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A cult of beauty: the public life and civic work of Laura Lyon White.


Reverend Caleb S. Dutton, Eulogy

In the North Beach section of San Francisco, at the intersection of Lombard and Mason, sits an old, somewhat overused city park established almost a century ago. The park retains most of its original features: a swimming facility, a children's playground, and a sandy playing field. A minor attraction in a city chock-full of them, North Beach Playground claims at least one distinction: it was the site where Joe DiMaggio learned to play baseball. If that famed gentleman's character was at all influenced by youthful access to a public park, it would not have surprised Laura Lyon White. White led the movement in San Francisco to create municipal parks and playgrounds even as she fought to preserve some of California's most historic and natural landmarks, especially significant stands of old-growth redwood trees. As many Progressives did, White believed these places important to developing a sound body and mind, both for the health of individuals and their community.

Successive scholars have made clear that Progressive-era women were often responsible for the type of civic action that brought real change to public policy, including by leading and organizing campaigns to create or preserve special places. (1) This fact is nowhere more true than in California. Men, of course, have tended to overshadow the accomplishments of women, because women achieved their results more quietly. They often worked both in support of and in deference to men's efforts and generally functioned collectively such that the deeds of a single woman, when noticed at all, stood in less contrast to those of male counterparts. Even so, many women are deserving of specific recognition.

Laura White, one of the Brahmins of San Francisco's women's club movement during its golden era, is a case in point. White sought to promote social welfare by organizing women for civic work. She founded several important organizations, most notably the California Club in 1897.

Through these groups, White championed the establishment of a state-wide juvenile justice system, the creation of kindergartens, and the passage of legislation to regulate tenements and prostitution. She strove to better the working conditions of milliners and laundresses and to secure posts for women in hospitals and on school boards. Some of her greatest accomplishments, however, were in the area of conservation and the promotion of civic beauty. She made her name fighting to save famous landmarks, including San Francisco's Telegraph Hill and the Calaveras Big Trees near Yosemite. Indeed, the key to White's personal interest in progressive action was her conviction that nature and beauty, intelligently designed urban space, and outdoor activity could help inoculate against the ills of urban growth in a too rapidly industrializing America at the turn of the nineteenth century. Because such "great problems ... are so bewildering," White said, "I'd much rather confine myself to making the world more beautiful. The creation of a park or playground does as much good to the world as the study of a difficult problem." (2)

Her comment may now seem quaint, but White was a masterful civic leader who understood the gendered politics of her time. As this peek at her life reveals, White employed stereotypic attitudes about women to aid social acceptance of her civic activity. She focused on playgrounds and trees because men expected women to care about children and nature. Still, White was a trendsetter, whose youthful frontier experiences, intimate familiarity with the sometimes calamitous consequences of industrialism, and literary reflections helped lead others to question commerce that destroyed beauty. As an organizer, White capitalized on this feminine interest to magnify the effort of men, to heighten her own status, and to help mobilize a generation of California women to become involved in civic work. (3)


Laura White was born near French Lick, Indiana, on April 12, 1839, the daughter of a prosperous flour mill owner named Jonathan Lyon. Shortly after her birth, the Lyon family moved to Fort Des Moines in Iowa, which still retained a crude stockade for protection from Indian attack. As a youngster on a recently settled frontier, White took advantage of her proximity to the wilderness. Riding bareback and like a man, she at times disappeared into the serenity of the deep woods. She followed her own will and tested authority. Looking back, White saw herself as "a lawless girl," who scraped together stage fare, around the age of fifteen, and "ran away" from home. The intrepid "Miss Lyon" wanted to attend college. This goal was becoming more common among girls of her social class, but her parents initially disagreed. Nevertheless, they relented, as White told it, after she survived on her own for three months in the Mississippi River town of Burlington, Iowa, by frugally using coins left from her stage fare to buy bread and radishes. Eventually, the Lyons agreed to fund their unruly teenager at Oberlin College in Ohio. (4)

White's early unlady-like behavior helps explain her spirit. She was adventurous, resourceful, resilient, and even cunning. These characteristics, of course, challenged then prevalent social attitudes about female behavior. White understood that reality. She soon chose to make compromises and to channel her youthful vigor to ingratiate herself with peers so to advance her personal aims. White was so successful in this subterfuge that commentators on her later life favorably compared her propriety and poise to European royalty, or, as portrait painter Luis Gruner saw it, White represented "the personification of American womanhood." (5) In other words, the mature White struck contemporaries as the ideal Victorian lady. Although White never lost her wanderlust, the tomboy qualities of her youth, or that rare capacity to wield influence beyond her means, she did domesticate these traits. They served her well in the rough and tumble of California, in her literary endeavors, and as a pioneering women's leader and early conservationist.

More immediately, White applied her talents to the tasks of what was arguably the finest ladies' finishing school in the nation, Oberlin College. Founded in 1833, Oberlin was a progressive institution that admitted women from an early point. The first women to graduate in the United States after completing a collegiate course did so at Oberlin in 1841.

White was enrolled in Oberlin's literature program from 1856 until 1858. (6) Oberlin's literary degree was broad ranging but did not require the study of higher mathematics or classical languages typical of the traditional collegiate degree. White, like many nineteenth-century college students, male or female, did not graduate, and she may not have enrolled with that intent. Merely by attending Oberlin, White attained the select status of being college educated. If grudgingly approved by her parents, this status befitted a successful merchant's daughter, and White quickly became "a belle of Des Moines society." She attended social functions and helped plan celebrations to mark the establishment of Des Moines as the state capital of Iowa. (7)

Oberlin's social environment was as tolerant as its intellectual environment was stimulating. Young women were encouraged to think and to bond together in sororities for that purpose. The first women's literary association in the United States, the Ladies Literary Society, was founded at Oberlin in 1835. White joined its more progressive branch, the Young Ladies Lyceum, in 1857. A participant of its "Literary Exercises," she was exposed to unique opportunities to write and debate, to learn parliamentary procedure, and to speak in public. The association's purpose was to improve the "intellectual and moral" character of members through "the promotion of Literature and Religion." Certainly, religion and the role of women in religious matters were central themes, as was the abolition movement. While at Oberlin, White drafted a play about children's rights. Her contemporaries always later assumed that it was from Oberlin that she developed her organizational skills and political sensibility.

During a break from Oberlin in the summer of 1857, Laura Lyon met Lovell White and quickly became engaged. White was and would again be a prosperous banker, but shortly after his marriage to Laura in Des Moines in March 1858 a panic forced him into bankruptcy. With little to lose and determined to renew his fortune, Lovell set his sights on the greener pastures of California. Whether Laura had any doubts about leaving Oberlin and her family in the Midwest is unrecorded, but it was not her overriding concern. Throughout her life, Laura White proved to be the quintessential pioneer.

