California Originals | A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State's Office

California Originals | A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State's Office

A Quarterly Newsletter of the California State Archives | A Division of the Secretary of State’s Office
Volume V, No. 2 | Winter 2017

California Originals

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From the State Archivist

Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil

Education has always been a cornerstone of California’s foundation. California's 1849 Constitution provided for the election of a state Superintendent of Public Instruction and for a system of common schools. This issue of California Originals looks at some of the historical records in the State Archives that document the importance of education in California. Included in the State Archives are records of the California Department of Education and records concerning education from the State Legislature, California Governors, and state courts. The State Archives is also a provider of education, assisting scholarly researchers from around the world using archival records, providing talks and tours about the State Archives and its holdings to the public, and participating in the National History Day Program to help fourth through twelfth graders learn about conducting historical research. Come visit the State Archives to see what you can learn about our Golden State.

The Donahoe Act of 1960

California’s Master Plan for Higher Education

by Veronica Lara, Graduate Intern

Photograph of Assembly Member Dorothy Donahoe

The 1960s proved to be a forward thinking time for California. With a projected population growth expected to be a strain on the higher education system in the state, the Legislature began devising how best to meet the educational needs of California’s citizens. While many bills concerning higher education were introduced at this time, none had a greater impact on the future of higher education than Assembly Concurrent Resolution 88 (Resolution Chapter 200, 1959).

Authored by Assembly member Dorothy Donahoe (pictured on the right), ACR88 provided for a needs study for a strategy for higher education. Donahoe was well respected among her colleagues in the legislature and she easily attained support for her resolution. The resolution created the Master Plan Survey Team to conduct a study of the current state of California’s higher education system. Comprised of eight representatives from various colleges within the state, the Survey Team met with the State Board of Education's Liaison Committee to review the state's present and future higher education needs. In these meetings, the two bodies discussed various issues and proposed solutions.

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The need for more facilities was one of the main issues identified. The minutes of the Liaison Committee indicate that a number of new campuses were proposed, in locations ranging from Los Angeles County to San Mateo County and from the San Bernardino-Riverside area to the Marin-Sonoma area. New buildings were proposed for existing campuses, such as California State University, Hayward (as seen below).

The culmination of the study was a report titled “The Master Plan for Higher Education in California, 1960-1975,” published and delivered to the Liaison Committee in 1959. The Master Plan explored several areas of concern in higher education, including the quality and number of students, the lack of facilities, demands on faculty and staff, and cost and funding of the institutions. The report was presented to the Legislature in February of 1960. Governor Pat Brown called a special legislative session to review the recommendations, resulting in the passage of Senate Bill 33x (Chapter 49x, Statutes of 1960). This statute was named the Donahoe Higher Education Act, in honor of Assembly member Donahoe, who had passed away just a few weeks prior to the Governor's signing the legislation.

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Staff Favorites

War Production Training

by Sebastian Nelson, Archivist

Black and white photograph showing four women and two men riveting the nose of an airplane.

The California Department of Education’s program of vocational training for war production workers helped more than 700,000 Californians learn industrial and agricultural job skills during the Second World War. Over 166,000 of these students were women, many of whom went on to produce many of the ships, planes, tanks, and food needed to win the war. Labor shortages during the war provided many women with career opportunities previously unavailable, and the records and photos of this program provide glimpses into the lives of some of these women.

Congress allocated funding for vocational training in and for occupations essential to national defense in 1941. In California, the Department of Education used these federal funds in cooperation with the U.S. Office of Education to offer supplementary instruction to people already employed in defense industries as well as pre-employment training to those seventeen years old and older. Local school boards, vocational schools, technical colleges, and other public educational institutions could offer the courses and the department could rent new school facilities when needed.

The Department created war production manuals to train many of the instructors who would educate this new workforce. Some of these manuals included "suggestions for an informal discussion with instructors who will teach women trainees in the war production program." According to one manual:

Women are now entering fields which are new to most of them. Consequently they have a great interest which can be used as a real moving force in production . . . don’t ridicule women for entering this training. Many are serious and patriotic in their intentions . . . many feel that they are building planes or tanks or ships for their own men. Make the most of this. It can furnish a powerful drive.

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Regrettably, these training manuals could also perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes. One such manual asserted that "women are more content than men to put up with the monotony of repetitive operations" and emphasized women’s so-called handicaps, which included the tendency to "take things personally" and the "natural rivalry among women workers.” The manual further stated, "Guide this [rivalry] away from jealousy into a good-natured competitive rivalry and you will have another incentive for increased production."

