From the Archives: March Fong Eu, Pioneering Woman in California Politics

Photo of March Fong Eu
It almost goes without saying that 2016 may prove to be another historic, breakthrough year for women in politics. In recognition of this, the Oral History Center has initiated a new project to highlight the rare and important interviews in our collection of women who, against tremendous odds, broke through glass ceilings and forged their own path in the political arena. Over the next few months, we will feature some of these noteworthy pioneers in our newsletter. Also be on the lookout for a new audio series we are putting together on this very important subject.

This month we pay tribute to March Fong Eu, former Secretary of State and member of the State Assembly in California. Fong Eu was the subject a major oral history interview conducted by the Center in 1978. From an early age, Ms. Eu was considered a trailblazer, earning a BS in Dentistry from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Education from Stanford University. In 1966, after years of work in local politics, she announced her candidacy for the State Assembly. Although bold and inspiring, the move garnered little support initially from the Democratic Party. Even Nicholas Petris, a Democratic incumbent in Eu’s district who knew her well, gave his endorsement to another candidate. “When you’re pressed to endorse candidates, sometimes you ultimately make a decision as to the one that?s going to win, more than the person you prefer,” Eu would recall. “Maybe he just felt that it couldn’t happen that I would win: There was only one woman in the legislature; women just did not get elected. And a Chinese woman at that.”

March Fong Eu proved them wrong. She won the Democratic primary, and went on to win in the November election, becoming not only the second woman elected to the California Legislature, but also the first from Asian ancestry. After serving four terms, she successfully ran for Secretary of State in 1974, becoming the first Asian American woman elected to a state constitutional office in the United States. She would hold that office for the next two decades, resigning in 1994 to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Federal States of Micronesia at the request of President Bill Clinton.

March Fong Eu’s accomplishments in Sacramento were many. In the Legislature, she pushed to abolish paid toilets in public buildings, an unfair and discriminatory feature for women, and spearheaded many successful policy campaigns in the fields of education, public health, consumer affairs, farm pesticide safety, family planning, environmental protection, and tax reform. As Secretary of State she instituted innovations such as voter registration by mail, at-large absentee balloting, internet reporting of all election-related data, and the inclusion of candidate statements in ballot pamphlets. Throughout her thirty years of service, Ms. Eu stood as a pioneer in California politics, opening doors for the number of women who followed. As she would later observe, her tenure in Sacramento helped many “accept the fact that change is here and change has come.”

Excerpts from her speech, ‘The Self-Sufficient Woman’ February 1973

If there is one field where women must be especially self-sufficient, it is politics. I say this not only because I could cite statistic after statistic about the small number of women in elected offices. I say this not only because I could talk about the virtual void of women in higher political administrative positions?. But my saying women have to be especially self-sufficient in politics has to do with a kind of ?seriousness syndrome? which is part of the double standard in politics…

When women have fun, there seems to be a massive male overreaction. When one burning took place of a uniquely female garment of support, all of a sudden all women seeking legal justice and social equality were frivolous, crazy bra-burners. If I may speak jocularly, I wonder if someone revolting against the rather unusual athletic mystique in this country were to burn a uniquely male garment of support, whether there might be a similar reaction.

Maybe if some men had to bear and rear unwanted babies themselves, they would understand better our resentment of laws relating to our reproductive systems. Maybe if some men let their wives involuntarily control their income, they would understand better our resentment of present discriminatory statutes directed toward women as a class. And maybe if some men were raped, and, in pursuit of justice, they found that they had to reveal humiliating information about their past lives- maybe then they would understand the anger of women who feel they are doubly wronged by rapists and the laws concerning rape.

I guess what I am saying is that I believe it is about time that some men need to do some honest rethinking about their perspective and prejudices.

Being one of only two women in the California Legislature, in the last six years I have been in a good position to see the emerging political activism of women and I am delighted by it…

I am confident that the two constituencies for whom I have become something of a symbol will continue to grow in power and influence so that no longer will they feel that they are constantly being ‘White-Maled.’

Todd Holmes, Oral History Center


David Sickler: A Lifetime as Labor Organizer, AFL-CIO Leader and Champion of Immigrant Workers

David Sickler Boycott Coors Non-union button

David Sickler: A Lifetime as Labor Organizer, AFL-CIO Leader and Champion of Immigrant Workers

David Sickler has a long and distinguished career as a labor organizer, as a leader within the AFL-CIO and as an innovator of efforts to organize immigrant workers. At 18, he began work on the bottling line at Coors Brewing Company in Golden Colorado, soon becoming a shop steward and then business manager of Brewery Workers Union, Local 366. Following a strike in 1977, AFL-CIO President George Meany picked Sickler to head the national boycott of Coors Beer, a struggle that lasted ten years and led to a successful resolution, and became a model campaign emulated by other unions.

In 1986 Sickler was appointed AFL-CIO Regional Director as well as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles-Orange Counties Organizing Committee. Following passage of the Immigration Reform Act in 1988, he established the Labor Immigrant Assistance Project and the AFL-CIO Immigrant Workers? Association. Subsequently he was the senior labor advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as Commissioner of Public Works, and as Executive Director of Employment Relations at the L.A. Department of Water and Power.