The new Mrs. Lovell White was just twenty years old in the fall of 1859 when she arrived at French Corral, a wild and booming mining camp in the Sierra foothills northeast of Grass Valley. The Whites had only recently reached California via the isthmus of Panama, but were quickly lured by the financial prospects on the state's newest mining frontier. The experience would shape the lives of both, but in dramatically different ways. (9)

French Corral was one of several camps set up along the San Juan Ridge. The area was bypassed by the Forty-Niners because its gold deposits were scattered haphazardly along an ancient river channel that made conventional mining methods ineffective. By the late 1850s, however, advances in metallurgy made it possible to access these deposits through a technique known as hydraulic mining. Hydraulic miners employed streams of pressurized water to dissolve mountains into slush that could then be sifted to separate valuable minerals. The capital-intensive process required the construction of vast networks of ditches, flumes, and metal piping to divert the water necessary to feed the system. Miners could maintain around-the-clock shifts with the light from burning pyres of timber. This activity decimated the surrounding forest as did the timber needed for building flumes and trestles that were miles in length. The mining area itself was turned into a wasteland as millions of tons of debris were dumped downstream, wreaking havoc on farms, ranches, and river traffic. (10) This was the world into which the Whites settled.

At French Corral the Whites set up and for five years successfully operated a general merchandising store to supply the hundreds of miners who deluged the area in the late 1850s. Through this work Lovell also met investment-banking titan William C. Ralston, founder of the Bank of California and major financier of the Sierra mining industry. (11)

The harsh conditions at French Corral may have contributed to the greatest tragedy of Laura White's life. It was there that she bore her first two children, only to lose them soon after to scarlet fever. As it would be for any mother, the event was life transforming. White may well have associated the death of her children to the deteriorating environmental conditions in which she lived. Certainly, as remembered by her descendants, it was after this period of suffering that White "turned her thoughts to the beautiful parts of the country" in the interest of doing some good. (12) Later, she clearly connected cleanliness, playgrounds and parks, civic planning, and natural beauty as necessary for the creation and maintenance of social and physical health.

White escaped the mining camp in 1864 when Ralston offered her husband a position in his bank in San Francisco. Six years later, at Ralston's urging, Lovell White became the cashier of San Francisco's Savings Union Bank, where he remained as Ralston's "confidential outside man." The position secured the couple's fortune and they eventually named their third and last child in gratitude for Ralston's aid. With rising affluence and free time, she traveled to Hawaii, mingled in royal circles, and even befriended Princess Liliuokalani. (13) By 1870 White had begun to write morality tales and travelogues for the Overland Monthly and other journals.


In her writing White exhibited a concern with the social consequences of industrialism that later inspired much of her organizing activity. For example, in a story entitled "An Episode of River Mining" published in Overland Monthly. White adapted first-hand experience with placer mining to frame a tale about the destructive process used to move an entire river out of its bed in a futile search for gold. After imprudently investing their labor and life savings, the miners uncovered nothing and the point was made about the virtues of honest work over the excesses of speculation. (14)

In other commentaries, White had harsh words for those whose approach to nature was too commercial. In one story, she described "the melodious silence of the deep forest, whose Arcadian beauty no man's hand had yet profaned." She then contrasted this depiction to that of a male companion who had "calculated the number of feet of lumber to be gotten out of a giant tree near us" before realizing "the commercial instinct to be unworthy of the spot." (15) The most striking of such comments came in a story about a hiking trip where White imagined the voice of a redwood tree ridiculing a group of men. After one man notes how redwoods were "of this natural scenery when the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock," the tree suddenly exclaims: "Will they never have done singing the praises of those blood-thirsty wretches, who, with their descendants, have destroyed more than one half of the forests of the country." (16)

In using literature to express opinions about nature, White was following a tradition of nineteenth-century female authors, such as Susan Fenimore Cooper, who took advantage of the fact that while women were discouraged from discussing political or commercial issues, social values tolerated women's discussion of topics tied to femininity, especially beauty and art. White did not attempt to "domesticate" nature as did those female writers who saw motherly characteristics in hedgehogs, bees, and birds. Nor did she emphasize utilitarian conservation. Instead, White wrote to engage in a public discussion of nature that questioned the values of businessmen who destroyed natural beauty without considering its noncommercial worth or who traded in that worth too easily or for the wrong reason.

According to her friend Frona Eunice Wait Colburn, by the late 1870s and early 1880s White had turned her home into "a social center," a type of San Francisco salon where "the brainy set foregathered, and did much to make the brilliant record achieved by the mining and railroad millionaires." White always supported California's economic development. Nevertheless, she objected to the excesses of industrialism, some of which Lovell White's bank may even have financed. The record is predictably silent on whether the banker's wife understood the irony of her quest to remedy ills caused by men of her husband's rank and class, but as Colburn wrote, "it was while in that many-sided company that Mrs. White began to think out a practical way to better conditions around her." (17)

White gained a public voice through writing, but she probably wrote less to sate a creative impulse than to make an impact. "Every creature of ordinary ambition," she once noted, "desires to stand for something real in the aggregation of human forces." Moreover, a major reason White advocated women's rights was so that women could escape economic dependence on husbands. With work, she said, "we'll no longer have so little to occupy our mentalities that we are driven to bridge and gauze bows on luncheon tables." (18) It seems, however, that writing failed White and she grew frustrated at the slow pace by which male contemporaries took up the "sentimental" defense of beauty and other issues of concern to women. By the time White bore her only surviving child, she had already concluded that women needed a political as well as a literary voice. It was probably not hard for her to see how her husband's associates achieved significant influence by involvement in political and commercial networks and associations. She set out to emulate their methods and to undertake the formidable challenge of public service in a late nineteenth-century world where men largely dominated that enterprise.

To achieve her aims, White drew upon her collegiate and literary training, a pioneer's heritage, and social ties. To some extent, she also exerted influence over the fortune and sympathy of Lovell White. In her late thirties, Laura made an unusual bargain with Lovell, who wanted an heir. Laura was reluctant to have another child for fear that she was too old, that she might lose the child, or because a child would limit her activities. Nevertheless, she submitted on condition that Lovell support her charitable efforts, including granting her thousands of dollars to further such causes. Lovell, a businessman with little recorded interest in civic affairs, agreed. In 1877 Laura gave birth to a son, Ralston, and for the next few years settled into her role as mother, author, socialite, and philanthropist. With Ralston approaching maturity in the early 1890s, Laura White moved to a role on center stage. (19)


In 1896, White went to work on behalf of the California suffrage campaign. She was among the leaders of the National Women's Suffrage Association in San Francisco, which included the wealthy widow Phoebe Apperson Hearst. These women were inspired by the 1893 victory of suffrage backers in Colorado, who succeeded in obtaining women's enfranchisement in that state. White and other leaders of the group set out to establish political equality clubs in various San Francisco assembly districts, a grassroots lobbying tactic. White herself organized and led the 41st Assembly District Club. (20)

Unfortunately, the proposition was rejected. The failure of the California suffrage campaign apparently demonstrated to White that the best hope for achieving public influence in the near term was not to emphasize women's rights, but women's interests. The women's civic club movement, with its concerns for home and motherhood, was a practical alternative. Women who engaged in civic and nonpartisan political work could advance causes related to children, community, art, or nature by espousing women's differences to men, not their equality. This approach reinforced gender stereotypes, but also promoted social approval of suffrage by demonstrating that women could play a responsible role in public affairs.

