The national battle for women’s suffrage, however, was still to be won, and women’s clubs were of vital importance, both socially and politically, in achieving this. Black women’s clubs, like Simmons’ Civic Center Auxiliary, and Oakland’s Fannie Jackson Coppin Club (named after the first Black woman to become a school principal) were focused on both civil and voting rights. Other women’s clubs, like San Francisco’s Votes For Women (led by the Pacific coast’s first female lawyer, Clara Shortridge Foltz) were more singular in their focus. San Jose’s interracial Suffrage Amendment League was one of several examples of women working together across racial boundaries.
The passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 was made possible by the dogged work of these women’s organizational and outreach efforts. Simmons herself was such an active campaigner that her name regularly showed up in newspapers around the Bay, as she led high-profile planning meetings with her peers. (On just one page of the March 29, 1915 issue of the Oakland Sunshine, she is mentioned in three separate stories.)
Many thousands of women fought for suffrage in the first decades of the 20th century, but Simmons went above and beyond; she was a natural born leader for whom no civic challenge was too great. She spent much of her later life in San Francisco, and lived to see the passage of 1964’s Civil Rights Act.
Myra Virginia Simmons died one year later at the age of 84. As is so often the case with suffragists of the period, photos of her remain elusive. Yet it seems highly likely she would have been present for the Oakland gathering of the California Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in July 1915, as pictured at the top of this article. Though we cannot know which woman she is in the photo, in many ways she is all of them: determined, proud and poised to make a change.