Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jeanette Wall Pinther, 1889-1974
By Evelyn Rose, PharmD, Project Director, and Amy O'Hair, BFA MFA, Assistant Project Director,
Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, San Francisco, California; www.GlenParkHistory.org
Jeanette Wall Pinther and the First Suffrage March in the United States
Thursday, August 27, 1908, was an historic day in the American suffrage movement. As many as 300 women lined up on Broadway in Oakland, California, to march nearly one mile to the site of the California State Republican Convention. Their demand: that the Republicans follow the Democratic and Labor parties by adding the cause of suffrage to their party's platform.
Dressed entirely in white, 19-year-old Jeanette Wall Pinther (Mrs. Theodore E. Pinther, Jr.) co-led the march with her step-mother-in-law, Johanna Pinther of San Francisco and Lillian Harris Coffin of Mill Valley. She beamed as she proudly carried the banner of the California Equal Suffrage Association (CESA) emblazoned with the Great Seal of the State. Over half a century later, she would downplay the event with her grandchildren, sharing only that she "did this once."
A photograph taken by a San FranciscoChronicle photographer captured the moment and has become so iconic that it has appeared on the cover of three books about the California suffrage movement. This event was the first suffrage march in the United States, yet its significance has been overlooked in the annals of American history.
Jeanette Amanda Wall was born in San Francisco in 1889, the third of seven children of Norwegian immigrants, Andrew and Helena Wall, and the first family member born in America. In 1907, she married Theodore E. Pinther, Jr. Having been displaced by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, she and her new husband took up residence in Noe Valley, immediately north of the new San Francisco district called Glen Park where Jeanette's parents-in-law Theodore Pinther, Sr, and Johanna Pinther, had recently moved themselves.
Glen Park became the hub of the San Francisco suffrage movement in the years after the earthquake, and Johanna Pinther's leadership in suffrage organizations provided a stepping-stone for young Jeanette's participation. In 1908, Jeanette actively participated in the Glen Park Outdoor Art League, a woman's civic club co-founded by her step-mother-in-law to bring better living conditions and needed infrastructure to the growing neighborhood.
In June 1908, the California State Republican Central Committee announced its annual convention would be held that August in Oakland. On July 7, 1908, the first announcement that CESA suffragists would attend the Republican State Convention stated the women would make "a notable demonstration" but would not use the violent and controversial methods of English suffragettes. Only a few weeks earlier, on June 21, 1908, an estimated 30,000 women had marched to London's Hyde Park to capture the attention of the British prime minister. Many were dressed all in white, a symbol of purity. When the prime minister failed to acknowledge the women's cause, militant suffragettes inflicted property damage on Downing Street.
The women of CESA instead proclaimed they would be marching in a dignified manner. It was also announced that Johanna would hand sew and embroider a CESA banner to be prominently displayed at the event. Despite these reassurances, headlines of the San FranciscoCall would twice blare, "Suffragettes to Storm Convention!"
On August 27, 1908, the women gathered at the Metropole Hotel in Oakland. After several speeches, Johanna presented the "exquisite" hand-sewn banner, "of deep blue silk [bearing] the name of the association, and a vignette of the state arms embroidered in bullion and gold," to Lillian Harris Coffin, who in turn presented it to CESA president Mary Sperry.
With Jeanette as standard bearer, up to 300 "determined-looking suffragettes ... in a line two blocks in length" embarked on their historic procession along Broadway, marching nearly a mile to the Republican Convention at Ye Liberty Theatre. There, they "filled four rows of the gallery seats, and flaunted their gorgeous banner over the heads of the assembled statesmen by drooping it over the front of the box." After delegate speeches followed by patronizing meetings with all-male conventioneers (during which the women proclaimed they would only need 15 minutes to speak), the Republicans refused to add suffrage to their platform (although they would do so the following year).
Suffrage was finally achieved in California in 1911, only the sixth state in the Union to do so. When downplaying the event to her grandchildren in later years, perhaps it was Jeanette's modesty, or it may have been the lingering sting of the Republican snub. As a mid-century socialite of Burlingame, California, she may have not wanted her children to know that she had first registered to vote as a Socialist before registering as a Progressive, then finally as Republican.
After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Jeanette Pinther continued active in the Burlingame-San Mateo Flower and Garden Club and died in Mountain View, California in 1974.