White did not abandon the goal of voting. Privately, she rebuked her antisuffragist friend Colburn who, she said, was "such a broad-minded, sane sort of person on everything except suffrage, and there you seem to have lost all sense of proportion." (21) Although that remark was disarmed by a teasing "most people are a little off on some subject," White knew that suffrage was divisive and radicalism costly. She pragmatically decided, wrote a reporter, not to support the "shrieking sisterhood" being not "unreasonably the champion of woman." Indeed, he approvingly continued, "for many years an ardent suffragist, she is more in love with beauty than with the ballot." (22) Simply put, White moved on to other issues. As she herself explained, "I was born a suffragist but have not actively identified myself with their [suffrage] organizations, because voting is only a small part of our rights. I've been busy getting women ready for the ballot." (23)

In fulfilling that work, the former 41st Assembly District Club leader held a series of meetings "to crystallize the public spirit which had so gallantly met defeat" in the suffrage campaign. As a result, two days after Christmas in 1897, on a cold, rainy evening, some two dozen women met in Laura White's San Francisco home on Clay Street to form a civic society. Although White favored suffrage, her new organization would not promote that issue. Consciously modeled on the famous Chicago Women's Club, White intended this organization, the California Club, to be a "center of thought and action among women, for the promotion of whatever tends to the best interests of the City and its people." As its first president, White soon obtained a charter membership of five hundred women, which made the club one of the largest women's civic associations in the nation. For its motto, White herself chose a quote from Stanford President David Starr Jordan: "Wisdom is knowing what should be done; virtue is doing it." (24)

White led the California Club onto many paths. With child welfare in mind, she campaigned for the establishment of kindergartens, antitruancy and compulsory schooling legislation, and was especially influential in the development of California's juvenile court system. White sought protections for women by gaining reform in state hospitals for the insane and through antivice legislation. More generally, she campaigned to improve unsavory tenements and workshops and to regulate smoking and public baths. She also tried to interest children and working people in art. In 1901, an interest in songbirds led club members to push for protection of the Meadow Lark from excessive hunting. When the needed bill was signed into state law, it marked the arrival of women as a successful political force in California. (25)

In 1898, the California Club began publicizing its interest in cooperating with others to promote "forestry." (26) White had already cast a disapproving literary eye on the commercial excesses of logging and knew forest practices concerned many women--the national General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) had taken up the issue in 1896. Foresters preached against logging practices that caused erosion, silted irrigation works, reduced stores of water, and slowed the pace of development. White embraced "the superior value of conservative lumbering" in California because, as she said, "knowledge of the forestry methods now used in the latest eastern schools, will prove of immense benefit to this coast, where an unwise and destructive lumber policy has been but too commonly employed." (27)

The creation of the California Club and its interest in forestry came at a propitious moment. Clara Bradley Burdette, a prominent Los Angeles club woman, was just setting out to organize California's women's clubs into a statewide association. She achieved this aim in January 1900 by working with Laura White to create the California Federation of Women's Clubs (CFWC). Statewide federation greatly enhanced women's social and political influence, but previous efforts had failed to unite California's many scattered clubs due to poor transportation, limited communication, and weak ties between the southern and northern clubs.

To unify the state, Burdette sought to promote issues "which all can endorse." (28) As a woman from the "South Land," however, she needed indispensable support in the Bay Area, which White and her five hundred-member California Club provided. White served as vice-president of the founding convention that Burdette hosted in Los Angeles. In her keynote address Burdette voiced two immediate reasons for federation: to promote children's prosperity and to help women conserve state forests. Burdette even condemned "men whose souls are gang-saws" for turning "our world-famous Sequoias into planks and fencing worth so many dollars." Forests, she said, "have made possible our homes, our health and our prosperity." (29)

Delegates elected Burdette president of the CFWC and White first vice-president, and established two working committees, one for children, one for forestry. Burdette was new to forestry and, unlike White, did not continue to champion the cause after leading the CFWC. It thus seems that White encouraged Burdette to see how conservation, like children's issues, mobilized women's enthusiasm. Both leaders sought to tap that power.


Just days before the founding convention of the CFWC, a crisis began to develop in the woods near Yosemite. The issue engulfed the attention of Laura White. On January 12, 1900, the story broke that Robert P. Whiteside, a lumberman from Minnesota, had purchased an option, which he soon exercised, to buy the Calaveras "Big Trees." This stand of ancient redwoods included the Mammoth Grove Hotel and thousands of acres of nearby forest land. The trees, in private ownership for five decades, were famous as a resort where guests could rest in comfort at one of the largest hotels in California.

The San Joaquin Valley Commercial Association, representing a twelve-county area, quickly asked Congress to establish a Calaveras Big Trees national park to save the well-known tourist attraction. On January 22, Stanford's David Starr Jordan lent his support to the cause. (30)

White was the next to act. She inaugurated a national campaign to entice Congress to purchase the Big Trees and preserve them as a public park. White sent resolutions to numerous state and national organizations and government bodies requesting congressional action. California Club members collected thousands of signatures, launched a letter-writing campaign, and White asked club vice-president Mrs. A. D. Sharon, who was then in Washington, D.C., to meet with California's representatives. That done, Sharon even met President William McKinley. (31)

A joint-resolution, sponsored by California's Senator George C. Perkins and Representative Marion de Vries (in whose district the trees were located) was introduced in Congress on February 12. The bill authorized negotiation to buy the two groves that made up the Big Trees. It passed both houses and was signed by President McKinley on March 8, 1900. After signing the bill, McKinley voiced his admiration for the women's legislative feat. (32)

Whiteside, unfortunately, would only sell the groves for many times what he had paid. Although he later claimed the trees to be an "inheritance" for his children, the lumberman was hoping to sell them for a prince's ransom as park land rather than for their market value in timber. The California Club urged condemnation and pushed for a new bill, which passed the senate, but was blocked in the house by two Republican house speakers, David B. Henderson and especially Joseph G. "Uncle Joe" Cannon, both of whom stubbornly insisted that California was wealthy enough to buy its own trees. Thus, the Calaveras groves could not be set aside as a park. White made a forlorn appeal to her friend and fellow club woman Phoebe Hearst for financial assistance, but admitted that "no one club nor even the State Federation of Women's Clubs could undertake to raise by subscription such a large sum" as demanded by Whiteside." (33)

In 1904, after consulting with Senator Perkins, White launched a huge petition drive to inspire Congress to purchase the Big Trees. Capitalizing on the strength of the national women's club movement, she registered more than 1,400,000 names on a petition delivered to President Theodore Roosevelt. Upon receipt, Roosevelt forwarded the petition to Congress with his own plea: "The Calaveras Big Tree Groves are not only a Californian but a National inheritance and all that can be done by the Government to insure its [sic] preservation should be done." White reported that "this is the first instance on record where a special message has been sent to Congress at the request of an organization managed by women." Whiteside, however, remained intransigent and Congress would not force the issue. (34) Frustrated, White expressed her feelings to Governor George Pardee: "Idiots, Criminals and the Insane come and go regularly every few years ... but the Big Trees--if they go--may never be reproduced on earth. How can we secure these Groves for perpetuity? This is the question tormenting my soul." (35) New tactics were needed.

