Foltz’s Friends and Allies
From Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz -- Online Notes For The Book
This Note provides further information on Foltz's friends and allies for whom there are many relevant sources and stories beyond those cited and discussed in WOMAN LAWYER. The need to point out these additional materials governed the choice of those included in this section. Some of Foltz's closest allies, such as James Maguire (Chapter Two) and Mary Foy, (Chapters Five and Six) are not discussed here because the main biographical information about them is in WOMAN LAWYER. Note also that these are her allies in the women's movement; others such as Ella Cummins, Frona Waite and Madge Morris, who were more social friends, are mentioned in Note to Chapter Two, San Francisco Social Life and Clara Foltz's Circle.
Lillie Devereux Blake
Blake is mentioned on pages 94, 186, 200-01, 272, and 274 of Woman Lawyer.
Blake was very important in the women’s movement, though she has not been remembered as one of its chief leaders. GRACE FARRELL, LILLIE DEVEREUX BLAKE: RETRACING A LIFE ERASED (2002) [hereafter FARRELL, ERASED] deals with the reasons for her relative obscurity, having to do partly with the fact that she did not fit the usual mold of feminist reformer. In a biography whose stated goal is to rescue Blake, Farrell gives a good account of Blake’s professional career spanning fifty years.
On the literary side, a LIFE ERASED discusses Blakes’s oeuvre including nine novels and many stories, essays, and occasional pieces. Farrell also wrote an Afterword to the 1996 reprint of Blake’s first novel, FETTERED FOR LIFE (1874). Blake’s daughters wrote an admiring biography: KATHERINE BLAKE & MARGARET LOUISE WALLACE, CHAMPION OF WOMEN (1943) [hereafter BLAKE & WALLACE, CHAMPION]. It gives Blake’s side of the conflict between her and Susan B. Anthony, stressing motives of personal jealousy and envy on Anthony's part. The Blake entry in NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN also discusses the difficulties between Anthony and Blake, but puts it more on the ground of disagreement about legislative agendas other than suffrage, and whether to court society women for the cause. Blake had ambitions to lead the National-American Association in 1900, but withdrew when Anthony supported Carrie Chapman Catt.
For other biographical entries on Blake, see WOMAN OF THE CENTURY, (Blake entry); 11 NATIONAL CYCLOPEDIA OF AM. BIOGRAPHY 61 (Blake entry). Also, Blake published a lively Letter from New York in the Woman’s Journal for a decade or so, detailing her activities.
Early Life and W.L.H. Barnes
As described in Chapter Four, Blake did not have the usual background of a feminist reformer. Her parents were slave-owning Southerners, but her father’s early death meant that Lillie Blake was raised in New Haven, where she was the belle of the town. One of the young men that she attracted and then dropped revenged himself by spreading the word that Lillie had engaged in “intimacies inconsistent with the character of a virtuous female” with him and many other Yale students. The man, W.L.H. Barnes, was expelled from the college in the middle of his senior year, for “impeaching the character of a young lady of the town.” But according to Farrell, the incident continued to have a negative influence on Blake’s life and reputation. FARRELL, ERASED, at 15-20.
Barnes went on to become a San Francisco lawyer, whose path intersected with Foltz’s many times. He was even a celebrity lecturer at the Portia Club. S.F. CHRON., June 12, 1894, quoted in CHI. LEGAL NEWS, Jun. 23, 1894, at 345. A striking biographical coincidence—but not one that Foltz, Blake or Barnes ever recorded recognizing; probably too many years and events covered over the connections. SHUCK, BENCH AND BAR OF CALIFORNIA (1901) (Barnes entry) has an admiring portrait of Barnes, and relates his success as a lawyer, especially before juries.
A less admiring portrait appears in Ambrose Bierce, A Retort, in BLACK BEETLES IN AMBER (1892), reprinted below. It references the Yale incident and to his being the lawyer for the silver king William Ralston, whose profligacy was widely believed to have brought about the collapse of the Bank of California in the early 1870s. See ETHINGTON, PUBLIC CITY, at 257-60, on the bank collapse and the disgrace of Ralston.
