Women’s History

Iva Tutt, Electrical Pioneer

It’s difficult to imagine a world without electricity, but it wasn’t until October 21, 1879, after spending more than $40,000 in fruitless experiments that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lamp, and it wasn’t until 1887 that he perfected electric lighting. From 1895-1899 Long Beach made international news, not because of its growth, tourist attractions, or weather, but because of an oddity: Mrs. Iva E. Tutt, the world’s first female electrician.  On September 6, 1895, the Long Beach Electric Light Company incorporated with Iva Tutt as sole member, owner and manager.  Her company contracted with the town of Long Beach to erect and maintain poles, wires and lamps for lighting the municipality, and to furnish the electricity for one year, beginning October 1, 1895, at the rated of $42 a month. […]

Frog Farms

Opportunities to be an independent women were out there for farm women as well as those who lived in cities.  The Los Angeles Times Woman and Home section of March, 7, 1897, described a new and profitable enterprise for women—frog farming.  Author Millicent Arrowpoint quickly dismissed the mistaken notion that eating frog legs was restricted to “eccentric and abnormal French people.”  Diners in Boston, New York and Philadelphia were consuming hundreds of pounds of this juicy, flavorsome flesh daily, driving the price for a pound of legs up to $1 a pound.  The reason the price was so high was that few people had thought to farm frogs.  The procedure was simple.  First the enterprising woman needed to be close to a railroad with a refrigerated car (to transport the […]

Nellie Campbell, Potato Chip Queen

Some women in the early 1900s did improve their lot in life, other than by a well-connected marriage.  Miss Nellie Campbell, the Potato Chip Queen, was such an example. Miss Campbell came to Long Beach for her health and wanted to stay.  When her money ran out she realized she either had to return to her relatives back East or earn her own living.  One memorable day in 1908 she bought some potato chips which turned out to be limp and tasteless.  This got her thinking.  She went to the public library, read several cookbooks, and started experimenting.  She bought a sack of potatoes, a new pan, and a gallon of olive oil.  The chips she prepared were crisp and delicious.  She convinced local markets and restaurants to buy them […]

Olga Printzlau, Screen Writer

  Did you know that Long Beach was one of the centers of movie making up until the early 1920s? The Long Beach film industry launched the career of many well-known stars such as Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, to name just a few. Motion picture production was not the only claim to fame Long Beach held in the movie world, it was also home to one of the industry’s leading screen writers—Olga Printzlau Clark. Olga was the wife of Fred T. Clark, whom she had married in July 1908 when she was just 17-years-old and Fred a mere 21 years of age.  While Fred worked as a barber, Olga assumed the role of housewife at their home on Pine Avenue (343 Pine Avenue). She was active in several […]

Predators

Beware Susceptible Women In August 1913, at least four Long Beach women told the district attorney’s office they had received threatening letters alleged to have been written and mailed them by F. E. Young, teacher of the young women’s Bible class in the Bethel Friends’ Church.  F .E. Young, who also worked as a car salesman in Long Beach, was placed under arrest, charged with attempted extortion of money from women.  When taken to county jail, Young admitted to writing a number of threatening letters to local women, but claimed he was driven to do so by blackmail threats from a man who knew of Young’s arrest on a forgery charge 33 years earlier.  Because his nemesis, whom he knew only as “Sandy,” became so insistent in his demands that he […]

White Slave Traffic

           Prostitution was talked about in hushed tones, never in public, before the U.S. Senate studied the issue (published as Senate Document 196, 61st Congress, 2nd session), and John D. Rockefeller Jr. financed a “scientific” study of the “white slave” trade in New York City in 1910. Results of both studies were published in a number of popular women’s magazines, shocking the American public.  Annie W. Allen in an article entitled “How to Save Girls Who Have Fallen” published in Survey August 6, 1910 expressed the general view of the time: “A girl must remain a virgin until she becomes a wife.  She must be made to abhor any other thought.  She must realize that if she does not remain pure, she is no longer in […]

Tired of Being a Girl

  On September 26, 1905, Marguerite Scott was taken into custody by Long Beach police who found the young woman, dressed as a boy, wandering the streets late at night. The following morning she was brought before Judge Brayton and had an interesting tale to tell—she was tired of being a girl.   According to her story, her father, Joseph W. Scott of Los Angeles, was a broker and well able to care for her but she would rather be a sailor and enlist in the United States navy.  Attired in a blouse, such as those worn by sailors, a long blue serge skirt and white tennis shoes, Marguerite made quite a striking appearance, according to the press, though, they added, she might easily be mistaken for a boy in disguise […]

Marriage Could be Hell

In her book America 1900, Judy Crichton writes that in 1900 twenty percent of American women had jobs and the numbers were growing, but most went to work because they had no choice, working until they found a husband who could support them.  Women were led to believe that marriage was their ultimate goal; they were raised to be dependent.  Subservience was the mark of a well-trained woman and marriage the primary means of livelihood for most. Young women were too often moving from girlhood into marriage and overnight dependency on men they barely knew or didn’t necessarily like, let alone love.  No story better represents the plight of poor women at this time than that of Jannie Stock.  Her tale appeared in the Long Beach Press July 2, 1908. […]