In December 1907, White asked Senator Perkins to submit a bill to Congress empowering the government to exchange portions of land held in federal forest reserves for the Calaveras Big Trees. (36) Perkins acted upon this request but the legislation remained blocked by the tendentious Uncle Joe. Renowned as "a woman of great charm," White led a women's delegation to Washington to lobby public officials and break the impasse. On February 13, 1909, after three months of patient lobbying, she succeeded in inducing the speaker to permit the legislation to reach the floor, where it was quickly approved and signed into law by President Roosevelt on February 19. White was "both reticent and modest" about her success but her influence kept the Calaveras issue in Congress for years. For this persistence and a sense of fair play, even Whiteside grew to admire "Mrs. Lovely White," as he dubbed her. (37)

White continued to lobby for the Calaveras trees, returning to Washington as late as 1913. (38) Whiteside still refused to sell, but he did not cut the groves. In the meantime, club women became more prominent in conservation. In 1908, GFWC president Sarah Platt Decker attended the White House Governor's Conference on Conservation. Some male conservationists, notably the legendary John Muir, were not invited by the conference organizer, Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot, who was deliberately trying to exclude "preservationists" from the "conservation" agenda. (39) Decker was invited because the GFWC had clout and an approach to conservation that was less threatening than the Sierra Club's. Pinchot curried club women's support and praised their contributions to conservation in his memoirs. In December 1908, Governor James N. Gillett appointed White to attend a follow-up to the Pinchot Conference. (40)

White did not live to see permanent protection secured for the Big Trees. The North Grove became a state park in 1931 after the Depression forced Whiteside's family to sell out. Fittingly, the 1909 law promoted by White proved the legal basis for the initiation of renewed efforts to save the remaining trees in 1949. Final protection for the South Grove, however, was not achieved until 1954 after a crucial donation was made by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (41) Although her work was unfinished, White's campaigns to convince Congress to protect the trees focused public attention, created a framework to help guide future preservation efforts, and, perhaps inadvertently, convinced Whiteside to risk holding the trees as a long-term investment.

John Muir was amazed by White's success with the Calaveras trees because he had failed to interest the state legislature in their purchase in 1877. (42) In part, White's success was because the relationship between forest cover, erosion, and water supplies was better understood in 1900.

The Big Trees had also gained status and had already become a sort of public park. Most important, the scale of interest groups organized for civic action, especially women's clubs, had greatly increased, and, of course, Laura White had chosen the Big Trees as a cause celebre.


In 1902 White retired both as the founding president of the California Club and as first vice-president of the CFWC. Predictably, she was nominated to replace Clara Burdette as CFWC president at a conference held that year. Unfortunately, conference delegates had to debate whether the CFWC should support the admission of colored clubs into the national GFWC. When these delegates failed to support that initiative, White withdrew her name as a candidate for the presidency. (43) White was poised to succeed Burdette, but she had attended Oberlin, where abolition was a routine topic, and had promoted both suffrage and children's rights. Later, she clearly stated that "nature has set no permanent nor eternal stamp of superiority on any race or sex." (44) Regardless of the reason, White was suddenly out of work and no longer in charge of a major woman's civic club. The situation was short lived.

Almost immediately, White sought to deepen her activism on projects that appealed to her personally. She continued her Calaveras efforts, and took on new projects, including in 1903 the assumption of a three-year term as president of the Sempervirens Club. The Sempervirens Club, a loose association of park enthusiasts, had recently succeeded in creating a state park to preserve the redwoods of Big Basin in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Under White's management, the club was competently reorganized into a fixed institution whose goal was to oversee the long-term preservation of Big Basin. White, however, was not comfortable with this narrow work. As she admitted, "to reorganize a Club whose fire of enthusiasm has already been spent in the pursuit and attainment of its earlier object is not the task which it is supposed to be." (45)

For White, parks and nature were not set apart from urban concerns. White was also passionately interested in municipal beautification, which was not the work of the Sempervirens Club. Indeed, White immersed herself in the City Beautiful movement, which reached its peak in the first years of the twentieth century. According to William H. Wilson, the City Beautiful movement was driven by an ethos of "middle-class environmentalism, and aesthetics expressed as beauty, order, system, and harmony." (46) Growing beyond the tradition of Frederick Law Olmsted, City Beautiful enthusiasts promoted the creation of monumental public structures and parklike boulevards, the adoption of neoclassic and naturalistic designs in civic architecture, and the use of modern methods of urban planning and sanitary engineering. Rarely credited, female adherents were especially active in planting trees and flowers; promoting parks and playgrounds; cleaning up garbage; regulating utility poles, billboards, and nuisance industries; and promoting zoning restrictions. This work combined women's interests in nature, art, health, and society. White involved herself in all of these activities and emerged as a major popularizer of the City Beautiful in San Francisco. (47) She stands beneath the shadow of Phoebe Hearst, one of the movement's great patrons, only for want of a similar fortune.

Although a city's "character is foreordained" by topography, White said, nevertheless "in the construction of all cities of whatever character the essentials must ever remain the same. Proportion, space, color, cleanliness--these are the fundamentals of the City Beautiful." (48) For White, artistry or "outdoor art" was key to civic planning and urban design. She had seen directly how environment shaped the human condition and believed that urban dwellers required beauty and nature to remain healthy. Moreover, as she said, "out door art is democratic and belongs to the people. When through education it finds a permanent home in our midst, civilization will have advanced another step out of the darkness of chaos." (49) White's pursuit of the City Beautiful had the deliberate purpose of social uplift not exclusive to class, race, or gender.

Beyond beauty and health, parks and playgrounds factored strongly into White's view of the City Beautiful probably because the team play they enabled helped to socialize children, instilling in them civic and patriotic virtues while serving as an alternative to such "illicit" entertainments as drinking and dancing. (50) In 1898, soon after founding the California Club, White orchestrated the construction of a children's playground at Bush and Hyde streets in San Francisco. The club managed the playground for three years before convincing the city to assume its responsibility. By then, White had also convinced San Francisco's board of supervisors to authorize and create a genuine municipal playground located at Seventh and Harrison streets. (51)

In 1905, the California Club succeeded in pressing the board of supervisors to hold a bond election to raise needed funds to purchase and maintain additional playgrounds. The San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire of 1906 may have inadvertently facilitated this project by making numerous burned-over lots available for potential development. At any rate, in November 1907, the club convinced the city to pass a charter amendment authorizing the mayor to create a municipal playground commission. As a result, the California Club presided over the creation of the North Beach and the South of Market playgrounds. White had also pushed hard to get at least two women among the playground commission's seven board members. She achieved this aim and was herself appointed by Mayor Edward Taylor to the commission in 1908. In 1911, the playground commission's members elected White to be president of the commission. (52)

