement to women. One year later, the U.S. Fifteenth Amendment clarified the right to vote to African American men, but failed to include women of any race.[7,9]

For the next quarter century, the movement would be defeated again and again. In 1872, Anthony and other suffragists attempted to cast their votes in New York, leading to their arrest. By 1875, the issue of women's suffrage had reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In what may be to many an incomprehensible decision, the Court upheld the rights for states to deny women the right to vote. In 1877, NWSA backed a suffrage amendment but Congress failed to act on it for 10 years. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), established in 1874 and being led by Frances Willard in 1876, believed suffrage in an alcohol-free world was the route for improving society's moral standards. In 1887, suffragists again petitioned Congress for the right to vote and again, the measure was defeated. However, with each defeat, women's voices grew ever stronger. From the female perspective, the only way society could be improved would be to grant women the vote.[6]

NWSA and AWSA merged in 1890 to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Led first by Stanton and later by Anthony, the organization adopted the states-first plan. Then, after a 24-year lapse since the Territory (and now State) of Wyoming had granted women the right to vote, Colorado would finally follow suit in 1893, with Utah and Idaho both jumping on the bandwagon in 1896. The State of California had also placed suffrage on the ballot that year, but it had been soundly defeated. Because of the association of temperance with suffrage, the counties of San Francisco and Alameda, as well as the powerful Liquor Dealers League that supported those who both produced, and partook of, alcoholic beverages were key to its defeat.[3,6,10] By the end of the 19th century, there were a few districts nationwide that were granting suffrage to women in piecemeal fashion, such as in issues only related to schools (if she had children), or municipal measures (if she owned property). Yet, these examples were few and far between.[11]

 

After 1896, the movement throughout the eastern U.S. was in disarray, with little to no collaboration between organizations or, for that matter, the various social classes of women. On the west coast, California suffrage activities were centered in San Francisco, particularly through the efforts of Ellen Clark Sargent and her husband, U.S. Senator Aaron A. Sargent. It was Senator Sargent who first spoke the word "suffrage" in Congress, and who had worked to release Anthony from a New York jail in 1872. It was to be through Mrs. Sargent that Bay Area women were personally introduced to Anthony, leading to the organization of San Francisco's first woman's club, the Century Club, in 1888. Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst served as the club's as first president. By 1900, the California Federation of Women's Clubs would have 40 clubs with 6,000 total members under its umbrella statewide. Yet, with the death of Stanton in 1900, and Anthony in 1902, the torch for achievement of women's rights would pass to a new generation of women who would move the movement forward with newer and more modern approaches.[3,6,10,12,13]

Glen Park's "Movers and Shakers" After the Earthquake: Johanna and Theodore Pinther

Before 1906, the region that would become Glen Park was known as fertile land suitable for milch ranching (dairying) and vegetable crops, and so remote that in 1868 the area had become the site of the first dynamite factory in the United States, personally licensed by Alfred Nobel. Yet, the catastrophic San Francisco Earthquake and Conflagration of 1906 would change the region forever. By the time the fires had been quelled, 225,000 San Franciscans were homeless. While some would move to the North, East, or South Bay regions, many were attracted to the fertile hills and vales just south of Twin Peaks on the Old Rancho San Miguel, referred to by real estate agents as "the Switzerland of San Francisco."[14,15] This random gathering of personalities would soon place Glen Park on the map of California suffrage.

The Holly Park Improvement Club (Bernal Heights), situated just east of the Fairmount Tract and the future Glen Park, had been the first improvement club in San Francisco, and possibly all of California. Founded in 1879 by local residents in a district with no more than 50 homes and "only accessible by teams," members set out to bring the necessary infrastructure (eg, adequate roads and sidewalks, gas, electricity, city water and sewer, schools, parks, and protection from fire and crime) to their corner of the world. It was an idea that would soon catch on throughout San Francisco.[16]

The first improvement club in Glen Park was founded "shortly after the earthquake" by the district's iconic saloonkeeper August Straub, a resident of the district since 1900, and Theodore J. Pinther (pronounced "Pinter"), who is first listed as living at 502 Berkshire Street (now 1006 Bosworth, across from Hamerton Street) with his second wife, Johanna, in 1908. Pinther would serve as the first president of the Glen Park Improvement Association, comprised of both men and women, for many years.[17,18]

