A tribute to California’s ‘First Lady of Water’

Pauline L. Davis

“My jaw dropped when I pulled a carbon-copied transcript of a 1960 water committee hearing fully identifying the ‘Davis’ as Assemblyman Pauline L. Davis. A woman in the Legislature! Involved in water policy! The water committee chair, no less!”

It was, as James Brown sang in the 1960s, “a man’s, man’s, man’s world” back then – and still is, for the most part, in the world of water policy. As a woman in water policy I was awestruck that a woman was tackling water policy before I was born. How could I not know? What ensued was a near-obsession to find out more.

The archives didn’t hold much, but an online perusal of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library led to a jackpot: Davis had participated in a Women in Politics Oral History Project in the late 70’s and early 80’s but then she embargoed the release of the interview until 2010. (She died in 1995 at age 78.) The library still showed the transcript as unavailable, but a quick conversation with the library remedied that. As far as I know, I became the first public member to gain access.[i]

The memoir unfurled an implausible story: A petite telephone operator and mother of two from Nebraska who in the post-WWII “happy homemaker” era overcomes a divorce and the death of a second husband to become the longest-serving woman in the California Legislature and an effective player in the state’s notoriously testosterone-driven water wars. […]

See the full article at California WaterBlog.
by Tina Cannon Leahy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *