Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Hester A. Harland, 1857-1940
By Mary Okin, PhD Student, History of Art and Architecture, UC Santa Barbara
Assistant Secretary to the Board of Forestry; Deputy Secretary of the California World's Fair Commission; Recording Secretary for the California State Suffrage Association of California; Founder of the Home and School Child Study Association of California; President of the San Francisco Child Study Association
Mrs. Hester Harland (nee Lambert) was born in California in 1857, the daughter of Thomas G. Lambert, a sea captain and whaler from Massachusetts, and Adeline Hardy of Maine, who followed her husband to California in 1856. After obtaining a legal divorce for non-support in 1863, her mother remarried Samuel B. Davidson, a pioneer jurist, with whom she created a childhood for Harland characterized by "tom-boy" freedom and "intellectual repast" with parents modeling companionate marriage and progressive politics, including support for Women's Suffrage.
After local primary education, Lambert attended two private California boarding schools. At the more prestigious Home School for Girls in Oakland, run by a female graduate of Mount Holyoke, she experienced lectures at UC Berkeley, cultural excursions to San Francisco, and graduated valedictorian of her class in 1875 with an acceptance to Vassar College. That year she married Englishman Francis Harland, a family friend and mining engineer, with whom she had four daughters. After her husband's tragic death in 1886, Harland, a twenty-eight year-old single mother, moved her household to San Francisco where she studied shorthand writing and bookkeeping.
Within two years, Harland became Assistant Secretary to the Board of Forestry, responsible for managing international correspondence, as well as the distribution of monthly funds from the State Legislature. Living in San Francisco, Harland attended meetings on "all political subjects," including Single Tax, Socialist, Populist, and Anarchist meetings. By 1892, she was appointed Deputy Secretary of the California World's Fair Commission, a body responsible for overseeing California's contribution to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and became Secretary to California's Board of Lady Managers, a group of women elected by the commissioners to define how California women were represented at the fair. In 1893, Harland received travel funding to study the fair and its architecture. Leaving her daughters with family, she traveled to Chicago, the East Coast, and Deep South and returned with hundreds of stereopticon slides for an enterprising and timely lecture, "The Educational Advantages of the Columbian Exposition," that she delivered throughout the State of California and into Oregon and Washington from 1893 to 1894.
In 1894, Harland became Recording Secretary for the State Suffrage Association of California and attended San Francisco's "Congress of Women" in 1895 alongside Susan B. Anthony and Reverend Anna Howard Shaw. In the 1896 campaign for the California Women's Suffrage Amendment, Harland also worked as organizer of county committees and associations. As such, she rallied women in smaller towns along San Francisco's Peninsula and managed Shaw's statewide lecture tour, including convincing editors to print excerpts from Shaw's lectures, paying Shaw $50 per lecture, and earning the Suffrage Association $2,200 in profits. As she wrote to the editor of The Call, "without the Press the work in the suffrage cause was almost a hopeless task."
In 1897, Harland began lobbying for children's education. She helped to found the Home and School Child Study Association of California and was President of the San Francisco Child Study Association until 1905. Her work survives as the California Parents and Teachers Association.
In 1905, Harland moved to Berkeley where in 1911 she managed a robust campaign for the vote, evident from letters, account books, and ephemera held by the Bancroft Library. Harland also continued public speaking, such as "Woman as a Citizen" lectures. Because of her work and that of others, Berkeley achieved a record number of votes for women. Reflecting on her life in 1934, Harland wrote, "one of my greatest pleasures in life has always been meeting and knowing people of all types and ranks." Such sentiment resulted in her ability to develop and leverage political support from diverse constituents on behalf of women and children in California. Harland died at age 83 in 1940.
"Amusements." Los Angeles Herald, November 30, 1893.
"Announcements." Los Angeles Herald, November 19, 1893.
"Berkeley Suffrage Campaign Accounts, 1911," 1911, Box 10, Folder 5, Harland, Hester Lambert. Papers relating to women's suffrage in California, 1888-1911, The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.
"Captain Thomas Grafton Lambert." In A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California: Containing a History of This Important Section of the Pacific Coast from the Earliest Period of Its Discovery to the Present Time, Together with Glimpses of Its Auspicious Future; and Illustrations and Full-page Portraits of Some Its Eminent Men, and Biographical Mention of Many of Its Pioneers, and Prominent Citizens of To-day, edited by Henry D. Barrows and Luther A. Ingersoll, 259-61. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1893.
"CHARGED WITH MURDER. B. Aroni Accused of Killing F. Harland in Sierra County." Daily Alta California (San Francisco), February 19, 1888.
"Double Funeral for Aged Pair." San Francisco Call, January 29, 1906.
Final Report of the California World's Fair Commission: Including a Description of All Exhibits from the State of California. Sacramento: State Office: A. J. Johnson, Superintendent of Printing, 1894.
"Goes Quickly To Join Her Dead Husband...Aged Wife Stricken at News of Spouse's Death." San Francisco Call, January 28, 1906.
Harland, Hester A. "Autobiography of Mrs. Hester Harland, Daughter of T. G. Lambert." TS, Oakland Family Search Library.
Harland, Hester A. ""The Call" Has Fired the First Gun." San Francisco Call, May 6, 1896.
Little, Kimberly S. To Conquer or Submit: State and Local Organizations in the American Woman Suffrage Movement, 1905-1920. PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1998.
"MOVING PICTURES TO AID SUFFRAGE: Novel Plan to Be Tried by Berkeley Women to Promote Campaign for Ballot." San Francisco Call (San Francisco), August 12, 1911.
"Mrs. Harland's Views." Los Angeles Herald, December 1, 1893.
Mrs. Hester A. Harland. "A Trip to the World's Fair by the Aid of a Double Stereopticon and Calcium Light." Advertisement. The Daily Courier (San Bernadino), December 2, 1893.
"Ms. Anthony Has Gone and With Her Miss Anna H. Shaw Went Home to the East." San Francisco Call, July 6, 1895.
"Richmond Women Host to City's Newcomers: Suffrage Discussion Enlivens Improvement Club Meeting." San Francisco Call, May 17, 1911.
"Santa Barbara Suffrage Club." San Francisco Call, August 24, 1895.
"Suicided." San Francisco Call, October 23, 1886.
"Whaling at Monterey." In A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California: Containing a History of This Important Section of the Pacific Coast from the Earliest Period of Its Discovery to the Present Time, Together with Glimpses of Its Auspicious Future; and Illustrations and Full-page Portraits of Some Its Eminent Men, and Biographical Mention of Many of Its Pioneers, and Prominent Citizens of To-day, edited by Henry D. Barrows and Luther A. Ingersoll, 84-85. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1893.
"Woman's Suffrage Society." San Francisco Call, July 6, 1894.