Monthly news & updates
August 1, 2020
Dear Members, Supporters and Friends,

When I looked at the calendar and realized August 1st was upon us, I did not know whether to laugh, cry or just shake my head. Everyone I speak with feels like the past four and a half months have vanished without a trace while also taking forever. Rod Serling (for those of you who remember his iconic presence and voice) would most certainly have been making a Twilight Zone episode about our lives as surreal as these times feel.  

While the Society has remained shuttered to the public, so much has been happening every day. The seeds of community partnerships we have been planting over the past year are blossoming into amazing projects that I am so proud to share with all of you.
The Society is working with the Fresno County Italian Heritage Museum Expansion Project – of course that is a mouthful – we ARE Italian after all! In conjunction with the Fresno County Historical Museum, located at the Fresno Fairgrounds, the installation will tell the story of the arrival of the first immigrants to Fresno County from Italy, their multi-generational experiences and the legacy and many contributions continuing to be made to our community. Visitors will learn about the impact of Valley Italian Americans in categories such as Agriculture, Food & Dining, Arts & Entertainment, Sports, Government & Education, Stories of Service and Social, Cultural & Religious Institutions. Additionally, the rich language and traditions of Italian Americans will be explored including Italian lessons, favorite recipes and folktales. The exhibit will feature four, touch-screen monitors to allow guests to interact with the content using cutting-edge technology. Oral histories are being created to bring the stories to life and will feature photos and excerpts from original family documents and letters. Nat DiBuduo, John Alkire and a committee of enthusiastic individuals are bringing this project to fruition. 

Now, we are reaching out to the community to share stories, photos, letters and other ephemera that will help the history and contributions of the region’s Italian Americans come to life. Please contact me directly - – if you would like to share. 
Another amazing effort underway is the Community Heritage Center under the auspices of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District. The goal of the Center is to showcase the country’s and community’s ideals and values through exhibits that allow the public to learn about Clovis and its patriotism. The facility, located off of Veterans Parkway, has been fully renovated, enhancing the technological capabilities and featuring a mural that wraps around the entire building. See Image. The mural encompasses the founding of Clovis, the major conflicts of our Armed Forces, and a look toward the future. 

Developed by CVMD and a committee of experts, the first set of exhibits will focus on the history of Clovis. “Clovis Comes Together” will showcase industries that founded the region- farming, the flume, and the railroad. The exhibit will also highlight how our community came together to support the young men who chose to serve our nation in World War I. By working with Clovis Unified School District, the exhibits will complement the “Clovis 101” curriculum, a class that will fill the need of sharing with new community members the importance of our traditions and the “Clovis Way of Life.” Exhibit themes will ensure visitors understand the history of this Centennial City (incorporated in 1912) and the roots that made Clovis (yes, named for the Wheat King, Clovis Cole) a vital part of the development and success of Fresno County.
Additionally, your FCHS is collaborating with Fresno Unified School District to deliver Virtual Distance Learning Social Studies lessons to students throughout the 3rd largest school district in the state. While reading, math and science are all vital, our children are truly making history every day and we want them to have the tools necessary to express and understand what is happening in the world around them. Kudos to FUSD and all our Fresno County school districts for always keeping the best interests of our kids as their priority. 

The Fresno County Historical Society is honored to work with all these incredibly dedicated groups. What can YOU do? Help us sustain our ability to continue these valuable partnerships by becoming a member (or increasing your gift) today . Yes, right now! Just as the projects we are engaged in have never been more vital, we have never needed your support more. 

As always, stay safe and know this organization continues to make a difference in our Valley. 

Warmest regards,
Elizabeth Laval
Photo Captions:
Image 1: Italian Float in Raisin Day Parade, April 30, 1919, courtesy of Pop Laval Foundation
Image 2: Mural on the Community Heritage Center building, courtesy of Clovis Veterans Memorial District
Image 3: Columbia Elementary Kindergarten Class, 1911, courtesy of Pop Laval Foundation
This month, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation. Beginning in the mid-19th century, woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered radical change. 
Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but their strategies varied. Some tried to pass suffrage acts in each state. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. More public tactics included parades, silent vigils and hunger strikes. Supporters were heckled and jailed. By 1916, most of the major suffrage organizations united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment.  

The Women’s Party was formed, and numerous speaking engagements were held across the country.  

One such meeting was held in Fresno, CA on September 26, 1916 and was captured by photographer, Pop Laval and covered by the Fresno Morning Republican newspaper. The story follows here:
Image courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation, first ran in the Fresno Morning Republican September 27, 1916.
District Branch Woman’s Party Organized: Many Fresno Women at Luncheon Given at Hotel Fresno, Principal Address is made by Mrs. Ida F. Mackrille

An organization of the Woman’s party, for the Seventh Congressional district, was effected yesterday afternoon at a luncheon given at the Hotel Fresno. About 145 women were present. The officers chosen were Mrs. George H. Taylor, district chairman and an executive committee composed of Mrs. W. J. McNulty, Mrs. S. Hockett, Miss Olivette Stewart, Mrs. L.L. Cory, and Mrs. Fredrick Lideke. Other members will be added to this committee as the work of the campaign progresses. A constitution, suggested by Mrs. W. J. McNulty, was accepted as a whole. 

The luncheon was prepared in honor of Mrs. Sarah Bard Field, well known lecturer, but at the last moment word was received that she would be unable to attend on account of illness, and her place was taken by Mrs. Ida Finney Mackrille of San Francisco, state chairman of the Woman’s party. 

Mrs. George H. Taylor, as presiding officer of the day, introduced office of the day, introduced Mrs. W. P. Miller, who acted as toastmistress. 

Miss Beulah Amidon, a young suffragist of North Dakota, who has been in California work since the middle of August, was introduced by Mrs. Miller. In introducing Miss Amidon, the toastmistress laid particular emphasis on the fact that this was a non-partisan meeting. 

“We are not here in a partisan spirit,” she said. “We are not here to feel bitterness or prejudice. We have come as broad-minded American women who what to hear every side of every public question.” 

Tells of Party Origin
Mrs. Mackrille told, with charming humor, of the formation of the Women’s party and the efforts of the representatives of the five national parties to win the support of the women in their platforms. Representatives of each party came before the women in Chicago, at the conference in Chicago in June, and presented their party record on suffrage. 

“Nothing could so well show that the times have changed,” she said. “Nor could anything demonstrate so clearly that it is political power that wins the support of politicians. We used to go and beg for the right of franchise. Now men come to us and beg us to use our right of franchise for them.” 

Mrs. Mackrille explained briefly the method of securing a Federal amendment on any question, and the reasons why the party in power is always responsible for sins of omission or commission in the matter of legislation. She told how the women had gone time after time before the President and before the last congress, urging the passage of the federal amendment. It has been without success. “President Wilson is the great leader of his party,” she said. “It is a splendid thing to see so powerful a leader. But in this one matter he has insisted that he cannot speak of his party. He will not even speak to his party." 

Fresno Morning Republican 
September 27, 1916
It would only be two and a half years until May 21, 1919 when the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and two weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was adopted. The women of America have been voting ever since.  
Here’s to the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which went into effect on August 18,1920! To highlight the contributions of women to local history, the Society Archives staff has put together a summary of our women’s history collections.

In the early days of the city, Fresno’s leading women worked to bring culture and appreciation for the arts to town through educational social clubs starting in 1889 with the Wednesday Club. In 1894, the Leisure Hour Club, the Query Club and the Parlor Lecture Club were formed, followed by the Friday Club in 1902. Each had a slightly different agenda which included essay writing, studying history and current events, lectures and community service. Emma Miller was a patron of each of these clubs and contributed significantly to the study of literature. In 1925, the Emma Miller Study Club was formed in her honor. Many of these clubs existed well into the late 20th century. The Society has records and programs from the Wednesday Club, Leisure Hour Club, the Query Club and Emma Miller Study Club. The Society also has an extensive collection of Parlor Lecture Club Records, which also touch on the California Federation of Women’s Clubs as well as American War Mothers Chapter 15 Records, 1946-1974; the Women’s Home Society Scrapbooks, 1937-1938; the Altrusa Club Records, 1954; the Central California Asian/Pacific Women Records and an extensive collection of Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Records.

These women’s club records are complemented by the records, mostly scrapbooks, of several ladies auxiliary organizations that were associated with larger organizations. The Society Archives contain the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1921-1953, the Kerman American Legion Women’s Auxiliary Records, 1929-1955, Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Records Scrapbook, 1956-1957, the Women’s League of the Fresno Community Theater Records, 1973-1980, the La Paloma Guild Records, 1974 – 2005 and the Women’s Section Fresno County and City Chamber of Commerce Records, 1979-1980.

Personal and family papers form the final type of collection that can be used to document local women’s lives. While there are too many to list, here are a few highlights. The Betty Stefanich Papers contain WWII ration books and coupons. The Karen Humphrey Papers document the former Fresno mayor’s political activities. The Dr. Floyd L.R. Burks Papers contain a trio of early 1930s dual passports for Floyd and Adelaide Burks at a time when solo female travel was discouraged. The Robinson Family Papers contain the diary of newlywed Carrie Sage who documented her honeymoon trip with family to San Juan Capistrano and back up the coast by wagon in the spring of 1882. The Harvey Family Papers include correspondence between Catherine Harvey and her five daughters, as well as Annie Harvey’s diaries. These are just a few of the personal collections that document the many activities of women in their role as sisters, wives, and mothers.
Photo Credit: Query Club, circa 1896. Front row, seated on ground: unidentified, Mrs. Warren Forsey and unidentified. Second row, seated: Betty Maupin Miles, (rear) Mrs. W.D. Chrichton, Miss Sarah McCardle, (glasses) Mrs. Alva E. Snow, unidentified, Mrs. J.W. Patterson and Miss Myrtle Harrell. Back row, standing: unidentified, Mrs. Will Guard, Mrs. William Noble, (glasses) Mrs. H.O. Buker, Mrs. Hays, Mrs. L.O. Stephens, (front) unidentified, (looking left) Mrs. Walter Shoemaker, Mrs. J.L. Maupin, Mrs. H.Z. Austin and Miss Kate Parsons. From the Fresno County Historical Society Archives.
The Fresno County Historical Society is excited to announce the launch of a new Archives Outreach Initiative. The first part of the initiative is the release of new digitized archival materials online each month. This launch has been planned for several months and was a driving force behind the development of the new website, which is now able to support a greater volume of high quality digital content. At the outset, we plan to share oral histories and images from our extensive photograph collections. This initiative will help to drive the digitization of our oral history collection and develop systems for sharing additional material in the future. The second phase of the initiative will include the accelerated development of online finding aids to improve the discover-ability of our collections. 

In spring 2019, archives staff began the digitization of the oral history collections starting with our Ethnic Oral History Project Collection, 1977-1978 (EOHP), a project to record life histories of local members of the African American and Mexican Americans communities. This month, the Society released fourteen African American oral histories collected as part of the EOHP. These audio recordings are guided conversations with leading senior citizens in Fresno’s African American community in the late 1970s. Participants were asked about their family backgrounds and the schools they attended, political interests and affiliations, when they moved to Fresno County and the African American and Mexican American communities in the early 20th century. They also discussed community leaders, discrimination, reaction to World War I, the KKK, the Red Scare in the 1920s, Prohibition, the Depression, reaction to Pearl Harbor and World War II, the Bracero Program and Civil Rights activities. We have featured the William A. Bigby, Jr. oral history with an article describing his important role as a community leader and his contributions to the EOHP. 

In September, oral histories from the Mexican American community will be released as the second half of the EOHP. It is our hope that this invaluable digital content will be a resource for local teachers and students as they develop new distance learning strategies.

Stay tuned for more news from behind-the-scenes of the Fresno County Historical Society Archives. The archives are open via email. Check for updates on reopening the archives to in-person research.

Photo Credit:The Sims Family of Fresno; Back Row: Alex Sims and Carrie Sims; Children left to right: Buddie Sims, Porter L. Sims (Mrs. Dixon), Kain Sims, circa 1910. Porter L. Dixon Oral History, Fresno County Historical Society Archives.

Archivist Katy Hogue is passionate about local history. Since 2016, Katy has been dedicated to preserving the Society’s collections and sharing them with the public. She has her B.A. and M.A. in History from CSU Fresno where her research focused on the expansion of nineteenth-century culture into the American West before she graduated with honors. Contact her at for research requests or donation queries.