Beginning in 2009 Sickler was Southern Regional Director of The California State Building and Construction Trades Council. He has served as Chair of the UCLA Center for Labor and Research Advisory Committee and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pat Brown Institute.


Exploring Law and Educational Finance Reform: Jack Coons and Stephen Sugarman

Jack Coons: Law, Ethics, and Educational Finance Reform

Stephen Sugarman on Jack Coons and Educational Finance Reform

Few intellectual partnerships have been as durable and productive as the one forged between Berkeley Law professors Jack Coons and Stephen Sugarman over the past half century.

Coons was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1929. He received his B.A. in history at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and graduated from Northwestern Law School, where he was Order of the Coif and managing editor of the Law Review. After practicing before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, he returned to Northwestern, where he taught for 12 years. In 1968 he joined the faculty of the Berkeley Law School and stayed there until his retirement in 1994. Sugaman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Northwestern for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. After working in a private law practice, Sugarman was recruited to the faculty of Boalt Hall, where he continues to teach today.

The two met while Coons was a young professor at Northwestern and Sugarman was in the process of deciding on what law school to attend. Although Sugarman was admitted to Harvard, he chose Northwestern based in part on the climate and opportunities represented by productive scholars like Coons. They worked together on several research projects and eventually jointly authored several influential studies on educational finance reform, including: Private Wealth and Public Education (1970) and Education by Choice: The Case for Family Control (1978). In these two interviews, Coons and Sugarman discuss their education, their years at Northwestern Law School and their introduction to the system by which schools are financed and the subsequent development of ideas for reforming that system. They also tell of their role in several important legal cases pertaining to school financing, including Serrano v. Priest (1971) and San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez (1973), and their shared interest in creating a system for providing parents with vouchers to send their children to a school of their choice.


Dick Teets: The New Steel Industry in the United States 1975-2010

New to our Global Mining and Materials Research Oral History Project, Dick Teets: The New Steel Industry in the United States 1975-2010

Conducted by Paul Burnett in 2014, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2015.

Dick Teets, Jr. is Executive Vice President of Steel Dynamics, Inc. and Chief Operating Officer for all of the company’s steelmaking divisions.  He began his career in the late 1970s as a mechanical engineer for J&L Steel, which later became LTV. In the late 1980s, he joined Nucor, where he supervised the construction of the first thin-cast slab steel plant, which was one of the first large-scale mini-mill plants in the United States. He was a participant in early experiments in partnerships with Japanese steelmakers in the US, and was a witness to the accelerating encroachment of the newer mini-mills on the markets of the traditional “Big Steel” companies.  In the early 1990s, Mr. Teets co-founded his own company with former executives at Nucor, called Steel Dynamics, Inc. He helped lead the company through a long period of rapid growth, helping to build and manage the capacity for manufacturing numerous different types of steel products. Today, Steel Dynamics is the fifth largest steel company in the United States.

For over twenty years, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) produced in-depth oral histories of members of the mining community, under a project called “Western Mining in the Twentieth Century,” which was overseen by Eleanor Swent. The 104 interviews in the project covered the history of mining in the American Southwest, Mexico, South America, and Australia from the 1940s until the 1990s.

ROHO has recently changed its name to the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library, and with that change we proudly announce a new project entitled “Global Mining and Materials Research,” which will focus on key transitions in technology, policy, and geopolitics that have brought mining to its current state worldwide.


New Releases Wednesday: Cornelius L. Hopper: A Career in Medicine and Higher Education Administration

Photo of Dr. Cornelius Hopper, 1978 by Kirwan Berkeley

Cornelius L. Hopper: A Career in Medicine and Higher Education Administration: University of Wisconsin, 1967-1971, Tuskegee Institute, 1971-1979; University of California, 1979-1999

Cornelius L. Hopper. M.D. is the Emeritus Vice President for Health Affairs for the University of California System. Born in Oklahoma, Dr. Hopper received his AB and MD degrees, respectively, from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He served as a Battalion Surgeon in the Marines from 1961 to 1963. Later, Dr. Hopper trained in Internal Medicine at Marquette University and subsequently Neurology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he remained on the Neurology faculty until 1971. In 1971 Dr. Hopper accepted the directorship of the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and an appointment as the Institute’s Vice President for Health Affairs. In 1979 Dr. Hopper was recruited to the University of California System as Special Assistant for Health Affairs to the University’s President and in 1983 was promoted to Vice President. For twenty years, until his retirement in 2000, he served as the senior administrative officer for the nation’s largest university health sciences system, encompassing fourteen health professions schools on six campuses, an enrollment of thirteen thousand students, and a budget of over $3 billion. Dr. Hopper and his wife Barbara have been married for over 50 years, and have three children. His oral history transcript is now available online.


