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Finding Aid to the Mrs. Joseph (Elizabeth) Morcombe San Francisco, Second District, California Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) Records
SFH 14  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related Archival Collections
  • Related Publications
  • Processing Information
  • Conservation Note
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Mrs.Joseph (Elizabeth) Morcombe San Francisco, Second District, California Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) Records
    Date (inclusive): [1914]-1937
    Collection Identifier: SFH 14
    Creator: Morcombe, Joseph, Mrs., (Elizabeth), 1874-1957.
    Physical Description: 3 boxes (2.3 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    info@sfpl.org
    Abstract: The Mrs. Joseph (Elizabeth) Morcombe San Francisco, Second District, California Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) Records contain documents pertaining to the activities of the San Francisco PTA in the years 1895 to 1937. The records were maintained by Elizabeth Morcombe (Mrs. Joseph E., née Sohm) who served as publicity director and president. The collection contains publicity scrapbooks, correspondence, minutes, and official PTA history. The meticulously kept scrapbooks and histories reveal the San Francisco group's early activities and political platforms as it grew from a conglomerate of Mothers Clubs to a shareholder in the national PTA organization.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored offsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.

    Access

    The collection is open for research and stored offsite. A minimum of two working days' notice is required for use. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Mrs. Joseph (Elizabeth) Morcombe San Francisco, Second District, California Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) Records (SFH 14), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Provenance

    Olin Sohm, nephew of Elizabeth Morcombe, donated the materials to the San Francisco Public Library in 2002.

    Related Archival Collections

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the Second District of the California PTA (San Francisco PTA) Records (SFH 21), and Series 9 of the San Francisco Unified School District Papers (SFH 3), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library. See also John W. Geary School PTA Records, 1930-1974, (MS 3595), California Historical Society, San Francisco, CA.

    Related Publications

    Deffterios, Margaret N. History of the California Congress of Parents and Teachers. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, 1958.
    National Congress of Parents and Teachers. History of the California Congress of Mothers: From Date of Organization, May 8, 1900, to June 30, 1913. Complied by Mrs. M. C. Kennedy. Los Angeles: State Congress of Mothers, 1913.
    National PTA. The PTA Story: A Century of Commitment to Children. Chicago, IL: National PTA, 1997.
    Twining, Harry LaVerne. History of the California Congress of Mothers and Parent-teacher Associations. Los Angeles: California Congress of Mothers, 1908.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Mattie Taormina in 2004.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, some of the publicity scrapbooks were dismantled and put into file folders. Damaged covers were removed.

    Administrative History

    America's kindergarten movement gained momentum in the first three decades of the twentieth century when public school systems gradually began to adopt kindergarten education. As the movement swept through America, groups of local women formed private, independent Mothers Clubs to meet and discuss how they could collectively address the problems their school children faced in the home and in society. These clubs were the genesis of today's Parent Teachers Association, or PTA, as it is commonly known.
    Spawned by the kindergarten movement, the National Congress of Mothers gained national prominence when political powerhouse Phoebe Apperson Hearst (wife of George Hearst) and Alice McLellan Birney convened the first National Congress of Mothers on February 17-19, 1897 in Washington, D.C. and elected Mrs. Adlai E. Stevenson (wife of the then-U.S. vice-president) a vice president. When the successful conference concluded, Mrs. Grover Cleveland hosted a reception at the White House for the group. The organization's formal charter was drawn up in 1900, with Theodore Roosevelt serving as chairman of the Advisory Council (he served in this capacity until 1919).
    In San Francisco, the Mothers Club of the San Francisco Boys Club was organized in 1894. The group's name was changed to First Mothers Club in 1923. A Mothers Club was formed at Occidental Free Kindergarten in 1895. Within two years, the California Home and School Child Study Association was formed in San Francisco, with school principals in charge. The San Francisco Congress of Mothers was organized in 1908 by the merger of the Mothers Clubs and the California Home and School Association. Meanwhile, the Federation of Mothers Clubs was formed in Los Angeles. This organization became the California Congress of Mothers and Child Study Circles and joined the national organization in 1902. In 1911, the California organization became the California Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations, later the California Congress of Parents and Teachers, and in the 1970s, the California State PTA.
    Mothers Clubs formed alliances or federations based on regional and geographical lines. In 1910, the Northern California Congress of Mothers was formed with membership from the bay counties. This group was likely also known as the Bay Federation of Mothers Clubs. In 1912, the Bay Federation of Mothers Clubs reorganized as the Second District of the California Congress, representing nine counties, with Los Angeles already designated as the First District. In 1927, the state organization reorganized the growing Second District to include only San Francisco. The earlier Second District was then referred to as the Old Second District.
    The Second District's activities mirrored the ideals and initiatives set forth by the national PTA. Strongly believing that child-rearing skills must be developed through training (an ideal stemming from the kindergarten movement), PTA mothers banded together to educate fellow mothers in home-making skills, cooking and nutrition, sewing, hygiene, road safety and tax awareness. Even before they could vote, these women used what limited influence and resources they had to improve the relationship between home, school and community for San Francisco's youth. At its fundamental core, Progressive Era welfare groups like the PTA hoped their efforts would be a means of bringing about better societal and familial conditions so that the younger generation would have the greatest possible advantages.
    The Mothers Clubs, precursors to the California State PTA, rarely saw male involvement in their activities, owning in part to society's belief that child-rearing fell under the purview of the mother. The members of the PTA did their best to encourage men to become active participants in the programs, but as one newspaper reporter observed in 1937, "…the hardest job in the PTA women have is to drag their menfolks out to organization affairs. For the American father, as we well know, although he is supposed to be an important member of this group, likes to take his children's education for granted by leaving it up to the teacher or his wife." Eventually, men did become active in the Second District and formed the first State Organization of Fathers Councils in the nation in 1931.
    A native of Iowa, Elizabeth Morcombe became active in the Second District in 1923. Her previous newspaper experience prepared her for her first PTA position as publicity chairman for her unit, then as district publicity chair, and ultimately, publicity chair for the California Congress of Parents and Teachers [Estcourt, Zilfa. San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 1935]. She taught other units how to generate and document their unit's publicity and wrote a regular Sunday column for the club in the San Francisco Examiner. In 1935, her peers elected her President of the Second District. Described by columnist Ethel Bogardus as a highly organized individual, thorough and complete, her two-year administration was marked by outstanding accomplishments in child welfare. Upon her term's conclusion, the district recommended she have a place on the national board and presented her with a life membership in the National Congress [ The News, March 31, 1937]. Morcombe maintained the organization's publicity records.
    Morcombe was married to Joseph E. Morcombe, editor of Masonic World, but their union produced no children. Elizabeth Morcombe died in Alameda County on May 12, 1957 at the age of 83.

    Scope and Contents

    The Mrs. Joseph (Elizabeth) Morcombe San Francisco, Second District, California Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) Records contain documents pertaining to the activities of the San Francisco PTA in the years 1895 to 1937. The records were maintained by Elizabeth Morcombe (Mrs. Joseph E., née Sohm) who served as Publicity Director and President. The collection contains publicity scrapbooks, correspondence, minutes, and official PTA history. The meticulously-kept scrapbooks and histories reveal the San Francisco group's early activities and political platforms as the organization grew from a conglomerate of Mothers Clubs to a shareholder in the national PTA organization.
    Significant items of note are Mrs. H.C. Rothwell's 40-page history of the organization and Mothers Clubs movement in San Francisco, circa 1937. This document is located in the Organizational History series. A concise review of Morcombe's two-year presidency can be found in Publicity Record Book, Vol. II, 1936-1937, and images of Morcombe are located in Publicity Record Book, Articles by Mrs. Morcombe, 1929-1936 and Publicity Record Book, Vol. II, 1935-1936. Also of note is a newspaper picture located in Publicity Record Book, Articles by Mrs. Morcombe, 1935-1937 and Publicity Record Book, Vol. I, 1935, featuring PTA members with these very scrapbooks receiving statewide recognition for the PTA's publicity efforts.
    Researchers should be aware that the titles and dates on the publicity scrapbook covers are not always a true reflection of their contents. Check this guide for accurate dates.

    Arrangement

    The collection has been organized into three series: Organizational History, Publicity Record Books, and Miscellaneous Records. Within each series, the collection is arranged chronologically (based on the actual dates in each volume's contents).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    California Congress of Parents and Teachers. Second District. -- History
    Morcombe, Joseph, Mrs., (Elizabeth), 1874-1957. -- Archives
    Child welfare -- California -- San Francisco.
    Education -- California -- San Francisco.
    Parents' and teachers' associations -- California -- San Francisco -- History.