The War Production Training files from the Department of Education also contain feedback from dozens of these vocational students, both men and women. Their comments offer witness to their experiences:

  • Trainee is now a welder on the graveyard shift at Richmond Shipyard #3. She loves the work. Says it is really hard work but she doesn’t mind that. Is going on to what she calls a “finishing school” in welding, as she wants to learn all she can about it so she can keep on welding after the war.
  • Said she did not think the women with home responsibilities would be able to continue. Only those as free of home duties as a man, she believed, could stand the strain for very long.
  • Left training to be home with her child.
  • Trainee quit class in marine electricity because instructor said she was qualified to be a helper – then she was to come back to the school for further training. But she found the Union would not admit colored girls, so she has had to take a job at common labor in the shipyard, hoping to get into marine electricity later.

The Second World War changed the lives of all who lived through it, including tens of thousands of California women. Trained with the help of the California Department of Education to work as aircraft mechanics, machinists, sheet-metal workers, welders, and electricians, these women helped America achieve victory abroad and helped to create more diverse workforce at home.

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Staff Favorites

Schools for Children of Migrant Workers

by Beth Behnam, Archivist

As the bounty of California agriculture flourished in the early 20th century, transportation improvements allowed workers to relocate as crops ripened throughout the state. Good roads and cheap automobiles permitted families to move from county to county in search of work. By the 1920’s, there were twenty-four different crops which needed picking in thirty-six California counties within ten months of the year. These cycles lasted for one to three months, as families moved from one crop to another, from asparagus to walnuts to apricots to grapes to cotton. An estimated 10,000 children either worked in the fields or accompanied their parents there. These migrant children rarely attended public schools.

In the early 1920’s, California led the nation in kindergarten attendance and high school education. Yet in rural areas, its education ranked 41st (out of 48 states) in the country. Concerned that child labor created illiteracy, which would lead to more societal problems, the Director of Education urged the creation of “Migratory Schools” as a social experiment. Chapter 691, Statutes of 1921, provided for the creation of “special classes of elementary grade for the education of children of migratory laborers in the rural districts of this state” and appropriated $10,000 towards this effort.

Notification and Application for Reimbursement of Moneys Expended for Conduct of Classes for Children of Migratory Laborers

The "Walnut School" opened its door in September 1922. Located in the Saticoy School District in Ventura County, many children from the surrounding orchards were excited to learn and attended the school for the six weeks it was open. School administrators appreciated that the start of the walnut season in September coincided with the traditional opening of public schools and the six week picking season was just enough time to complete a lesson plan.

The next school to open was the "Cotton School," located in Kern County's Wasco School District. Of the 68 children who enrolled, 56 were at an education level equal to first grade and ranged in age from six to nineteen. Although some of the children were white, Asian-American, or African-American, most were of Mexican heritage and did not speak English. School began at 7:30am and ended at 12:30pm, when the children joined their parents in the fields. Administrators felt parents were more productive while the children were at school and, therefore, the children’s absence from the fields should not create an economic hardship for the family. Even so, only ten children attended the "Cotton School" for the entire three months it was open.

The “Railway School,” which would have been set up in a boxcar to travel with the railcars, ended before it started due to liability concerns. The “Asparagus School” was on Ryer Island in Solano County. Located in the Sacramento Delta, the twenty-three students arrived at the school by boat. The “Onion School,” located in Ensign, Riverside County, had forty-three students. Employers believed that having the schools would create better and more stable workers. A single teacher taught children in churches, shacks, and tents. Based on their success, the migrant schools were eventually enveloped into the local school districts.

A contemporaneous magazine article from 1924 vividly describes that the migrant schools were designed not to cover a formal education, but rather to give the migrant children “back their childhood.” The focus was on improving on the basics in the short amount of time available, along with time for play and art. Chapter 409, Statutes of 1927, stated that county school superintendents were “to encourage” the creation of classes for children of workers in “seasonal industries” and to report the average daily attendance.

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These monthly attendance sheets for Migratory Schools from 1927-1934 are part of the California State Archives’ collection of Department of Education records. They state the school district, the dates the school was open, the number of children enrolled, and the number of children who attended. In most cases, the average attendance was less than fifty percent of the number enrolled. As these are monthly figures, it is not possible to see how these numbers fluctuated on a daily basis.

Another interesting table breaks down by grade level the number of children who had not been enrolled in any other public school during that school year. In many schools, over fifty to one-hundred percent of the children had no formal public schooling that year. The schools lasted from six weeks to six months, with attendance greatly varying on a monthly basis.

