Hearst, Phoebe

Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1842-1919) was a generous donor to the University of California at Berkeley and the first woman to serve on the Board of Regents. Hearst (wife of self-made millionnaire land-owner and rancher George Hearst, 1820-1891) provided her influence and financial support to establish women's scholarships, facilities, and faculty, and to promote the intellectual and social development of Berkeley's female students. She also funded several large-scale archeological expeditions and architectural contests.

Biographical Highlights

Phoebe Apperson Hearst worked to integrate women into the fabric of the University of California educational system. 1 A prominent financial contributor, Hearst was the first woman elected to serve on the university's Board of Regents. Phoebe became the voice for female concerns at an institution dominated by male-oriented studies and social opportunities. Her financial support for women's scholarships, facilities, and faculty promoted the intellectual and social development of Berkeley's female students. In 1869, through funds provided by the Morrill Act, the University of California (Berkeley) was established as the only state-supported campus in California. In 1919, a second state-supported institution was established in Los Angeles

1 In 1869, through funds provided by the Morrill Act, the University of California (Berkeley) was established as the only state-supported campus in California. In 1919, a second state-supported institution was established in Los Angeles.

Historic Roots

Phoebe Apperson (1842-1919) was born in Franklin County, Missouri, during the mid-nineteenth century, a time when respectable Christian women were encouraged to serve others as a demonstration of their beliefs. The idea of educated daughters employed as teachers became an acceptable goal for many American families. Further, as wage earners, women were able to make monetary contributions toward their own financial welfare, lessening the fiscal pressures placed on their families (Solomon 1985). Apperson's need to be financially independent early in her adolescent years influenced her decision to seek employment as a schoolteacher.

At the age of nineteen, she married forty-one-year-old George Hearst (1820-1891). Though he had no formal education, Hearst had become experienced in mining and ranching. By the time he wed Phoebe Apperson, he was a self-made millionaire, owning land in many western states (Black 1928; Hearst Castle "George").

Shortly after their marriage, Phoebe and George moved to San Francisco where, in 1863, Phoebe gave birth to their only child, William Randolph. Phoebe wanted her only son to be exposed to Continental culture, so in 1873 they traveled Western Europe for more than a year visiting museums, castles, and other educational centers (Wilson 1971; Hearst Castle "Phoebe"). Her experiences during this year no doubt helped shape her later contributions to the University of California's master building plan.

Though the Hearst family would spend most of their time together in the San Francisco Bay area of California, in 1887 George and Phoebe moved to Washington, D.C., where George served as the newly elected Senator from California. His tenure as senator ended in 1891 with his untimely death. Phoebe became sole heir to his wealth and rejoined her son in San Francisco shortly afterward. She remained in California until her death by influenza in 1919 at the age of seventy-six (Black 1928; Wilson 1971; Hearst Castle "Phoebe").


Educational reform was an early focus in efforts to improve social equality for women in the United States, and efforts regarding higher education were particularly visible (Solomon 1985; Nickliss 1994). Phoebe Hearst's wealth and consequent social status provided her the means and influence to promote women's education. Her generous donations and contributions to the University of California secured her a place in Berkeley's history as the first woman to serve on the Board of Regents (Black 1928; Gordon 1990).

As a board member, Hearst was instrumental in advocating an institutional commitment to the advancement of women. In 1891, shortly after her return to California, she donated $2,400 to the university in order to establish eight scholarships for women (Wilson 1971; Gordon 1990). But financial contributions were not the only gifts Hearst bestowed to the women of Berkeley. In 1900, aware that women were denied access to the social and extracurricular structures available to male students, she transformed the large pavilion in her house into the Women's Student Center (Gordon 1990; Nickliss 1994).

It was not uncommon for college women to be invited to tea parties and social outings at Phoebe Apperson Hearst's home. Furthermore, she acquired knowledge of each enrolled female student in order to learn how each woman met her educational expenses and other practical needs. In making such inquiries, she discovered that many college women sought employment as domestic servants for families in the Bay Area. These jobs often required women to work long hours for little pay. As an alternative to such employment, Hearst established Hearst Domestic Industries (HDI) (Gordon 1990). Women who worked for HDI earned money by sewing, but worked only a fixed number of hours per day. Hearst hoped her employees would be able to utilize their free time to become more fully integrated in campus culture.

Phoebe Hearst was also concerned with the health and fitness of Berkeley's women students (Gordon 1990; Nickliss 1994; Wilson 1971). She convinced the Board of Regents to allow her to fund part-time physician Mary Bennett Ritter. Ritter was deemed caretaker of women's health, offering lectures on the topic and performing fitness tests so that women could use the gymnasium.

