March Fong Eu

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March Fong Eu
25th Secretary of State of California
In office
January 6, 1975 – May 17, 1994
GovernorJerry Brown (1975-1983)
George Deukmejian (1983-1991)
Pete Wilson (1991-1994)
Preceded byJerry Brown
Succeeded byTony Miller
2nd United States Ambassador to Micronesia
In office
May 18, 1994 – July 5, 1996
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byAurelia E. Brazeal
Succeeded byCheryl Ann Martin
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 15th district
In office
1967–1974
Preceded byNicholas C. Petris
Succeeded byS. Floyd Mori
Personal details
Born
March Kong

(1922-03-29)March 29, 1922
Oakdale, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 21, 2017(2017-12-21) (aged 95)
Irvine, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Chester Fong (divorced)
Henry Eu
Children2, including Matt Fong
March Fong Eu
Chinese余江月桂

March Kong Fong Eu (March 29, 1922 – December 21, 2017) was an American politician. She was a member of the California State Assembly and went on to serve as Secretary of State of California.

Early life and education[edit]

Eu was born March Kong in Oakdale, California in the San Joaquin Valley, where her Chinese immigrant parents Yuen Kong and Shiu Shee ran a hand-wash laundry.[1][2] Her grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Huaxian County (now Huadu District) in the South China province of Guangdong.[3][4][5] The family later moved to Richmond, California.[6][5]

Eu earned a Bachelor of Science in dentistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and a Master of Arts from Mills College. She earned a Ed.D. from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 1954.[2]

Career[edit]

She became a dental hygienist and served a term as president of the American Dental Hygienist Association. In the 1950s she served on the Alameda County School Board.[6]

California Assembly[edit]

In 1966 Eu was elected as a Democrat to the California State Assembly from the 15th District, representing Oakland and Castro Valley. She served four terms. She was the first Asian woman elected to a state legislature in the U.S. She is perhaps best known for her successful campaign to ban pay toilets, arguing that they discriminated against women since urinals were free.[7]

California Secretary of State[edit]

Eu was elected Secretary of State of California in 1974, becoming the first Asian American woman ever elected to a state constitutional office in the United States.[7] She remained the only woman to serve as California Secretary of State until 2006, when voters elected Debra Bowen. Eu was elected Secretary of State five times. In 1978 she won every county in the state, even heavily Republican Orange County, making her one of only five Democrats to win the county in a statewide race in the last half century. She resigned in 1994 when President Bill Clinton nominated her for an ambassadorship.[8]

Innovations she introduced during her 20 years as Secretary of State included voter registration by mail; providing absentee ballots to anyone who requested them; posting results on the Internet; and including candidate statements in ballot pamphlets.[9] In 1976, she became the first woman to serve as Governor of California, serving as acting governor while Governor Jerry Brown was out of the state.[10]

Other political activities[edit]

In 1987 Eu was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, running against Leo McCarthy for the right to challenge the Republican incumbent, Pete Wilson. Amid poor fund-raising totals and her husband's unwillingness to release details of his business interests, Eu dropped out later that year.[11]

President Bill Clinton appointed Eu as United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia in 1994. She served in that post until 1996.[12]

In 2002 Eu, then age 79, ran again for Secretary of State, saying she was doing so because "Florida made me mad", referring to the voting problems in Florida during the 2000 United States presidential election.[13] She narrowly lost in the Democratic primary to Kevin Shelley, who went on to win the election. In 2003 she filed a statement of intention to run for governor of California in the gubernatorial recall election of Gray Davis, but later withdrew.

Later life and family[edit]

Eu resided both in California and Singapore with her second husband Henry Eu, a multimillionaire industrialist.[6] Her adopted son, Matt Fong, was a Republican activist who served as California State Treasurer for a four-year term that began January 1995.[7] She also had a daughter, Suyin. Her hobbies in retirement included Chinese brush painting and calligraphy.[9] Eu died on December 21, 2017, at age 95, following a fall.[6]

Recognition[edit]

In 2019 California's Secretary of State building in Sacramento was named after Eu (as the March Fong Eu Secretary of State Building); this made it the first state-owned building to be named for an Asian-American woman.[14]

The National Notary Association gives an annual March Fong Eu Award to "the individual who or organization that, in the judgment of the Association's Executive Committee, has done the most to improve the standards, image and quality of the office of Notary Public." Eu was the first recipient of the award in 1979, named after her "for her extraordinary leadership in spearheading enactment of progressive Notary reform legislation, despite opposition from powerful lobbies who preferred lower notarial standards."[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Name *. "March Fong Eu | Chapel of the Chimes Oakland | Mortuary | Cremation". Oakland.chapelofthechimes.com. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  2. ^ a b "The Honorable March Fong Eu, Former California Secretary of State and Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, Dies". California Secretary of State. December 22, 2017. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Har, Janie (December 22, 2017). "California political trailblazer March Fong Eu dies at 95". Associated Press. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "余江月桂" (in Chinese). City of Guangzhou. November 14, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Tong, Benson (2001). "Eu, March Fong (née Kong) (1922- )". In Barkan, Elliott Robert (ed.). Making it in America: A Sourcebook on Eminent Ethnic Americans. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 118–119. ISBN 1576070980.
  6. ^ a b c d Luther, Claudia (December 22, 2017). "March Fong Eu, pioneering Asian American politician who was longtime California secretary of state, dies at 95". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "March Fong Eu". infoplease.com. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  8. ^ Gillam, Jerry (February 11, 1994). "March Fong Eu Quits as Secretary of State". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b Giasone, Barbara (November 4, 2006). "O.C. resident March Fong Eu left legacy of change for elections". Orange County Register. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  10. ^ "For At Least A Few Hours, California Has Its First Gay Governor | HuffPost". M.huffpost.com. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  11. ^ "Eu Drops Out of Senate Race". Los Angeles Times. 29 October 1987.
  12. ^ "Office of the Historian". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  13. ^ Salladay, Robert (March 14, 2001). "Florida Made Her Mad / At 79, March Fong Eu wants to run California elections again". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  14. ^ "No, March Fong Eu Isn't The First Woman To Have A California State Building Named After Her (But It Was Close)". capradio.org. 2019-03-28. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  15. ^ "Award Programs". National Notary Association. Retrieved 3 February 2016.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Nicholas C. Petris
California State Assemblywoman, 15th District
1967–1974
Succeeded by
S. Floyd Mori
Political offices
Preceded by
Jerry Brown
California Secretary of State
1975–1994
Succeeded by
Tony Miller
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Aurelia Erskine Brazeal
U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia
1994-1996
Succeeded by
Cheryl A. Martin