Reflecting on a century of women’s suffrage

By Linda M. Jackson, AAI Program Director

This summer 100 years ago, three states were in a race to be the first to ratify the 19th amendment: Wisconsin (#1), Illinois, and Michigan voted to ratify on June 10, 1919. State support came in over the next year (California ratified in November). The drama continued until August 18, 1920, when the 19th amendment was passed, making women’s suffrage legal in the U.S.

The story of women’s suffrage, led by women working into their 80s, illustrates just how hard change can be. 

Let’s start with the summer of 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and a few other ladies decided over tea to host a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, modeling it after a recent abolitionists’ convention.

Over 300 people attended the convention to consider a “Declaration of Sentiments,” which described the “injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.” The Declaration of Sentiments statement supporting women’s suffrage passed by a slim margin, just the first of narrow victories in the decades to come.

Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) met Stanton two years later. They became one of American’s sharpest political duos – with Stanton doing the writing and thinking, and Anthony doing the speaking and travelling, a collaboration lasting for the next half century.

Change requires more than just supporters: it requires enough energy to change a system. The women were up against powerful forces. The liquor and brewery interests were fearful of the growing temperance movement, corporate interests were worried about the successes women were having in speaking out about the dismal working conditions for children and women, and the men in power were afraid of the potential electoral power of the black voter.

At the end of the Civil War, Stanton and Anthony were hopeful for universal suffrage when they saw the Republicans’ early draft of the 14th amendment stating that the vote was for “all persons.” When the phrase was changed to “male citizen,” Stanton, Anthony, and Stone protested loudly and bitterly. 

When it became clear that the 14th amendment wasn’t enough to protect the black man’s vote, Congress considered the 15th amendment, which states: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

Stanton pleaded to add “sex” to the list and thus enfranchise everyone. When denied, she and Anthony worked against the 15th amendment, which passed in 1870.

Women supporters of the 15th amendment, devastated by the failure of Stanton and Anthony to back the franchise for black men, formed the American Woman Suffrage Association, which pursued a state-by-state campaign to grant women the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association which worked for a constitutional amendment and other social justice changes.

The split in the suffrage leadership was so deep that the coalition would not be reunited for another 30 years. Those were the dark years. Little progress was made on the surface. However, Stanton and Anthony worked into their 80s, building political expertise and a political structure to support essential connections and communications.

By the First World War, the two organizations had reunited. Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), in her 60s, emerged as leader. She inherited a board of directors of skilled organizers and a political strategy with leadership in each state to track supporters and votes.

And so it came that 100 years ago, in the summer of 1919, the U.S. Senate passed the “Anthony Amendment” by a margin of just four votes. States began debating the ratification of the women’s vote amendment soon after. A year later, the last needed ratification vote came down to the legislators of Tennessee.

The drama of the Tennessee vote included free alcohol plied to opponents of suffrage, assurances that white women would outnumber black voters, and a final successful vote of 49 – 47.

Today, after 70 years of advocacy and another 100 years of voting in the midst of gerrymandering, poll taxes, and literacy tests, let’s celebrate the vision of universal suffrage. Think of how your organization can recognize this vision and what it means for the people we work with every day.

Let us use that vote for a better future for the older people of Marin ~

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A welcome from AAI’s new co-chairs

By Michelle Javid (left) and Teri Dowling

This year, the Aging Action Initiative begins its sixth year as a highly regarded and successful organization supported by over 250 nonprofit and government organizations dedicated to an age- and disability-friendly Marin County. As AAI’s co-chairs for the next year, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with the organization’s talented staff and strong steering committee to continue the innovative work and advocacy that was initiated under the outstanding outgoing chair, Joe O’Hehir.  

We each bring different and complementary strengths to the table. Michelle Javid, MSW, works as the Manager of Business Development for Seniors At Home, a division of Jewish, Family and Children’s Services. Teri Dowling is a Commissioner on the Marin Commission on Aging. 

We are currently at different stages in our career. Michelle is educated as a social worker and works full time in the field of aging, and Teri is officially retired but still works a few days a week at the San Francisco Department of Public Health in Disaster Preparedness. Both of us live in Marin and are passionate about the issues that affect older adults. Both of us believe strongly in the role of advocacy to affect change.

We are excited about AAI’s newest initiative. This year, in an effort to create a stronger advocacy role, AAI formed the Advocacy Alliance. The Alliance will work with other Marin organizations to provide strength in numbers to change the conversation about aging. We want the challenges of growing older in Marin County recognized, communicated, and addressed on all levels in the community, in our organizations, and in our local and County governments.

Over the next six months, the Alliance will be working with partners across Marin to look at current data and trends to set advocacy priorities for the next few years. Aging in community (isolation, mental health, and caregiver support), economic security, housing, and transportation will continue to be AAI’s advocacy focus areas. 

Looking ahead, AAI’s innovative and much-in-demand Inform&Connect academies and Detect&Connect workshops will continue to expand and reach new audiences. The AAI newsletter will continue to be a great resource for the latest information about issues and resources related to aging in Marin and beyond. Next spring, our popular Convening will once again bring together nonprofit, healthcare, and government organizations to address current and critical issues.

