March Fong Eu (1922–2017) was a talented California politician who broke barriers as the first Asian American and first woman elected to serve as California’s secretary of state (1975–1994). Previously, she served on the Alameda County Board of Education (1956–1966) and was the first Asian American and one of few women in the California State Assembly at mid-century (1967–1974). Known for a 1969 toilet-smashing publicity stunt to call attention to her legislation establishing free public restrooms in California, Eu skirted many of the obstacles that mid-century women politicians faced by creating her own political networks, building personal relationships with colleagues, and gathering public attention on her own terms. The progressive Eu gained a foothold in California politics during a time of conservative control, yet she also served during a pivotal moment in the state’s history when women and people of color were advancing in California politics. She was ambitious but never reached the pinnacle of her political abilities. As such, Eu’s life and work highlight the momentum of mid- to late-twentieth-century political women leaders in California, but also point to the historical limits of political success for women at all levels of government.
“The Future of Women in Government Is Indeed a Bright One”: March Fong Eu and Mid-century California Politics
Amanda Tewes is an interviewer/historian with the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, where she leads the Bay Area Women in Politics Oral History Project. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara; a master’s degree from California State University, Fullerton; and a PhD in history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studied modern U.S. history, public history, and the history of the American West. Her dissertation, “Fantasy Frontier: Old West Theme Parks and Memory in California,” examined Old West theme parks in the state as sites of public memory and historical preservation.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Amanda Tewes; “The Future of Women in Government Is Indeed a Bright One”: March Fong Eu and Mid-century California Politics. California History 24 December 2020; 97 (4): 34–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2020.97.4.34
Download citation file: