March Fong Eu

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March Fong Eu
United States Ambassador to Micronesia
In office
May 18, 1994 – July 5, 1996
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byAurelia E. Brazeal
Succeeded byCheryl Ann Martin
24th Secretary of State of California
In office
January 6, 1975 – May 17, 1994
GovernorJerry Brown
George Deukmejian
Pete Wilson
Preceded byJerry Brown
Succeeded byTony Miller
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 15th district
In office
January 2, 1967 – November 30, 1974
Preceded byNicholas C. Petris
Succeeded byS. Floyd Mori
Personal details
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
Chester Fong
(m. 1941; div. 1970)
Henry Eu
(m. 1973)
Children2, including Matt
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
Mills College (M.Ed.)
Stanford University (Ed.D.)
OccupationDental hygienist
Chinese name

March Fong Eu (née Kong; March 29, 1922 – December 21, 2017) was an American diplomat and politician who served as the 24th secretary of state of California for five terms from 1975 to 1994. A member of the Democratic Party, she served in the California State Assembly from 1967 to 1974 and later as the United States ambassador to Micronesia under Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1996.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Eu was the first Asian American woman to hold statewide constitutional office in the United States and was also the first woman to serve as Secretary of State of California. She is the adoptive mother of Matt Fong, a Republican who served one term as treasurer of California.

Early life and education[edit]

Eu was born March Kong on March 29, 1922, in Oakdale, California, a city 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 Education from Mills College. She earned an Ed.D. from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 1954.[2]

Early career[edit]

She became a dental hygienist working in the Oakland Unified School District and served a term as president of the American Dental Hygienist Association. She served on the Alameda County Board of Education from 1954 to 1964.[6]

California State 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 is perhaps best known for her successful campaign to ban pay toilets, arguing that they discriminated against women since urinals were free.[7] [8]

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.[9]

Innovations she introduced during her 19 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.[10] 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.[11]

Later career[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 fundraising totals and her husband's unwillingness to release details of his business interests, Eu dropped out later that year.[12]

President Bill Clinton appointed Eu as United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia in 1994. She served in that post until 1996, when she resigned to work on Clinton's re-election campaign.[13]

Eu campaigned for her son Matt in the 1998 U.S. Senate election, when he was the Republican nominee against incumbent Democratic senator Barbara Boxer. 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.[14] She lost in the Democratic primary to Kevin Shelley,[15] who went on to win the election.[16]

Personal life and death[edit]

Eu resided both in California and Singapore with her second husband Henry Eu, a multimillionaire industrialist.[6] Eu was assaulted by a burglar who broke into her Hancock Park home in 1986.[17] 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.[10] Eu died in Irvine, California, on December 21, 2017, following a fall; she was 95 years old.[6]


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.[18]

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."[19]


  1. ^ "March Fong Eu". Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  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. march fong eu guangdong.
  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 January 6, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "March Fong Eu". Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  8. ^ March Fong Eu smashed a toilet to protest the inequity of pay toilets, Accessed February 9, 2024.
  9. ^ Gillam, Jerry (February 11, 1994). "March Fong Eu Quits as Secretary of State". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Giasone, Barbara (November 4, 2006). "O.C. resident March Fong Eu left legacy of change for elections". Orange County Register. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "For At Least A Few Hours, California Has Its First Gay Governor | HuffPost". July 30, 2014. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  12. ^ "Eu Drops Out of Senate Race". Los Angeles Times. October 29, 1987.
  13. ^ "Office of the Historian". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  14. ^ Salladay, Robert (March 14, 2001). "Florida Made Her Mad / At 79, March Fong Eu wants to run California elections again". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  15. ^ Salladay, Robert (March 6, 2002). "Shelley beats veteran Eu in secretary of state race / Assemblyman wins Democratic primary". SFGATE. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  16. ^ "Shelley to be new Secretary of State". November 6, 2002. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  17. ^ "Desert Sun 11 November 1986 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  18. ^ "No, March Fong Eu Isn't The First Woman To Have A California State Building Named After Her (But It Was Close)". March 28, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  19. ^ "Award Programs". National Notary Association. Retrieved February 3, 2016.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by California State Assemblywoman, 15th District
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by California Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia
Succeeded by