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 VI, No. 3 | Spring 2018

California Originals

From the State Archivist

Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil

This issue of California Originals spotlights Women's History Month and women who have made history as the first to hold notable roles in state government, and thereby leading the way for others. Grace Doris, Esto Broughton, Anna Saylor, and Elizabeth Hughes were the first four women to elected to the State Assembly in 1918, two years before women could vote nationwide. Rose Ann Vuich was the first woman to be elected to the State Senate in 1977. Forty-one years later, on March 21, 2018, Senator Toni Atkins became Senate President Pro Tempore . . .the first woman to lead the State Senate. Rose Elizabeth Bird became the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977. Today, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye leads the Supreme Court. Among Constitutional Officers, former Secretary of State March Fong Eu, profiled in this issue of California Originals, was the first woman, and the first Chinese-American, elected to a statewide constitutional office. Delaine Eastin was the first woman elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Being the first woman to achieve something notable is an accomplishment and an honor, as I can personally attest. On March 1st, I marked twelve years since Secretary of State Bruce McPherson appointed me to the position of State Archivist, the first woman to hold the position. The original position, created in 1889 by the Legislature, directed the Secretary of State to appoint a "Keeper of the Archives." Come visit the California State Archives for records relating to female leaders in state government including the Legislature, State Supreme Court, and Constitutional Offices. 

In Memoriam: Dr. March Fong Eu

Melissa Tyler, Archivist

Former California Secretary of State, Dr. March Fong Eu, passed away in Irvine, California, on December 21, 2017. She served as Secretary of State from January 6, 1975, to February 17, 1994, and played such a vital role in the history and development of the California State Archives that we could not but honor her in this issue of California Originals with a look back at her remarkable life and enduring legacy of public service.

Current Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a statement saying in part "Secretary of State March Fong Eu's decades of public service reflect the office of the Secretary of State at its best — a commitment to transparency, access, inclusion, respect for history, and progress." Secretary Padilla noted, "In her 95 years of life, she led with courage and clear vision, while inspiring women and people of color to engage in the political system . . . she was a champion for transparency and increasing voter access to registration and the ballot box. Her work laid the foundation for many of the initiatives that we continue to advance today. . . In recognition of Secretary Eu's service and in honor of her legacy, I believe it would be fitting to name the Secretary of State building complex in her honor. I have instructed my staff to initiate the process to change the name of our complex."

March Fong Eu was born on March 29, 1922, in the San Joaquin Valley town of Oakdale, where her parents, Yuen Kong and Shiu Shee, ran a hand laundry. She faced discrimination but rather than letting it deter her, she used it as motivation. She recognized that education would propel her out of poverty, so she studied hard to move up in the world. Eu graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1943 and earned a master's degree from Mills College in 1947. Stanford University awarded Eu a doctorate in Education in 1954. Prior to entering the political arena, she was employed as a dental hygienist and as an educator in the Oakland public school system.

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Dr. Eu cut her teeth, so to say, on political involvement while serving as president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. In 1960, she was elected to the Alameda County Board of Education. A true trailblazer, she was the first Asian-American woman elected to the state legislature, where she served four terms (1966-1974) representing California's 15th Assembly District, which included Oakland and Castro Valley. Her primary legislative interests included education, homeowner's tax relief, conservation and environmental quality, and consumer protection and safety. Still, Eu was best known for her legislation to ban pay toilets in public buildings because this type of facility discriminated against women. In 1969, to call attention to the issue, she smashed a locked and chained toilet with a sledgehammer on the steps of the state capitol, as seen in the San Jose Mercury News.

