Washington, DC – OCA released the following statement on the passing of the Honorable March Fong Eu:
March Fong Eu was a pioneer and trail blazer for many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and women of color. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a laundry business in San Francisco, Eu rose from the career of a dental hygienist to that of a highly regarded public servant whose many accomplishments have shaped both California and National public policy alike. “Though we have lost a great leader and icon in the AAPI community, the legacy of March Fong Eu will continue to live on through all of our work and continued advocacy,” said Ken Lee, OCA National Chief Executive Officer.
In the 1950’s, Eu was elected to the Alameda County Board of Education after serving as the President of the American Dental Hygienists Association. She was later elected in 1966 to the California State Assembly where she served four terms. As a State Assemblywoman, Eu famously lead the civil rights campaign to ban pay toilets, which she argued discriminated against women as urinals were free, publicly smashing open the chains around a toilet on the Sacramento Capitol steps to prove her point.
In 1974, Eu was elected as Secretary of State of California, the first Asian American woman to hold a state constitutional office in the United States, and went on to be reelected five times serving a total of 20 years. Some of her various accomplishments included voter registration by mail, absentee ballots, and candidate statements in ballot pamphlets. In 1976, she also became the first woman to serve as Governor of California, if only for a single day, while acting Governor Jerry Brown was out of the state. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed March as the United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia.
OCA National recognizes March Fong Eu’s vision for civil rights reform and all of her accomplishments. Eu was a trail blazer as a first-generation API woman and a laundromat daughter who rose to fight bigotry in all forms. In a 1973 speech titled “The Self-Sufficient Woman,” then Assemblywoman Eu spoke at Foothill College in the Bay Area of California: “I believe it is about time that some men need to do some honest rethinking about their perspective and prejudices… If those men are to represent the majority of their constituencies ably, they are going to have to have some remedial education.” Her passion still resonates in OCA’s California chapters whose leadership had the following positive comments to honor Eu:
• “From her East Bay roots, March Fong Eu overcame gender and racial stereotypes, eventually challenging the political status quo on the local school board, as a State Assemblymember and then as Secretary of State. Her tenacious spirit continues to help OCA East Bay to this day. When we asked East Bay City elected officials to pass proclamations recognizing the Chinese Exclusion Act, they did so without hesitation. March Fong Eu built the foundation that makes our goal of creating youth leadership in Oakland Chinatown possible.” – Michael Moon, President, OCA East Bay
• “March Fong Eu serves as a tremendous inspiration to many women and Asian Americans. As California’s long-serving Secretary of State, she implemented many of the state’s modern voter registration practices such as instituting voter registration by mail, providing absentee ballots to those who requested them, posting results on the internet, and including candidate statements in ballot pamphlets. Such innovation practices laid the groundwork for increased voter registration among immigrant and low-income communities. Without Dr. Eu’s efforts in transforming such voting practices, OCA-Greater Los Angeles would not have been able to register over 1,500 voters over the past 2 years. Her accomplishments will forever touch the lives of generations of Americans.” – Janet Ly, President, OCA Greater Los Angeles (GLA)
• “March Fong Eu was a pathfinder. Whether in the Assembly or as the first female California Constitutional Officer, as, its first female Secretary of State and of color, she not only Lit the Torch for future generations, but she was the innovator, inspiring others to follow, igniting the torch for generations of APIs to come.” – Greg Jung, President, OCA Sacramento
• “While saddened by her passing, OCA-SF celebrates the long life of March Fong Eu. We are proud to honor her as a pioneer, being the first female Secretary of State for California and blazing the way for more women and Asian Americans in public service. OCA-SF will honor her legacy by continuing to cultivate the next generation of API youth leaders. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.” – Clifford Yee, Co-President, OCA San Francisco
• “March was elected to the California State Assembly in 1966 which was not too long from when women were given the right to vote and soon after Asians were given the right to vote. She was a trailblazer, a real pioneer, and paved the way for so many other women and Asian Americans. She was always a great role model, and by that encouraged us to step forward in our own way and serve.” – Chris Bush, President, OCA San Mateo
• “Former Honorable Ambassador and Secretary, March Fong Eu, was a role model for me growing up as I watched her strongly advocate and trail blaze for both women and Chinese-Americans. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I thank her for all of her contributions to the API movement.” – Gilbert Wong, President, OCA Silicon Valley
Eu’s legacy lives on through her daughter, Suyin, four grandchildren, and various nieces and nephews. OCA’s thoughts are with her family and loved ones.