March Fong Eu

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March Fong Eu
25th Secretary of State of California
In office
Governor Jerry Brown (1975-1983)
George Deukmejian (1983-1991)
Pete Wilson (1991-1994)
Preceded by Jerry Brown
Succeeded by Tony Miller
2nd United States Ambassador to Micronesia
In office
May 18, 1994 – July 5, 1996
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Aurelia E. Brazeal
Succeeded by Cheryl Ann Martin
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 15th district
In office
Preceded by Nicholas C. Petris
Succeeded by S. Floyd Mori
Personal details
Born (1922-03-29)March 29, 1922
Oakdale, California, U.S.
Died December 21, 2017(2017-12-21) (aged 95)
Irvine, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Henry Eu
Children 2, including Matt Fong

March Kong Fong Eu (Chinese: 余江月桂; pinyin: Yú Jiāng Yuèguì; Jyutping: Jyu4 Gong1 Jyut6 Gwai3; March 29, 1922 – December 21, 2017) was a Chinese-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 in Oakdale, California in the San Joaquin Valley, where her Chinese immigrant parents ran a hand-wash laundry. The family later moved to San Francisco.[1]

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.


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.[1]

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 is best known for her successful campaign to ban pay toilets, arguing that they discriminated against women since urinals were free.[2]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

President Bill Clinton appointed Eu as United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia in 1994. She served in that post until 1996.[7]

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 United States presidential election, 2000.[8] 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.[1] Her adopted son, Matt Fong, was a Republican activist who served as California State Treasurer for a four-year term that began January 1995.[2] She also had a daughter, Suyin. Her hobbies in retirement included Chinese brush painting and calligraphy.[4] Eu died on December 21, 2017, at age 95, following a fall.[1]


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."[9]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c "March Fong Eu". Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Gillam, Jerry (February 11, 1994). "March Fong Eu Quits as Secretary of State". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Eu Drops Out of Senate Race". Los Angeles Times. 29 October 1987. 
  7. ^ "Office of the Historian". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "Award Programs". National Notary Association. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 

External links[edit]

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