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30 March 2017

Untold Stories: A Champion for Children's Rights

by Georgia Lupinsky

This month we highlight the powerful and inspirational story of Nellie (Patterson) Baldwin that was found among the papers of CGS Past President John Ellis Hale that are now part of our manuscript collection.  She was his maternal grandmother.

Her early life
Born 11 June 1865 in Muskegon, Michigan to Robert Burnside Patterson and Mary Graham Miller, she was a bright student, finishing the three-year high school program in Ludington, Michigan when she was fifteen. The school added another year, so she went back in 1882, at age seventeen and became the first and only graduate of the four-year program.

Afterwards, she taught school in the area for several years. Her teaching experience shaped her outlook towards children, which would come into play in her later years.   

Her next chapter takes shape
In 14 September 1887 she married Edward Lewis Baldwin in Ludington and the couple moved to San Francisco about 1890.  Nellie became active in a variety of women’s clubs, serving as state chairman of Civics in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs from 1906 to 1908 and as President of the California Club from 1908 to 1910.

After her husband’s death in 1912, Mrs. Baldwin managed her husband’s business, the Ferry Drug Store, known as “the first drug store from the Ferry” at 20 Market Street that was, “found to be a convenient store by the trans bay and tourist trade. By her careful supervision she increased steadily the prestige of the store.”

A noble purpose blossoms in San Francisco
In November of 1919 members of various civic and women’s clubs endorsed Mrs. Baldwin as their candidate for appointment to the Board of Education, their purpose being to have the next vacancy filled by a woman who has taken “an ardent interest in the welfare of the children of the city.”

 A leader in women’s social work, she served as Chairman of the Probation Committee of the Juvenile Court for twelve years.  And, on August 7, 1920, an article appeared in the San Francisco Examiner entitled “S.F. Woman is Juvenile Judge.” Mrs. Baldwin had the distinction of being one of only five women “ex-officio” judges in the nation. This announcement appeared in other newspapers nationwide. 

The Seattle Daily Times stated, “every city of any size now has its women attorneys, but the appointment of women to the bench is still rare enough to attract wide attention.” Each Thursday morning Mrs. Baldwin heard cases in which girls were involved and worked hard to keep juveniles out of the mainstream of criminal courts.

Later in life Nellie lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Marion and William Morrell Hale, on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley and died there 10 September 1945. Her grandson believed her teaching experience and her concern for children helped him through difficult times in his young life.

How to use our manuscript collection
To learn more about our collection, please visit our website, then select the Databases tab in the upper right hand corner on the home page. Under “Databases Free to All” click on the “CGS Manuscript Collection Index” and a current copy of the database will appear for the reader’s review. The database is organized by:  title, geography, timeframe, description and surname.

If you find a collection that is pertinent to your research, call to make an appointment with a member of the Manuscript Collection Committee or the Desk Duty volunteer to view items, as this is a closed stack collection. We have many wonderful research resources for the genealogy community and look forward to seeing you soon!

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