Friday, July 29, 2016

Esto Bates Broughton (1890-1956)

Portrait from the History of Stanislaus County, California, 1921.

   Today's write-up highlights the life of Esto Bates Broughton, one of the first women to serve in the California State Assembly. A lawyer and graduate of the University of California, Broughton was one of four women elected to the 1919-21 assembly session, subsequently serving a total of four terms in that body. Following her time in state government, she worked as a reporter for several California newspapers and later was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1932 and 1952.
   The daughter of James Richard and Jennie Bates Broughton, Esto Bates Broughton was born in Modesto, California on January 9, 1890. Being the daughter of a bank president, Broughton was afforded an excellent education, attending the public schools of Modesto as well as the Lowell High School in San Francisco. She later continued her education at the University of California and earned both her Bachelor of Arts Degree (1915) and law degree (1916) from that institution.
   Mentioned as being the first female attorney to practice in Stanislaus County, Broughton served as President of the Modesto Improvement Club prior to serving in the assembly and is remarked as having been an advocate of a national prohibition law. Nominated for the state assembly from Stanislaus County in 1918, Broughton won the election that November, being the youngest of the four women to win assembly seats that year. The only Democrat amongst the four, Broughton proved to be busy as a freshman legislator, serving on the following committees: Civil Service, Direct legislation, Engrossment and Enrollment, Irrigation, Public Morals and Ways and Means. 
   Broughton's first assembly term saw her make "a special study of the irrigation laws" , and her interest in that subject led her to introduce a bill "allowing irrigation districts to develop electric power in connection with irrigation projects." Broughton's bill would be passed into law and proved to have lasting results, with:
"Bonds for the Don Pedro Dam project were voted on by the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation districts, and the two districts concerned will be assured of an abundance of water and also of power, the income or saving of which will be a great consideration for the taxpayer."
   Esto Broughton won her second term in the assembly in 1920 and during that session chaired the committee on the normal school, as well as serving on the agriculture, taxation, judiciary, charities and corrections committees. This term also saw her aid returning WWI veterans by "advocating special job programs". She would win two further assembly terms in 1922 and 1924 and in the last named year "easily defeated an independent candidate."

Portrait from

   Upon leaving the assembly at the end of the 1926-27 session Broughton returned to practicing law and from 1928-31 served the Pasadena Playhouse as its publicity director. In the early 1930s, Broughton is recorded as being a reporter at the California capitol, being affiliated with the Fresno Republican, Stockton Record and the San Francisco News. She would return to political life in 1932  when she served as a member of the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago that nominated Franklin Roosevelt for the Presidency. 
   Little is known of Esto Broughton's life following her service as a delegate. Sources of the time denote her service as Secretary of the Stanislaus County Bar Association (dates of service unknown) and also her time spent teaching journalism at the University of Hawaii in 1935. In one of her last acts of public service, Broughton was again a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1952, this time as an alternate to the convention being held in Chicago.
   Esto Bates Broughton died in California on November 20, 1956 at age 66. Many aspects of her private life continue to remain a mystery, including whether or not she married and had children. The origins of her unusual first name also remain unknown.

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