As vicious women think all men are knaves, And shrew-bound gentlemen discourse of slaves; As reeling drunkards judge the world unsteady Thieves that the constable stole all they had, The mad that all except themselves are mad; So, in anothers clear escutcheon shown, Barnes rails at stains reflected from his own; Prates of docility, nor feels the dark Ring round his neck the Ralston collar mark. Back, man, to studies interrupted once, Ere yet the rogue had merged into the dunce. Back, back to Yale! and, grown with years discreet, The course a virgin's lust cut short, complete. Go drink again at the Pierian pool, Least to better play the fool. No longer scorn the draught, although the font, Unlike Pactolus, waters not Belmont.
Marriages and Early Writings
As Farrell and Blake’s daughters relate, the Yale incident resulted in a perhaps over-hasty marriage to a lawyer named Frank Umsted, who turned out to be morbidly depressed. Of this match, Lillie wrote: “it was the result of circumstances rather than of that strong and passionate love which alone should unite two beings.” FARRELL, ERASED, at 41. He committed suicide after running through her large dowry, leaving her penniless with two small daughters to support. Resolving to maintain herself by writing, she moved to Washington, D.C., reporting on the Capitol during the War for papers in New York and Philadelphia, and producing a fiction story a week for Fornay’s War Press. FARRELL, ERASED, at 82-86.
Her columns, written anonymously or under pseudonyms, covered such subjects as the work of the sanitary commissions, the daily arrival of hundreds of contrabands, as the ex-slaves were called, balloon recognizance missions, and the barbarities of rebel prison camps. Soon after the war, she married a merchant, some years her junior: Grenfil Blake. It was at this point, newly married, re-settled in New York, in her late thirties, that Lillie Devereux Blake found the women’s movement. She met Anthony and Stanton and started writing for the Revolution, the radical suffrage paper they published from 1869-1872.
Contributions to the Women's Movement
When Foltz first met her in the late 1880s, Blake was already a figure in the women’s movement because of her writing and her oratory. Blake took drama and voice lessons to improve her performance and spoke of seeing large crowds bending and swaying “at my will, as a field of wheat yields to the touch of the summer wind.” Over the years, she often made an annual lecture tour, with engagements as far away as California. BLAKE & WALLACE, CHAMPION, at 167-69 (describing Blake’s speaking career).
One of Blake’s staples, which Foltz heard in 1888 was entitled Is it a Crime to be a Woman? Blake would start by intoning the words of the indictment of Susan B. Anthony: “She, being a woman contrary to the laws and customs of the United States.” Though “voted” was accidentally omitted, Blake said the charge was correct. Then she would give a current example of a woman punished for her sex alone. A girl who was trying to make a living as a waiter (paid twice as much as a waitress) was “arrested on the streets of New York for wearing men’s habiliments and sentenced to six months in jail – for no other reason than that she was a woman.” BLAKE & WALLACE, CHAMPION, at 168 (quoting clipping from San Jose Daily [Mercury], July 27, 1888).
Blake backed her oratorical and literary efforts with solid administrative ability and a flair for publicity. In 1886, she led a protest against the erection of a female Statue of Liberty at the “gateway of a nation in which women were not free,” and hired a steamer to carry suffragists and their banners in the official ceremony. When women were excluded from the posh Pilgrim Father’s Dinner, Lillie Blake founded a Pilgrim Mothers Dinner, which became a festive annual institution. It was, of course, an irresistible occasion for Lillie Blake to deliver the great old line: “the Pilgrim mothers not only had to endure all that the Pilgrim fathers suffered, but had to endure the Pilgrim fathers as well.” The line is attributed to Grace Greenwood, the pen name of Sarah Jane Lippencott, a popular writer. See NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN (Lippencott entry).
Her greatest contribution to the movement, however, was probably her legislative campaigns in Albany. Year after year, often working with lawyer Kate Stoneman, she arranged the introduction of bills to improve conditions for women: to provide for police matrons for instance, and to allow suffrage, if not across the board, then for school or municipal offices. Over many sessions, Blake became a familiar and efficacious figure in the Capitol. One legislator credited her with “changing the whole method of the suffrage campaign, by bringing beauty and grace and charm of loveliest womanhood” to aid her arguments. BLAKE & WALLACE, CHAMPION, at 85 (on Blake as a N.Y. legislator).
Like Clara Foltz, Lillie Blake cultivated a wide circle of friends and acquaintances of different types, and she proselytized for suffrage among the society women and their husbands, speaking to private gatherings as well as at conventions and rallies. “A large number of men and women in society gathered in the parlors of Dr. Egbert Gurensey, 528 Fifth Avenue and listened with great interest to a political equality discussion” read a typical article about Lillie Blake’s work. Equal Suffrage for Women, N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 18, 1894. In one of her Letters from New York written at a time when Foltz was there, Blake spoke of being a very social person and finding in all circles increasing interest in woman suffrage. 27 WOMAN’S J., Feb. 15, 1896.
Colby is discussed in Chapter Six of WOMAN LAWYER. She is important in Foltz's story because of their correspondence: four letters from Foltz between 1904-1909.
Clara Colby and Clara Foltz had very different life experiences, but they shared a mutual dedication to the women’s movement and disappointment in their own lack of recognition within it (the main subject of their correspondence). In 1869, Colby had worked to make the University of Wisconsin co-educational and been one of its first women graduates. There she met her future husband, a dashing civil war veteran who took a law degree from the University. Together they moved to Beatrice, Nebraska where Leonard Colby served in the state militia and senate while practicing law and Clara Colby joined the women’s movement. DEMOCRATIC IDEALS: A MEMORIAL SKETCH OF CLARA B. COLBY 14 (Olympia Brown ed., 1917); NORMA KIDD GREEN, NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN (Colby entry).
Clara Colby organized in Nebraska and put out The Woman’s Tribune, a weekly which became the semi-official organ of the National Woman Suffrage Association. The couple had no children of their own, but adopted two orphan boys. Colby was an important aid to Anthony in uniting the two rival suffrage associations in 1890. See Chapter Six. Afterwards, she felt betrayed when The Woman’s Journal, the organ of the American Suffrage Association in Boston, and not her paper, the Tribune, became the main movement publication representing the merged National American Association.
Yet Clara Colby continued to publish during the decade of the 1890’s. She had moved to Washington with her husband who served as a lawyer in the Harrison administration, but their marriage ended near the turn of the century. Colby wrote to Foltz in 1904, when she was alone and struggling financially. She sought advice on moving the Tribune to the west.
Foltz urged her to come to California but also praised Portland, and particularly “Abigail Scott Dunaway [sic] who has been and is the bravest of the brave, the truest of the true to the cause of women. Her work precedes us all and the women of the Pacific Coast should realize that they owe her a lasting debt of gratitude.” Unpaid debts of gratitude were the theme of the Colby-Foltz correspondence over the next few years as both women saw their movement passing into the hands of others.
Correspondence Between Colby and Foltz
There are four letters from Foltz to Colby dated June 6, 1904; June 2, 1907; June 28, 1908; and April 8, 1809. Two of them are quite long, all are unguarded, personal, grandiose yet touching, and they show Foltz’s bitterness and jealousy increasing as her years declined. Throughout the correspondence, she complained about her lonely struggle since she “came before the public, a very young widow, upward of twenty-five years ago” and of the lack of “co-operation from the rich and splendid women who really did, and do love the cause.” (1904 letter).
In addition to the letters between Colby and Foltz, the most personal and revealing of any extant, there was an item in the Woman’s Tribune in 1901, soon after Foltz returned to San Francisco from her New York venture. See Chapter Four. “I was glad to get a little touch of the homelife of the brilliant Clara Foltz, whom the world knows only as lawyer and editor jostling with men in the strife of court and forum and business mart. . . One son only, tall and handsome like his mother, remains in the very pleasant home where Mrs. Foltz lives with her mother.” WOMAN’S TRIB., Oct. 6, 1901.
Colby and Laura Gordon
Colby was closer to Laura Gordon than she was to Clara Foltz. She wrote an extended elegy on Gordon’s death, including the story of their renting a tent in someone’s back yard for the Chicago World’s Fair: “sharing domestic labors and expense, each pursuing our special work, meeting to talk over the wonderful topics that were being presented at the Congresses and almost every evening attending some lecture or reception.” Colby continued by urging that when women won the vote, as they soon would in California, “a monument should be erected at the Capitol to Laura DeForce Gordon who was the founder and . . . energizing spirit of the woman suffrage movement in the Golden State.” Clara Bewick Colby, Laura DeForce Gordon, WOMAN’S TRIB., May 26, 1907. “I have read your great tribute to my ever beloved Laura,” Foltz handwrote a note soon afterwards, “and with eyes brimming I write you to express my appreciation.” She went on to tell of “the slights [Gordon] received at the hand of the smaller women….Truly, certain so-called suffragists may ‘Fall upon their knees, Pray to the gods to intermit the plague. What words must light on this ingratitude.’” Letter from Clara Foltz to Clara Colby (June 2, 1907) (quoting loosely from WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, JULIUS CAESAR act 1, sc. 1).
For some years, Foltz continued to bludgeon “ingrates” with the Gordon example—an obvious surrogate for her own personal complaints. The Eastern suffrage leaders had always failed to recognize her and Gordon, she wrote, and even Colby’s Tribune had only featured Laura after death when “her great achievements could no longer excite in little minds the mean jealousy, which they exhibited toward her during her entire lifetime. I want to tell you, sister, that many time[s] her deep azure eyes filled with tears as she would relate to me, her one close friend, how keen was the hurt she suffered through the neglect, omission and contempt heaped upon her by the mediocrities that hung onto Susan B. Anthony’s skirts—the nearest approach of any of them to greatness.” Letter from Clara Shortridge Foltz to Clara Bewick Colby, June 26, 1908.
Though Foltz criticized the national leaders, she was most concerned about “the ingratitude” of the California suffragists: “the near-rich, the very rich, the social wrecks, the passee [sic] relics of distinguished and defunct spouses.” In the Spring of 1909, Foltz wrote “If I live and shall not be crushed by sorrow by the passing of my dear mother I will go to Sacramento” and save the suffrage campaign from “those beautiful, well-gowned, well-groomed, well-fed, wives of rich men and relics.” Taking back the movement is what Foltz tried to do, engaging in divisive and unseemly tactics. See Chapter Six.
Duniway is discussed in Chapter Two of WOMAN LAWYER.
Many sources are cited in Babcock, First Woman, at nn.20-30. See RUTH B. MOYNIHAN, REBEL FOR RIGHTS: ABIGAIL SCOTT DUNIWAY (1983), an admirable and sympathetic portrait of Duniway (and another example of the category of feminist biography). Duniway told her own story in PATH BREAKING: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF THE EQUAL SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT IN PACIFIC COAST STATES (1914). She included a photograph of Foltz entitled, “noted co-worker of Mrs. Duniway since 1871.” There is also an earlier biography: HELEN K. SMITH, THE PRESUMPTUOUS DREAMER: A SOCIOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ABIGAIL SCOTT DUNIWAY (1974) (2 vols) with many sources. G. THOMAS EDWARDS, SOWING GOOD SEEDS: THE NORTHWEST SUFFRAGE CAMPAIGNS OF SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1990) describes the three campaigns Anthony and Duniway made together. T.A. Larson, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Washington, 67 PAC. NW. Q. 49 (1976) deals with Duniway’s activities in the neighboring Territory and also her tendency to create dissension.
Sarah Knox Goodrich
Goodrich is discussed in Chapter One of WOMAN LAWYER.