Theodore Pinther, a native of Germany, has an amazing life story. In brief, after emigrating in 1875, he worked as a clerk in New York City for a short period before moving to Chicago. There, he and first wife, Sophie Vogeler, would have 3 children in Chicago (Theodore E., Henry, and Hanna). He next appears in records in Denver as a grocery clerk in 1879, then later as manager of a German bakery and confectionary in Leadville, Colorado, the same town where the Guggenheims, Marshall Fields, and David May of Macy's would find their fortunes (the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown of RMS Titanic fame would not arrive until after Theodore had moved on). While the Pinthers were at a masquerade ball, the bakery was destroyed in a fire, but he was able to soon reopen at a new location. In 1881, Sophie was given a "benefit" by the Leadville community entitled, "The Song of the Physicians." This raises a question of whether she might have been struggling with an illness, because within a few years she would disappear from genealogical records.[19-26]

 

After leaving Leadville, Theodore would next make quite a name for himself in Southern California, first by his involvement with the German Colony Olivenhain. Members were required to be fluent in German and would receive 5 acres of of land to cultivate. Elected president, Theodore was sent from Denver to California to scout for land. He ended up purchasing all 4,443 acres of Rancho Encinitas for $66,500 (about $1.8 million today). When the 67 colonists arrived from Colorado in October 1884, they found the land too arid and water too scarce and alkaline. They also discovered Theodore had received a $10,000 commission as a result of the deal. Clearly unhappy, the colonists kidnapped Theodore for two days and, when released, he is ejected from the community.[27,28] 

 

He is next found as a prominent fruit grower in Los Angeles. Later, as a member of the Populist Party, Pinther was the spokesperson for Vinette's Army, a west coast unit of the Coxeyites of the Industrial Army. This left-wing movement was heavily supported by farmers and laborers throughout the United States who were angry with the capitalist elites of the Guilded Age. The Populists believed the “Eastern Elites” were monopolizing cities, banks, and railroads, thereby taking advantage of farmers by deflating the value of their crops and goods, and charging excessive rates for loans and shipping. When accused by the Populist opposition as being an anarchist, Pinther responded, "Anarchists advocate destruction, while I always advocate construction and building up of society and civilization, crowned by humanitarian and brotherly love.” As spokesperson for the working class, Theodore was standing up for the rights of the common man (and likely woman) as early as the mid-1890s. He and Johanna would marry shortly after the earthquake, on July 19, 1906.[29-35]

Johanna "Hanna" Pinther was born to George Claussenius and Augusta Schenck, both natives of Germany, in Marysville, California in 1861. The first of her multiple mentions in newspapers throughout her life occurred when at the age of 4, Johanna belted out a song with a friend at a church Christmas concert that "brought the house down ... with such demonstrations of applause as to endanger the seats of the church." By 1870, Johanna's biological mother had disappeared from genealogical records, and George is married to second wife Eliza Sonneborn.[36,37] Eliza's sister, Aunt Sophie Sonneborn Koerner, appears to have played a major role in young Johanna's life, including being the likely candidate for teaching Johanna skills of the highest quality in sewing and embroidery.[38] These skills would play a critical role in Johanna's future suffrage activities.

By 1870, George had moved the family to 6 Telegraph Road in San Francisco, where they remained for several years. Located near today's Mission and Randall Streets, Johanna would have been able to gaze across the Southern Pacific Line running through the Bernal Cut to the Fairmount Tract and the future Glen Park.[39] The family next moved to San Rafael in Marin County, where Johanna married her first husband, Rudolph Kunigk, in 1883.[40] After giving birth to her only child, Rudolph, Jr., in San Francisco in 1884, the Kunigks moved to Sacramento where Johanna was the proprietor of a busy dressmaking and embroidery shop.[41] For unknown reasons, she divorced Rudolph in 1897 and eventually returned to San Francisco with her son.[42]

By 1905, Johanna and Rudolph, Jr. were living on Army (Cesar Chavez) Street near Sanchez Street in Noe Valley and is listed in the directory as teaching music.[43] By 1907, new husband Theodore Pinther had joined them.[44] How and when they met is unknown, but it was likely through events associated with the active and thriving German community of San Francisco, in which Theodore was well known. Johanna's half-brothers, George and Max, had also been members of the Sacramento contingent of the Industrial Army, which may have been a topic of their introductory conversations.[45]

There is no public evidence that Johanna was participating in suffrage or other civic activities before moving to Glen Park in late 1907 or early 1908. Yet, by the way she bursts on to the scene, she likely was already a supporter of the suffrage cause. Given Theodore's public presence, perhaps she had been inspired to step out from behind the curtain to do more. So, by early 1908, both Johanna and Theodore were heavily engaged in the pursuit of civic improvements for Glen Park.

