There are several women and women’s groups in Sonoma County working on celebrations of the centennial of 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, but the person most responsible for the new yellow, white and purple banners in Sebastopol’s town plaza is a man: city council member and history buff, Michael Carnacchi.
Carnacchi designed the banners with the help of Elaine Holtz of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, Leslie Graves of Sonoma County 2020 Women's Suffrage Project, Mary Dodgion of the West Sonoma County Historical Society and 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
They gave him feedback on his banner designs — getting the colors in the right order and suggesting the rows of 36 stars — the number of states that in 1920 voted to approve the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “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 sex.”
The colors of the banner reflect the colors of the National Woman’s Party in the United States, a suffragist party. The organization described the meaning of these colors in a newsletter published Dec. 6, 1913: “Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”
Carnacchi and his advisors had a few disagreements.
“I thought it should read ‘Votes by women’ but they said that the phrase ‘Vote for women’ was more historically correct, so I submitted to the women and the powers that be and that’s what is says,” Carnacchi said.
Carnacchi, who collects historical memorabilia, also loaned his suffragist collection of ephemera — letters, pamphlets and autograph books — to the Western Sonoma County Historical Society for its upcoming exhibit on the 19th Amendment.
“I’m very excited about that,” said Mary Dodgion, curator of the exhibit. “It helps tell the story in more detail and in a different way.”
Carnacchi said he collects historical memorabilia because he appreciates the connection to history that physical objects provide.
“It’s one thing to read about history,” he said. “It’s another thing to hold a piece of it in your hand and realize 100 years ago the women involved in this movement actually held it their hands too,” he said.
Included in his collection are autographed quotation cards bearing favorite quotes written in their own handwriting, including “Man & Woman, a simultaneous creation,” signed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; “Taxation without representation is tyranny, whether it is imposed upon man or woman,” signed by Lucy Stone; “Peace through Equality” signed by Carrie Chapman Catt, as well as several letters, books and other ephemera.
“I saw it as an opportunity to set aside our political divisions of liberal and conservative. Women have been voting for 100 years — who can’t celebrate that,” he said. “I like the way it breaks down the political divide. I mean, ‘Look at you go, girl. You are awesome!’”