Family and Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

From Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz -- Online Notes For The Book

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This Note reflects my investigations into Foltz’s family of origin and the lives of her children. It reflects newspaper and archive research as well as genealogical and legal explorations. In the individual entries below, I have noted also interviews with living descendents: Foltz’s great grand children: Charles, William, and Truman Toland, and Geraldine Dumont.



Clara Foltz was proud of her Shortridge heritage. Many of her press interviews and biographical entries mention her background. See e.g. Oscar Shuck, History of the Bench and Bar of California (1901) Clara Foltz entry; she came from “an old American family” known for “mental and physical vigor and uncompromising virtue.” Originating in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Shortridges first established themselves in Kentucky, where they “intermarried with the family of Daniel Boone,” a connection Foltz said gave her courage. From Kentucky, some Shortridges went south to Alabama, where they produced several well-known lawyers and judges. Id., Samuel Shortridge entry.

Elias Shortridge was from the northern branch of the family; both he and his wife Telitha Cumi Harwood were born in Indiana. In the Shuck, Bench and Bar entry above, Samuel said his father had a “deep and cultured mind” and spoke of his legal apprenticeship with Oliver Morton (later Unionist governor of Indiana) and ministry in the “Christian denomination in which President Garfield was prominent.” Many of Foltz’s biographical entries also mention Elias as an “eloquent” Adventist or Christian minister. See e.g., A Woman of the Century, (Willard and Livermore, eds. 1893), Clara Foltz entry.

The Christian Church had its origins in Kentucky in the early 1800’s; indeed Shortridges may have been among the founders. Spinning off from Presbyterianism but rejecting most of its formal creeds, the Kentucky branch was led by Barton Stone. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, another sect with similar beliefs grew up around the teachings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who were father and son. They called themselves Disciples of Christ. The Stoneites and Campbellites merged in 1832, using both “Christian” church and “Disciples” interchangeably. The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (2005: Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, D. Newell Williams, eds).

Gary Wills, Reagan's America (1987) at 22-28 has a lucid account of the history, beliefs and practices of the Disciples (in which Ronald Reagan was raised). By the Civil War, the church numbered 200,000 and was six times larger by the turn of the century. Id., at 25. Wills’ account of the Disciples’ beliefs is quite sympathetic and stresses their emphasis on reason (and thus the need for adult baptism, direct communication with Jesus and individual interpretation of the Biblical teachings. Wills also notes their interest in education, and the founding of many schools and colleges by the Disciples and the fact that three Presidents --James Garfield, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson-- were members. Thomas Barnes, on the other hand, disparages it, writing that Foltz was “the daughter of a ‘Campbellite,’ a Church of Christ, minister of that extraordinarily evangelical sect that had the odor of inordinate enthusiasm about it and was considered heterodox by all mainline Protestant churches, preaching as it did the imminent Second Coming of Christ and rejecting all creedal formulas.” Thomas Barnes, Hastings College of the Law: The First Century 47 (1978).

Chapter One of Woman Lawyer tells of Elias Shortridge's expulsion from the Mt. Pleasant ministry for preaching "soul sleep". I cite The Christian Record: Pioneers of a Great Cause (unpublished manuscript, on file with the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee). This typescript history describes the Mt. Pleasant congregation as thriving with three hundred members when E. W. Shortridge came to the pastorate; though the year is not given, it was probably around 1860. (The typescript states that Shortridge closed his ministry in 1859, and moved to California, but that is demonstrabnly mistaken because his youngest child, Samuel, was born in Mt. Pleasant in 1861). The history describes Elias Shortridge as "an avowed believer in the doctrine of 'Soul-Sleeping,'" who "insisted on preaching it, which caused a division in the church. He was a preacher of much more than ordinary ability and numbers were carried away by this strange doctrine." Exactly what Elias Shortridge believed about “soul-sleep” and why this was a heresy that cost him the Mount Pleasant congregation, is far from clear. But we do know that by 1864, he was one of five ministers preaching in Keithsburg, Illinois (where Clara taught school at the age of 14) at a small branch of the Disciples he organized there. Nathaniel S. Haynes, History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois- 1819-1914 (1915) at 329.

Quotes from Funeral of Elias W. Shortridge

Quotes from Eulogy at Funeral of Elias W. Shortrige: A Careful Analysis of a Character of More than Ordinary Interest San Jose Daily Mercury, Nov. 9, p.5, (1890).

In the eulogy at the funeral of Elias Shortridge, the presiding minister spoke of his spiritual beliefs: “It was inevitable that he should pass from the more outward worship and experience [of] his early manhood, to that which is more interior, from the authority of external creeds to the authority of conviction. So after twenty-five years of faithful and most successful, service in the ministry in the States of Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois, he left the ministry and went out to battle for existence upon the frontiers of civilization, where in laying the foundations for the kingdoms of the future he could maintain the independence of his nature, and be loyal to his convictions.”

Other parts of the eulogy recalled Elias Shortridge’s history, as related by his survivors. “Mr. Shortridge was descended from a family of more than ordinary intellectual ability. He was born in what was at that time the Far West, [Indiana] and educated in its free atmosphere. He chose the law for his profession, and began its practice before he was of age. One of his first important cases was the defense of a man who was on trial for his life. He knew the man was guilty. He accepted as just the principle that a man is innocent before the law till proven guilty and that all men accused of crimes are entitled to a fair trial, and to legal talent in their defense. But to defend the guilty was abhorent to the moral bent of his nature. This was a turning point in his life, and revealed his loyalty to his sense of right and duty. He would have no compromises with himself, so he abandoned the profession and entered the ministry of what is called the "Christian Church." It was the profession of his father. He entered into this work with all his soul, mind and strength."

"It was not long before he became the great leader of that church for all that section of country. He was renowned for his eloquence far and wide, and the people gathered in immense crowds to hear him. Like the Apostle Paul, he was a toiler as well as preacher of righteousness, and few there were upon those Western prairies of such physical strength and endurance. He would toil while men were toiling, and while they were sleeping spend the night hours at his books and with his thoughts. He was a man of deep thought and sound learning.”

The minister at Elias's funeral also recalled his “acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln, which had a powerful influence upon his character. He was in the convention that nominated him for the Presidency, and worked through that memorable campaign which finally resulted in his election.” San Jose Daily Mercury, Nov. 9, p.5,(1890).

Interviews of Foltz often spoke of her father’s stumping for Lincoln; in 1884, Ella Sterling Cummins wrote that Clara Shortridge caught from her oratorical father a sprit of patriotism…When he returned from making stump speeches…supporting Abraham Lincoln in his first and second canvasses for the presidency—the little girl listened with wide-opened eyes and heaving breast to the fervid utterances that still flowed from his lips, and she, too, longed to be a patriot.” Ella Sterling Cummins, Clara S. Foltz, History of Her Life, Struggles and Success, San Jose Mercury, Oct. 15, 1884, at 3, reprinted from San Franciscan Mag.

Elias Shortridge is mentioned on pages 4-6, 12, 15, 19-20, 65, 74, 133-34, 214, 220 of Woman Lawyer.

Siblings: Milton and John

Foltz had two older brothers, Milton and John, but as far as the public record shows, they had little influence on her life. Indeed, there is no indication that she even saw them as an adult. Genealogists Golden Addams and Jill Knuth researched the basic records on these two without finding anything of significance. Clara Foltz spoke of the two in an early interview and said they were “leading men in the communities in which they live,” adding that John Shortridge had been a “Federal” soldier and prisoner at the infamous Confederate prison, Andersonville, Georgia and was currently farming in Gainesville, Texas. Milton Shortridge was said to be a “merchant” in Des Moines. Oscar Shuck, A Self-Educated Toiler for Years: A Child Wife–A Young Mother–How She Came to Study Law–Hastings Law College Contest, San Jose Daily Mercury, Aug. 20, 1882, at 5, reprinted from S.F. Post.

John and Milton Shortridge both joined their father around 1879 in the search for silver and copper in Arizona, and Milton was listed as living in Tucson in 1892, two years after Elias’ death. He does not show up in the 1900 census, however. At some point John returned from Tucson to Gainesville, Texas where he was elected Mayor for three terms from 1894-1899, and died in office. 1873-1948 'City Officials, Gainesville, Texas. John’s widow was Alwilda S. originally of Tennessee, who was 11 years younger than he. The year after his death the census records show that she owned property in Gainesville, and had no children. 1900 Census, United States. Cooke County, Gainsville City, Texas, June 8, 1900.

Charles Morris Shortridge


Charles Shortridge, eight years younger than Foltz, was one of her main male protectors. He testified in the Cogswell case (Chapter two: her suit against a client for her fee) that in the early and mid-1880’s he helped her financially and that he had negotiated a fee on her behalf. Her sons worked for him in his various publishing enterprises, and he gave her excellent press throughout her career.

Like his sister, Charles was bold and aggressive, hard-working and a much admired speaker. He rose from office boy to editor of the San Jose Mercury, and in the 1890’s edited the San Francisco Call. Charles routinely described himself as “the architect of his own fortunes,” while his sister said he got ahead by “grit, gumption, and yes, gall:” San Diego Bee, October 10, 1887. What she meant by “gall,” which has definitions ranging from audacity through rudeness, is not clear.

As Mercury Editor, Charles Shortridge stood bravely for freedom of the press in a divorce case where the judge closed the courtroom, and forbid publication of the testimony because of its “filthy nature.” Despite the court order, Charles somehow got hold of the testimony, and printed it and the judge held him in contempt and imposed a fine of $100. Price v. Price, the underlying divorce case, was described in a page one article in the S.F. Call, Jan. 21, 1893. The appeal from the contempt citation was successfully argued by one of the greatest advocates of California, known to all simply by his last name, Delmas. He was Sam Shortridge’s mentor-partner, and Sam’s name was also on the brief in the contempt case. In re Shortridge, 99 Cal. 528 (1893). Oscar Shuck, Delmas, Speeches, and Addresses, 115 (1901) (reprinting his appellate argument in the case).

Charles Shortridge is mentioned on pages 74, 84, 93, 113, 116, 133, 139, 182, 206, 210, 214, 271-72, and 276 of Woman Lawyer.

Early Life and Career

Charles Shortridge’s early life and career is described in Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, (H. S. Foote ed, 1888), 102-103.

"Charles M. Shortridge, the present editor and proprietor of the San Jose Daily and Weekly Mercury, was born at Pleasant Grove, a small hamlet near Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on the twenty-fourth day of August, 1857. He came to California when a small boy. He first stopped at Nevada City, where he worked until he had saved a few dollars, when he came to San Jose for the purpose of attending the public schools, which had a great reputation for efficiency. Not having money enough to support himself while attending school, he hired out to the San Jose Gas Company as a lamp-lighter, for a salary of $28 per month."

"Having completed his course at the public schools with honor, he went to work in the office of the Daily Mercury as a general utility boy, sweeping out the office, running errands, and doing whatever was to be done. While attending school he had selected journalism as his future profession, and determined to master the business in all its departments. Having no money of his own, and no rich relatives to start him in business, he was obliged to commence at the bottom of the ladder. But when he had placed his foot on the first round, he fixed his eye on the top, and never rested until he was there. While working as office boy he familiarized himself with the details of the composing room and press rooms. He worked his way into the business department, keeping the books and collecting the bills, and over-seeing the mailing and subscription department, and thence he went on the local staff. He continued with the Mercury for seven years, until 1883. He was then twenty-six years old, with all the information in regard to the newspaper business that he could acquire in San Jose, and determined to start for himself. He had no money, but was full of practical ideas which he had worked out while with the Mercury."