 

As president of the Glen Park Improvement Association, Theodore often presented the needs of the new district to decision-makers. At a meeting of the Utilities Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on February 8, 1908, Theodore spoke for the residents of Glen Park requesting the City demand the conversion of the privately-owned Crocker Estate Picnic Grounds (today's Glen Canyon Park Recreation Area) into a public park and playground. Also at this meeting was Mrs. Lovell White of the Outdoor Art League of the California Club, based in San Francisco, who was doing all she could to save Telegraph Hill from total destruction by the notorious quarrymen, the Gray Brothers.[46]

 

Mrs. Lovell White and the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club

Mrs. Lovell (Laura Lyon) White is considered by many to be the founding Mother of San Francisco Bay Area conservation efforts, as important as the Bay Area founding Fathers: naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir, and William Kent. In 1907, Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, purchased approximately 600 acres of old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in Redwood Canyon near Mill Valley in Marin County from the Tamalpais Land & Water Company, of which Lovell White was president. It is believed that Laura White encouraged her husband to sell the canyon to the Kents for $45,000, rejecting a $100,000 bid from the North Coast Water Company that had plans to log and dam the site. The Kents then donated Redwood Canyon to the federal government under the Antiquities Act to establish Muir Woods National Monument in January 1908. Earlier in 1890, Lovell White had founded the town of Mill Valley at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, hiring Michael M. O'Shaughnessy, chief engineer of both San Francisco and the future Hetch-Hetchy Water Project, to lay out the street plan.[47-50] 

Laura White, active in women's suffrage since 1896, had hosted Susan B. Anthony on a trip to the peak of Mt. Tamalpais on the Mill Valley-Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway (the so-called "Crookedest Railroad in the World").[51,52] She established the California Club (San Francisco) in 1897, an organization that, in 1905, would merge with the San Francisco Outdoor Art League she had also founded (Theodore Pinther would speak at the California Club in June 1908 regarding the sanitary conditions of the cities of the world).[53] White had also become the driving force in the development of public playgrounds in San Francisco - she and the California Club had established the first public playground in San Francisco (at Hyde and Bush Streets) in 1898.[54] She later founded the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club in 1902, which continues to be active today.[47,48,50] 

 

Mill Valley had long been a residential and leisure destination for wealthy ferry commuters. It had also become a place for working class excursionists seeking respite from the brick and mortar confines of San Francisco to camp among the redwoods and tramp up to the summit of Mt. Tamalpais.[55] But Mrs. White was greatly concerned over the health and well-being of the Mill Valley landscape with so many leaving evidence of their visits behind. As Glen Park would later be referred, Mill Valley residents considered their community a "Little Switzerland," with its redwoods, hills, and streams. According to one report, "With better transportation, came hikers and excursionists. The streets on weekends were thronged with crowds and toughs, and the tinkle of bottles flying off the mountain railway was a familiar sound. This litter and destruction of our native plants aroused the indignation of a group of Mill Valley women who met at the home of Mrs. Laura White to form a women's improvement club."[56] As was stated in the bylaws of the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club:

"The purpose of this organization shall be to preserve the natural scenery of Mill Valley and the surrounding country, to beautify the grounds around public buildings, to endeavor to create public sentiment against wanton destruction of birds, game, and in all other directions to encourage the development of Outdoor Art, as well as to encourage in what is known as civic, social, and literary work."[57]

The Glen Park Outdoor Art League

As the 20th century dawned, it was becoming increasingly apparent that urban areas were in need of civic revitalization. This urban progressivism, the City Beautiful movement, became a call to arms for many in the San Francisco Bay Area for instilling civic loyalty and pride via community service to all. The movement pursued beautification and adornment of the "village" through design, architecture, and monuments (Municipal Art); city-provided services such as water and sewers, street grading and sidewalks (Village and Civic Improvement); and the development and maintenance of parks and conservation of natural settings (Outdoor Art). This collective spirit defined a number of civic activities in the early 1900s and provided a stepping stone for women to take on more public roles. According to Laura White, "Outdoor art is democratic, and belongs to the people."[47,58] 