Many sources are cited in Babcock, First Woman, at nn.33-42. On the basis of her writings and contemporary accounts, I described Knox as “maternal, sweet and very tough.” Babcock, First Woman, at n.36. GAYLE GULLETT, BECOMING CITIZENS: THE EMERGENCE AND DEVELOMENT OF THE CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S MOVEMENT (2000) cites my description and describes Goodrich’s importance to the movement. Clara Foltz, Struggles, May 1916 describes her relation to Knox, and calls her “my earliest appreciative friend,” who “believed in me and never ceased to proclaim me as the ‘coming woman.’” She also said that Mrs. Knox invited her to meet the celebrities who visited San Jose such as Susan B. Anthony, Mary Livermore and Lillie Devereux Blake. “These great souls were exemplars to me,” Foltz said. In Struggles, October 1916, Foltz tells of having her first office in the Knox block of San Jose, and that her friend put up the money bond in Foltz’s first case (the German servant whose luggage was taken by her employer to pay for broken dishes).
H.S. Foote, PEN PICTURES FROM “THE GARDEN OF THE WORLD” 226 (1888) has a portrait of Knox-Goodrich and summarizes: “For years Mrs. Goodrich has devoted her time, her money, and her social influence to the cause of equal rights for women.” On her “new departure” tactics (i.e. efforts to vote), see e.g., Annual Protest of Mrs. Knox, WOMAN’S J., May 5, 1877, at 141 (quoting from the San Jose Mercury). Knox was instrumental in winning the right for women to serve on school boards in 1877, journeying to Sacramento and “remaining there for weeks, urging the measure.” N. NORTHWEST, Apr. 6, 1877, at 2. She lobbied the constitutional convention for suffrage. SAN JOSE MERCURY, Nov. 6, 1878, at 2 (reprinting a letter from Hamlet Davis of Truckee, a Workingmen's delegate). Knox was also active in the 1880 legislature. Her “delegation [was in Sacramento] two weeks laboring with our law-makers…” 4 T. HITTELL, supra at 678; S.F. EXAMINER, Mar. 20, 1880, at 1; Sarah Knox-Goodrich, Annual Meeting, American Women Suffrage Association: California Report, Dec. 25, 1880, at 410, col. 5.
Gordon is discussed in Chapters One, Two, Three, Six and Seven on pages 23-27, 29, 35, 38, 39, 44, 46-51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 61, 62, 66-68, 71, 72 76-79, 117, 129, 138-39, 223-24, 251-52, 261, 266, 268-70, 278-79, and 294 of WOMAN LAWYER. For more sources on Laura Gordon, see First Woman, at nn.17-19; Constitution-Maker, at nn.53-65; and Babcock, Women Defenders in the West. WLH website.
Main sources on Laura DeForce Gordon include: Gordon Papers; 2 NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN, supra at 68-69 (Gordon entry); Clara Bewick Colby, Laura Deforce Gordon, WOMAN’S TRIB., May 25, 1907; Obituary, WOMAN'S TRIB., May 26, 1907, at 2; 11 PEN PORTRAITS, AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF STATE OFFICERS, LEGISLATORS, PROMINENT BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL MEN OF THE CAPITAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ALSO OF NEWSPAPER PROPRIETORS, EDITORS AND MEMBERS OF THE CORPS REPERTORIAL 105 (R.R. Parkinson ed., 1878) (Gordon entry) [hereafter PEN PORTRAITS]; WOMAN OF THE CENTURY (Gordon entry).
Four papers on the WLH website contain descriptions of different aspects of her life, as well as insightful overviews. Renee F. Hawkins, Laura De Force Gordon: Fragments of a Feminist Pioneer (1997); Laura J.C. Davis, Laura De Force Gordon As a Spiritualist: Life Lessons from the Great Beyond (2000); Sharon Ruiz, "The Legal Career of Laura de Force Gordon" (2001); Alex Han, Laura de Force Gordon (2005).