In 1974, Eu was elected Secretary of State and served nearly 20 years in that position. As Secretary of State, Eu was the first Asian-American elected to a statewide constitutional office in California as well as the state's first female Secretary of State. She was also the first woman and Asian-American to serve as Governor—if only for a day -- when, on July 14, 1976, all the other officials in the line of succession were out of the state. During her time as Secretary of State, Eu ushered in voter registration by mail, reduced deadlines for voter registration, streamlined the process for business filings for corporations, enforced stricter notary public laws and protections, and successfully garnered the appropriation to build a new Secretary of State complex in Sacramento. The complex, completed in 1995, covers an entire city block. It brought together all the divisions of the office, including the state's ever-growing archives. The California State Archives provides a large and beautiful public research room, with six floors of environmentally-controlled and secure storage areas in which to house the permanent records of state government. The California Museum is housed on the first and second floors and provides exhibits and education opportunities for all.

Dr. Eu resigned as secretary of state in early 1994 to accept an appointment by President Bill Clinton as the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, a post she held until 1996. In retirement, Eu took up painting and calligraphy. Her late son, Matt Fong, served as state treasurer from 1995-1999. She is survived by her daughter, Suyin Stein, four grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

The California State Archives holds the records of the office of the Secretary of State, which contain the historically significant and/or legally valuable records of its various divisions. The Archives also houses Dr. Eu's legislative records, which contain bill files, hearing files, and subject files, as well as photographic materials and campaign memorabilia, along with numerous awards and gifts which attest to her many years of dedicated public service.

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Establishing Women's History Month in California

Laurie Frazier, Graduate Intern

Women's History Month began to gain ground nationally in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter encouraged the nation to celebrate Women’s History Week. Seven years later, in 1987, Congress declared March to be National Women's History Month. California's Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women predated both federal declarations when they celebrated women's achievements in 1977.

The California Commission on the Status of Women, which the Legislature established in 1965 and made permanent in 1971, began planning Women's History Month celebrations at the capitol following Congress's 1987 declaration. These events generally included a rally, a job fair, an evening reception, and exhibits in the capitol. Prior to the 1988 celebration, an exhibit on the Woman's Suffrage Movement in California was displayed outside the governor's office. Items in this exhibit were on loan from the Women's Heritage Museum and the California History Center and, in the years that followed, the exhibit became the commission's showcase for women's contributions to state history.

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At the rally, women from throughout the state were recognized and honored for their contributions to "herstory." The rally also included a reading of the governor's proclamation, which designated March as Women's History Month. Available for viewing at the State Archives, these unique proclamations showcase beautiful language and images honoring women. The governor's 1988 proclamation, found in the records of the commission, commemorates the event by acknowledging, "since the earliest beginnings of our state and nation, American women of every race, class and ethnic background have helped forge the birth and growth of our society and economy in ways grandly eloquent and steadfastly ordinary."

Governor's Proclamation, 1988

The commission kept governors' proclamations issued between 1988 and 1993, along with proclamations from 22 municipalities, including the cities of Palmdale, Brea, Coronado, and Victorville (PDF). While each proclamation uses different language, the message is the same: women have made a difference in history and it is time that we recognize and celebrate that.

Although Women's History Month is a relatively new celebration, women's contributions to history are not. Commission chair Jan Hall put it best in her 1991 rally speech, "While we take the month of March to specifically recognize their special gifts, we cannot forget that each and every day women continue to participate in the well-being and collective knowledge of each of us." California continues to honor the women of this state each March with rallies at the capitol. Keep an eye on the capitol events calendar to see how and when women are being honored this year.

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Education Is Power

Teresa Hughes's Influence in California

Spencer Gomez, Graduate Intern

Teresa P. Hughes's passion for education guided her throughout her career in the California Legislature. From 1975 to 2002, Hughes pushed for reforms within the education system, especially preventative and reactionary bills aimed at curtailing violence in schools and the lack of affordable student housing at the State's public universities.

Having graduated with a master's degree in education administration from New York University, Hughes earned her PhD from Claremont Graduate School. Experienced as a social worker, public school teacher, assistant professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and educational consultant for the California State Commission for Teacher Preparation and Licensing, Hughes's insight into the city’s educational system proved fitting for her decades long interaction with reform during her career.

