Karen Oakley: Local connection to women’s suffragette movement | TheUnion.com

Karen Oakley: Local connection to women’s suffragette movement

Alice Paul (center) sews a star on a flag for each state as they ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Jessie Butler is standing to the right of Alice Paul.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Jessie Haver Butler was born in 1886 in Pueblo, Colo. This was an era of household duties, pregnancy and sometimes deadly childbirth for women. There were limited intellectual opportunities for females outside the home.

In 1906 Jessie left Pueblo to attend Smith College in Massachusetts. This opened up a new world for her. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Jessie eventually became active in the Suffragist movement. She was privileged to meet Susan B. Anthony and worked with Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman. Her friends included Emmeline Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw and Lady Astor. She continued her political activism throughout her life, including the second phase of the feminist movement. This included sharing the speaker’s podium with Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas.

Jessie’s granddaughter, Mila Johansen (local Nevada County resident) has edited and published Jessie’s memoir, “From Cowgirl to Congress.” Mila brings a very personal spotlight to Jessie’s life as a remarkable and influential woman. Quoting Mila from her introduction to the book: “You and I and every woman can thank Jessie and the other women who broke ground for us with their perseverance and bravery. The events of Jessie’s life and the history of the struggle for women’s right are like that wall of stars in her guest room.”

Karen Oakley

Grass Valley

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