Women Political Leaders

After a successful project documenting women leaders and activists in the suffrage movement, in the 1970s the Oral History Center (then the Regional Oral History Office) began documenting the experiences of California women who became active in politics during the years between the women’s suffrage movement and the feminist movement — roughly 1920 to 1965. This endeavor was called the California Women Political Leaders Oral History Project, and represented a variety of political views from elected and appointed officials at national, state, and local government levels.

Under project director Malca Chall, The California Women Political Leaders Oral History Project was financed by both an outright and a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Matching funds were provided by the Rockefeller Foundation for the Helen Gahagan Douglas component of the project, by the Columbia and Fairtree Foundations, and by individuals who were interested in supporting memoirs of their friends and colleagues. In addition, funds from the California State Legislature — sponsoring the Knight-Brown Era Governmental History Project — made it possible to increase the research and broaden the scope of the interviews in which there was a meshing of the woman’s political career with the topics being studied in the Knight-Brown Project. Professors Judith Blake Davis, Albert Lepawsky, and Walton Bean served as principal investigators when the project was active from July 1975 to December 1977.

Several years after these initial interviews, a group of scholars and volunteer interviewers worked together to conduct an oral history with longtime political actor Elizabeth Paschal. The Committee for the Oral History of Elizabeth Paschal donated the resulting interview to the Oral History Center in the 1990s as part of the Women Political Leaders Oral History Project.

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