In 1983, as an assembly member, Hughes successfully pushed for affordable housing at California State Universities with the introduction of Assembly Bill 133 (AB133). She carried this legislation because of the desperate lack of affordable housing situation that low-income students faced while attending college. Hughes wrote to a CSU-LA. student, "I am committed to finding methods to improve the learning environment of our institutions of higher education." Improving the learning environment included finding housing, both affordable and close to campus. The intent of AB133 was to provide affordable housing on the campuses of the California State University and to prioritize construction "where there is no on campus student housing and a large proportion of the student population have low-income disadvantaged backgrounds." Governor George Deukmejian signed the bill into law on September 28, 1983 (Chapter 1125, Statutes of 1983).

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The impetus for much of Hughes's later reforms were the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American motorist. The violence spawned by the riots remained part of the city afterwards and insinuated itself into everyday activities. Various media outlets, such as the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times, published articles about gun violence in high schools throughout the state. The articles addressed the ease with which students brought weapons into their high schools without detection. The Los Angeles Times mentioned that "students of all races reported easy access to handguns – African Americans (72 percent), White (55 percent), Latino (69 percent), and Asian (47 percent)."

In 1993, Hughes, then a state senator, introduced Senate Resolution 13 (SR13) to create a Task Force on School Violence. Hughes noted in her floor statement that "it is reported that on a typical day in the United States, 100,000 students take guns to school and 40 children are killed or wounded by gunshots and that an estimated $200 million is spent annually battling school crime and vandalism." Her main goal in SR13 was to address "why this violence is happening and how pervasive is it." Her desire to end these types of incidences reflected her commitment to the children of her Los Angeles district, where the violence was extremely prevalent. The resolution passed unanimously. The Task Force on School Violence held at least two hearings, transcripts of which can be found here. Four years later, Hughes introduced SB187 (Chapter 736, Statutes of 1997) which made the development of comprehensive school safety plans mandatory.

Senator Hughes tried to further derail violence in elementary schools with Senate Bill 1729 (SB1729) which focused on students, predominately K-5, using pilot projects in four counties. The bill authorized a "Cognitive-Social Competence Project to increase school and home peace to be conducted in the eight counties in California having the largest population." At only $3.52 per participating pupil per year, the goal was to instill children with lifelong tools that would encourage them to be responsible adults. The low cost would allow students to be immersed in programs designed to counter violence outside school, to reduce aggression, increase positive relationships, and improve academic success. While the bill did not pass, its existence illustrates Hughes's commitment to bettering the community.

An examination of these bill files at the California State Archives reveals the important efforts of Teresa P. Hughes throughout her 25-year career to improve her community and demonstrates the achievements of women in government. Click here to view the guide to the Teresa P. Hughes Papers.

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"The Highest, Grandest and Most Potent Civil Right"

Ellen Van Valkenberg's Right to Vote

Sebastian Nelson, Archivist

On Friday, July 21, 1871, forty years before California's women gained the right to vote in State elections, a forty-four-year-old widow named Ellen Van Valkenburg demanded that Santa Cruz County Clerk Albert Brown enter her name in the county’s Great Register of voters. Brown declined, and the records of Van Valkenburg's subsequent court case and appeal to the Supreme Court of California, found in the collections of the California State Archives, give witness to one of the first women in California history to attempt to register to vote.

According to one local newspaper, Van Valkenburg sought the right to vote because in 1862, she had become, "under the most painful circumstances, a widow" (her husband was killed suddenly by the falling of a tree during the great flood of that year). For the ten years since, she had been "obliged to manage her own affairs, pay her own taxes, and struggle alone to bring up her family." She was also a member of a local Santa Cruz woman's suffrage association which sought to secure the right to vote through the courts. The crux of Van Valkenberg's argument was that the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution conferred citizenship and the rights of citizenship, including voting rights, upon her and other American women. The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted three years earlier and had bestowed citizenship on America’s newly freed ex-slaves. Wyoming and Utah Territories had granted women the right to vote in 1869 and 1870, respectively, and many suffragists hoped that California's women might gain the ballot next.