It is our hope that over this next year and beyond, that AAI will continue to provide a strong leadership role in this county for information, innovation, and advocacy. We look forward to working with the staff, steering committee, and our wonderful network members next year!

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Preparing for Wildfire Season

Lisa Santora

By Dr. Lisa Santora
Deputy public health officer, Marin Health & Human Services
Steering Committee member, AAI

“We need to create neighborhoods that know each other and take care of each other.” Catherine Way, Larkspur City Councilwoman

Climate change has become a major public health threat. During the past two years, we all have personally experienced the effects of climate change on our community. Here is a list of recent events:

  • The Great Labor Day Heat Wave of 2017 led to the closure of some Marin County schools and the cancellation of many athletic events. Marin County activated its Extreme Temperature Annex and opened cooling centers across the county.
  • The Tubbs Fire, one of California’s most destructive fires, devastated our neighbors in Napa and Sonoma County.
  • In 2018, wildfire smoke from California’s deadliest fire, the Camp Fire in Butte County, blanketed the Bay Area, leading to school closures across the region .

Higher temperatures, drier conditions, increased fuel availability, and lengthening warm seasons — all linked to climate change — are increasing wildfire risk in Marin County.  The “new normal” at Marin County Public Health includes preparing for poor air quality due to wildfire smoke, planning to shelter residents displaced by wildfires, and readying local health care facilities for wildfire-related evacuations.  Most importantly, we are asking Marin County residents to increase their individual and neighborhood preparedness.

During the first Red Flag Warning of the 2019 season, some North Bay counties experienced a Public Safety Power Shutoff, resulting in days without power. While many of us are inconvenienced by these outages, power shutoffs may be life threatening for others.  

Aging residents and individuals with disabilities can live independently in their home with the assistance of electric or battery powered assistive technologies and/or durable medical equipment. Common assistive technologies include emergency response systems, glasses, hearing aids, and wheelchairs.  Examples of durable medical equipment include equipment that supports independent living (e.g., hospital beds), treats medical conditions (e.g., nebulizers), and/or provides lifesaving support (e.g., ventilators). Individuals who depend on assistive technologies and durable medical equipment to live independently at home must consider how they will maintain access to this equipment during an emergency or during a Public Safety Power Shutoff.

The first line of defense is individual preparedness. Individual preparedness is an ongoing process of assessing your readiness to shelter-in-place and evacuate, taking inventory of essential items (e.g., medications, personal care supplies), and readying to act.  

A key part of readying to act is building a support team of people who may be able to help in an emergency. While some Marin County residents who depend on assistive technologies and durable medical equipment have defined support teams, many do not.  Even those with defined support teams may not have invited their neighbors to join their team. And yet neighbors may be the first people available to respond in a rapidly evolving emergency.

Marin County is fortunate to have grassroots Neighborhood Response Groups that have formed to care for their neighbors until first responders can arrive. Neighborhood response groups understand that residents must be able to survive up to a week in their homes following a disaster.

In the past, emergency preparedness efforts in the Bay Area have focused on preparing for a big earthquake. The 2017 North Bay Fires reminded us that we need to prepare annually for wildfires as well. And now we must not only prepare for wildfires themselves, but for the protective measures that may deenergize our neighborhoods. This “new normal” demands that we get to know our neighbors and be ready to help each other, no matter the emergency we may face.  

Learn more about preparing for prolonged power outages at https://www.marinhhs.org/preparing-extended-power-outages. Visit https://readymarin.org/ for more information on individual and neighborhood preparedness. And most importantly, find time to meet your neighbors!    

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Happy birthday, AAI!

By Linda M. Jackson
Program director, AAI

We are five years old this year! Toto, we’re not a startup anymore!

The Aging Action Initiative was conceived in 2014, as the result of conversations between local electeds and civic leaders. It started with a conversation, and grew over a series of convenings and workgroups and events and creative initiatives.

This year, we convened for the seventh time. Over 100 people from across Marin and across sectors came together to network, learn, and hear the latest from Marin leaders and from the national American Society on Aging Conference. Our focus this year was the intersectionality of aging equity and other social issues.

I took the opportunity in the morning to share some highlights from the past year:

  • We held three Inform&Connect academies, including one in collaboration with the Marin Interfaith Council for faith leaders.
  • We held three Detect&Connect workshops, including one at Marin Humane attended by 29 board members, staff, and volunteers.
  • AAI received its first grant from the Mental Health Services Act. We can now scale up presentations of our homegrown Detect&Connect workshop across the county.
  • Age-friendly planning happened across Marin last year. All 12 jurisdictions are in some phase of planning, from beginning conversations in Larkspur to the seasoned team in Sausalito  deciding what’s next for its age-friendly plan.
  • We asked that the four year bike lane pilot on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge be shortened to six months so we can get a third lane westbound in the morning for our local workers.
  • We partnered with Marin Community Foundation and others to put on the All. Together. Now economic security summit in February where we learned about the income challenges that older women and people of color have in making ends meet.
  • We spoke up this year for new housing, including funding for accessory dwelling units, housing for homeless seniors in Larkspur, and assisted living in downtown San Rafael.
  • AAI, with the Commission on Aging, put on two JADU Expos. A JADU is a junior accessory dwelling unit – a unit carved out of space in an existing home, such as turning an extra bedroom and bath into a separate unit. A JADU provides needed income, a close-by neighbor, or a place for a caregiver.