The similarities and possible links between the Mill Valley and Glen Park movements are intriguing. Whether there actually was a previously established connection between the Pinthers of Glen Park with Laura White and/or other members of the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club has yet to be determined. It may have been Johanna's Aunt Sophie who, with her husband Max, became early residents of Mill Valley and ran its largest hotel, the Belleview. The Koerners were known as "excellent caterers and a fine host and hostess ... concerts, plays, and banquets were frequent occurrences."[59] The Koerners also participated in social events that included the Whites and the O'Shaughnessys, so they appear to have been members of Mill Valley civic and social circles of the day. In addition to teaching Johanna the skills of sewing and embroidery, Aunt Sophie may have made the social introductions early on, as she had passed away by 1905, 3 years before Glen Park activities kicked off in full stride.[60-62]

Or, it may have been Theodore Pinther himself. Perhaps it was happenstance that Theodore was speaking at the Utilities Commission of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at the same time as Laura White on February 8, 1908, or maybe the two civic activists had met at an earlier meeting, possibly through other Mill Valley connections. At the time of Theodore's death in 1918, two undeveloped lots in Mill Valley were included as part of his estate. Undeveloped lots were not uncommon in Mill Valley, as some were used for summer and weekend camping excursions. How long they had owned the property is not known.[63,64] There was also a Max Pinther living on Chenery Street in the Fairmount Tract in 1907.[44] His son, Alfred ("Al") Pinther, a future resident of Kentfield, would be actively involved with several groups associated with landscape conservation and the theatric arts on Mt. Tamalpais during a good part of the 20th century.[65] The evidence to confirm whether Max and Alfred Pinther may have been related to Theodore, however, remains elusive.

 

At any rate, the announcement of the organization of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, stated to be the first suburban organization of its kind in San Francisco, had been announced on February 3, 1908, 5 days before the supervisors' meeting attended by White and Pinther. As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, the reasons for starting the Glen Park Outdoor Art League were quite similar to the stated purpose of the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club in 1902[66]:

"The league is a new society established for the purposes of beautifying the recently settled suburb of Glen Park, and improving its sanitary conditions. It has forty members, with committees actively at work for the general good of the community ... The great fire of 1906, which scattered the residents of the congested areas downtown, discovered Glen Park for those who drifted into the open spaces among the trees. Since then, they have bought lots and built homes varying from refugee cottages to pretty bungalows ... The fire was followed by canned foods, and these evidences of the march of twentieth-century civilization were a blemish upon the slopes and roadways of Glen Park. The first work of the ladies was to make careless residents realize the baneful effects of a landscape littered with tin cans, so they disappeared as if by magic."

The first president of the League was Mrs. Caroline Evers (who in 1913 would become the proprietor of the Glen Park Nickleodeon), with Johanna Pinther as vice-president. Based on the number of woman's clubs Johanna would organize and lead, she likely played a role in the founding of the Glen Park Outdoor League. Adhering to the tenets of City Beautiful, Glen Park Outdoor Art League members set out garbage cans for refuse collection, planted roses and other plants for beautification, and began working with the Glen Park Improvement Association to bring needed infrastructure to the new community. As it was fashioned after Laura White's Outdoor Art League, they hoped to invite her to Glen Park, "with the view of securing her influence and assistance."[66] Mrs. White would visit Glen Park at least once, but under another organization led by Johanna Pinther (as explained below).[67] 

The Glen Park Outdoor Art League was not only putting the philosophies of City Beautiful into action, but also giving these women, newly acquainted and randomly associated because of the earthquake, invaluable experience in civic activism. Women's clubs had first appeared in the mid-1800s but at that time, had been more focused on culture and self-improvement. Yet with each suffrage defeat, women began to fight back harder and club activities began to transition more into the civic arena.[68-70] 

 

Like the ladies of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, many groups were spin-offs from men's clubs. As the 19th century ended, clubs had shifted their focus to community improvement, beautification, education, public health, home economics, government reform, and conservation of natural resources. Women had traditionally been “moral guardians” but in the Progressive era, they were now becoming the force behind the men. In the practice of “social motherhood” and “municipal housekeeping,” their activities in caretaking and moral authority had been moved out of the home and into the community to not only help improve living conditions, but to demonstrate their qualifications as man's equal.[68-70]

 

Club women in San Francisco and Marin quickly adopted what would become known as the "California Plan" for suffrage. As noted earlier, the suffrage effort throughout the country became disorganized after 1896. The formation of the California Club in 1897 had been an early step of the new plan. Where other suffrage efforts had siloed the social classes, with some refusing to collaborate beyond social barriers, the California Plan demanded unity through the bridging of classes: white women of the upper-, middle-, and working classes, though they may not necessarily like each other, would collaborate as a single entity (like suffrage organizations across the United States, women of color were excluded to preserve unity between women of Southern and Northern backgrounds.) In addition, this collaboration had one, and only one, goal: GET THE VOTE! There would be no comingling of temperance or other causes with suffrage, and no political party endorsements. Now that it was the 20th century, new methods would be used to spread the word, including door-to-door canvassing, the posting of announcements on billboards and electric signage, and motoring in the new horseless carriages from neighborhood to neighborhood and town to town to circulate the message to as many people as they could.[3,71] To date, no evidence regarding the sentiments or desire of Glen Park women to cross the racial divide and include people of color in their clubs has been located. However, given that the influx of new residents to Glen Park after the earthquake appears to have been predominantly white, and keeping with the notion of the suffrage movement to maintain collaboration between women with familial affiliations to the Northern and Southern United States, membership in Glen Park clubs was likely all white, as well.

In their first 9 months of reported activity, the ladies of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, often working in concert with the Glen Park Improvement Club, would achieve much success. The ladies met every 2 weeks at the Glen Park Pavilion (the site of today's Glen Canyon Park Recreation Center). They also seemed to rotate presidents rather frequently, perhaps to give more women experience in leadership. In the first year or so of operation, other presidents included Mrs. Ada Frances Parker Stillings, and Mrs. A.J. Bierwirth. After starting with beautification efforts, they moved straight to infrastructure, working with the men to fill in Lippard Street between Glen Avenue (today's Chenery Street) and Berkshire Street (now Bosworth) so that teams of horses and pedestrians could safely cross Islais Creek to access the Sunnyside and Oceanview districts. They were able to secure 14 street lights for Glen Park, in addition to those obtained by the men's group. The women distributed a petition among residents for gas lines, raised funds to build Glen Park's first volunteer fire department, and established Glen Park's first library, located in Mrs. Mary Bridget Mullaly Hamilton's dry goods store at 2975 Diamond Street, today the site of the Glen Park BART station. On top of all this, the ladies also held several dances and socials, and participated in the first march for suffrage in the United States. Noe Valley resident Mrs. Jeanette Wall Pinther, wife of Theodore's son, optometrist Theodore E. Pinther, Jr., participated in several of the League's events with Johanna.[1,20,72-78]

Mrs. Albert John Bierwirth, as president of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League in 1908, represented both the League and the Bosworth Street Improvement Club in support of a Glen Park playground for the Mission. At a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1908, Mrs. Bierwirth is described as "pitting herself against four men" to champion the cause of purchasing the Crocker Estate lands for the purposes of a Glen Park playground, as opposed to buying the 130-acre Twin Peaks tract. "What's the use of asking this city to spend $500,000 of funds accruing from the next bond issue when we can get what we do want for $90,000? We who reside in this part of the city are not supplied with the means of visiting Golden Gate Park. We must go through the ordeal of two hours' jamming in the streetcars before we get there or else we travel in autos, and we are not of the class that can afford autos." She furthered, "The hills are alright to look at, but what we mothers of the Mission want is a place where we can go with our children and enjoy the open air. The people who live in the Mission have made San Francisco, yet to-day [sic] we have no place we can go for an outing."[79,80] 

San Francisco Woman's Club

Apparently, Johanna Pinther was quite the multi-tasker, keeping herself busy with a variety of activities in the years immediately preceding the second vote for California suffrage in 1911. While she had likely founded or co-founded the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, she quickly became a leader and participant in other woman's groups.

While Vice-President of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, she was also President of the San Francisco Woman's Club (which she likely founded), while still associated with the Glen Park Improvement Club. As early as March 7, 1908, she is reported to have spoken at the San Francisco Sanitation Board to request that the City improve sanitation conditions in Glen Park. Also at this meeting was Mrs. Lillian Harris Coffin (who after becoming frustrated with the methods of the California Club had started the San Francisco Equal Suffrage League in 1906 and was later named head of the Central State Committee of the California Equal Suffrage Association [CESA]), and Mrs. Mary Sperry, the president of CESA.[81,82]

By the summer of 1908, Johanna Pinther was associating with leaders in the California suffrage effort on a regular basis. In July, approximately 100 women active in suffrage across the United States attended a basket picnic in the Mill Valley redwood grove of Mrs. Mary Cullen, secretary of the Mill Valley Suffrage Club. Also attending was Lillian Harris Coffin, a resident of Mill Valley. Mrs. Harris had been the toastmistress at the anniversary dinner of the Mill Valley Outdoor Art League in 1905, at which she quipped, "Man's Inconsistencies: Three-fifths of him genius, three-fifths sheer fudge." At the breakfast, Mrs. Coffin introduced all the speakers, including Mrs. Mary Sperry, Mrs. Agnes Pease of Salt Lake City (president of the Women's Republican Club of Utah, where women had already been voting for a dozen years), Mrs. Mary Cullen, and Mrs. Johanna Pinther, the latter who read "an interesting paper" about the suffrage effort in Germany. Mrs. Mary Gamage, president of the San Francisco Equal Suffrage League, was also one of the picknickers. Laura White was not present at this event.[71,83-85] It would be this group of women who would play key roles in the first suffrage march in the United States.

