California’s first female Secretary of State and the first Asian American woman publicly elected to a state constitutional office, March Fong Eu, will be memorialized when the California Secretary of State building complex is renamed in her honour.
Eu died last week at the age of 95 after a long and storied career in public service.
The daughter of Chinese American laundry owners, Eu was elected in 1966 to the California State Assembly. As an Assemblymember, Eu was a staunch defender of women’s rights and is best known for eliminating coin-operated toilets in public buildings. Eu argued that pay toilets were discriminatory against women since adjacent urinals were free to use.
After serving four terms as a California State Assemblymember, Eu ran for and successfully won a campaign to serve as the state’s first female Secretary of State, winning a record number of votes and carrying even Republican-heavy counties. As Secretary of State, Eu notably introduced absentee voting and mail-in ballots, the posting of election results on the internet, and the inclusion of candidate statements in ballot pamphlets. Eu was also California’s first female acting Governor when she briefly assumed the position after Governor Brown and all other officials in the line of succession were out of state.
In 1994 after serving five terms as California Secretary of State, Eu was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia, a position she held until 1996. In 2002 and at the age of 79, Eu ran unsuccessfully to return as California Secretary of State, losing narrowly to Kelvin Shelley in the Democratic primary. In 2003, she also launched a brief bid to run for California governor in the Gray Davis recall election but withdrew her candidacy.
Eu died in Irvine, California last week following complications from a fall. “She was a pioneering woman who helped open doors to public service for more women and Asian Americans,” said Gov. Jerry Brown after news of her death was released.
On Twitter yesterday, LA Times Sacramento bureau chief John Myers reported that California Secretary of State Alex Padilla planned to name the Secretary of State building complex in Eu’s memory.
— John Myers (@johnmyers) December 26, 2017