Clara Shortridge Foltz
Clara Shortridge Foltz, known as the Portia of the Pacific, was born in Henry County, Indiana, and is a lineal descendant of Daniel Boone, that eminent pioneer, who was ever in the advance, progressive in his ideas yet at all times seeking privacy rather than prominence; such are the characteristics inherited by the subject of this sketch, who though very prominent in public life is never so happy and contented as when in the privacy of her home, surrounded by those she loves most dearly. Her remote ancestors lived in Scotland, some four generations back; the family was established in Kentucky, where it produced several great lawyers and preachers. It divided there early in the present century, one branch going north and the other south. Mrs. Foltz's father, Elias V. Shortridge, was born in Indiana. He prepared himself for the bar in company with Oliver P. Morton, but, without entering upon his profession, turned to the pulpit and became a clergy man of the "Campbellite " or "Christian" denomination, in which President Garfield was prominent. The branch that went south adorned the history of Alabama with distinguished names. They were a family of strong mentality and great learning. Mrs. Foltz moved to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, with her parents and was educated in Howe's Seminary of that city. She was regarded by her teachers as possessing an extraordinary mind, having at the early age of twelve years finished the first two books of Latin, and stood at head of her classes in philosophy, history and rhetoric. After leaving school she taught two terms, near Keithsburg, Mercer County, Illinois, the last one closing on the day she was fifteen years of age. Within a few weeks thereafter and without parental advice or authority she was married to Z. D. Foltz, and moved to the Pacific coast in 1872. She began reading law in the office of the Hon. C. C. Stephens in San Jose, California, in 1876, and on the fourth day of September, 1878, she was admitted to the bar. She was the author of the bill which amended the law of California so that women could be admitted to practice, and was the first admitted under its provisions. Afterward, having been denied admission to Hastings' College of the Law, she sued out a writ of mandamus, argued her own case and won it. The directors appealed from the judgment. Mrs. Foltz was prevented attending the law college, but by the aid of a coal-oil lamp, amid the cries of her populous nursery, she prepared herself for admission to the Supreme Court and was admitted, December 6, 1879. A few weeks following the Supreme Court affirmed the college case, and ever since that time women have been free to enter and graduate upon equal terms with men. (See Clara Foltz vs. J. P. Hoge et al., 54 Cal. p. 28.)
In 1880 she was clerk of the judiciary committee of the Assembly, the first woman to hold that important position, and during the same season prepared a brief on the constitutionality of a bill she had introduced, "To enable women to vote at elections for school officers and in all matters pertaining to public schools," which is considered as the ablest presentation of the suffragists yet offered in support of the proposition that in States where not prohibited by the constitution the Legislature may grant suffrage to women. The bill was defeated, however, though not for want of constitutional authority.
Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California; pub. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1890.
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