Guide to the Laura Gordon papers [ca. 1856-1882]

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Arts and Humanities --Journalism Social Sciences --Political Science --State Government Social Sciences --Political Science --Federal Government Social Sciences --Area and Interdisciplinary Studies --Women's Studies

Guide to the Laura Gordon papers, [ca. 1856-1882]

Collection number: BANC MSS 80/108 c

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

Encoded by:
Campbell J. Crabtree
© 1996 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

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.

Key to Arrangement

Box 1

Letters written by Mrs. Gordon, 1870-1882, to friends and family, describing her journalistic and legal work and her activities on behalf of woman suffrage. (21 letters in one folder).

Boxes 1-2

Letters written to her. Arranged alphabetically by author, and chronologically thereunder. A partial list of correspondents follows the Key. Most of the letters relate to the woman suffrage movement, especially in California, but also at the national level. Some reflect Mrs. Gordon's legal activities, and her earlier newspaper work. Letters from her husband contain information concerning the Civil War and his life and medical practice in Mokelumne.

Box 1

A - Q

Box 2

R - Z

Box 2

Unlisted letters, A-Z


Unidentified letters


Miscellaneous accounts, 1876-1880


Calling and business cards


Invitations and memberships


Ephemeral materials relating to politics and suffrage


Clippings re Mrs. Gordon and the suffrage movement

Partial List of Correspondents


Allen, Ira


Letter, Dec. 27, 1869, re arrangements for a woman suffrage meeting in Watsonville.


Ames, Fanny (Baker), 1840-1930 (Mrs. Charles Gordon Ames)


Letter, Feb. 2, 1870


Anthony, Susan Brownell, 1820-1906


7 letters, 1869-1877


Avery, Alida C


2 letters, 1877, re woman suffrage in Colorado.


Bacon, George Andrew, 1847-1930


Letter, Aug. 16, 1865


Bancroft (A.L.) and Company, San Francisco


Letter, June 19, 1877, by Cosville Libby


Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?


Letter, Nov. 15, 1875


Blake, Lillie (Devereux), 1833-1913


Letter, n.d., re suffrage convention in New York.


Broughton, W. W.


Letter, Oct. 8, 1870, re woman suffrage in Santa Cruz.


Carr, Jeanne C. (Mrs. Ezra Slocum Carr)


2 letters, June 8, 1878 and n.d., re suffrage movement in California. Enclosure to 1878 letter: letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Undated letter written on verso of letter from Laura J. Watkins.


Chandler, Lucinda B.


Letter, July 22, 1871, re woman suffrage in Massachusetts.


Clapp, H. K.


Letter, Dec. 23, 1871, re floods in Carson City, and re activates of Susan B. Anthony.


Curtis, Celia


2 letters, 1869-1870, re woman suffrage in San Francisco.


Denio, Angie S.


Letter, Oct. 23, 1871, re woman suffrage in Vallejo.


Doten, Lizzie, 1829-


2 letters, 1861-1864


Eddy, Almira H.


2 letters, 1878-1881, re her role in the suffrage movement from 1869, and her later views on the subject.


Foltz, Clara (Shortridge), 1849-1934 (Mrs. Jeremiah Richard Foltz)


4 letters, 1878 and n.y., re suffrage movement in California.


Fox, Dorus M.


2 letters, 1862, re civil war.


Freeman, Abraham Clark, 1843-1911


Letter, Dec. 16, 1871, re California law relative to separate property of married women.


Gage, Matilda (Joslyn), 1826-1898


4 letters, 1874-1880, re work for woman suffrage.


Ginn, John I.


Letter, Sept. 15, n.y.


Goodrich, Sara Knox


5 letters, 1878-1881, re work for woman suffrage in California.


Gordon, Charles H, 1833-


32 letters, 1863-1868. Early letters re Civil War experiences at camps in Rhode Island; later letters re life in Mokelumne, local politics, his own writing, comments on his wife's work and on suffrage activity in California, and information on his medical practice in Mokelumne.


Griffing, Emma, 1841-


Letter, Sept. 5, 1871, written on behalf of her mother, Josephine Sophia White Griffing, re woman suffrage.


Griffing, Josephine Sophia (White), 1814-1872 (Mrs. Charles Stockman Spooner Griffing


Letter, Sept. 11, 1871, re woman suffrage. See also Griffing, Emma.


Griffith, John L.


Letter, Dec. 16, 1870, to Samuel J. Alden, on behalf of Mrs. Gordon, who wished to speak in Georgetown on woman suffrage.


Hinton, Richard Josiah, 1830-1901


Letter, Mar. 5, 1877, re San Francisco Daily Evening Post.


Hutchinson, Abigail Jemima, 1829-1892


Johnson, J. A.


Letter, May 22, 1875


Kirby, Georgiana Bruce


Letter, Dec. 31, n.y., re woman suffrage in California.


Leavitt, Mrs. C. C.


Letter, Jan. 3, 1870, re arrangements for Laura Gordon's lecture tour in the Nevada City-Grass Valley area.


Link, H.


19 letters, 1860-1864, re spiritualism.


Maguire, James George, 1853-1920


Letter, Jan. 30, 1880, congratulating her on her admission to the Bar and on the success of the mandamus case instituted by Clara Foltz and Laura Gordon. Also comments on woman's rights in Washington Territory.


Mulford, Prentice, 1834-1891


Letter, Dec. 31, 1869, giving advice re woman suffrage.


Murphy, R W


Letter, June 11, 1878, re her acceptance as a delegate to a convention, and re his interest in the suffrage movement.


Palmer, Cynthia M


4 letters, 1870-1871, re woman suffrage in Nevada City.


Patton, Abby (Hutchinson), 1829-1892 (Mrs. Ludlow Patton)


2 letters, 1880-1881. Letter from her husband, Ludlow Patton, also included.


Pratt, R H


Letter, Dec. 8, 1870, re the suffrage movement in Carlin, Nevada.


Ringgold, Charles S


2 letters, 1879, re the passage of a section of an act relating to woman suffrage in California.


Safford, A. P. K ., 1828-


Letter, May 1, 1877


Safford, Jenny L. T.


2 letters, 1870-1871. 1870 letter re suffrage movement in San Diego.


Sargent, Ellen Clark (Mrs. Aaron Augustus Sargent)


7 letters, 1871 and n.d., re woman suffrage. Some refer to writing the history of the movement in California.


Savage, Myron H.


Letter, Mar. 15, 1882, requesting a statement on woman suffrage.


Schenck, Elizabeth T.


Letter, July 20, 1871, re suffrage.


Spencer, Sara Andrews


Postcard, July 12, 1880, re suffrage.


Sprague, Mrs. C. H.


Letter, Mar. 18, 1880, re woman suffrage in Woodland.


Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 1815-1902


Steele, Rowena G


9 letters, 1880-1882. Letter, July 21, 1880, written on verso of letter by David Terry to Mrs. Steele. Some re legal case Mrs. Gordon handled for Mrs. Steele.


Stevens, Emily Pitts


2 letters, 1871, written from the office of the San Francisco Pioneer, re woman suffrage.


Stow, Mrs.


Letter, July 25, 1881, re woman suffrage in San Francisco.


Tallmadge, Frank W.


14 letters, 1856-1861


Terry, David Smith, 1823-1889


5 letters, 1877-1878. Some re woman suffrage. See also Steele, Rowena G.


Van Valkenburgh, Ellen R.


Letter, Oct. 13?, 1871, re woman suffrage in California.


Walcott, Josephine


4 letters, 1878-1879, re woman suffrage in California.


Wallis, Sarah (Mrs. Joseph S. Wallis)


4 letters, 1871-1881, re woman suffrage in California.


Waterhouse, L. G.


Letter, July 22, 1881, re woman suffrage in Pacific Grove.


Watkins, Laura J.