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4 The Politics of Good Government: The California Women’s Movement Helps Build Progressivism and Wins Suffrage, 1906–11 After 1906 a∆uent men and women reformers began working together as political allies in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Earlier, the women had persuaded men to support their various urban reform projects, such as juvenile courts and playgrounds, but both men and women saw these as civic— not political—e√orts. The reformers joined forces in the political but nonpartisan good government movement, an urban forerunner of progressivism that promised to end corruption in city government. This alliance helped make possible the 1911 su√rage victory. After the men accepted the women as political allies, the male reformers as a group—eventually—supported women ’s su√rage. Many organized women, especially club women, who generally entered the alliance with male progressives as civic activists but not as su√ragists , subsequently perceived themselves as political activists, became su√ragists , and dedicated themselves to winning the vote. Good government men in both San Francisco and Los Angeles began achieving notable successes in their campaign for a moral polity in 1906. Many su√ragists wished to forge an alliance with these men whose goals were so similar to their own. But most organized women, who were not su√ragists, found it too daunting in 1906 to cross the line from civic to nonpartisan political activism. The latter, with its concern for building a political movement that elected candidates, looked quite like the politics that ladies avoided. But women did cross that line—over the bridge of moral nonpartisanship. A few men in the 1906 good government movement welcomed women as 152 Becoming Citizens members, but most men were either reluctant or resistant. Nonetheless, before the end of 1909 men in the good government movements in San Francisco and Los Angeles accepted the women who, in growing numbers, wanted to be political allies. This evolution of political identity occurred in similar political situations and as part of the same political process in both cities. First, the changes developed fastest when the male good government force seemed very likely to lose. At that political moment, when the male reformers deeply feared losing, they decided to open the door of political recognition for women civic activists . They believed that the women could be the key to victory; these elite women simultaneously reinforced the good government movement’s claim of morality and its understanding of morality in class terms—these men and women saw themselves as holding down the middle, somewhere between the corruption of great wealth and the ‘‘barbarism’’ of the laboring class. This alliance says much about how these men and women defined their gender, class, and political roles and it gave rise to progressive support for women’s su√rage. The men presented themselves not as class-bound politicians but as the nonpolitical moral force of ‘‘good’’ government. Their enemies denigrated their nonpartisanship and crusading fervor by attacking their manhood, deriding them as e√eminate ‘‘goo goos.’’ But when the men faced defeat, they turned to the members of their class who were seen as even more moral and nonpolitical—women. Enfranchising such an ally made political sense. Women in the good government movement identified themselves as suffragists who were also progressives. They felt that progressivism and su√rage were inextricable: progressivism made women’s su√rage possible (at the very least, a progressive state government placed a su√rage amendment before the state electorate), and women’s political participation made the good government movement viable by making its tenets of morality and nonpartisanship credible. Josefa Tolhurst, a prominent Los Angeles su√ragist, club woman, and progressive, put it this way: ‘‘Su√ragists [are] . . . standing for the ideas which have brought about insurgency, in line with the progressive and the patriotic.’’∞ Thus women progressives participated in two overlapping but sometimes conflicting political coalitions, good government and women’s su√rage. In joining good government coalitions, they participated in a business and professional men’s movement that looked upon labor parties with great suspicion , as sources of divisive class politics that quickly degenerated into sources of political corruption. But as members of the su√rage movement, the women The Politics of Good Government 153 believed that victory depended on winning at least some of labor’s votes. Beginning in 1906 elite su√ragists began to make serious attempts to build an alliance with trade union women, e√orts that were not always...

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