Early Life and Work With Foltz
Born in Pennsylvania in 1838, Gordon was eleven years older than Foltz and was married to a doctor, whom she divorced in 1877. As a young woman, Gordon had lectured on Spiritualism, but turned to women's rights after her post-war move west. In 1868, she gave the first speech for suffrage ever made in California. By the close of the decade of the 1870’s her story was so joined with Clara Foltz's that their achievements were truly mutual. ETHINGTON, THE PUBLIC CITY, at 208-18 (chapter on Women as Orators, Lawyers, Politicians). Though they worked and lobbied together, there was also an on-going rivalry between them for the title of “first woman” in the State. Gordon was the first to make a suffrage speech in California, first to represent California at a national suffrage meeting, first to run for office in the state, first to try a jury case (Saldez, described in Chapter Two). Though she gave Foltz equal credit, she considered that the Hastings case, and the Woman Lawyer’s bill were her triumphs as well. On the other side, Clara Foltz jealously guarded the first woman lawyer title and claimed the Hastings case as her own since it was brought in her name as a full member of the bar while Gordon was only a student assistant. THE HISTORY OF WOMAN SUFFRAGE gives Gordon more credit than Foltz for the woman lawyer’s bill, though it praises both. 3 HWS, at 758. It appears that Gordon supplied the information for this interpretation. See First Woman, at n.111 for the evidence. Foltz continued to be concerned about their relative claims into her old age. Letter from Clara Foltz to A. Park (Dec. 18. 1925) (on file with the Huntington Library in the Alice Park Collection (box 3)). Apparently, Park had written that the two women shared the honor of first woman lawyer. Foltz wrote: “I am that woman [first admitted] and no other can claim that distinction, which has gone down in history a thousand times.” See GULLETT, at 82-83.
Gordon's 'Greatest Case'
In Women Defenders in the West, 1 NEV. L.REV. 1, 10-12 (2001), at WLH Website, I tell the story of what Laura Gordon called “her greatest case.” Lelia Robinson, Women Lawyers in the United States, 3 GREEN BAG 25, 26-27 (1890); The Women Who are Helping to Make This a Great City, S.F. CALL, July 18, 1897, at 27. Her client, Sproule, had shot and killed another man by accident, when he was actually aiming for Espey, the seducer of his wife. The murder happened in the raw little mining town of Oroville in 1883, and the whole community turned on Sproule. Against the advice “of the most distinguished lawyers in the state,” Laura Gordon said, she took the case.
She had her hands full: Sproule had premeditated murder and committed it. He just missed his intended victim. Gordon focused on the wrong done to Sproule. In showing how he had been driven half mad by his wife’s affair, she managed to insinuate that the man he had intended to kill deserved to die at his hand. For this defense to succeed, the wife needed to be the star witness, revealing the affair and how it drove her husband to a murderous state (and perhaps even interfered with his aim). She had fled to San Francisco after the murder, but Gordon convinced her to return to Oroville for the trial. As Gordon described the witness, “her husband was on trial for his life, and she loved the other.” Gordon kept her in the next room at the hotel, “and I never left her for fear they would influence her to testify against her husband.” All the wife had to do to assure Sproule’s execution was to deny the affair. By the force of her personality and her oratorical skills, Laura Gordon kept the witness in hand and won the acquittal of Sproule - to the amazement of all. In telling of the victory, she said: “Before the trial they were anxious to lynch Sproule, but when the jury brought in the verdict of ‘not guilty’ the crowd in the courtroom cheered and carried him on their shoulders through the town. That, I think, was the hardest case I ever had and that was the greatest victory.” The Women Who are Helping to Make This a Great City, supra at 27.
Grove L. Johnson
Johnson is discussed in Chapters One, Three and Six on pages 27-29, 60, 157,-60, 268, and 277-78 of WOMAN LAWYER.