During the summer of 1902, White organized two new women's groups, both of whom shared degrees of interest in the City Beautiful. The first group was drawn from the California Club and chose White as president. Known as the Outdoor Art League, it affiliated with the major promoter of the City Beautiful movement--the American Park and Outdoor Art Association, a national group that later folded into the American Civic Association. White's purpose was "the artistic development of parks, gardens, streets, and of all objects which go to the construction and embellishments of cities and towns." The club's motto was taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The beautiful rests upon the foundation of the necessary." In line with White's interest in trees, however, the league also stepped beyond the urban boundary by promoting the creation of natural parks and forest reserves. More broadly, the league backed "all work relating to the artistic and industrial development of California." These views reflected White's progressive idealism--the promotion of growth, but not growth carried out willy-nilly by laissez-faire capitalism. Instead, like all City Beautiful proponents, White sought a prosperous San Francisco whose growth was consciously directed by sound urban planning and informed citizen input. (53)

Meanwhile, the Whites had taken to spending their summers in Mill Valley. The small Marin County town was beginning to develop urban problems because of its proximity to San Francisco. Tourists were destroying local vegetation while various logging, railroad, and water company operations around Mount Tamalpais threatened the area's prized redwoods. A group of Mill Valley women, aware of Laura White's prominence as a civic and conservation leader, sought her help. (54) In May 1902, she gathered them at her country home on a ridge overlooking the Mill Valley township. White was not an antagonist to growth, but what she saw was not in line with the City Beautiful. "We must do something to save the beauty of Mill Valley," she said while proceeding to organize the Outdoor Art Club, whose avowed goal was "to preserve the natural scenery of Mill Valley ... to beautify the ground around public buildings ... and in all other directions to encourage the development of Outdoor Art." In 1904, the Outdoor Art Club graced the development of Mill Valley by building a Bernard Maybeck-designed clubhouse near the center of town. To this day, the Arts and Crafts-style structure dramatically evokes the City Beautiful. White and her cohorts sought to preserve Mill Valley's rural charm while beautifying the town itself. Perhaps nostalgia was also a goal. As one member recalled years later, "we fought every improvement, even streetlights, to keep Mill Valley the way it was." (55)

In San Francisco, infused by White's "cult of beauty," as a male reporter wrote, the Outdoor Art League championed a number of worthy causes. (56) It set to work defending the use of Spanish place names, seeking utility pole regulation, and lobbying for street work and better sewerage. Early on, White wrote about how the league was "helping the children to a personal love for the beautiful through the planting of gardens and window boxes." She hoped that "attractive school yards will naturally lead to school buildings not only more satisfactory architecturally but more fully equipped for the needs of the student, both mental and physical." (57) Three years later, White's work in the California Club and the Outdoor Art League were so similar that she engineered a merger of the two groups. After voting in favor, the Outdoor Art League was simply absorbed by the California Club as a ready-made department under the same name. (58)

Two important efforts in which White's influence prevailed should be mentioned. The first project involved White's campaign to save San Francisco's historic Telegraph Hill. Telegraph Hill was originally used as a lookout to alert early dock workers of approaching ship traffic. In 1876, a group of businessmen, including George Hearst (husband of Phoebe Hearst), bought two acres on the summit and donated it to the city stipulating that the site be known as Pioneer Park. By the century's end, however, George and Harry Gray of the Gray Brothers Company had erected a major industrial operation at the foot of the hill. From its side they extracted rock for their stone-crushing plants using explosives and heavy machinery. In the process Gray Brothers was systematically leveling the hill, causing a great deal of local consternation, especially after this work caused several houses to slide onto Sansome Street. White sought to prevent the hill's demise by convincing local officials to designate the area as a park. "Telegraph Hill," she said, "is a landmark of historic value and should be preserved and beautified." (59) White lobbied at every municipal election. She brought two bond measures to vote (1903 and 1909) and succeeded in obtaining a temporary injunction to prevent the blasting, which Gray Brothers subsequently violated. (60) On August 9, 1912, Judge Frank J. Murasky made the injunction permanent and recommended that the land be acquired as a park. (61)

With this success, White once again pressured the board of supervisors "to submit to the voters of this city the proposition to acquire ... certain lands on Telegraph Hill, to be used for park purposes." As first vice-president and organizer of the woman's board of the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition, she duly noted how such a park could be "an attractive feature for the Exposition in 1915." (62) White also solicited aid from Phoebe Hearst, whose husband had helped create Pioneer Park, and suggested how "an observatory on Telegraph Hill would be a wonderful beginning" to create an exposition attraction. "Some other Pioneer might add a Historic Museum," she went on, "then another an Aquarium--then tea gardens [sic] etc. Some one would build a car line to the crest of the hill, and we would easily have the most beautiful spot in the world." (63) Neither Hearst nor the board took up her plea, but in 1929 Lillie Hitchcock Coit willed funds for the beautification of San Francisco, which the city finally used to erect the now famous Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, a definite tribute to White's City Beautiful idea. (64)

The second effort was a campaign organized by the California Club in November 1904. According to Mrs. Emil Pohli, a protege of Laura White and chair of the club's forestry section, it was a campaign "in which sentiment and love of nature should have a practical battle with rough commercialism." The club sought to unite some twenty-five men's and women's groups to protect a stand of coastal redwoods from logging in Marin County.6s The trees were located in Redwood Canyon on the southern shoulder of Mount Tamalpais, property mortgaged to the San Francisco Savings Union--Lovell White's bank! After foreclosing on this holding, White sold off most of it to dairy operators, but reserved the canyon as a watershed. (66) Then, late in 1904, a lumber company made an offer to buy the watershed to harvest the stand of redwoods.

Even had he wanted, White could not easily sell the trees for logging. Laura White was fighting to preserve the Big Trees, was president of the Sempervirens Club, and had founded two clubs devoted to conservation. Sympathetic to his wife's interests, perhaps obligated by the old bargain he had made with Laura to have a son, but facing stockholder pressure, Lovell White announced that Redwood Canyon could be purchased as park land for a sum below its appraised value as timberland. (67) The California Club then launched its park campaign. The Whites needed a buyer who would preserve the forest of Redwood Canyon. Remarkably, one was at hand.

William Kent, a maverick political reformer from Chicago, was a frequent visitor to his family's estate in Marin County. Kent supported efforts to create local parks to protect the area's aesthetic character and to increase tourism. (68) By 1904 Kent was also beginning to plan his entry into California politics and realized that he could promote that interest by supporting the creation of a major public park near San Francisco. Moreover, like White, he understood that slums were more a factor of poor municipal planning than poor tenants, that open space and flesh air were municipal requirements, and that private capital would not supply such needs. (69)

One day in 1905, not long after the California Club had begun its Redwood Canyon campaign, Kent walked into the San Francisco Savings Union to meet Lovell White. White expressed his desire to save the trees of Redwood Canyon, explained that he could not do it himself, and asked Kent to buy the forest. He also stated that if Kent did not do so, the forest would probably be sold to a firm that would log the trees. After mulling the matter over, Kent visited the property and found "the beauty of the place attracted me, and got on my mind, and I could not forget the situation." Hence, he "requested ... the lowest possible price from Mr. White, it being understood that the purchase was for preservation, and not for exploitation." (70) Accordingly, White lowered the price by more than half. His shareholders would get a return, the watershed would be safeguarded, and he avoided any hint of spousal discord. Kent told his own wife, concerned about their finances, that saving the woods was a worthwhile risk. So, he bought the canyon. (71)

In 1907, to protect Redwood Canyon more fully, Kent donated the land to the federal government using provisions of the 1906 Antiquities Act. On January 9, 1908, President Roosevelt proclaimed Kent's gift a national monument. Kent insisted that the monument be named for John Muir and so Redwood Canyon became Muir Woods. On January 19, 1908, Laura White hosted an Outdoor Art League reception to honor Kent "in recognition of his service to California in presenting to the Federal Government the Sequoia forest of Marin County." (72) The Muir Woods donation helped make Kent famous in California and he was elected to Congress in 1910. To some extent, Kent owed these victories to the club women who had helped move park issues to the forefront of politics. Of course, the intertwined civic and commercial interests of Laura and Lovell White also played a role.


In her last years, Laura White remained focused upon conservation and beauty. In 1913, as chair of the GFWC's Forestry Committee, White spoke before the Playground Association of America. Her speech, entitled "Children's Playground in National Forest," discussed a tract set aside for children in the Angeles National Forest, an idea she probably thought perfectly combined motherhood, nature, beauty, and healthy recreation. White also served as state president of the Women's National Rivers and Harbors Congress. (73) Unfortunately, not all conservationists could as neatly balance the needs of beauty and progress. White also found herself again leading the California Club, which had had a bruising encounter with the great Hetch-Hetchy debate.

After the 1906 earthquake San Francisco drove hard to achieve congressional approval to allow it to dam the Hetch-Hetchy Canyon in Yosemite National Park. The city was backed by many who hoped to secure a supply of clean inexpensive water under municipal control. The effort was also intended to break the corrosive stranglehold of the hated Spring Valley Water Company on city politics. Conservationists thus had to choose between the desire to clean up politics and the desire to preserve a protected area. This conundrum split their ranks and ended the friendship between Muir and Kent, who became a major backer of the city's position after his election to Congress. The debate also divided nature lovers within the women's club movement: most clubs outside San Francisco sided with Muir while most clubs in the city supported Kent. Laura White was against the proposal. (74) But Kent and Muir were both allies to her in the Calaveras fight. Hence, she failed to commit to either side and steered to avoid the rancorous conflict.

Unfortunately, White was not president of the California Club in 1909 when the CFWC resolved "against the invasion of this grand landscape garden ... for commercial purposes." (75) In response, California Club President Mrs. E. W. Baldwin led a high profile defense of San Francisco's right to develop Hetch-Hetchy. She focused her criticism on the issue, as she saw it, that most concerned women, the beauty of the valley. "The water scheme development will mean simply the difference between a meadow and a lake," she stated. "It will simply be a mirror to reflect the beauty and not one fall will be injured, save one twenty feet high. (76)

Despite Baldwin's gender-appropriate campaign supporting the dam, she involved the California Club in an acrimonious national political debate. The divisiveness was unsettling to many club members, some of whom pleaded with White to run for re-election when Baldwin's term expired. Reluctant to run, White was overwhelmingly reelected in 1910. Baldwin challenged White to continue "to enlighten" the public about "the genuine merits of the water situation," but White took the club on to other issues and buried the Hetch-Hetchy debate. Thereafter, she remained the club's president emeritus, a unique honor among club women. (77)

While again leading the California Club, White's major achievement was to organize the women's role in the campaign to secure San Francisco, instead of New Orleans, as the location for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal but was largely an opportunity to promote the City Beautiful ethic that was so close to White's heart. She garnered active support from the most prominent women, including Phoebe Hearst, and traveled to Washington to lobby for the exposition (and for the Calaveras Big Trees) along with the state's most prominent men. (78) Once San Francisco was selected to host the exposition, White created its Woman's Board and was no doubt responsible for securing Hearst as Honorary President. The Woman's Board was the last civic body White would found. While working an exhausting schedule during the exposition itself, she suddenly took ill and died on January 18, 1916. She was 76 years old. (79)

At her death, Laura White stood as a towering figure among California's women. Her demise was widely reported and lamented. White succeeded in becoming a political force despite the denial of suffrage and other rights because she was willing to abide by the social norms of her time while nevertheless using those norms to further her own aims. Ethics stemming from conservation and the City Beautiful nicely fit this scheme. Men were more willing to listen to a woman who spoke in support of urban and natural beauty, who worked to improve the welfare of children and mothers, and who was not overly strident. White skillfully used women's interest in these areas to obtain public authority and influence on political, commercial, and reform issues and subtly to promote suffrage. Colburn, who opposed suffrage and derided White's faith in women's potential, could not but admit that "Mrs. White stood closest to the boundary line which divides a woman's and a man's world. She, at least, had a glimpse of realities as men know them." Among her many accomplishments, White left a lasting legacy in the redwoods and landmarks for which she sought protection, in the civic groups that she founded, in the parks and playgrounds that she nurtured, and in the inspiration that succeeding generations of Californians have derived from all of her "outdoor art."


In his classic work, John Muir and the American Conservation Movement, Stephen Fox wrote about how conservation began as an elite hobby whose first adherents reflected class concerns typical of the period. Their

interest in corrupt politics and civic reform sprang from moralistic, evangelical, and even nativistic sources. Still, amateurs were the first to set off alarms about the destruction of the wilderness. This they did, he argued, not for professional or economic interests, but because they loved unspoiled nature. Bowing to the era's strictly utilitarian philosophy, early conservationists couched their arguments in practical terms, such as protecting forests for their role in regulating rainfall and preventing erosion. Even Muir followed this strategy though he was more motivated by the evil of men destroying God's beauty. (80)

Laura White was a figure of similar cut. She used class and affluence to promote personal convictions about the protection of nature and the utility of beauty. Although her own status was raised through civic work, White genuinely believed in the benefits of conservation for individual character and social health. Moreover, because she did not draw a sharp line between natural and urban beauty, unlike Muir, she could bring nature to where people lived and could promote the benefits of rational development while still resisting the excesses of technological change. Such pragmatism was a hallmark of her life even when making fundamental moral choices as with suffrage or when giving up the CFWC presidency to oppose its support for discrimination. White would not compromise her own convictions, but she also realized what was not within her power or time to confront. Poignantly, she failed to condemn Baldwin for positioning the California Club between the defense of Yosemite and the growth of San Francisco. Although her stance was a painful necessity, White was probably not surprised by the turn of events. Even before Hetch-Hetchy she must have known, and later said, that men and women are "made of the same clay" and that women must "choose between political good and political evil just as men do." (81) Certainly, White knew that gender was no shield from the dilemmas of politics.

In the end, Laura White stands as a definitive example of a late nineteenth-century female writer and nature-lover turned civic leader. She was a progressive amateur of the upper class, but not a radical, being wed to the notion of separate spheres and gendered responsibilities. Still, as a tireless worker for the causes of women, children, and community, White sought and promoted the benefits of nature and art for all Californians, and did much to advance the influence and responsibility of women in public life through her deeply felt commitment to the interwoven causes of progress, conservation, and beauty.

