Early California

Early California, Race: 1864

Racist cartoonRacist cartoonCharlotte Brown wins a lawsuit challenging the segregation of San Francisco streetcars.

Early California, Women: 1870

Women’s Suffrage Society founded to advocate for the right of women to vote.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1870

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act to protect freed slaves, but it includes provisions to ensure the right of Chinese immigrants to testify in court and prohibits state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes, licenses, or penalties on Chinese.

San Francisco passes the “Cubic Air” ordinance requiring every lodging house to provide at least 500 cubic feet of air per inhabitant. Though many overcrowded buildings exist in poor areas of San Francisco, this ordinance is enforced only in Chinatown. Many violators serve jail time rather than pay fines, so the city passes the “Queue” ordinance, requiring that male prisoners’ hair be cut to an inch of their scalps, as a means to force Chinese to pay fines.

Ho Ah Kow successfully sues to overturn the “queue” ordinance after his queue is cut off in jail. This was the first federal case to rule clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to noncitizens.

San Francisco supervisors pass the “Sidewalk Ordinance of 1870,” imposing the highest laundry license fee (more than 7 times the lowest fee) on laundries that do not use horse-drawn vehicles. The law targets Chinese laundrymen, who carry finished laundry to their customers on poles as they walk through the streets. Over the next 14 years, San Francisco passes other ordinances restricting the operation of laundries.

Eary California, Criminal Justice, Immigrants Rights, Race: 1871

In the worst mass lynching in California history, a mob of white and Latino vigilantes murders 19 Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles after gunfire between two rival Chinese syndicates kills a white rancher.

Criminal Justice, Early California: 1872

Capital punishment is added to California’s penal code.

Criminal Justice, Early California, Race: 1872

Ban on Indian and Chinese testimony rescinded.

Early California, Women: 1873

Legislature passes a law forbidding the trafficking of women from Asia for prostitution.

Early California, Women: 1874

After intense lobbying by women, the Legislature passes a law mandating equal pay for women teachers.

Early California, Race: 1874

State supreme court rules in Ward v. Flood that African American children have a right to a public education but not in the same schools as white children. 

Early California, Women: 1878

Clara Shortridge FoltzClara Shortridge FoltzLaw forbidding women to become members of the state bar is repealed, after rigorous campaign by Laura deForce Gordon and Clara Shortridge Foltz, who became the first practicing women lawyers in California.

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