Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Laura Gordon papers [ca. 1856-1882]
BANC MSS 80/108 c  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (93.73 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Laura Gordon papers,
    Date (inclusive): [ca. 1852-1882]
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 80/108 c
    Creator: Gordon, Laura de Force, 1838-1907
    Extent: Number of containers: 2 boxes
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Correspondence relating to her career as newspaper woman and lawyer in California and to her work on behalf of woman suffrage movement at the state and national levels; clippings; ephemeral material re politics and the suffrage movement; miscellaneous papers.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Laura Gordon papers, BANC MSS 80/108 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    Laura de Force Gordon—journalist, lawyer and suffragette—was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania on August 17, 1838. In 1862 she married Dr. Charles H. Gordon of Scotland,followed him to New Orleans where he was stationed during the Civil War, and subsequently traveled with him to Nevada in 1867 and to Lodi, California in 1870.
    Prior to her marriage Mrs. Gordon had lectured on spiritualism on the east coast, and continued her lectures when she moved west. An early advocate of women's rights, she was instrumental in founding the California Woman Suffrage Society in 1870, serving as its president in 1877 and from 1884 to 1894. She also lectured widely in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington Territory on behalf of the movement. In 1871, nominated for state senator in San Joaquin County by the Independent Party, she received some two hundred votes.
    Her journalistic career appeared to have begun in 1873, when she wrote a column for the Stockton Narrow Gauge, a semi-weekly. Later that year she edited and published the Stockton Weekly Leader, which became a daily in 1874, and which she sold in 1875. Moving to Oakland, she edited the Oakland Daily Democrat until 1878, and in her editorial capacity championed women's rights and the Democratic party. In 1877 she played an important role in lobbying for the passage of a landmark bill, first drafted by Clara Shortridge Foltz, permitting women to practice law in California. The two women collaborated again in successfully appealing to the California Supreme Court a case against the Hastings College of Law which denied them official admission. The case made legal history, and the two women were admitted to the California Bar in December 1879. Mrs. Gordon maintained a law office first in San Francisco,and later moved to Stockton.
    An eloquent speaker, she vigorously campaigned in the California mining country on behalf of the Democratic Party in 1888 and 1890, and in Nebraska and Utah in 1892. Always an ardent feminist, Mrs. Gordon twice served as delegate, to the National Woman Suffrage Association, and with Susan B. Anthony appealed at the Liberal Republican Convention in 1872 for adoption of a suffrage plank. She retired to manage her farm near Lodi in 1901, and died there at the age of sixty-eight, on April 5, 1907.

    Scope and Content

    The papers, purchased from Louis Stein in March 1980, include letters written by Mrs. Gordon, relating to her careers in journalism and law, and her work on behalf of women suffrage and the Democratic party; letters written to her, many of them documenting the history of woman suffrage at state and national levels, and also reflecting her activities as a newspaper woman and attorney; a few accounts; personalia; ephemeral materials relating to politics and the suffrage movement; and clippings relating to Mrs. Gordon and other suffragists.