"He severed his connection with this paper, and went into the real-estate and insurance business. This was for the purpose of keeping the “pot boiling” until he could perfect his plans. Some of the business men and capitalists of San Jose had watched young Shortridge’s career, and had been favorably impressed with his talent, pluck, and perseverance. He had many offers of lucrative positions, but he would not turn aside from the aim of his life. He succeeded, after some time, in securing financial backing sufficient to purchase the Daily Times, paying $5,500 for it. He immediately enlarged it, and, at great expense, secured the exclusive right to the morning telegraphic dispatches for San Jose. Many of his friends looked on with dismay at what seemed to them to be the most reckless extravagance, while his enemies and journalistic rivals prophesied speedy bankruptcy. But the young man was hewing to the line he had laid down for a guide after careful measurement. What seemed to his friends as recklessness was, in fact, the result of the soberest kind of thought. He was simply exhibiting the nerve necessary to the proper execution of his plans. This was in 1883."

"In 1884 he secured control of the stock of the Mercury Printing and Publishing Co., and, in less than two years from the day he walked out of the Mercury office a poor boy, with scarcely a penny in his pocket, he walked back again as its proprietor. He combined the Times and Mercury, added new material and presses, and proceeded to make the new journal twice as good as either of them were before. His expenses were greatly increased, but the income was in a much larger proportion. In 1885 he absorbed the Republic, a morning paper which had been started that year. This plan of combining forces is one of the peculiarities of Mr. Shortridge’s journalistic career. He wastes no ammunition in fighting competing journals. If a paper develops enough importance to become a rival, he absorbs it; but unless it has this importance he ignores it."

"During Mr. Shortridge’s ownership of the Mercury, more special editions have been issued than during all the former history of journalism in San Jose. These specials run from sixteen to sixty-four pages, generally profusely illustrated, and always in the interest of the material resources of the county. Mr. Shortridge is now, 1888, thirty-one years of age. He is a ready speaker, a Republican in politics, devoted to the principle of protection for American industries, and a firm believer in the future greatness of the Santa Clara Valley, the 'garden of the world.'"

The San Francisco Call

In 1895, Charles Shortridge bought the San Francisco Call at auction; it was a famous day in San Francisco newspaper lore. Flanked by his brother Sam and the lawyer Delphin Delmas, Charles bid $360,000–more by far than the paper was worth, or than any newspaper had ever sold for in the west. The bidding took most of day because the price edged up by increments of $500.00. At a break, huge baskets of gold coin were produced at Shortridge’s table, for a down payment on the bid. John Bruce, GAUDY CENTURY, (1948), 249-258; New Era Dawns, The Morning Call Sold by Auction, S.F.Call, January 5, 1895 (large sketch of Charles Shortridge). Shortridge Gets The Call, S.F.Examiner, Jan. 5, 1895. See also, Fremont Older, My Own Story, (1919) 13. (Older was on the staff of the Call at the time; later he became a crusading editor of the Evening Bulletin).

Of course, Charles did not have huge sums in ready cash; it was widely known that the Spreckels family were the real purchasers of the Call. See e.g., New York Times, Jan. 17, 1896, mentioning that the Call was “the organ of the Spreckels interest.” Headed by the patriarch Claus, the family had four sons who were large figures in nineteenth century California. A major basis of their wealth was sugar growing and refining, but they were involved in many other investments and schemes. They were also frequent litigants against each other and family outsiders in the California courts. See Charlotte K. Goldberg, A Cauldron of Anger: The Spreckels Family and Reform of California Community Property Law, 12 Western Legal History 242 (Summer/Fall 1999). This piece describes some of the internecine struggle between Claus allied with his sons John and Adolph against the younger brothers, Augustus (Gus) and Rudolph, as it was reflected in law suits about inter-family gifts.

Rudolph Spreckels became a major supporter of political reform and was the financial backer of the efforts in San Francisco early in the twentieth century to put an end to the graft and corruption that had marked the city government since its founding. The muckraker Lincoln Steffens was a great admirer of Rudolph Spreckels and wrote about conditions in San Francisco, and the Spreckels fight for change in The Mote and the Beam: A Fact Novel 36 (1907) and Upbuilders (1909), which contains a whole chapter on Rudolph Spreckels.

But it was not future reformer Rudolph, but the old man Claus and his son John who were the interested stockholders in the Call. They did not agree with the position of their editor, Charles Shortridge, when he supported the women activists in the 1896 California suffrage campaign, which ultimately led to Charles’ downfall. Clara Foltz told the story in Struggles, July 1918, shortly after he died.

In the context of writing about her gratitude to the “men of California for their supremely just recognition of women’s claims to political privileges” many years before suffrage was won, she placed Charles Shortridge at the head of the list of male allies. “He recognized the justice and moral right of every woman to express herself in all the relations of human activity.” She related how, as editor of the Call, he had advocated the suffrage cause “so ably represented by his revered mother and by that fearless and untiring patriot, Susan B. Anthony.” (It is odd that Foltz did not mention herself as one of his inspirations; Charles credited her with convincing him to give his support to the campaign. See Chapter Six for more about his contributions.)

In these obituary lines Foltz added that Charles paid dearly for “his championship of our cause against the expressed opposition of his business associates which ultimately contributed largely to his financial ruin…” A movement historian described the results for the paper: “as the campaign wore on…The Call, which had come out so valiantly for woman suffrage, had been struck in a vital part, i.e. in the counting-room, by the opponents of the measure, who withdrew valuable advertising and in every possible way sought to injure the paper...[T]he principal stockholders were not friendly to the amendment.” Ida Husted Harper in The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, v. 2 at 885 (1898).