 

As noted earlier, Mrs. Laura White would make at least one visit to Glen Park. Under the auspices of the San Francisco Woman's Club, Arbor Day was held at Glen Park School on March 21, 1909. In a program planned by club president Johanna Pinther, Theodore Pinther, president of the Glen Park Improvement Association, "... paid tribute to Mrs. Lovell White for her work in the preservation of the Calaveras Grove [of giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the Sierra foothills] and said that the world at large owed her a vote of thanks." Four trees were planted at the school. The first by Mrs. Henry Payot (president of the Forum Club, dedicated to the "literary culture and social intercourse" among its 100 members), who dedicated the tree to President William Howard Taft. Next, Mrs. Helen Hecht (president of the Philomath Club that was "interested in all movements of social and communal concern") planted a tree in honor of San Francisco Mayor Edward Robeson Taylor, and Mrs. Lillian Coffin planted a tree in honor of John McClaren, the first superintendent of Parks in San Francisco. Lastly, Johanna Pinther planted a tree in honor of noted horticulturist and agriculturist Luther Burbank. The event was repeated the following year, again led by the Pinthers and with Mrs. E.L. Baldwin, the new president of the California Club, attending to assist with the planting of 100 acacia trees.[86-91]

Less than 3 months later, several bond issues were up for vote. While the women did not yet have the right to cast ballots, according to reports they worked "very hard" to raise awareness of their respective bond issues through canvassing and bringing voters to the polls. For example, Mrs. Mary Gamage was one of several women who distributed campaign literature in street cars and in the neighborhoods of polling places; Mrs. Lovell White was the chief advocate for the Telegraph Hill park project; Mrs. Lillian Harris Coffin worked to spread the message about all bond issues; and Johanna Pinther, president of the San Francisco Woman's Club, joined Mrs. A.J. Bierwirth, president of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, to work on all issues but chiefly, the Glen Park playground project.[92]

In 1911, Johanna Pinther became president of yet another women's club: the Woman's James Rolph, Jr. Club. Women of the club were actively canvassing house to house throughout Glen Park in support of the first run of the mayor who would become known as "Sunny Jim." After decorating the Globe Theater in the Outer Mission with flowers and ferns, the club women planned to march to the theater "as a body," much as Johanna Pinther had done in the first suffrage march in the United States.[93]

 

Other examples of Johanna's participation in activities sponsored by the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, the San Francisco Woman's Club, and other organizations in the years leading up to the suffrage vote are far too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say those already described provide a snapshot of how both the Glen Park Outdoor Art League and the San Francisco Woman's Club were adhering to the tenets of both the California Plan for suffrage, as well as the progressive City Beautiful movement. Simultaneously, they were fighting for women's equality while striving to improve the condition of Glen Park and conserve what is now known as Glen Canyon Park as green space for public use.

Other suffrage clubs would soon sprout up in Glen Park and the Fairmount Tract. In 1910, the Women's Glen Park & Fairmount District Club had "... taken hold of the district in its plastic state and [intended] to mold it into a district of charm and beauty.” They planned to plant trees and lawns, improve roads, and install playgrounds.[1] In 1911, the Glen Park Suffrage Club, presided by Mrs. Mary J. Holmes of Glen Park, would lead the group in its participation in the City Campaign and Election Committee of the California Campaign for Women Suffrage that was soon to appear on the statewide ballot.[94]
 

The Sixth Star Would Belong to California

The women of Glen Park were well represented as the march toward California suffrage progressed. By 1910, the state of Washington had added the fifth star to the suffrage banner.[6] Then, in 1911, it was finally time for the State of California to come to the bat once again.

