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Epigraphs: The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part III, Chapter 7

This statement by Madame Lillian Nordica is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 7: A Whirlwind  From shore to shore let rights be flashed

My parents passed their love for opera  on to me so I was delighted to discover Madame Lillian Nordica’s role in the 1911 woman suffrage referendum in California. Male voters had soundly defeated the California Women’s Suffrage Amendment in an 1896 referendum. In 1911, suffragists launched a “whirlwind campaign.” Veterans of the losing 1896 campaign and new recruits, and suffragists from across America seized their task with “unbounded enthusiasm.” As, did the opposition.

A special election was scheduled for October 10. At noon, on October 9, suffragists were

galvanized by the news that the world-renowned opera singer Madame Lillian Nordica, who was in San Francisco to sing at the groundbreaking for the Panama Celebration, would appear in support of woman suffrage that night in Union Square. By seven o’clock, thousands of people filled the square and jammed the streets. A band played. Suffragists gave speeches standing in automobiles stationed around the square. Madame Nordica arrived at nine o’clock riding in an automobile decorated with garlands of oak leaves, giant yellow chrysanthemums, “Votes for Women” pennants, and a white blanket embroidered in yellow draped over the front. An elegant, gracious woman, Madame Nordica gave a short speech, and sang “America the Beautiful,” changing a phrase to “From shore to shore let rights be flashed.” Then, she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” asking the crowd to sing with her.

The next day, Election Day, a large photograph and an article headlined: DIVA SINGS

FOR SUFFRAGE, appeared on the front page of The San Francisco Call. The vote was so close that newspapers across the country reported that the amendment had been defeated. Only The San Francisco Call held out hope, predicting that the amendment would pass by 4,000 votes. Male voters approved the California Women’s Suffrage Proposition by a majority of 3,587 votes, making California equal-suffrage state number six!


The top image is an advertisement for Coca Cola featuring Madame Nordica. The middle image is the front page article in The San Francisco Call, October 10, 1911. The bottom image is the Nordica Homestead Museum in Farmington, Maine. (Click on images to enlarge them.)

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