4 of the Most Important Women in California History

By: Timothy McFarlin | Published: March 19th, 2014 | Category: Local Events and Facts

Despite being disenfranchised and dis-empowered for a large part of history, women have overcome countless obstacles in the battle for equality, opportunity, and respect. Today, there are many influential and successful women in positions of prestige and power, thanks to the great strides brave and headstrong women made in the past. The women’s movement wouldn’t have made the progress it has if it weren’t for these inspiring individuals.

In honor of Women’s History Month, let us reflect upon some of the great women who have solidified their legacy in the history of California.

Julia Morgan (1872 – 1957)

Morgan was not only California’s first female architect, but also an extremely successful one. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in civil engineering, she became the first female student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. As a professional architect, she was prodigious, contributing designs to more than 700 buildings.

Clara Shortridge Foltz (1849 – 1934)

Foltz was adamant at becoming a lawyer, so much so that she herself wrote the law that gave women the right to pursue a career in law in California. After the law was passed, she became the first woman to pass the Bar in the state. For more than 50 years, she was both a successful attorney and an active suffragist. She lived long enough to see women given the right to vote in 1911.

Maud Younger (1870 – 1936)

Founder of the working women’s suffrage organization, Younger was perhaps one of the most prolific and dedicated leaders in not only the women’s movement, but also the labor movement. She was a powerful public persona who wrote and spoke constantly for women’s rights. In the 1911 San Francisco Labor Day Parade, she was at the wheel of an award-winning float that was made to raise awareness of suffrage.

Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818 – 1891)

Born into slavery and provided with no formal education, Mason had a lot going against her right from the start. However, she worked with what she had and grew to live a successful and fulfilling life in spite of the racial barriers that existed in her time. As a slave, she was reputed for being a skilled midwife and herbalist. The family she worked for moved to California, where she eventually gained her freedom. With the money she saved up while working as a midwife and, later, as a doctor’s assistant, she purchased her own home, becoming one of the first African American women to do so in Los Angeles. She built a small fortune through smart property investments and used her wealth to support various charities. She was also a founding member of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The legal team at McFarlin LLP hopes everyone enjoyed reading about some of our state’s greatest women. We encourage you to do your own research on the important women of the past. There are plenty to discover.

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