New Releases Wednesday: Jennifer Colliau: A Bartender’s Perspective on West Coast Cocktail Culture

Jennifer Colliau: A Bartender’s Perspective on West Coast Cocktail Culture

Jennifer Colliau is a small business owner, Beverage Director, and veteran bartender. She was born and raised in Oakland, California. She graduated from Oakland Tech High School before attending the University of Southern California for Theater. She got her start bartending in Los Angeles, California at the Irish Times, a pub, while pursuing a career in acting. She ultimately decided to forgo that career path and moved back to the Bay Area to attend trade school and California College of the Arts for woodworking. She began working at Bucci’s in Emeryville, California, where she began her career in the bar industry. She discusses her early childhood and education, time in Los Angeles, return to the Bay Area, developing a passion for cocktails and the bar industry, furniture making, the Bay Area bar community, working with Thad Vogler and Erik Adkins at the Slanted Door, the rise of contemporary cocktail culture, starting Small Hand Foods, being a women in the bar industry, and what sets the Bay Area apart from other places.

This West Coast Cocktail Project oral history transcript is now available online.


New Releases Wednesday: Jorg Rupf: A Distiller’s Perspective on Contemporary Cocktail Culture

Jörg Rupf: A Distiller’s Perspective on Contemporary Cocktail Culture

Jörg Rupf is an Alsatian-born distiller who founded St. George Spirits in 1982. Rupf was raised in Freiburg and Lake Constance, Germany. After earning a PhD in law, he became a court system judge and later, worked for both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Culture. He moved to Berkeley, CA in the mid-1970s to pursue post-doctoral research on legal studies and the arts at the University of California, Berkeley. He left the legal field and began distilling eau de vie in the early 1980s (though he had been doing this already for most of his life). He became America?s first artisanal distiller when he opened St. George Spirits in 1982, paving the way for future generations like Lance Winters. In this interview, Rupf discusses his early life in Germany, his love for music and the violin, experience working in the legal field, decision to leave law and start distilling, agriculture in the Bay Area, early days of sourcing, production, distribution, and marketing, legal challenges, bringing on new staff, learning from others, the role the wine industry played in the 1980s and 90s, expanding operations, receiving accolades and recognition by the spirits industry, interest in agave-based spirits, handing over St. George Spirits to Lance Winters in 2010, and life after retirement.

This oral history is part of our West Coast Cocktails Oral History Project.


Announcing the 2016 “Class of ’31” Interviewee in University History: Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp

This year the Oral History Center received many nominations for the “Class of 31” interviewee in oral history. The field of nominees was very distinguished and we wish we could interview every one, but this year the honor goes to Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp. One nomination read:

Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp is long overdue for an oral history. She is certainly one of the longest serving women faculty members on campus. Much more importantly she has left her decisive mark on every area in which she has been involved. That her scholarship is path breaking and prodigious is a given…. Sue has a long track record of starting the first or one of the first organized groups of faculty women in the US in the 1970s to work for equal pay, job titles, hiring and promotion…. She also was instrumental in getting the Women’s Studies Program launched. She saw her role as helping others solve problems as particularly exemplified by her time as student ombudsperson.

Join me in both congratulating Ervin-Tripp for this honor and thanking her in advance for contributing once again to the university by agreeing to sit for this oral history interview.

Previous “Class of ’31” honorees include: Professor of Anthropology Laura Nader, Emeritus Director of the Pacific Film Archive Edith Kramer, and Pat Pelfrey (interview still in progress), who is a scholar of higher education and served as a speechwriter for UC Presidents.


New Releases Wednesday: California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso

Justice Cruz Reynoso: California Supreme Court Justice, Professor of Law, Vice-Chair United States Commission on Human Rights, and 2000 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient

Cruz Reynoso was born in Brea, California. He attended Fullerton College and Pamona College, and served two years (1953-1955) in the United States Army. In 1958 he received his Bachelor of Law degree from UC Berkeley. He has been a professor of law at the University of New Mexico, UCLA, and UC Davis. From 1981 to 1986, he served on the California Supreme Court, and from 1993 to 2004 he was vice-chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In 2000, Justice Reynoso was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This interview was undertaken in partnership and under the auspices of the California State Archives, State Government Oral History Program. It is posted here courtesy of the California State Archives, and no part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the California State Archivist. Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to The California State Archives, 1020 O Street, Sacramento, California, 95814.


New Releases Wednesday: Robert Gibson: A Pioneering Career in Pharmacy at UCSF, 1950s-2000s

Photo of Robert Gibson

Robert Gibson: A Pioneering Career in Pharmacy at UCSF, 1950s-2000s

Robert Gibson was born in Tacoma, Washington. He served in the US Army during World War II. In 1958 he was the first African American to receive a Pharm.D. from the University of California, San Francisco. He then joined the faculty at UCSF where over the next 50 years he served in many capacities, including Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Associate Dean for Professional Affairs in the School of Pharmacy, and as Director of the Pharmaceutical Technology Laboratory. In 2000 he was elected president of the American Pharmaceutical Association, and in 2006 he received the Remington Honor Medal.