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On August 19, 1871, America’s most famous suffragists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, were in Santa Cruz with Van Valkenberg when California's Third District Court ruled against her. According to one local newspaper, Stanton addressed a crowd after the judge’s ruling: "I feel somewhat depressed in appearing before you this evening. One of your judges in his decision this week has denied women the right to vote. He stated that in the eye of the civil law we are persons, but in representation we are not persons, and have no political rights which men are bound to respect."

Van Valkenberg appealed and according to the brief in the Supreme Court case file,

the only question involved in this application, and one that the Court must meet, is, 'Have women the right of suffrage under the Constitution' . . . we submit that the highest, grandest and most potent civil right with which a citizen is invested is the right to vote . . . it is the first, highest and dearest right of the governed to determine who shall govern, and the . . . Fourteenth Amendment is not to simply secure to all persons equal capacities before the law, but in our opinion it grants to all persons who are citizens the broadest rights which attach themselves to every citizen of the Republic.

The following January, the Supreme Court of California upheld the lower court’s decision (PDF) that the ballot was not one of the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Unfortunately for Van Valkenberg, her attempt to register to vote had been denied by the courts.

Ellen Van Valkenberg passed away in Oakland on April 16, 1922, at the age of ninety-five. She lived just long enough to see the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote.

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A "Radical Innovation"

The Debate on Woman's Suffrage at the California Constitutional Convention of 1879

Beth Behnam, Archivist

Women gained the right to vote in California in 1911 with the passage of Constitutional Amendment 8; however, earlier efforts to grant woman's suffrage can be traced back to the Constitutional Convention of 1878-1879, when several amendments and resolutions sought to modify Article II of the 1849 constitution. Article II granted voting rights to "every white male" in the state. The Working Papers of the 1878-1879 Constitutional Convention, available online, provide an interesting view into societal norms and fears of woman suffrage.

On October 9, 1878, shortly after the Convention convened, delegate George Steele of San Luis Obispo proposed Resolution 20 (PDF) which stated, "that the Committee on Privileges and Elections be instructed to inquire into the justice and expediency of extending the Elective Franchise to Women, on the same basis of qualification as established by law for the male voter."

On the same day that Steele presented his resolution, Thomas McFarland of Sacramento introduced Amendment 20 (PDF), which addressed the issue of woman suffrage with two major caveats:

Every unmarried woman having such qualifications of age, residence, and citizenship as are prescribed in this constitution for male voters, who is or may hereafter be the owner of property of the value of one thousand dollars shall be entitled to vote at all elections in this State; and every married woman having the said qualifications of age, residence, and citizenship who is, or shall be, the owner of separate property of the value of two thousand dollars shall be entitled to vote at all elections in this State. Provided that the legislature shall have the power to extend the elective franchise to any or all other women having the above-named qualifications of age, residence, and citizenship.

Given that the amount of property needed for married women to vote was twice that amount for unmarried women, this proposed a significant, and purposeful, barrier to the franchise. To give an understanding of the value of property needed to secure the right to vote, a married woman today would need to own $23,500 dollars in property and an unmarried woman would need to own $11,750 in property.

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The Committee on the Right of Suffrage then drafted Amendment 504 (PDF) and read it on November 13th. The amendment ignored the earlier suggested modifications that directly allowed woman suffrage and instead proposed woman suffrage "provided, that the Legislature may by law remove in whole, or in part, the disabilities to exercise the elective franchise on account of sex." Seven of the eight men who signed the committee's notes on the amendment were from rural northern counties, where suffragists would focus their efforts for both the vote and temperance. They tabled the watered-down amendment, however, to await the committee's minority report.

The minority report's single signatory, James Caples (also of Sacramento), submitted the document to the committee the following day. Within the almost five-hundred-word report, he condemns the "radical innovation" which "is not demanded by the sober, conservative people – but by a few professional agitators and schismatic propagandists." Caples presented four reasons why the amendment should not proceed: first, it should be up to "the people," not the legislature, to decide if women could vote. Second, women are not capable of true citizenship because "the right to vote carries with it the co-relative obligation of citizenship." The discharge of these obligations in the minds of most 19th Century Americans, were "utterly incompatible with the moral, social and physical condition of women in civilized society."

Caples's third reason appears to express alarm for the welfare of legislators should women be granted the vote and then turn into political activists. The legislative hall would become a beleaguered fortress behind whose paper ramparts your statesmen and law makers would vainly seek shelter from the attacks of crinoline and silk sophistry and blandishment, smiles and tears:

Graceful styles, and winning wiles,
Charms replete, your hero greet; In dulcet strains, the siren reigns.

Given that temperance activists and suffragettes' efforts frequently intersected, this passage may reflect his core concern.

Caples's final reason equated a woman who votes with a sullied female, "dragged down from the lofty sphere" whose garments are no longer "as white as of yore." He warned of the day when woman descends "down into the political arena – and paddles her own canoe in the historical pool, runs for Constable, is elected Alderman, and finally goes to the legislature to warm a contested seat." He concluded, "Let us not desecrate our temple wherein man's noblest, highest, holiest aspirations are crystalized in that sweetest word of human tongue – home."

In the weeks that followed, delegates continued to debate the issue of woman suffrage. One delegate offered a resolution that Caples should spend an evening with Laura de Force Gordon, a local lawyer and famous suffragist, to discuss the amendment. The delegates who spoke in favor of female suffrage noted that without it, women were subject to taxation without representation and to laws in which they had no say. Several also cited a need for white women's votes to counter those of the Chinese, though the new constitution eventually deprived the Chinese of citizenship, and therefore, the right to vote. Delegate Steele declared,

there are still lingering, tangible traces of man's belief in woman's inability to govern herself or assist in the government of the State; lingering traces of the barbarism of the past ages, which still cling, with the tenacity of a death-grip, to our law and theology, which can only be obliterated from our statute books and our creeds by extending to women, equally with man, the use of the elective franchise.

Californians submitted petitions from around the state, requesting that the constitution be amended so that "no citizen of the State shall be disenfranchised on the account of sex." The petitions included over 2,500 signatures. Even so, several delegates not only repeated Caples's various fears about female voters and their "sphere," but added another concern: the fragile mandate to create a new constitution would be totally upended if their document contained any form of woman suffrage. To include such a radical concept would doom its ratification.

After several days of debate, the delegates voted down Amendment 504 on February 14, 1879. Of the 122 votes, 55 were for the amendment and 67 were against it. Although the vote was evenly split amongst delegates outside San Francisco, Alameda, and Sacramento counties, 29 of the 46 of the delegates from those three counties voted against the amendment. Those same alcohol-producing and vending counties, threatened by the growing temperance movement, would also block future efforts in 1896. Only by rallying voters in the more rural and southern areas, which were traditionally pro-temperance, were suffrage supporters finally able to exceed the negative votes in 1911 to win the female franchise in California.

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Staff News

Remembering Dave Snyder

Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil

The State Archives staff fondly remembers archivist David L. Snyder, who passed away February 14, 2018. Dave was an archivist with the State Archives from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1994. Among his accomplishments, Dave served as the lead archivist coordinating the 1992 move of the State Archives, then with approximately 65,000 cubic feet of records, from the old State Printing Plant Building in Sacramento to temporary quarters in Roseville. The move helped to facilitate the construction of the current State Archives Building. Most importantly, Dave’s work will live on at the Archives through the collections he processed. He wrote finding aids to some of the largest record groups, including the records of the Governor's Office and the State Supreme Court and the papers of Earl Warren and Jesse Unruh.  In addition to his work with collections, Dave was an exceptional reference archivist, with a deep understanding of the records held by the Archives and the intricacies of California history. I had the honor to meet and work with Dave early in my career. Condolences to the Snyder family, on behalf of the Archives staff, past and present. 

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