Cameron Binkley is a research historian for the National Park Service with the Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia. The views expressed in this essay, however, do not necessarily reflect those of the Service. He is a graduate of San Francisco State University's master's program in American History where his thesis focused upon the role of women in early conservation. The author would like to thank the many who aided his work, in particular the Outdoor Art Club of Mill Valley, California, whose members carry forward in the civic tradition of their founder, Laura Lyon White.


(1) A few relevant citations documenting the nature of women's civic activism during this period would include: Dorothea Moore, "The Work of the Women's Clubs in California," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 517 (September 1906), 257-260; Mary Ritter Beard, Women's Work in the Municipalities (New York: National Municipal League, 1915); Estelle Freedmen, "Separatism as Strategy: Female Institution Building and American Feminism, 1870-1930," Feminist Studies (Fall 1979), 512-528; Anne Firor Scott, Natural Allies: Women's Associations in American History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991); Kathryn Kish Sklar, Florence Kelley and the Nation's Work: The Rise of Women's Political Culture, 1830-1900 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). Citations linking women's civic activism to their interest in nature include Maureen Flanagan, "The City Profitable, The City Livable: Environmental Policy, Gender, and Power in Chicago in the 1910s," Journal of Urban History (January 1996), 163-190; Cameron Binkley, "'No Better Heritage than Living Trees--Women's Clubs & Early Conservation in Humboldt County," Western History Quarterly (Summer 2002), 179-203; and Jack E. Davis, "'Conservation Is Now a Dead Word,' Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Transformation of American Environmentalism," Environmental History (January 2003), 53-76.

(2) Edward F. O'Day, Varied Types (San Francisco: Town Talk Press, 1915), 320-323.

(3) This article is informed by: Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860," American Quarterly (Summer 1966), 151-174; Daniel Scott Smith, "Family Limitation, Sexual Control and Domestic Feminism in Victorian America," in A Heritage of Her Own, ed. Nancy F. Cott and Elizabeth H. Peck (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), 222-245; Karen Blair, The Club Woman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868- 1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1980); and Vera Norwood, Made from this Earth: American Women and Nature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

(4) This story is related in Frances A. Groff, "A Queen of Clubs," Sunset 28 (May 1912), 597.

(5) "Mrs. Lovell White," San Francisco Examiner (January 19, 1916), 3; and Frona Eunice Wait Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White--As I Knew Her," Overland Monthly 82 (October 1923), 34, 41.

(6) Information from the Office of the Registrar, Oberlin College, June 22, 2000.

(7) "Mrs. Lovell White is Claimed by Death: Activities on Behalf of Public are Recalled," San Francisco Chronicle (January 19, 1916), 3.

(8) "Records of the Ladies' Literary Society" (1850-1952), item 24 under Women's History Guide, Oberlin College Archives website,; and Minutes Book of the Young Ladies Lyceum, 1856-1860, entry dates March 7, 24, and 31, 1857, April-October 27, 1857, passim, Oberlin College Archives (Thanks to Tammy L. Martin). See also, Rachel F. Seidman, "The Ladies Literary Society: Oberlin's Early Feminists," Oberlin Alumni Magazine 83 (Fall 1987), 14-15.

(9) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 3.

(10) For economic reasons, hydraulic mining was outlawed in California by a federal judge in 1884.

(11) See Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), for more detail on the activities of W. Ralston.

(12) Jean Symmes (White family in-law), interview by author, Mill Valley, January 19, 2000.

(13) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 3; "Mrs. Lovell White," San Francisco Examiner (January 19, 1916), 3.

(14) Laura Lyon White, "An Episode of River Mining," Overland Monthly 15 (January 1890), 26-28.

(15) Laura Lyon White, "A Day's Fishing on the Coos," Overland Monthly 12 (December 1888), 609.

(16) Laura Lyon White, "A Day in the Redwoods of Lagoon Creek," Overland Monthly 18 (September 1891), 259.

(17) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 3.

(18) Groff, "A Queen of Clubs," 598.

(19) Symmes, interview by author; Barry Spitz, Mill Valley, The Early Years (Mill Valley: Potero Meadows Publishing Company, 1997), 49.

(20) Mary S. Gibson, A Record of Twenty-five Years of The California Federation of Women's Clubs, 1900-1925 (San Francisco: California Federation of Women's Clubs, 1927), 5-6.

(21) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovei1 White," 3.

(22) Edward F. O'Day, Varied Types (San Francisco: Town Talk Press, 1915), 320.

(23) Groff, "Queen of Clubs," 598. White's willingness to test but not exceed the limits of social convention is illustrated by her attitude toward hiking: White promoted practical dress reforms but suffered every snag to avoid wearing "male" attire. See White, "A Day in the Redwoods of Lagoon Creek," 257.

(24) Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 5-7.

(25) For programs of the California Club, see The California Club, 1898-1899 (San Francisco: California Club, 1899), 4, 7-8; Year-Book of the California Club of California, 1904-1905 (San Francisco: California Club, 1905), 9, 21-22; Dorothea Moore, "The Work of the Women's Clubs in California," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (September 1906), 258; and California Club, State and National Legislation, International Legislation, Municipal Work Accomplished and Underway by the California Club since Its Organization (San Francisco: California Club, 1916), in California Club of California folder, Ephemera Collection, California Histori-cal Society, San Francisco.

(26) The California Club, 1898-1899, 4, 7.8.

(27) Mrs. Lovell White, Annual Report, January 13, 1906, 1, in Sempervirens Club Records (No. 1979-2628), box 1, folder 14, History San Jose Research Library, San Jose.

(28) "Clubs of Women," Los Angeles Times (January 18, 1900), 12.

(29) Mrs. Robert J. Burdette, "Address of Welcome to the Women's Clubs of California Assembled for the State Federation," January 16, 1900, 12-13, in possession of author. See also Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 9-10, 12.

(30) "Lumbermen Threaten Calaveras Big Trees," San Francisco Chronicle, January i2, 1900, 2; Joseph H. Engbeck, Jr., The Giant Sequoias (Berkeley: University of California, 1973), 95-96.

(31) Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 175.

(32) "Big-Tree Bill is Signed by the President," San Francisco Call, March 19, 1900, 1; Engbeck, Jr., The Giant Sequoias, 95-96; and Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 175.

(33) Mrs. Lovell White to Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, Feb. 26, 1901, reel 110, box 69, folder 4, George and Phoebe Apperson Hearst Papers, 1849-1926, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 4; and "Unique Home for Rich Man: Giant Sequoias from Calaveras Grove to be Utilized," New York Times, January 25, 1903, 25.

(34) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 4; Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 176; Moore, "Work of the Women's Clubs," 258.

(35) Mrs. Lovell White to Governor George Pardee, Nov. 17, 1906, George Cooper Pardee Papers (1890-1941), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

(36) California Club, Year-Book of the California Club, 1906-1907 (San Francisco: California Club, 1908), 35.

(37) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 3-4; "The Big Trees Will Be Saved: Calaveras National Park is Established by a New Law," New York Times, Feb. 20, 1909, 1; Lucretia K. Hanson, Influence of Mrs. Lovell White Now Felt," Mill Valley Record, April 29, 1949, clipping in White Family folder, Mill Valley Library, Local History Rm., Mill Valley.