Phoebe was also well known as a patron; she was instrumental in funding several large-scale archeological expeditions and architectural contests (Wilson 1971; Gordon 1990; Parry 1996). Her extensive trips abroad with her son and her friendship with Dr. William Pepper of the University of Pennsylvania helped influence her interest in anthropology (Wilson 1971). Funding a study of an ancient civilization in Florida was the first of many financial contributions she made to this field. As an archeological enthusiast, she also donated funds to build a museum at the university that housed numerous archeological artifacts discovered during expeditions she had sponsored (Black 1928; Wilson 1971; Gordon 1990).

Hearst remained a member of the University of California Board of Regents until her passing in 1919. Although her total monetary gifts to the university are unknown, during 1900-1902 alone she donated over $200,000 (Wilson 1971; Gordon 1990). Many of her gifts were used to sponsor the construction of university buildings in honor of her late husband, George Hearst. Yet, she financially supported the advancement of university women, a costly project the institution was unwilling to bear.

Notably, Hearst's educational philanthropic projects reached beyond higher education. In addition to funding a training school for kindergarten teachers, in 1897 she established one of the earliest free kindergartens in the United States (Hearst Castle "Phoebe"). In addition, she financed the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association office building and seven kindergartens (Wilson 1971). Later, she would financially support the National Cathedral School for young boys and girls, as well as endow several civic facilities (e.g., libraries, nurseries, and kindergartens) in locations where her husband's monetary investments centered (Ibid.; Parry 1996). Similar schools would later be opened and financially supported by her philanthropic gifts.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst's contributions are less well-known than those of other women educational reformers of the nineteenth century. Yet, her contributions to the education of young children and her progressive financial, social, and service contributions to the women of the University of California and to California schoolchildren remain historically significant.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Charitable services, civic welfare projects, and educational reform have all been amplified by women's monetary gifts and contributions of time. These philanthropic efforts have afforded women access to power in an American society controlled by patriarchal values (McCarthy 1990). Through these activities, women such as Phoebe Apperson Hearst forged a transformation of American political culture by influencing civic feminism and activism.

Just as Hearst encouraged the women of Berkeley to form organizations that supported their unique needs, she is credited in forming women's groups to serve her own interests in K-12 education. Ten years after she founded her first free kindergarten, Hearst created the National Congress of Mothers. This organization later became what is now known as the Parent Teacher Association (Wilson 1971; Hearst Castle "Phoebe").

Key Related Ideas

Phoebe Apperson Hearst identified with wealthy upper-class citizenry . As such, she was motivated by the idea of noblesse oblige : she felt it was her obligation, as a person of wealth, to assist the less fortunate. Her personal experiences and interests also strongly influenced the causes she supported. A former schoolteacher in Missouri, Hearst later supported initiatives in elementary education, sponsoring the first " charity/free kindergartens " in America. These schools were established to educate children whose families could not afford private teachers or in areas where public schools were not yet available, providing them with a cost-free, professionally guided learning environment.

Hearst was also captivated by and was a donor of archeology , anthropology , and architecture , with a strong interest in new educational developments in these fields. She believed that society had as much to learn from ancient civilizations as it did from current social trends.

Finally, like many other wealthy and powerful women of the late nineteenth century, Hearst used her social influence to fight gender inequality in the American educational system . Her membership on the Board of Regents was crucial to her efforts.

Important People Related to the Topic

Julia Morgan (1872-1957): Morgan was the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in civil engineering (Hearst Castle "Julia"). After obtaining her bachelor's degree from Berkeley in 1896, she moved to Paris, where she eventually was granted a certificate in architecture from the Ecole Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts. As a young architect, Morgan moved back to California where her prestige as an architect was heavily influenced by her associations with Phoebe Hearst. Julia Morgan is known for her work on the University of California's Master Plan (Gordon 1990). Specifically, Morgan contributed to the design of the Hearst Mining Building and designed the Hearst Greek Theater on the Berkeley campus (Hearst Castle "Julia").

Jessica Blanche Peixotto (1864-1941): At age thirty-one, Jessica enrolled at the University of California despite her family's dismay. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1895 and, in 1900, became the second woman in the California system to be granted a doctorate. In 1904, as an instructor in political economy, she became Berkeley's first woman faculty member. In 1918, she was honored as the first female full professor at Berkeley. During her tenure, she brought both the study of social work and domestic science to UC Berkeley (Gordon 1990; UCHDA "1941"; Wollenberg 2002).