Her tireless and enthusiastic efforts along with other California suffragists to achieve the vote for women ultimately led to success. This first march for suffrage in the United States, led by Jeanette Wall Pinther, Johanna Claussenius Pinther, and Lillian Harris Coffin, deserves a prominent place in American history.
Jeanette Wall Pinther (center) of San Francisco carries the banner of the California Equal Suffrage Association in the first march for suffrage in the United States, Oakland, California, August 27, 1908. She is flanked by her step-mother-in-law, Johanna Pinther (right), of San Francisco, and Mill Valley, California suffragist Lillian Harris Coffin (left). Image from the California Historical Society.
1. Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project. Glen Park Resident Johanna Pinther and the First Suffrage March in the United States. Available at GlenParkHistory.org.
2. Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project. The Suffrage Movement in Glen Park. Backstory to the First March for Suffrage in America. Available at GlenParkHistory.org.
3. Personal communication, Leland Basham (grandson), January 17, 2018.
4.1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA. Available at Ancestry.com.
5. Mead, RJ. How the Vote was Won: Women Suffrage in the Western United States, 1868-1914. New York University Press: New York, New York. 2004.
6. Cherny, E et al, eds. California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression. University of Nebraska born in San Frfancisco Press: Lincoln, Nebraska. 2011.
7. Gullet, G. Becoming Citizens: The Emergence and Development of the California Women's Movement, 1880-1911. University of Illinois Press: Chicago, Illinois. 2000.
8. San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 1908. Glen Park Women Form an Outdoor Art League. Available at Newspapers.com.
9. Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1908. Convention to be Held at Oakland. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
10. San Francisco Examiner, July 7, 1908. Yellow Chosen as Suffragists' Hue. Available at Newspapers.com.
11. Lompoc Journal, July 11, 1908. State Suffragists Adopt Yellow as Battle Color. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
12. Oakland Tribune, August 27, 1908. The Suffrage Plank the Women Have Asked For. Available at NewspaperArchive.com.
13. National Park Service. Did You Know? Suffragist versus Suffragette. July 23, 2018. Available at https://www.nps.gov/articles/suffragistvssuffragette.htm
14. The Suffragette Timeline, The Telegraph, 2015. Available at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/suffragette/suffragette_timeline/
15. Tickner, L. The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907–14. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
16. Blackman, C. How the Suffragettes Used Fashion to Further the Cause. The Guardian, October 8, 2015. Available at The Guardian.
17. San Francisco Call, July 5, 1908. Exquisite Gowns of Latest Mode Make Riot of Color at Auteuil Race Course. Available at Newspapers.com.
18. The Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Press, September 9, 1908. Suffragettes on Warpath. Available at Newspapers.com.
19. San Francisco Call, July 7, 1908. Suffragists to Storm Convention. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
20. San Francisco Call, August 25, 1908. Suffragists to Storm Convention. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
21.Harper IH (ed.) The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. VI, 1900 – 1920. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
22. San Francisco Call, August 18, 1908. With Yellow Ribbons Pinned on Their Breasts. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
23. Berkeley Daily Gazette, August 28, 1908. Band of Suffragettes Invade the Republican State Convention Hall. Available at NewspaperArchive.com.
24. San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 1908. Suffragettes Out in Force, With Banners Flying Women Descend on Hall of Convention. Available at Newspapers.com.
25. San Francisco Call, August 28, 1908. Suffragettes Parade to Convention Hall and View Proceedings From Gallery. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
26. Oakland Tribune, August 28, 1908. Women March to Convention With New Banner Asking for Suffrage from Republicans. Available at Newspapers.com.
27. San Francisco Call, August 28, 1908. Plea of Suffragettes is not Heeded, Suffragettes are Defeated. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
28. San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 1908. Turn Deaf Ear to Plea of Suffragists, Platform Committee Ready to Report. Available at Newspapers.com.
29. Oakland Tribune, August 28, 1908. Platform a Powerful Document, Strong Declaration of Principles is That on Which the Party Will Go Before the Voters. Available at Newspapers.com.
30. San Francisco Call, October 13, 1911. Suffrage Victory is Certain. Available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
31. New York Times, October 13, 1911. CALIFORNIA FARMERS GIVE VOTE TO WOMEN. Available at the New York Times.
32. Silver M. The Sixth Star. January 24, 2000. Available at FoundSF.org.
33. California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA (specifically the years 1912, 1914, and 1920). Available at Ancestry.com.