gmhTODAY 07 gmhToday Mar Apr 2016 - Page 72

Early Gilroy Promotion Societies included Women’s Suffrage Efforts Written By Elizabeth Barratt O George Dunlap 72 n the cusp of the Twentieth Century, the Southern Pacific Railroad was urging towns to participate in an advertising campaign to entice East Coast dwellers to settle in the West. Pitching the notion of splitting large land holdings into two- to ten-acre parcels, the railroad reasoned that newcomers could afford to purchase their own property. After building a house, digging a well, and plant- ing market-bound produce on their acreage, folks would relish the good California life. Gilroy’s Board of Trade was the first group to work toward these goals. Soon, efforts dissolved after local land barons turned deaf ears to sales pressures to part with their properties. With renewed purpose, and concerned over stagnant local growth, on April 12, 1905, Gilroy’s civic leaders and business- men met at the Vigilant Fire Company’s conference room. That evening, they discussed ways to encourage the division of large ranch landholdings. Other topics included the need for adequate citywide public improvement efforts as well as a revitalized dairy industry. Known as the Promotion Society of Gilroy, the group elected a local real estate developer, cattleman and agricultural producer, George Dunlap, as its first president. Other officers included Vice- President, E.D. Crawford, Secretary Dr. J.W. Thayer, who was also Gilroy’s health officer, Assistant Secretary John M. Hoesch, and lumber mill owner L.A. Whitehurst who was Tresurer. The Promotion Society was determined to place Gilroy on the state’s economic GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MARCH/APRIL 2016 map. To begin, the association suggested constructing roads through the large land tracts east and southeast of town, in an effort to push the landowners into acquiescence. Redirected by May 1905, the Promotion Society narrowed its plans to a more controllable level and approached the City Council to request a bond election. The suggested $66,000 bond issue, at 4% interest, was planned to address four main city issues: a sewer system, an electric lighting plant, water reservoir improvements and completion of a new city hall on Monterey Street. A front-page letter appeared in the June 3, 1905 Gilroy Advocate arguing the benefits of a bond drive. Signed by 24 prominent businessmen and one woman, the letter emphasized the town’s sanitation concerns. Gilroy residents still relied on outhouses, cesspools and septic wells. Residents had a “crying need” for a sewer system, the letter proclaimed, citing seasonal odors arising from the slough south of town. Lacking a civilized means of waste matter disposal was deemed “palpably obnoxious to a refined sense of dignity...no consideration of economy can longer justify the maintenance of filthy germ-breeding cesspools.” In an era ripe for, but still lacking, women’s suffrage, Gilroy females jumped into the planned drive. Even though they didn’t yet have the right to vote, many Gilroy women were either wid- owed, or owned separate property. As a consequence, these individuals were independent taxpayers, and in a position to prompt legislation. By mid-June, sixty ladies met to form the Woman’s Auxiliary gmhtoday.com