Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today -100: April 25, 1910: Of Clara Shortridge Foltz

It was a slow news day (on page 1: President Taft invites Sgt Thomas Morley of the Pittsburg police, who looks just like him, to sit next to him at a baseball game), so let’s focus this post on our...

Person in the News -100: Clara Shortridge Foltz (1849-1934), who just became a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles, the only woman deputy DA in the country. Wikipedia and, better yet, this article (well worth reading), say she was the first woman lawyer in California, in 1878 (she was a divorced mother of 5). Since the law had said that lawyers in CA had to be white and male, she herself wrote a new law deleting both disqualifications and got it passed (on the second try). Then she had to sue the Hastings College of Law, a public school, to force it to admit her (reported in the San Francisco Chronicle under the headline “Two Lady Lawyers Who Demand Admission to the Hastings Law College--How They Dress”), and when Hastings appealed the ruling she represented herself again before the state Supreme Court. She helped create both the public defender system and the parole system in California, and got SF to stop putting defendants in iron cages during their trials.

A San Francisco DA once closed a case in which she represented the defendant: “She is a WOMAN, she cannot be expected to reason; God Almighty decreed her limitations ... this young woman will lead you by her sympathetic presentation of this case to violate your oaths and let a guilty man go free.”

She was the president of the California Woman Suffrage Association in her 30s and drafted the suffrage amendment that passed in 1911.

She was a descendant of Daniel Boone and the sister of Sen. Samuel Shortridge (R-CA, 1921-33). She ran for governor of California in 1930 in the Republican primary at 81.

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