When the tallies were complete, the margin of victory was razor thin. In the entire State of California, suffrage won by only 3,587 votes. Before results from the interior of the state had been received, most newspapers throughout California had boldly called that women had once again met defeat. Only the San Francisco Call predicted victory for suffrage and, in the end, they were right. Taking their own victory lap as the only newspaper in the State to have made the right call, the Call editors proclaimed the "political emancipation of California women ... [was] throbbing, thrilling, inspiring news!"[95,96] 

Surprisingly, it would not be the metropolitan regions that would help propel suffrage to victory. The measure barely passed in the County of Los Angeles, and in Contra Costa County victory was achieved with a margin of only 12 votes. The bill that would give women the right to vote had been soundly defeated by 14,000 votes (out of approximately 58,000 votes cast) in the County of San Francisco, and it also lost in Marin, Alameda, and San Mateo Counties. On the contrary, the success of suffrage would be due to women's grassroots efforts statewide, particularly in the rural counties of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Here, suffragists and their supporters had canvassed, billboarded, and motored around to spread the message that would help push women victorious over the finish line. As headlined by the New York Times, "CALIFORNIA FARMERS GIVE VOTE TO WOMEN."[71,95-97]

The first woman to register to vote in San Francisco had a bit of an "in" ... Mrs. Emma Harrington, of 21st Street between Church and Sanchez Streets, was the wife of San Francisco County Registrar E.C. Harrington. But, Glen Park's Johanna Pinther would be one of the first 20 women to register to vote in the city on October 17, 1911, just 5 days after the election. She did so as a Republican, as did the majority of other Glen Park women reported to have been active in suffrage activities.[98,99]

The first election San Francisco women could vote in was held on March 28, 1912. Newspapers reported the day in generally patronizing tones, stating women were "early birds" and that the "worm" was being first at the polls. It was estimated that citywide, only about 60% of women registered had turned out, but the percentage was as high as 75% to 80% in city districts where women's clubs had been active - by today's standards, rather impressive numbers. Women were noted by observers to be adept at casting the ballot "like a veteran." Reportedly, the first woman to officially cast her vote in San Francisco was one who, like Mrs. Harrington, also had an "in": Mrs. John B. Acton of Steiner Street was the wife of the inspector of elections at her polling place. On the ballot was only one, single measure: a simple Yes or No to decide on whether the bond issue for a new Civic Center should be approved. One woman was reportedly so incensed, she declared to election officers, "You men have given up to understand that there was something mysterious, requiring long study and special knowledge, about voting. Why, it's so easy that it's too easy!"[100,101]

 

The measure passed resoundingly by a margin of 11:1. Today, with the help of the women's vote in their very first San Francisco election, we are able to enjoy today the architectural splendor of the Beaux Arts complex at Civic Center.[101] What better way to celebrate enfranchisement than with such a fine example of Municipal Art, representing a fundamental tenet of the City Beautiful.

After Suffrage: The Fate of the Women, and the Women's Clubs of Glen Park

Once California suffrage was achieved, the focus of women's clubs shifted from enfranchisement to more of an educational role of current affairs so that women could tender informed votes and engage effectively in civic affairs. Some clubs merged with other groups or disbanded altogether. This was also true in Glen Park. 

Glen Park's very first woman's club, the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, appears to have stayed active for several more years. In 1915, the League, then under the leadership of Mrs. Carrie Bauer of Mizpah Street, was added to the California Federation of Women's Clubs, and in the following year would be listed in the Official Register and Directory of Women's Clubs in America. It seems Mrs. Bauer may have been the Glen Park Outdoor Art League's last president, as no evidence of additional activity after 1916 has been found.[102,103]

Mrs. Mary Holmes and Mrs. Albert Bierwirth

Unfortunately, no additional information can be found about Mrs. Mary J. Holmes of Sussex Street, president of the Glen Park Suffrage Club in 1911. Similarly, other than planning for a Glen Park Outdoor Art League float for the Mission District New Year's Eve Parade in December 1908, no further mention of Mrs. Albert J. Bierwirth of Surrey Street has been located.[104] 

Ada Parker Stillings

The impact of some of the women on civic and social affairs would not necessarily end with suffrage. Ada Frances Parker Stillings of Nordhoff Street, the second president of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, would become, unofficially, one of the first San Francisco women to vote: she and her husband, Calvin, had moved to Tacoma, Washington in 1910, just as that state secured enfranchisement for women. She would go on to live an impressive life of community service as a police matron in Tacoma (where she singlehandedly captured an escaped convict), a nurse at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, and then until the age of 86, as a caretaker of retired cowboys in Silver City, New Mexico.[105]

 

