San Francisco Genealogy
City and County Federation of Women's Clubs
San Francisco 1918 - 1920
Woman's Court Department
Transcribed by Elaine Sturdevant

Woman's Court Department
Mrs. L. M. CULVER, Chairman

Two years have elapsed since the first and only report of a Women's Police Court in the city of San Francisco was ever written.

The past two years have been years of work and study to make the Court as efficient as possible. The Judges have always aided and abetted our work in many ways, and we feel that we have accomplished much. Great gains have been made in the rehabilitation of families and the care of
children that came under our supervision. We have closely followed the plans mapped out in the beginning of our work, and we have sent many girls not only to their homes in the United States, but in five cases to foreign countries.

Due to the enactment of the "Prohibition Law," a very large percentage of our Failures to Provide, Abandonment of Wife, Battery Cases and the number of women addicted to drink who have come through our Court have been reduced; I feel safe in saying, fully fifty percent. This means independence of families, better fed and clothed children, happier faces, closer family ties, less illness and many happy homes, where before fear and sorrow and poverty were predominant.

For some time we have realized that certain eliminations of procedure in both Police and Superior Courts are necessary to obtain that justice all are entitled to expect, when they come into the Court. Chief among these are the continuations of cases for trial until witnesses have moved away or are not to be found. Between the trials of cases in the Woman's Court and their hearing in the Superior Court, months sometimes elapse, and a case that was heard in the Woman's Court with all the details complete, in the Superior Court many weeks later, is dismissed, because the witnesses cannot be found. This extreme lapse of time should be eliminated in order that justice may be rendered.

Close study of cases in the Woman's Court has assured us that a Public Defender in the Court is becoming imperative. The Prosecuting Attorney is provided by the City and County, but the Defendant must provide counsel regardless of his financial ability to do so, or do without. This compels the presiding judge to be counsel as well as judge when the defendant appears without aid. The Public Defender is as necessary as the Prosecuting Attorney and the introduction of the Public Defender into the Woman's Court will have a very decided moral effect, and prevent criticism of the decisions of the Judge by the defendant, many times, when unable to obtain counsel.

Our incumbent District Attorney - and Police Judge at the time of the establishment of the Woman's Court, and one of its strongest supporters - willing at all times to help work out the problems of the Woman's Court, has created a department within the Bond and Warrant office whereby minor cases such as neighborhood quarrels, family troubles, battery cases - are heard on citations separate from the Woman's Court, thereby relieving the Court of many cases that should never come into it. By this means alone over 200 cases have been heard by that department since January 8, 1920, that would otherwise have come into the Woman's Court.

One of the hardest problems confronting the Woman's Court was a sane, practical, efficient manner of handling the cases of the delinquent women, who come into the Court. Nothing yet tried has in any way been efficient. We have followed all the laws laid down by Nation, State and City and found only a ring around which we are traveling day after day, getting nowhere.

The City and County Federation of Women's Clubs, desiring that some positive action might be taken which meant rehabilitation, went before the State Legislature in 1919 and asked and worked for a State Industrial Farm for Delinquent Women. Fifteen States of the Union are now maintaining these farms, and reports and results obtained from them, assured them, that this meant the definite change of purpose for which they were working. The State gave $155,000 and Gov. STEPHENS appointed five persons, three women, and two men, as a committee to carry out the plan and purpose.

A site in Alameda County will probably be decided upon, and the building plans are in the State Architect's hands, and they are assured by their committee that the farm will be purchased in a short time. This Farm is not a workhouse or a jail, but just a farm in the fullest sense of the term - tilling the soil, dairying, laundry work, cooking, house work, sewing, chicken raising, work that will fit them for earning their own livlihood, and making homes for themselves.

The Woman's Court has entered upon its fourth year. We have learned how to work and the Judges have accepted our suggestions and worked with us and harmony has been the result. As citizens, we appreciate the privileges extended us and they have been many, and we earnestly hope the Judges feel that their work taken up where they lay it down, and carried on until order and comfort is the result in those families that come before them, means better homes, greater happiness and better

The Police Department has been called upon many times during the past two years for aid in the carrying out of our work, and instant response and most efficient results have aided us greatly. We appreciate these efforts in our behalf and the courtesy and interest they have always shown.

The Chairman of the Department reports also the following, which will be  of interest to our Federation members:

On the day of the Fourth Annual Convention June 2, 1920, the Federation was, unknowingly, taking an active part in the federating of the Women's Clubs of our Island sisters in Mid-Pacific Ocean.

The Club women of the City of Honolulu and the Island of Oahu have long been recognized as active factors in civic life. The problems to be met were, in many ways, the problems of the San Francisco City Federation, and after several meetings of discussion and understandings, on the
second day of June, 1920, at a called mass meeting in Mission Memorial Hall in Honolulu, representatives of nearly fifty Island clubs unanimously voted to federate their clubs that a more centralized strength, closer co-operation and a thorough acquaintance of their club life might be obtained.

The women of Honolulu and the Islands are wonderful workers, and the results of their work can be seen on every side. Kindergartens in many parts of the Island have been maintained by them for years, to afford their large foreign population the opportunity of an elementary education upon which to build a definite American manhood.

The Outdoor Circle of six hundred women is engaged in tree planting, parking and beautifying the sides of the mountains by planting ferns and creeping flowering plants along the wonderful drives that carry one to every part of the Island, which is one continuous garden of beauty in itself.

Child Welfare has long been a very carefully and well carried out constructive plan; and many clubs have given their whole efforts in this direction. They have furnished stenographers and special investigators at their own expense in order that the best results might be obtained.

Industrial Schools for boys and girls have been established, and the work of the Girls' School is a great credit to the Island Territory and a most progressive step in rehabilitation.

The Boy's School commences with the cottage plan this year, and their efficiency will soon set a mark of capability that mainland states may well follow.

To these conditions are the Islands entitled: Better transportation, more ships, shorter time and cheaper rates. We should work from this side for these things that mean much to us as well as to these rapidly advancing Islands.

The San Francisco City Federation is most happy to present this introduction to our Island neighbors.  If we can help you, you have our promise of aid.  If you grow beyond us, then we shall ask aid from you.

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Contributed by Elaine Sturdevant