Several sources are cited in Babcock, First Woman, at nn.92-110. Foltz credited “the timely and able assistance” of Johnson with saving the Woman Lawyers Bill. Foltz, Struggles, Aug. 1916. The 1877-78 legislature was his first term as an Assemblyman. In 1880, Grove L., as he was known, ran successfully for the state senate. In the mid-nineties, he was a U.S. congressman, and in 1901 returned to the state assembly where he served for another decade. Irving McKee, The Background and Early Career of Hiram Walker Johnson, 1866-1910, 19 PAC. HIST. REV. 17 (1950) (discussing Grove Johnson’s career). Grove Johnson began as a reformer, supporting the Workingmen’s Party as well as women’s rights. See PEN PORTRAITS, supra at 66-67; IRA. B. CROSS, FRANK RONEY, IRISH REBEL AND LABOR LEADER 283 (1931). He even called for free coinage of silver and anti-railroad legislation. SACRAMENTO BEE, Dec. 5, 1877. For most of his career, however, Johnson was a conservative railroad lawyer and legislator. Grove’s son, Hiram Johnson, was to become the Progressive Governor of California from 1911 to 1916. See Chapter Six. Even after he became one of the railroad’s men, Grove L. continued to press for women’s rights and introduced suffrage bills in every legislative term he served. He also worked for penal reform. Obituary, S.F. CHRON., Feb. 2, 1926, at 1. (Neither of these causes conflicted with his championship of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s interests.)
Rivalry With Hiram Johnson
I was tempted in the text to speculate about the part that oedipal rivalry may have played in Hiram Johnson’s lukewarm attitude toward supporting woman suffrage. It was his father’s cause, and whatever Grove wanted it seemed Hiram was against—of course, especially the Southern Pacific Railroad. The rift between father and son had started near the turn of the century when Hiram supported a reform Mayor of Sacramento and Grove campaigned against him. In 1909 when progressive forces obtained the enactment of the direct primary law, which meant the end for Grove Johnson in office, his son was the main proponent of the bill, and Grove the main opponent. RICHARD COKE LOWER, A BLOC OF ONE: THE POLITICAL CAREER OF HIRAM W. JOHNSON 20-21 (1993). See also, KEVIN STARR, INVENTING THE DREAM: CALIFORNIA THROUGH THE PROGRESSIVE ERA 264-66 (1985) (describing the relationship between father and son).
In 1910 when Hiram Johnson ran in the first Republican open primary contest for Governor (described in Chapter Six), Harrison Gray Otis, editor of the Los Angeles Times, led the effort of the old guard Republicans to hang on to party control. One of his tactics was to claim that Hiram’s reform credentials were a fake and that he was actually on the railroad’s payroll conspiring with his father. The charge was preposterous given the well-known rift between the two, but it fed on Hiram’s filial refusal to speak openly against Grove. Before a huge audience in Los Angeles, Hiram Johnson took his revenge on Otis. “He sits in senile dementia, with gangrened heart and rotting brain, grimacing at every reform, chattering impotently at all things that are decent, frothing, fuming, violently gibbering, going down to his grave in snarling infamy—disgraceful, depraved, corrupt, crooked and putrescent.” Even for the time when political speech was often personal, this was shocking—and intended to be. The very extremity of the language assured that the story would be reprinted and repeated. RICHARD COKE LOWER, A BLOC OF ONE: THE POLITICAL CAREER OF HIRAM W. JOHNSON 21 (1993). See also, GEORGE E. MOWRY, THE CALIFORNIA PROGRESSIVES 126 (1963) (describing the incident and quoting Johnson’s outburst in almost identical language).
Grove Johnson had used the same stratagem against William Randolph Hearst more than a decade earlier on the floor of the United States Congress: “We knew him to be a debauchee, a dude in dress . . . we knew him to be licentious in his tastes, regal in his dissipations, unfit to associate with pure women or decent men.” The Johnson father and son, so opposed politically, were very similar in their ferocious styles of speech. DAVID NASAW, THE CHIEF: THE LIFE OF WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST 116 (2000).
Hiram Johnson is mentioned on pages 27, 278, 281, 283, and 286 of Woman Lawyer.