Cabrillo National Monument Celebrates 19th Amendment Centennial with “Forward Into Light”

| August 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

San Diego, CA: On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which Congress had passed just 15 months before, reaching the required three-fourths ratification to become law. Eight days later, on August 26, passage was certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. One of the shortest Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, in fewer than 40 words the 19th Amendment guaranteed all citizens that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It was a culmination of the Women’s Suffrage Movement that had begun in the 1800s, although many women would still be denied that right on the basis of race for decades.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse lit up in purple and gold with a slide show in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

In celebration of the Centennial of the 19th Amendment’s passage, the Cabrillo National Monument and the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation, in conjunction with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and other organizations, set aside August 21-23 and 26 for “Forward Into Light.” This event was designed to celebrate not only the passage of the 19th Amendment but the many struggles and successes of women throughout the years. For each of these evenings, the Monument extended its hours until 8:30 p.m. so visitors could experience the Old Point Loma Lighthouse illuminated in purple and gold, the colors of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The goal of the nationwide effort was to light up structures across the country, as well as social media.

Informational panels set up around the lighthouse told the story of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

The Point Loma Lighthouse was chosen in San Diego because of its rich history and connection with women’s equality. One of the first eight lighthouses built on the West Coast in the 1850s, it had the distinction of having a woman as an assistant lighthouse keeper from 1873 to 1876. Maria Israel held this position while her husband, Robert Israel, was lighthouse keeper. This was significant because lighthouse keeper was one of the few positions where both men and women received equal pay.

Life-sized cutouts of famous Suffragists on display, courtesy of the Women’s Museum of California.

In partnership with the Women’s Museum of California, the Cabrillo National Monument installed information panels around the grounds to provide a deeper look into the history of the suffrage movement. The Museum, which is located in Liberty Station, also provided life-size cutouts of famous Suffragists.

The title of the event, Forward into Light, echoes the second half of the rallying slogan of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, “Forward through the darkness/Forward into light.” The colors illuminating up the lighthouse also hearken back to that movement: purple signifying “unswerving steadfastness to the cause” and gold signifying “the light of the torch leading the way.”

Visitors to the Cabrillo National Monument waited for dark to see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse lit up in purple and gold.

“To me it has been amazing to learn about this history and to put together this event, to be able to show it here at Cabrillo National Monument,” said Park Ranger Julieanne Fontana, who spent considerable time creating the slide presentation shown on the north wall of the lighthouse. “I went through Library of Congress photos for most of it, either National Park Service photos or Library of Congress photos. I put those together to tell the story throughout time and to try to tell a diverse story as well. The many different women fighting for their rights.”

The Ortega family was among the many visitors who attended the “Forward Into Light” celebration on Sunday, August 23.

“I think it’s good to make us appreciate our past,” said Alma Harder-Ortega, who was visiting the lighthouse with husband Robert Ortega and daughter Gabby, who is working on her Junior Democracy badge for Girl Scouts. “I like that they included that 1920 was just when White women got the vote, so they focused that it was ongoing and just a first step.”

“It’s fun to get out of the house, too,” she added.

The glow of sunset provides a backdrop for the Old Point Loma Lighthouse illuminated in purple and gold for “Forward Into Light.”

A video about the Forward into Light celebration is available on YouTube at You can learn more about the Cabrillo National Monument at either the Monument home page or the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation. Find out more about the history of the 19th Amendment at or the National Archives.

All photo credit: Stephen Prendergast

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Category: Architecture, Events, Historical, Local News

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I am a long-time educator, writer and editor. I have taught English from middle school through community and technical college at public, private and charter institutions. Over the years I have also been a writer for sports and news organizations as well as a photojournalist. Currently I am the English Department Chair at a charter middle school and the writer/editor for a local media company.