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Finding Aid to the Elsa S. McGinn Papers, 1891-1971
BANC MSS 99/318 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Elsa S. McGinn papers
    Date (inclusive): 1891-1971
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 99/318 c
    Creator: McGinn, Elsa Searing
    Extent: 2 cartons, 5 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder 4 linear feet
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Elsa S. McGinn papers consist of materials pertaining to her activity as a public figure in San Mateo County, as well as her personal life. The collection is divided into four series: Business Papers, Civic and Municipal Papers, Correspondence, and Personal Papers.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers

    Access Information

    Collection is open for research.

    Conditions of Use

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Elsa S. McGinn Papers, BANC MSS 99/318 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternative Form of Materials Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Separated Material

    Photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library (BANC PIC 1998.069--ALB).
    Posters have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    McGinn, Elsa Searing -- Archives
    San Mateo (Calif.) -- Politics and government

    Administrative Information

    The Elsa S. McGinn papers were given to the Bancroft Library by Thomas McGinn Smith on June 30, 1998.
    No additions are expected.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Jack Doran in 2012.

    Biography/Organization History

    Elsa McGinn was born Elsa Waller Searing on May 4, 1880 in Sherwood, New York. Her father, Edward Whelan Searing, was an attorney who served on the New York State Assembly and her mother, Laura Redden Searing, was an accomplished journalist and poet who wrote under the name Howard Glyndon.
    Laura Searing’s declining health compelled her to take up and go West with Elsa in 1887. They settled in Santa Cruz, California, where Elsa spent her childhood before leaving to study at Miss Head’s Preparatory School for Girls in Berkeley, California. Upon completing her studies in 1898, she moved back to Santa Cruz and briefly took a job as a stenographer before marrying Roderick J. Marston in October 1899. She soon relocated to Dawson City, Yukon where Marston owned a gold mine. The two separated in 1901 (divorced in 1903) and Elsa took a job in Nome, Alaska as a stenographer and typesetter for John L. McGinn, a prominent mining attorney whom she would eventually marry on April 20, 1904.
    Elsa returned to California in 1909 to care for her mother, eventually settling in San Mateo in January 1916. Here, she began a tireless public career. Some of the more prominent of her many titles over the next few decades were President of San Francisco Girls Welfare Home (1917-1920), Chairman of the Liberty Loan campaigns and head of the California State Council of Defense during World War I, Commissioner of Public Health and Safety of San Mateo (1920-1922), acting mayor of San Mateo (1920) and President of the San Mateo Women’s Club (1924-1928). As a member of the San Mateo County Planning Commission (1931-1952), Elsa helped establish some of the first municipal parks in San Mateo County. She was also the first woman nominated for a seat on the California State Assembly (1926), an election that she lost.
    She gave birth to two children—Laura Edith and John W. McGinn—and was remembered by her friends and community as a fearless and tactful, yet compassionate leader. She died on May 13, 1963 at the age of 83.

    Scope and Content Note

    The Elsa S. McGinn papers consist of materials pertaining to her activity as a public figure in San Mateo County, as well as her personal life. The collection is divided into four series: Business Papers, Civic and Municipal Papers, Correspondence, and Personal Papers.
    Business Papers, Series 1, consists of correspondence and titles for several mines in Mexico in which Elsa McGinn owned a share.
    Civic and Municipal Papers, Series 2, includes correspondence regarding McGinn’s participation in World War I bond drives, women’s clubs, various civic and municipal positions in San Mateo and her run for State Assemblyman.
    Correspondence, Series 3, consists of personal letters, primarily written by John L. McGinn and Laura E. McGinn, as well as holiday cards from friends of the McGinn family.
    Personal Papers, Series 4, has been divided into six subseries: General; John L. McGinn; Laura E. McGinn; Laura C.R. Searing; Writings; and Ephemera. Included are scrapbooks kept by McGinn, mementos from her childhood and materials relating to her marriage to John McGinn. Also included are papers of both John L. McGinn and Laura E. McGinn and copies of two books published by Laura Searing (Howard Lyndon) as well as a variety of ephemera.