To be honest, I had not heard of March Fong Eu prior to reading about her passing, but she indeed sounds like a pioneering Asian American & Californian politician that broke many ceilings:
“March Fong Eu liked to tell constituents that she was “born behind a Chinese laundry,” and it wasn’t far from the truth.
Eu’s parents ran a hand-wash laundry in Oakdale, a modest town in the San Joaquin Valley where — at the time — a girl of Chinese descent might well have thought twice about dreaming too big.
But Eu climbed the rungs of education, plowed through the high brush of politics and became the first Chinese American to hold a constitutional office in California when she was elected secretary of state, the first woman to hold that office.
A potent symbol of womanhood and persistence through her life, Eu died Thursday following surgery after falling at her home in Irvine, said Caren Lagomarsino, Eu’s longtime spokeswoman. She was 95.”
Eu was in elected office long before I moved to California in August of 1999:
“After first serving four terms in the state Assembly from 1966 to 1974, Eu rode into the headlines with her populist campaign to ban pay toilets from public buildings, which she said symbolized the second-class treatment of women who would be left fumbling for pocket change in their purses just to use a bathroom.
She received the highest vote total ever at that time for a statewide politician to become the state’s chief elections officer and keeper of business and archival records. She was unbeatable in the next four elections.
During her nearly 20-year tenure, Eu instituted voter registration by mail and got federal approval of legislation allowing voters to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies.
Eu technically became the state’s first female governor — if only for a day — in 1976, when all the other state officials in the line of succession were out of California.
In 1988, midway through her fourth term, Eu sought the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, hoping to become the first woman to serve as a California senator. However, she withdrew because she did not wish to disclose the financial holdings of her wealthy second husband, Henry Eu, a Singapore businessman.
Four years later, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were elected the first two female California senators.
Toward the end of her fifth term as secretary of state, Eu resigned when President Clinton named her ambassador to the Pacific nation of Micronesia, a post she held for two years until 1996.”
She sounded like an amazing woman and am surprised I had not heard about her, much like how I did not hear about Patsy Mink until watching a documentary about her. I couldn’t find much about Eu on YouTube and hope that someone makes a documentary about her. Some additional background information about Eu:
“Before her tenure in Sacramento, Eu worked for years in local politics around the Bay Area. A former dental hygienist, she served on the Alameda County school board in the 1950s and as president of the Americans Dental Hygienests Association. She earned degrees from UC Berkeley, Mills College and Stanford, and was elected to represent Oakland and parts of Castro Valley in the state Assembly, where she served four terms.
Born to Chinese immigrants in Oakdale in 1922, she grew up in the back of a laundry. To Lagomarsino and others who knew Eu, this made her rise to political success all the more impressive.”