In 1928, the first full year of record keeping, there were thirty-four Migratory Schools in agricultural areas of the state. By 1934, this number doubled to sixty-nine schools. Although most of the Mexican families had returned to Mexico in the interim, the great influx of families from the Southern Central states dramatically increased the need for migrant schools.

Migratory Schools ranged from Del Norte County (1928) to Imperial County (1931-1934). An examination of the concentrations of schools indicates that the early schools (1927-1928) were primarily in southern California: more than half of the schools were in the West Covina and Whittier areas of Los Angeles County and many were in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Although there were only four Migratory Schools in the Firebaugh and Mendota areas of Fresno County from 1927-1928, by the end of the 1934 school year over one hundred additional schools operated in that region. Santa Barbara County was the next strongest county with forty-three Migratory Schools from 1927-1934.

The Migratory Schools allowed the children of agricultural workers a brief respite from the hard labors of crop work. Teachers encouraged the children to learn, create, and play – until it was time to move on with their families in search of more work.

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Records in the Spotlight

Records of the Bureau of Apportionment and Reports

by Linda Johnson, Archivist

The reports referenced in the article about migratory schools are part of a much larger series of reports found within the records of the Department of Education's Bureau of Apportionment and Reports. This bureau had its beginnings in 1919 when the Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed the first State School Attendance Agent (soon after the appointment, the title changed to State Supervisor of Attendance). This appointment followed the strengthening and amending of an 1874 compulsory attendance law, which required more reporting from school districts.

Gathering attendance statistics was the main function of the State Supervisor of Attendance. The earliest reports start in 1861 and continue through 1959. Referred to as "common school reports," these documents contain information such as the number and gender of students in each grade, the types of schools in the each district or county, the number of teachers and their salaries, curriculum information, assessed value of real property and related data, and the amount of funds apportioned to each district. Overlapping the common school reports are various "J" forms, such as the J-17 form for the migratory elementary schools. The "J" forms continue to 1979. The reports present interesting facets in California's changing school populations as well as in the extent of resources provided to the many school districts over time. The researcher using these records can glean information about the state's one-room schools, migratory schools, elementary schools, and junior colleges.

Search Minerva, our online catalog, to find other education-related records at the Archives.

New Exhibit Opening in January

William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection

Lisa Prince, Archivist & Exhibit Coordinator

William and Grace McCarthy, native Californians born in the late 19th century, pursued their passion for both photography and travel for many years. The end result is a collection of nearly 3,000 photographs mounted in eleven albums that provide rare pictorial documentation of the couple’s early-20th century travels through California and beyond.

Featured photographs will emphasize California's diverse natural and built environments, historic sites, and family life. Always ready with the camera, William McCarthy also captured significant events that shaped or impacted the state's development, events such as stunning images of San Francisco before and after the 1906 earthquake, the fire that destroyed that city's iconic Cliff House in 1907, and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

William and Grace McCarthy crossing the Sacramento Causeway, circa 1916

Black and white photograph of William and Grace McCarthy in their automobile crossing the Sacramento Causeway in about 1916.

The 1907 fire at the Cliff House in San Francisco

Black and white photograph showing smoke billowing from the restaurant called the Cliff House, located in San Francisco. On the beach stands a group of onlookers.


Opening on January 12, this exhibit will showcase selected images from the William M. McCarthy photograph collection, donated to the State Archives in 1996. Located on the 4th floor above the California Museum, the Archives Gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

California Digital Archives

A new digital exhibit, "Spanning the Bay: Celebrating the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge," is now online! In 1956, the American Society of Civil Engineering selected seven engineering wonders of the modern world. It named the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as one of these wonders. Started in May of 1933, the Bay Bridge's design combined three different types of bridge-building technology to connect San Francisco and Oakland: a suspension span, a cantilevered span, and a tunnel. At the time of its completion in November of 1936, the bridge was the longest steel structure on the globe. It also featured the deepest bridge pier ever built, and the world's largest bore tunnel. This new digital exhibit celebrates the construction of this engineering marvel, via the photograph collections of the California State Archives. It also highlights the people who built the bridge, a workforce of more than 8,000 who accomplished what many thought was impossible -- spanning the Bay to provide a critical link between two of California's largest cities.

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Visit the California Digital Archives to see more online exhibits and collections.

Upcoming Events

DateEventMore Information
January 5 Happy 167th Birthday, California State Archives! View our "birth certificate"
January 27 Monthly Public Tour of the California State Archives
February 24 Monthly Public Tour of the California State Archives
March 24 Monthly Public Tour of the California State Archives

California State Archives
1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA 95814


For general assistance,
call (916) 653-7715

For reference assistance,
call (916) 653-2246 or email

For event information,
call (916) 653-7715 or email

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