Little Known History of Slavery in California

January 22, 2013
Child captives (who became child slaves)

Child captives (who became child slaves)

I was honored recently to be able to participate in the TedX Eureka  event where I presented on the History of Slavery (indenture) in California. That video is now posted on youtube:

Link to TedX Video

If you would like me to give a presentation similar to that in the video to your civic group or classroom, please email me at lynette.mullen@gmail.com.  

It is not pleasant history, but it is important and has been lost and forgotten too many times.

~Lynette


Eureka National Bank, c. 1925

July 9, 2011

Eureka National Bank, c. 1925 (Woods)

This beautiful baby still sits in downtown Eureka at 350 E Street.  It is known as the Commercial Building and has much of her architectural detail still intact.

And I, through some wonderful stroke of fortune, will now be working in this building-albeit very part time. In an office with windows.  And fresh air…  (I love my co-workers at the DA’s office and feel incredibly lucky to be there-but that doesn’t change the fact that my office is a windowless closet and I have to walk to the end of the hall  just to see if it is raining or dry.  Daylight or dark).

Our office is collaborating with a group called the Homeless Task Force (a consortium of public and private entities) and the owner of the Commercial Building is providing office space in which to work.  I will be acting as coordinator for the task force.

Once upon a time, Humboldt County residents took care of their own through the Indigent Fund, but this is a different world. During the settlement period this county was extremely isolated and I think this fostered a sense of community (among the white/non-indigenous folk, at least).  The county took care of its disadvantaged and helpless.

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Women out of bars by 8 p.m.

October 21, 2010

I am happy to thank Olmanriver for this next post. 

Thanks, River !

I do have a guess as to what these women were doing in the bars “after hours”, though I could be wrong…

 

“The Daily Humboldt Standard” Eureka, California
April 24, 1884
Ordinance Number 54 of this city makes it unlawful for any female person, between the hours of 8 o’clock P. M. & 6 o’clock A. M. to be in any public drinking saloon, etc., where vinous, malt or spiritous liquors are sold or given away. Upon complaint under this ordinance in Judge Howards Court, Mary Lockhart, Gertie Gilmore, Mollie Mallory & Lizzie Maybers were convicted, & sentenced to a fine of $10 each, or five day’s imprisonment. The fines were paid into Court.


Early female entrepreneurs paved the way

October 14, 2009

 

in 1875, Virginia City had three women-owned saloons

In 1875, Virginia City had three women-owned saloons

In the 1800s, laws were passed that allowed married women to act as feme sole traders, or business owners, independent of their husbands.  In many states, this law became necessary because women widowed or deserted by their husbands had few choices.  There was no welfare, food stamps or other social safety net to help a woman who had depended on her husband to survive.  And because career opportunites for women were limited, opening a business was sometimes the most attractive option.

As a declared feme sole trader, a woman could become an entrepreneur, enter into contracts and conduct other business as an independent person (in contrast to the traditional Coverture laws ) .   

 The women who took advantage of these laws paved the way for small business owners like me.  Today women own about 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S. and the number of women-owned businesses continues to grow.

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Suspending a woman’s existence

October 13, 2009
Wedding Photo

Wedding Photo

 

I write a lot about the difficult circumstances faced by Native American women in the settlement period of California, but women in general faced significant challenges.  I’ve recently learned about Coverture laws (with help from Wikipedia),  which was “ a legal doctrine whereby, upon marriage, a woman’s legal rights were subsumed by those of her husband.”

This meant that a married woman couldn’t own property, enter or sign any legal contracts or agreements, or even keep her own wages if her husband demanded her earnings.  A married woman  also needed her husband’s permission to gain an education.

 Single women, to a certain extent, maintained these rights, but the social stigma attached to unmarried women created huge pressure to avoid becoming an old maid.

Coverture was based on English law, described by William Blackstone (1723-1780), an English judge, professor and commentator,   as follows:

 By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-French a feme-covert; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture. Upon this principle, of a union of person in husband and wife, depend almost all the legal rights, duties, and disabilities, that either of them acquire by the marriage. I speak not at present of the rights of property, but of such as are merely personal. For this reason, a man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage