Saturday, March 21, 2020

Who was the first woman elected in Long Beach?

1913 Suffrage March on Washington , D.C.
Source: Library of Congress


Unfortunately, there are no photographs of the first woman elected to public office in Long Beach which is probably why she has been neglected.

Eva Guy Strong was elected to the Long Beach Board of Education, receiving 252 votes of the total 302 cast. The turnout was the lowest in the voting history of the city.
Her candidacy is credited to the “agitation among parent-teacher associations of the city to have a woman member elected to the Board of Education.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on March 16, 1913 that during a meeting of the presidents of the associations:

The ladies all pledged their hearty support of her candidacy and believe that she can be elected ‘hands down.’ Mrs. Strong has for years been an active worker in club, social and educational lines and is generally popular.

Eva (Mrs. Edwin Norman Strong) was originally from Salem, Ohio and was the great-granddaughter of James Johnson who served as a private in 1776 in Captain Strawbridge’s Company.

She held leadership positions in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Congress of Mothers. The mother of three sons, she served as the President of the Long Beach Federation of Parent-Teachers Associations prior to her election. She also liked to sing at social events. Census data shows that she was an “apartment manager” by occupation. She also raised the prize “White Wyandotte” chickens on her property at Signal Hill.

A letter signed by all the presidents of the PTA’s was sent to the Long Beach Telegram which published it on March 17, 1913 calling for election. Women were thought to be more suited for election to school boards and several states passed suffrage just for those elections.

The Board of Education met at room 506 of the National Bank Building, northeast corner of First and Pine, where her husband, Edwin, worked as an “Escrow Officer.”
When first elected, she outlined for the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 1913, her ideas for the schools with a news article titled: “Lady Has A Plan.” Strong called for the grounds of the three downtown schools, Pine, Daisy and Atlantic, to be turned into “playgrounds and equipped as such during the summer vacation.”  She thought it important to keep the children away from the beach where they were “at the mercy of all sinister influences.”

Eva served on a variety of School Board committees: Finance and Salary; Buildings, grounds and janitors; and Rules, regulations and supplies. She strongly supported “night school for Mexicans” so that they could become citizens.
In 1914, Eva launched a program to encourage school children to grow vegetables at school and home. She arranged for both flower and vegetable seeds to be provided to the children from John Childs, an “eastern millionaire” who owned a seed and bulb growing farm and was also on his local board of education.
She recognized that many of the problems dealt with in juvenile court were caused by the lack of education by the parents. She advocated for the establishment of “parental schools.”

One of her most interesting ideas was to turn over “charity work” to the city instead of it being handled by the Associated Charities organization. Strong appeared before the City Council in 1914 and lectured on what she had learn working with charitable organizations:

There are three classes of people whom the charity organizations are especially called to help. One class is made up of families where the breadwinner is ill or otherwise unfitted for work, and the family income is shut off. Another class is made up of persons who come here with the idea that this is a ‘land of milk and honey’ and the are not properly fortified with funds to tide them over in case they do not find employment immediately, while still another class is made up of the ‘floating population’ which thinks that the ‘world owes  them a living.’ It is the latter class which gives the most trouble to charitable organizations.

Strong explained to the city council that churches, lodges and other organizations are “serving the same people.” She argued that the work needed to be “centralized.” The Council voted to approve her idea.

Eva served on the Board of Education until 1916. She was replaced by another woman, June McNee. She became active in Republican politics and was elected as a delegate to the 70th Assembly District.

Her husband engaged in real estate development and built a four-unit building at 945 Pine Avenue where the family lived until Eva passed in 1948.

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