1) Adele McLeod, April/May 1881; children: Vesta, Charles (Monte) Jr.

2) Elizabeth Wright, July 1, 1899 (others say “1901”), divorced her to marry his third wife, his ward, whose first name was Delmas. Cupid Again Hits Former Senator: Weds Daughter of Woman Who Helped Him to Journalistic Success, Both Were Divorcees, S.F. Examiner July 1, 1908, p. 5. S. F. Chronicle July 1, 1908. p. 3, col. 5

3) Delmas Walter Martin (age 23 to his 40) June 30, 1908. Children: A two-month old baby daughter choked to death in 1909 on a bottle nipple. Clara May (named after Clara) and Gloria (c. 1914).

Timeline of Charles's Life

Here is a timeline for Charles Shortridge, with references and descriptions of some of the main events of his eventful life. In addition to the sources cited, in July, 1987, I interviewed his daughter by his third marriage, Gloria Shortridge. She had never met Clara Foltz, but remembered that her sister, Clara’s namesake, had written and visited her, but that Foltz made it clear that she did not want to have anything to do with her brother’s children at that point. Gloria Shortridge resented this neglect partly because family legend had it that Charles had paid for the Foltz children’s schooling.

DoB: Aug. 24, 1857, Pleasant Grove, Iowa.

DoD: June 30, 1918, San Jose, at age 60.

Obituaries: San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1918, p. 1, col. 7; San Francisco Call, July 2, 1918, p. 4, col. 8.

  • 1887: Charles editor of S.J. Mercury; Clara editor of San Diego Bee. The Bee, Oct. 17, 1887 reported that Charles and “Mrs. Shortridge” [Adele] made an extended tour through Arizona and New Mexico, invested in grazing lands in the Southwest, and planned to stock them with horses and cattle . . . " The next day, Oct. 18, 1887, the Bee society page reported that Clara Foltz and C.E. Gunn were the guests of Mr. Jesse Shepard at his home in Villa Montezuma. For more on the Villa Montezuma, see Chapter Two.
  • 1898 -1906 Serves in State Senate; first term as a Republican, second as an Independent.
  • 1900-1910 : Passes through bankruptcy, returned to San Jose and engaged in various political and press ventures. For a time he was editor of the San Jose Times. In that post, he engaged in a colorful and extended press war and court battle with E.A. and J.0. Hayes, brothers who owned the San Jose Mercury and the Herald, and were leaders of the reform wing of the Republican Party, i.e. they were against bossism. Charles Shortridge was backed by James Rea, a Republican boss in contention with the Hayes brothes. S.F. Call, Oct. 17, 1907, p. 1, col. 3. On October 18, Charles was arrested on a charge of criminal libel, for accusing Congressman E. A. Hayes of burning down his house to collect the insurance money, and misusing his franking privileges. A few days later, a second libel charge was brought against him. Call, Oct. 24, 1907.
  • 1908 April. Trial of libel cases. Both libel cases went to trial together. After his attorney pulled out because of disagreement about the conduct of the case, Charles Shortridge represented himself. In a trial that lasted almost five days, he created a scene, questioning himself on the stand, making jokes and engaging in general buffoonery. The jury quickly delivered a verdict against him. Editor Shortridge Found Guilty of Libel, S. F. Call, April 5, 1908, p. 30. He claimed never to have paid the fine. C.M. Shortridge Fails to Pay Fine for Libel, S.F. CALL, April 30, 1910 p. 6. For more on this period of Shortridge’s life, see Eugene T. Sawyer, History of Santa Clara County, 100 (1922).
  • 1915-1918: Practices law in Oakland until his death. One paper eulogized him: “He was too cordial in makeup, too generous in disposition, too genial in conduct for any man to dislike him. C. M. Jackson, Listen a Minute, S.F. Call, July 2, 1918, p. 5..

Ambrose Bierce's Black Beetles in Amber

A less flattering picture of Charles Shortridge, but one that also shows how widely he was known, are some stanzas in Ambrose Bierce’s, Black Beetles in Amber (1892).

Charles Shortridge once to St. Peter came. “Down!” cried the saint with his face aflame; “’Tis writ that every hardy liar Shall dwell forever and ever in fire!” “That’s what I said the night that I died,” The sinner, turning away, replied. “What! you said that?” cried the saint—¬“what! what! You said ’twas so writ? Then, faith, ’tis not! I’m a devil at quoting, but I begin To fail in my memory. Pray walk in.”

Senator Samuel Morgan Shortridge (brother)

The youngest of Foltz’s four brothers, Samuel was an orator, a faithful Republican of the old guard (that is, closely associated with the Southern Pacific railroad) and the house counsel of non-reformer John Spreckels. He served two terms as a United States Senator (1920-1932).

DoB: Aug. 3, 1861

DoD: Jan. 15, 1952 or Dec. 30, 1952

Sam Shortridge is mentioned on pages 65, 71, 91, 93, 133, 139, 173, 179, 182, 198, 210, 214, 271, 277, 320, and 370n1 of Woman Lawyer.


Like all the Shortridges, Samuel was a hard worker. He and his brother Charles were “common miners” in Nevada City “for some time” before moving to San Jose. Oscar Shuck, Bench and Bar of California: History, Anecdotes, Reminiscences (1889). Sam Shortridge attended high school there, and also worked as the town lamplighter, a job requiring a high degree of reliability. He taught school for a few years before joining the Bar in the mid 1880s, and took offices in the Montgomery Block, next door to Foltz. San Jose Mercury, July 17, 1885. He apprenticed with the renowned lawyer Delphin Delmas in San Francisco. At some point fairly early in his legal career, Sam Shortridge became the counselor and family retainer to John Spreckels. See more about Spreckels clan in Charles Shortridge entry.

Oscar Shuck in Bench and Bar of California: History, Anecdotes, Reminiscences (1889), at 506-508 has a long entry on Samuel Shortridge with extensive quotations from his speeches. Several aspects of this entry are of special interest, especially as part of the background of Foltz’s public defender idea. The only case mentioned is Shortridge’s appointed defense of a Chinese man accused of murder. Shortridge launched a very unusual defense based on a study of Chinese culture and inter-tribal loyalties. In the case he was facing not only a seasoned prosecutor, but also two special lawyers employed by the victim’s family. Foltz in her World’s Fair speech decried the practice of “hired counsel [who] are frequently joined in the prosecution, counsel in no sense representing the majesty of a great State, but rather, the malice of a great prosecuting witness whose pride and vanity urge him to pay for a conviction…. over which he may gloat in the unholy pleasure of his revenge.” It seems likely that she may have been thinking of Sam’s case, since there is no record of her having faced such a hyped up prosecution.

The other point in this 1889 account is Sam’s argument about the over-zealous prosecutor, and the departure from his duty to be a minister of public justice. These were points that Foltz made much of in her World’s Fair speech, and earlier in her Lawyers’ lecture. Whether she took this argument from her brother, or he took it from her is impossible to know. I tend to think it was Clara Foltz who first formulated the idea because she was the more intellectual and thoughtful of the two.

Even when in active practice, Sam Shortridge’s reputation was more as an orator before crowds rather than before juries. Indeed his entry in Shuck, Bench and Bar (1901) is curious in that regard. Though it apparently covers the period through 1900, it is like the earlier description of Sam Shortridge mainly as an orator, and does not mention any cases at all that he tried. He did appear in at least one famous case, though it ended in a guilty plea rather than a trial; Shortridge was one of the lawyers for Abe Ruef, the Union-Labor party boss when he was prosecuted on various corruption charges in 1907. One side of the Spreckels family was funding the prosecution and the other, led by John Spreckels, was providing the defense. Historian Walton Bean in describing the litigation, says that Shortridge was “an able lawyer.” Boss Ruef's San Francisco: The Story of the Union Labor Party, Big Business, and the Graft Prosecution, (1952) at 168. But there is little evidence on the record that this was so; at any rate Sam was more of a negotiator and behind the scenes operator than he was a trial lawyer.

He was an omnipresent orator – on the platform at all kinds of civic and patriotic events as well as a campaigner in major and minor elections for the old-guard Republicans. In 1920 he won a seat in the U.S. Senate, partly as a result of the Harding national landslide, and mostly because the progressive wing of the Republican party split badly over who was to be the anti -liquor candidate. Sam Shortridge’s two terms as a United States Senator were singularly undistinguished; he seems to have had no program or proposals other than terrific in-fighting for patronage jobs, anti-dry, pro-liquor interests (though he was a teetotaler himself) and generalized opposition to the League of Nations. He did not die rich, which is the only evidence that he was honest. Samuel Shortridge did not stand for anything; his papers are not collected anywhere; no statute, program or public monument bears his name.

Though Shuck in his 1889 volume relates stories of his effectiveness as a speaker, particularly an incident where he brought a rough crowd of miners to tears, at 505-06, Shortridge’s oratorical style went out before he left the public stage. It was strictly nineteenth century in rounded periods and mellifluous tones; it was also amazingly content-free. Ambrose Bierce in Black Beetles in Amber 1892 wrote of the emptiness of his rhetoric:

SAMUEL SHORTRIDGE Like a worn mother he attempts in vain/To still the unruly Crier of his brain:/ The more he rocks the cradle of his chin/The more uproarious grows the brat within.

Clara Foltz was 13 years older than Samuel Shortridge; he was only two when she eloped. Her younger brother may have seemed like one of her own children to her; her tone in speaking of him was maternal, for instance, as she wrote at length and proudly of his high school graduation speech. Struggles, June 1917. Other glimpses of him are in her stories over the years: stumping for Benjamin Harrison when she campaigned for Grover Cleveland in 1888 (Chapter Two); rebuking her for wanting to give full constitutional rights to the inhabitants of the islands taken from Spain (Chapter Four); representing Trella’s son William in contesting the will of the Toland grandmother (Chapter Four).

In his campaigns for a Senate seat, Clara Foltz supported him, though she wanted to run for the office herself. He tried to help her get the Assistant Attorney General post in 1920, right after he was elected the first time. There is no record, however, of his having accomplished anything in her behalf or for women’s rights more generally. Foltz and Shortridge may have had a falling-out in the twenties over his lack of responsiveness to women’s cause, but Samuel was summoned to her death bed in 1934 and spoke to the newspapers about her accomplishments. She would not have liked the Chronicle headline, however. Clara S. Foltz, Shortridge’s Sister, Passes, S.F. Chronicle, Sept. 3, 1934.

Summary of Career

The following is a summary of Samuel Morgan Shortridge's career from the Biographical Directory of the Unites States Congress, available at Library of Congress.

SHORTRIDGE, Samuel Morgan, a Senator from California; born in Mount Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa, August 3, 1861; moved to California with his parents, who settled in San Jose in 1875; attended the public schools and the Hastings College of Law at San Francisco, Calif.; admitted to the bar in 1884 and commenced the practice of law in San Francisco, Calif.; presidential elector on the Republican ticket in 1888, 1900 and 1908; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1920; reelected in 1926 and served from March 4, 1921, to March 3, 1933; unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1932; chairman, Committee on Privileges and Elections (Seventieth through Seventy-second Congresses), Committee on Naval Affairs (Seventy-second Congress); resumed the practice of law; special attorney, Justice Department, Washington, D.C., 1939-1943; died in Atherton, Calif., January 15, 1952; interment in Oak Hill Cemetery, San Jose, Calif.