Mrs. Caroline Evers

After being the proprietor of the Glenodeon Theater on Diamond Street from 1913 to the early 1920s, Mrs. Caroline Evers and her husband Edward of Chilton Avenue would leave Glen Park to establish Camp Evers on the Los Gatos/Glenwood Highway (today's Highway 17 to Santa Cruz) in the area of what later became Scotts Valley. Camp Evers was close to the entrance of Big Basin Redwoods, the first California state park that had been saved by the Sempervirens Club. Perhaps the Evers had been inspired by Mrs. Laura White (who, among her many leadership roles, had served as president of the Sempervirens Club from 1903 to 1906) to support excursionists seeking respite in the "outdoor art" provided by the magnificent redwoods. Automobilists could stop for gas and pick-up items at the Camp Evers general store, as well as picnic, camp, and dance into the wee hours of the night. Camp Evers remained a major destination on travels to and from Santa Cruz for several decades.[106-110]

Mrs. Carrie Bauer

Mrs. Carrie Bauer of Mizpah Street, the last president of the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, would serve on the first all-female jury in San Francisco in 1913. In 1929, she was part of a group of housewives that became known as the "Hog Ranch Vigilantes," whose mission was to clear out the last remnants of Butchertown near the outlet of Islais Creek on San Francisco Bay. They would be successful in doing so by 1930. According to her descendants, Mrs. Bauer played a major role in securing the transfer of the Crocker Estate Picnic Grounds in Glen Canyon to the City of San Francisco for a public playground in the early 1920s, and that her funeral cortege in 1932 had circumnavigated the new playground before traveling to the cemetery in Colma. While her obituary does state her funeral was held at her home on Mizpah Street, the remainder of the family history still requires confirmation.[111-113]

Johanna Pinther

After the vote for suffrage, Johanna Pinther continued in her role as president of the San Francisco Woman's Club. In 1912, the club petitioned the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to open Nordhoff Street for access to the Sunnyside, and to extend sewers to "Glen Park proper," especially Lippard, Clinton (today's Chilton) and Hamerton, as originally planned in the bond.[114] She was also involved with the Glen Park Political League, formed in 1912 as a nonpartisan club with the purpose of educating members about political issues. At one meeting, they heard a presentation by Mrs. Mary Gamage. Eventually, they would merge with the Glen Park Suffrage Club.[115,116] 

As late as February 1915, Johanna Pinther is listed as the president of the San Francisco Woman's Club and the Glen Park Political League, with the former advertised as meeting monthly at her Bosworth Street residence. Yet, as early as July 1913 she is unexpectedly found planning the 4th of July celebration at the Marshall Monument in Coloma, California in the Sierra foothills, site of Sutter's Mill where gold was discovered in 1848. Her son, Rudolph Kunigk, Jr., is also on an event committee. She received a final decree for divorce from Theodore Pinther in El Dorado County in May 1915 and married Henry Kane, a member of a Coloma family of pioneer fruit growers in October of the same year. Three years later, Theodore Pinther was killed instantly after being stuck by a United Railroads car at Clement Street and 24th Avenue in February 1918. He was 75 years old.[117-122]

 

Johanna would live the remainder of her life in Coloma, continuing to be active in civic endeavors and teaching piano in nearby Placerville. She would become a member of the Marguerite Parlor No. 12 of the Native Daughters of the Golden West in Placerville, and was listed in the California Pioneer Immigrant Files as a daughter of George Claussenius in April 1932. She passed away in Coloma in 1938 at the age of 77, and is buried in Placerville Union Cemetery. While there no headstone can be found, an oak tree has grown on her designated plot ... perhaps a "Tree of Life" for a life well lived.[113-127]

Closing Remarks

In the new district of Glen Park in the early 20th century, a major catastrophe led to the random assembly of a number of dedicated and impassioned women. The suffragists of Glen Park, who brought along a variety of skills and talents, not only adhered to the fundamental concepts of the City Beautiful movement, but also helped develop, refine, and perpetuate the best practices of the California Plan for women's rights, a plan that would soon be successfully adopted by a number of states east of the Rocky Mountains.[3,71,82] With levels of seemingly ceaseless energy, the women of Glen Park, led by Johanna Pinther, would play a significant role in helping to change the course of California history.

 

These women would also leave their collective personal mark, and we can extend to them many thanks and deep gratitude for their work not only to achieve equality for women, but for also helping to forge the charming character of Glen Park that we continue to enjoy today, more than a century later.

Link to Resources

Learn More: Glen Park's Johanna Pinther and the First March for Suffrage in America.

Article by Evelyn Rose. For additional information, contact GlenParkHistory@gmail.com.

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