On our fifth birthday, we celebrated the start of a fourth initiative: Act&Connect. That’s because we need to be bolder next year. We will not buy into any cultural prejudice against older people. We must instead honor the experience and expertise and wisdom that comes with years of life’s journey. Here are the issues that we’re watching in the next year:

  • Safety and health and security in times of a changing climate which includes sea level rise, heat waves and fire preparedness. See Dr. Lisa Santora’s article about being ready to act.
  • Including everyone in Census 2020, where every uncounted older adult equals $2,000 less each year for public services.
  • Respect and dignity for LGBTQ seniors in residential facilities, and the launch of the Long-Term Care Equality Index to evaluate care for LGBTQ seniors in care.
  • Immigration policies affecting our employees and clients who worry that their families will be ripped apart any day any time.
  • A state plan for older adults in California that will address the critical issue of long-term care and other hot topics.
  • Local age-friendly plans with policy and program innovations.
  • Marin’s AAA Plan.

In Act&Connect, AAI is joining an advocacy alliance with other leaders so we will be more effective in advocating for change. At the heart of this fight is equity. When a group comes together to work on something, are older people at the table? We must advocate for older representatives on committees and boards who can speak knowledgeably about our issues and solutions.

It matters that every person — regardless of birthplace, upbringing, schooling, work, or age — is healthy and happy with people who care. With Act&Connect, we know that we will make a difference … together.

Happy 5th birthday, AAI!

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Highlights from the Aging in America 2019 Conference

By Linda Jackson
AAI Program Director

My top takeaways from the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America 2019 Conference in New Orleans:

Race, politics and aging: where do we go from here?
#1: Go to other people’s conferences to learn outside your box.
#2: Elevate the voice of diverse older people.
#3 Ask older people what they want.
These are all things we can do today, in our organizations.

National advocacy is still alive. I hear this in different forums: even with the political divide, the work in Washington continues. What’s on the horizon? Prescription drug costs. Paying for health, not healthcare. Brain health. Elder justice. Long-term care. Dental care as part of, and not separate from, healthcare. And reauthorization of the Older Americans Act.

Mobility is inherent to our species. Accessibility is inherent to our setting. Autonomous vehicles may not be the panacea that promoters advertise. Initial studies show that there will be more mobility for younger, older, and disabled people. There will also be more traffic. And completely autonomous cars are still decades in the future.

AARP researchers described a universal mobility program in Denmark, called Flex Danmark.  This unified program successfully brought two dozen transit agency CEOs together to use a hi-tech open platform to share costs and services across the country. The CEOs recognized the country had an unsustainable model financially and functionally. The result, Flex Danmark, resulted in cost savings of 20-40% and increased mobility for everyone. AARP is looking for a place in the U.S. to test this model. Maybe in the Bay Area?

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and SAGE unveiled a new tool to improve the experiences of LGBTQ older adults as they seek long-term care and services. Want to ensure that your residential facility provides equitable and inclusive care? Check out Long-Term Care Equality Index.

West Health Policy Summit’s blunt facts about America’s healthcare system: the U.S. ranks #1 in healthcare cost per person out of 36 OECD countries, yet 56% of Americans believe we have the best healthcare in the world. As Tim Lash of West Health (BOOKMARK THIS SITE!) put it, “U.S. healthcare today is a theft of three generations.” Seniors are selling their homes to pay for healthcare; workers are quitting at 50 be a caregiver for their parents; and younger people do not have the health insurance they need and deserve. “The healthcare crisis has become personal for all of us.”

Song for our times? One moderator asked his panelists (national leaders working in public policy advocacy) for a song or movie that represented these years. Here are the answers:

  • Dark Knight Rises
  • Runaway
  • Matrix
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Armageddon

One word: yikes!

The ASA session about “Working Together When You Don’t Speak the Same Language: Collaborative Networks.” Joining me for this AAI-sponsored session were Shirin Vakharia from Marin Community Foundation, Lee Pullen from Marin’s Aging & Adult Services, and Joe O’Hehir from Whistlestop. Our message was that when we work as a collaborative network, both larger and smaller organizations develop a broader vision of their work, share resources and build greater capacity to make those innovations that have better results.

We each shared a word that meant something unique in our own professional niche: vision, collaboration, decision process, and advocacy.

So be careful out there! In a cross-sector, anti-silo environment, we must not assume we are all using the same vocabulary. In the end, it’s this diversity that makes us stronger as a collective effort.

Til next time,

Linda

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