Clara Foltz’s Children

Trella Evelyn Foltz

Additional information about "Trella Evelyn Foltz is available at the Women's Legal History website, in Chapter 4, and on pages 6, 27, 40, 80, 86-87, 110, 124-25, 134, 174, 197-98, 211, 257 of Woman Lawyer.

For more on Trella’s career, see on-line note, 'Trella Toland and Her Autograph Book'. She is mentioned in Chapters Two, Four, and Five.

I have interviewed and consulted with the Toland family, particularly Foltz’s three great grandsons, the children of Trella’s son William. They have given me a family scrapbook, some letters from David Foltz to William and Trella’s autograph book. Truman Toland, a Cincinnati artist, painted a portrait of Clara Foltz, which is in the book.

The Toland family mementos and memories have been helpful in piecing together Clara Foltz’s connection to her grandson, William. The family story is that William came to California to attend Stanford, but the earthquake and fire of 1906 intervened, and he moved to Los Angeles with Clara Foltz and her mother. Memo to the file from Barbara Babcock after meeting with William Gridley Toland, Jr. in San Francisco, Oct. 6, 1989. Among the family letters is one to William from Trella’s second husband George Emmons White, signed “your father” and addressed to him at El Molino, Foltz’s first address in Los Angeles in December 1906. By 1910-14, William Gridley Toland was back in Nyack, New York, and was receiving letters from his Uncle Dave Foltz, expressing guilt for not doing enough for him.

Annotated Timeline

DoB: 1866.

DoD: 1903, Obituary, N.Y. Times, Jan. 4, 1903.


1) Dr. Charles Gridley Toland, in San Diego, Sept. 1888.

2) George Emmons White in New York, Oct., 1900.

  • 1880: Trella, age 14, was living with Clara, Sam and David at a San Francisco Hotel on Dupont Street. 1880 Census.
  • 1886: Actress in “California Company.”
  • 1888: September, marriage to Dr. Charles Gridley Toland. This was a second marriage for Toland. Charles, a doctor and the adopted son of the famous doctor H. H. Toland, was previously married to Anne L. Buckler on June 23, 1877. 1 ARGONAUT 2, (June 23, 1877).
  • 1889: Nov. 11, William Gridley Toland born.
  • 1891: April 6, Charles died in San Francisco of either neuralgic pains to the heart, or more likely, an accidental morphine overdose. S.F. CALL, April 7, 1891, p. 8; Other stories on his death were in the S. F. CHRONICLE, April 7 & 8; and the S. F. CALL, April 9, 1891.
  • 1896: Actress in New York, reported as successful in New York Times article about Clara Foltz Jan. 17, 1896.
  • 1898: April 18, Trella signed her autograph book, “Wishing myself more rich in hope.” Trella Foltz Toland.
  • 1900: Oct. 4, Trella married George Emmons White, son of Rear Admiral Edwin White, in New York City at Calvary Episcopal Church, 21st and 4th Avenue, Thursday afternoon, at 4 o’clock. Only the immediate family was present. PRINCETON PRESS, Oct. 13, 1900, p. 2. White was a graduate of Princeton and of New York Law School. He was five years younger than Trella, and worked in the advertising department of the NEW YORK WORLD.
  • 1901: Sept. 26, Trella signed her autograph book that she was “rich in a good man’s love” signed Trella Evelyn White.
  • 1903: January, Death. Obituary, N.Y. Times, Jan. 4, 1903.

Samuel Courtland Foltz

Annotated Timeline

DoB: Oct. 21 1869 (1880 census) or 1868 (death certificate), Illinois.

DoD: Jan. 15, 1919, Los Angeles, tuberculosis. L.A. TIMES, Jan. 16, 1919.

  • 1880: Sam, age 12, was living with Clara, Trella, and David at a San Francisco Hotel on Dupont Street. 1880 Census.
  • 1887: Sam and C.E. Gunn in San Diego with Foltz. Both departed for Tucson, Arizona for six weeks on business. San Diego Daily Bee, Dec. 29, 1887.
  • 1905: married Nelle Carpenter on May 20, 1905 in San Francisco. S F. CALL, May 21, 1905.
  • 1907: moved to L.A.
  • 1915: Los Angeles City Directory: Samuel C. Foltz; real estate agent lived with Clara at 153 South Normandie Avenue or maybe next door
  • 1919: Sam died at 153 South Normandie Avenue (Clara Foltz’s house), on January 15, 1919 at age 50 years, 2 months, 25 days. Occupation “journalist.” “Cause of death pulmonary tuberculosis.”

Samuel Foltz is mentioned on pages 6, 29, 40, 110, 206, 210, 211, 213, and 321 of Woman Lawyer.

David Milton Foltz

Annotated Timeline

DoB: Feb. 5, 1870 (According to the 1870 Census); Feb. 5, 1872 (as reported on death certificate).

DoD: Oct. 5, 1932 (heart failure).

  • 1880: David, age 10, was living with Clara, Trella, and Sam at a San Francisco Hotel on Dupont Street. 1880 Census.
  • 1887: worked at the San Jose Mercury with his uncle, Charles.
  • 1896: in New York to start an Eastern branch of the SanFrancisco CALL when Charles was editor.David M. Foltz is The Call’s Eastern Advertising Agent, S.F. CALL, Nov. 8, 1895.
  • 1905: June 1, David M. Foltz of 726 Second Avenue (Clara Foltz’s address also) married to Bessie L. Holmes in Palo Alto. David M. Foltz Married YesterdaySAN JOSE MERCURY, June 2, 1905 David M. Foltz Takes a Eureka Girl for a Bride: Quiet Wedding in Presbyterian Church S. F.CALL, June 1, 1905. David “represents the Equitable Life Insurance Company. He was formerly the business representative for The Call in New York and was for several years with the Judge Publishing Company.”
  • 1910: David and Bessie were living in San Jose, and David was working as an oil promoter. David, age 39, and Bessie, age 28, were renting a house at South Second Street, #48. 1910 Census.
  • 1916: David was the City Superintendent at San Francisco of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. NEW AMERICAN WOMAN, March 1916, p. 16.
  • 1918: Moved to L.A--At some point he and Bessie moved in with Clara Foltz at 153 S. Normandie, perhaps as late as 1926.
  • 1932: Oct. 5, 1932. Died at 60 years, 8 months old. Occupation: agent, Life Insurance Company—worked until the day before he died. Cause of death “angina pectoris, chronic myocarditis.” David died intestate, reportedly leaving Bessie $650.00 in oil rights in Virginia’s husband, John’s oil concern Careaga Rancho, and $1,000.00 in other property.