Lucy Sprague (1878-1967): Born into a wealthy Chicago family, Sprague was acquainted with the foremost intellectual minds in Chicago, including George and Alice Palmer, Jane Addams, and Adolph Miller. While living with the Palmers, Sprague graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe in 1900. In 1906, University President Benjamin Wheeler asked Sprague to join the Berkeley staff as the first Dean of Women (Gordon 1990; Wollenberg 2002). Her devotion to the educational and social needs of women supported her creation of the curriculum of experience (a curriculum that was intimately connected with the child's world rather than the adult's world). This curriculum later became the hallmark of Bank Street College of Education in New York City, an institution which she founded (Ruyle 1998).

Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1854-1927): Wheeler was the President of the University of California (1899-1919). Focusing on strengthening university kinship , he encouraged the development of community within the institution. During his tenure as president, the institution grew in enrollment, facilities, and stature (UCHDA "1928"; Wollenberg 2002). Under his leadership, the university saw many advances in equitable education for women, including the appointment of the first female faculty member and the first Dean of Women at Berkeley (Gordon 1990).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

Associated Women Students (AWA): Encouraged by Hearst and Ritter, in 1894 female students at Berkeley founded this organization, which sought to better serve interests of women enrolled at the institution (Ibid.). This organization served as the model for a plethora of future campus organizations established to meet the needs of women enrolled at institutions of higher learning.

Parent Teacher Association (PTA) : In 1897, Phoebe Apperson Hearst founded the National Congress of Mothers, a forerunner of the National Council of Parents and Teachers. This organization is known today as the PTA (Wilson 1971; Hearst Castle "Phoebe").

Related Web Sites

The Berkeley Public Library Web site presents Berkeley, A City in History, available at https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/system/historytext.html. This is a brief history about the city, including the ties between the city's community and the University of California at Berkeley.

The Hearst Castle Web site presents historical information on the Hearst family and information about Julia Morgan, the architect who designed the castle (for this history, visit http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/index.asp ). The site is maintained by the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and supported by the California State Parks Department.

UCHDA (University of California History Digital Archives) allows viewers to read the contents of the In Memoriam, University of California collection, at https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/uchistory/. The site documents printed works from 1928-2000.

The National PTA (Parent Teachers Association) Web site, at http://www.pta.org/ , provides information on the organization and community-based activities in which parents, teachers, or other people interested in the education of children can become involved.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Black, Winifred. The Life and Personality of Phoebe Apperson Hearst . San Francisco: Printed for W.R. Hearst by J.H. Nash, 1928.

Gordon, Lynn D. Gender and Higher Education in the Progressive Era . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. ISBN: 03000525553.

Hearst Castle. "George Hearst (1820-1891)." California State Parks, 2001. http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/george_hearst.asp .

Hearst Castle. "Julia Morgan." California State Parks. (Text for Robert E. Kennedy Library Cal Poly State University, 1985). http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/julia_morgan.asp .

Hearst Castle. "Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1842-1919)." California State Parks, 2001. http://www.hearstcastle.org/history/phoebe_hearst.asp .

McCarthy, Kathleen D. Lady Bountiful Revisited . Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990. ISBN: 0813516610.

Nickliss, Alexandra M. 1994. "Phoebe Apperson Hearst: The Most Powerful Woman in California." Dissertation Abstracts International , 57 (09), 4091. (UMI No. 9703846). ISBN: 0591103273.

Parry, Melanie. Dictionary of Women . New York: Larousse, 1996.

Ruyle, Janet. "Dean Lucy Sprague, the Partheneia and the Arts," Chronicle of the University of California (1998): 2, 65-67.

Solomon, Barbara Miller. In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

University of California History Digital Archives (UCHDA). "1928, University of California: In Memory of Benjamin Ide Wheeler." https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/uchistory/.

University of California History Digital Archives (UCHDA). "1941, University of California: In Memoriam." https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/uchistory/.

University of California History Digital Archives (UCHDA). " In Memoriam, University of California . Collection." https://www.lib.berkeley.edu/uchistory/.

Wilson, Paul. "Phoebe Apperson Hearst." In Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971, 2:171-73.

ollenberg, Charles, "A Special Place." In Berkeley, A City in History , Chap. 5. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Public Library, 2002. http://www.infopeople.org/bpl/system/historytext.html

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Indiana University at Bloomington. It is offered by Learning To Give and Indiana University at Bloomington.