(38) "Mrs. Lovell White is Claimed by Death," San Francisco Chronicle, January 19, 1916, 3.

(39)Roderick Nash, "Muir Woods and Hetch-Hetchy Valley," in Carolyn Merchant, ed., Green and Gold (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998), 303-304; reprinted from "John Muir, William Kent, and the Conservation Schism," Pacific Historical Review 36 (Nov. 1967), 423-433.

(40) "Goes to Work in Aid of Forests: Mrs. Lovell White Departs Today to Attend Conservation Commission," San Francisco Call, Dec. 2, 1908.

(41) Hanson, "Influence of Mrs. White Now Felt"; John B. Oats, "Conservation: Redwoods Saved From Loggers," New York Times, May 2, 1954, X28.

(42) Engbeck, The Giant Sequoias, 92.

(43) Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 21.

(44) Groff, "Queen of Clubs," 598.

(45) Mrs. Lovell White, Annual Report, January 13, 1906, 6, in Sempervirens Club Records (No. 1979-2628), box 1, folder 14, History San Jose Research Library, San Jose.

(46) William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 1.

(47) The California Club, 1898-1899, 4, 7-8.

(48) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 4, 41.

(49) Colburn, "Mrs. Lovell White," 4.

(50) Wilson, City Beautiful Movement, 82.

(51) California Club, "State and National Legislation ..."; and Mrs. Arthur W. Cornwall, "California Club Vaudeville," April 16, 1912, 2, in California Club folder, Ephemera Collection, California Historical Society, San Francisco.

(52) California Club, "State and National Legislation ..."; and Cornwall, "California Club Vaudeville."

(53) Club Life 1, no. 5 (September 1902), I (See also California Club, Year-Book, 1905-1906, 51-52); "Active Step Will Be Taken to Remedy Disfigurement of City," San Francisco Chronicle (July 14, 1903), 7

(54) "Klyce History of the Outdoor Art Club, 1902-1940," 11, manuscript by original club member in archives of Outdoor Art Club, Mill Valley.

(55) Laura White quoted in "Excerpts about the Ralston Whites and their Home from Jean Barand's 1979 Mill Valley Public Library Oral History" (December 9, 1994), White Family folder, Mill Valley Public Library, Mill Valley. Quote by Irene Coffin (daughter of cofounder Louise Coffin) in Barry Spitz, Mill Valley, The Early Years (Mill Valley: Potrero Meadows Publishing Co., 1997), 135. The clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was White herself who contacted Maybeck.

(56) O'Day, Varied Types, 324.

(57) California Outdoor Art League, "California Outdoor Art League" (San Francisco, 1902), pamphlet in San Francisco Clubs and Associations, Special Collections, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

(58) "California Club Absorbs Outdoor Art League: New Department Added to Influential Women's Organization, Officers Nominated for Term of Ensuing Year," San Francisco Examiner (April 5 1905), clipping in Records of the California Club, 1904-1905, California Club offices, San Francisco.

(59) Mrs. Lovell White, Chairman Telegraph Hill Committee, California Club, to the Board of Supervisors, City and County of San Francisco, September 1912, California Historical Society, San Francisco.

(60) Robert O'Brien, "The Story of Telegraph Hill--Part V," San Francisco Examiner (July 23, 1947), in "Telegraph Hill," Riptides file, 22% California Historical Society, San Francisco; "Telegraph Hill to be Protected in Future," San Francisco Examiner (April 20, 1904) and "Deny Permit for Blasting" (May 1904), unknown paper, clippings in California Club, 1904-1905; California Club offices, San Francisco; and California Club, State and National Legislation...."

(61) Mrs. Lovell White to Mrs. George Hearst, August 11, 1912, reel 110, box 69, folder 4, Hearst Papers.

(62) Mrs. Lovell White, Chairman Telegraph Hill Committee, California Club, to the Board of Supervisors, City and County of San Francisco, September 1912, California Historical Society, San Francisco.

(63) Mrs. Lovell White to Mrs. George Hearst, August 11, 1912, reel 110, box 69, folder 4, Hearst Papers.

(64) The notion of using Telegraph Hill as part of a City Beautiful design was also one of the many unfulfilled features of the Burnham Plan to rebuild San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake.

(65) "Women Plan to Buy Marin's Primeval Grove of Redwoods: Clubs are Stirred," unknown paper, November 1904, clipping in California Club, 1904-1905, California Club offices, San Francisco; "Talk of Buying Redwood Canyon: Civic Clubs Consider Proposition to Purchase the Marin County Tract to Save It from Lumbermen," San Francisco Chronicle (November 20, 1904).

(66) Elizabeth T. Kent, William Kent, Independent: A Biography (unpublished manuscript at Stanford University, 1950), 178-179.

(67) Elizabeth Kent, William Kent, Independent, 178-179.

(68) William Kent, "Tamalpais as a National Park," address delivered September 12, 1903, box 64, folder 48, William Kent Family Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

(69) See Anne F. Hyde, "William Kent: The Puzzle of Progressive Conservationists," in California Progressivism Revisited, edited by William Deverell and Tom Sitton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 36-38, for a good analysis of Kent's conservation philosophy.

(70) Elizabeth Kent, William Kent, Independent, 178-179.

(71) Elizabeth Kent, William Kent, Independent, 178-179; Morely, 4.

(72) Invitation of the Outdoor Art League, California Club (January 19, 1908), in California Club folder, San Francisco Public Library History Center.

(73) O'Day, Varied Types, 323; Mrs. Lovell White, "Children's Playground in National Forest," Speech presented to the Playground Association of America (May 10, 1913), in 1910, Mrs. Lovell White, scrapbook in California Club offices, San Francisco.

(74) John Muir to Mrs. Lovell White, June 21, 1907, in Outdoor Art League, scrapbook in California Club offices, San Francisco.

(75) Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 221.

(76) "Woman's Convention Is Electric: President Answers Charges," San Francisco Examiner (April 12, 1910), in box 6 (news clippings), Sierra Club Records, Bancroft Library, University of California. The dam's destructiveness later demonstrated this claim to be false.

(77) "Club Notes," unknown paper, June 1, 1910, clipping in California Club, 1910-1911; un-identified clippings in 1910, Mrs. Lovell White; and "Mrs. White Wields California Gavel: First Meeting of Women's Club Under New Regime Well Attended," unknown paper (September 10, 1910), clipping in California Club, 1910-1911, scrapbook in California Club offices, San Francisco.

(78) Mrs. Lovell White to Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, September 28 and October 3, 1910, reel 76, box 49, folder 9, Hearst Papers.

(79) Gibson, Record of Twenty-five Years, 152-153; "Mrs. Lovell White," San Francisco Examiner (January 19, 1916), 3.

(80) Stephen Fox, John Muir and His Legacy. The American Conservation Movement (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1981), 107-108. John James Audubon also cited the role of birds in controlling insects but was more interested in their beauty and song.

(81) Groff, "Queen of Clubs," 598.
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Author:Binkley, Cameron
Publication:California History
Article Type:Biography
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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