David Foltz is mentioned on pages 6, 29, 40, 86, 110, 198, 206, 210, 211, 213, and 321 of Woman Lawyer.

Bertha May Foltz Newman

I talked for more than an hour by phone with Geraldine Dumont, the great grand daughter of Clara Foltz, who knew her in Los Angeles at the end of Foltz’s life. She was the daughter of Bertha and Fayette Smalley, Bertha’s first husband. BAB notes on Interview with Geraldine Dumont, June 27, 1990.

Once a week, Geraldine, Fay (Bertha’s son, Clara’s grandson) and his wife, Ora, would go to South Normandie to have dinner with Clara, David, and Bessie. At some point, Clara was not coming out of her room, and meal trays would be left outside the door. Geraldine would be sent in to read to Clara. Clara would be friendly at first, but then would say, “that’s enough” after about 15 minutes. Clara was always dressed and made up, imperious in manner, friendly enough, but not loving to a great-grandchild. Clara’s room was full of books and academic clutter.

David might have been an alcoholic. He “always was sipping from a bottle in his desk.” He was nice except for being totally dominated by his mother. Family has it that Clara got extremely hard to deal with in her old age, and that trying to tend her broke Dave’s spirit and that is how and why he died. “He was not a happy man, and didn’t have a happy life.”

Family legend also has it that Clara Foltz cared a great deal about her clients, and would do anything for them, but was much less loving to her family members.

Annotated Timeline

DoB: Jan. 1871 (death certificate); October 11, 1872 (1870 Census) or Oct. 11, 1873 (1900 census): Iowa.

DoD: Los Angeles, June 14, 1915, Los Angeles Daily Time, June 15, 1915, p. 10.


1) Lafayette James Smalley 1893 a cashier at The Baldwin Bar.

2) Walter H. Newman 1910-11.

  • 1888, (when Bertha was 15 or 17) Clara placed Bertha (and Virginia) in the Hanna College in Los Angeles. SAN DIEGO BEE, April 1, 1888, p. 7.
  • 1891: Starts her acting career described in Bertha Foltz’s Success S.F.CALL, February 7, 1897. “Miss Foltz was a valuable member of the [Stockwell Theater] company, and appeared in every play presented for nearly a year. She went on the road with Clay Clement, in “The New Dominion,” originated the part of Flora May Randolph, and received the hearty commendation of the entire press in the East. Miss Foltz is petite in figure, with light golden hair and a pair of sparkling blue eyes, which are an index to the capabilities she possesses. She is destined to win an enviable place in her profession, for she has abilities of a high order.”
  • 1893 Bertha married Lafayette James Smalley variously a cashier at the Baldwin Bar, Langley’s San Francisco Directory, May 1891, and a liquor merchant. 1900 Census. Also described as an actor.
  • 1895: March 17, Son born: Lafayette James Smalley, Jr., called “Fay.”
  • 1900-1909: some time in this period, Bertha and Lafayette divorce.
  • 1908: Bertha moves to LA.
  • 1910: May 10, Bertha Foltz is living in a boarding house in Long Beach City, L.A., CA, and lists her age on the census as 29, though she is actually around 38. Living at the same address are four single men: a policeman, a motorman, a conductor, and an actor, Walter Newman, 31. 1910 Census. Lafayette Smalley, Jr., 15, was also in LA, boarding with a carpenter named Fredrick Fellows, 45, and his wife Emilie, 43, and their two children, Oliver, 21, who was a machinist apprentice, and Dorris, 19, a parlor girl in a candy store.
  • 1910, Dec. 27, Bertha marries Walter H. Newman.
  • 1915: June 14, Bertha dies at Clara Foltz’s home, 153 South Normandie Avenue, at age 42. L.A. TIMES, June 15, 1915. Occupation at death listed as “housewife” (no longer an actress). “Cause of death was acute nephritis, not puerperal. Contributing factors were malnutrition, chronic dyspepsia of seven years duration.” Death Certificate. This is consistent with the family belief that Bertha died of alcoholism.

Bertha Foltz is mentioned on pages 6, 40, 110, 118, 179, 199, 210, 211, 213, and 260 of Woman Lawyer.

Virginia Foltz Catron

Annotated Timeline

DoB: 1876

DoD: June 14, 1955


  • 1) John Davidson
  • 2) Martin (Cover of The New American Woman, Jan. 1917 lists as Virginia Foltz Martin)
  • 3) John W. Catron.

Virginia had no children.

  • 1888; With Bertha in the Hanna College in Los Angeles. SAN DIEGO BEE, April 1, 1888, p. 7
  • 1895-96: Studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston under the personal instruction of W. L. Whitney “foremost among America’s instructors in voice culture.” She said she planned to study in Europe in 1897 to “arm myself more thoroughly” before taking to opera singing. Another California Girl Wins Laurels in New York, S.F. CALL, July 19, 1896.
  • 1900-1920: Lived in New York singing in light operas with Lillian Russell and Fay Templeton. Visited Clara in San Francisco and headlines read: Coming of Virginia Foltz Creates a Stir in Society, S.F. CALL, March 3, 1902.
  • After 1920 Married John Catron, settled in New Mexico.

Investigative Material

Virginia was the only child to survive Clara Foltz and she threw away or sold at auction her papers, library, and professional scrapbooks. Early in my research, I hired an investigator who interviewed a neighbor of Foltz’s in 1934, when she died. He said he helped to clear out the house, that there was a big auction of her furniture and that tons of papers, including letters, pictures, scrapbooks and portfolios of oil stocks were “chucked out.” Babcock, Reconstructing the Person, n. 2.

A telephone interview with Virginia Foltz Catron’s housekeeper, cited in Schwartz, Brandt and Milrod at 27 HASTINGS L. REV. 545, n.150, reported that Virginia sold her mother’s furniture and destroyed her papers because: “Virginia was never a saver.”

Geraldine Dumont, Bertha’s grand-daughter, said that when Clara died Virgie had an auction and sold everything that she didn’t take or throw away. She “cleaned the place out.” It seems likely that the discarded papers included a draft of Foltz’s autobiography. Dumont remembers that her father begged Virgina for something of his family. He especially wanted a book that Clara was writing about herself, but Virgie said she was the daughter and she was going to take it. BAB Interview with Geraldine Dumont June 27, 1990. Dumont's memory is supported by an Ad in the Los Angeles Times, Sept. 16, 1934 announcing an Estate Sale of the furnishings and library of Clara Shortridge Foltz, including a Sohmer Parlor Grand Piano, and her library. Also a dining suite, living and bedroom furniture, paintings and silver.

What to make of the destruction and sale, especially in the face of the fact that Virginia had to know that this would be against her mother’s wishes? Virginia was a baby when Jeremiah deserted the family and Clara Foltz started on her first woman career. It seems likely that she was neglected at times, though the opposite may be true, that out of guilt Clara over-indulged her youngest child. Virginia went to the best schools for her music education, and studied abroad, which she gave credit to her mother for supporting.

Dumont, Bertha's grand-daughter, remembers that Virginia “hated her mother,” and also that she had a bad character: “Virgie was beautiful; not small like Bertha; extremely cold to everyone. Her husband was very deaf and she would say mean things about him in a low voice right behind his back, and then talk sweetly and loudly to his face.” On the other hand Thomas Catron, nephew-in-law of Virginia, said that his aunt spoke “proudly of her mother and her accomplishments.” BAB Interview of Thomas Catron III, Sept. 30, 1985.

Newspaper Interviews of Virgina

Virginia was the most successful of Foltz’s three daughters in her theater career. She also looked most like her. Indeed several photographs in the L. A. Examiner files, identified as Clara Foltz, may have been of Virginia. In press interviews, Virginia spoke of her mother admiringly. See e.g., Coming of Virginia Foltz Creates a Stir in Society, S.F.Call, March 3, 1902. (Virginia Foltz in town with beautiful clothes and jewelry to visit her mother) “Miss Foltz is indebted to her mother in more ways than one for the high standard of ability she has shown for Mrs. Foltz has been very successful financially in the legal profession and has spared no expense in giving this youngest daughter, as well as her other four children, a liberal education.” See also, Women in the Public Eye, Indianapolis STAR, May 5, 1910, reprinted from a New York paper in Foltz, Scrapbook, with headline As Proud of Being Good Mother as of Her Success as a Lawyer: National Tribute is Won by this Portia. In this interview, Virginia spoke to the press and told the whole story of Foltz’s career, starting when she herself was a babe in arms, “rocked to sleep while her mother pored over musty law books.” She emphasized that “Mother was most womanly in every sense. She was one of the laciest and softiest [sic] creatures you ever saw.” In one startling departure from the standard line, however, Virginia Foltz resurrected Jeremiah as part of Clara Foltz's story. Instead of the desperate widow Foltz had been presenting for thirty years, Virginia described “a woman beginning a career on an income so slender she could not keep servants, and against the advice of a husband who doubted if she could be a good wife, mother and successful bread-winner at the same time.”

Virginia Foltz is mentioned on pages 7, 33, 40, 86-87, 110, 115, 118, 120, 174-76, 198, 213, 321-23 of Woman Lawyer.

Mt. Pleasant and Howe’s Academy

Teresa Federer, Belle A. Mansfield: Opening the Way for Others (2002), available at WLH Website (an extraordinary student paper with impressive sources on Howe’s Academy and Mt. Pleasant, as well as Arabella Mansfield). For a history of Mt. Pleasant, see HIGHLIGHTS OF HENRY COUNTY, IOWA HISTORY 1833-1976 (1977); Louis A. Haselmayer, Home Town P.E.O., Mt. Pleasant, 1869 in THE P.E.O. RECORD (Nov. 1968) at 9; Louis A. Haselmayer, Amos Bronson Alcott and Southeast Iowa, in 38 ANNALS OF IOWANO 2 (Fall 1965) at 121-141; OLIVE COLE SMITH, HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS: MOUNT PLEASANT, IOWA (privately published in 1942 in Mount Pleasant Public Library historical collection); THE HISTORY OF HENRY COUNTY, IOWA (1879). For more on Howe’s Academy (also called Mount Pleasant High School and Female Seminary), see Federer, Belle A. Mansfield at nn.27-35. Pamphlets about the academy, its first printed catalog, which relates the school’s history, and other materials are in the Archives, Iowa Wesleyan University. See also, HISTORY OF HENRY COUNTY (1879) (available at Iowa State Historical Library, Des Moines). The first woman lawyer, Arabella Mansfield, attended Howe’s Academy. See 2 NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN 1610-1950, at 492; but Federer suggests that she may have also attended public schools.

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