Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marie Caroline Brehm


Did you know that the first legally qualified woman to run for Vice President of the United States
lived in Long Beach? * On July 4, 1924, Miss Marie Caroline Brehm (3121 Eliot) accepted the nomination as the Prohibition candidate for Vice President of the United States before a crowd of 4000 Prohibition Party members at Bixby Park in Long Beach. 
     Miss Brehm had been prominent in reform movements for many years before she first visited Long Beach in 1905.  She came to this city as a guest of Long Beach residents John and Ellen Chaffee, prominent members of the Prohibition Party, and again in 1911 when she lectured on the evils of alcohol.  She must have liked the town that prided itself on its anti alcohol policy, because in 1917 she decided to make the city her home. From Long Beach she launched her 1920 race to enter state politics, narrowly losing her bid to be elected to the state senate of California in the 33rd  district. 
     Despite her failed attempt to enter the state political arena, she remained active in Long Beach civic and religious affairs.  As a member of the City Planning Commission she was not happy about the development taking place in the city.  On May 5, 1923, Marie C. Brehm resigned as a member of the City Planning Commission because "someone must save Long Beach."  She joined former commissioner Mary Foster, who had resigned for similar reasons a few weeks earlier.  Miss Brehm was angered at the lack of height limitations of buildings going up along Ocean boulevard. "It is wicked", she said, "to shut out the rest of the town from an ocean view by building a row of twelve and sixteen story apartment houses between Broadway and the beach."  She also stated there was not much need of a planning board when the council continually overruled its recommendations.  Her heart, however, was in the establishment of a community hospital.  In 1923 she gladly accepted a place on the board of directors of the Long Beach Community Hospital Association.  $369,000 was needed to build a hospital and Miss Brehm gave what she could--- periodic $20 donations to the cause. By September 1923, $266,000 had been raised and a campaign between September 17 and September 21 raised  the last $103,000.  Community Hospital of Long Beach was opened on July 15,1924.
         In 1924 Marie Brehm turned her attentions back to the Prohibition movement and another stab at a vice-presidential nomination.  She had first been considered as a vice presidential candidate in 1916 but took her name out of the race because she decided competitor Dr. Ira Landrith would draw more votes.  In June 1920 she was once again asked to run, but withdrew her nomination in August 1920 saying it was more important for her to be elected to the state senate of California.  Her qualifications were impressive: she was chairman of the National Prohibition convention in 1920 at Omaha.  She had been a national lecturer for the Women's Christian Temperance Union since 1891 and she lectured extensively on temperance and women's suffrage. She was superintendent of the Franchise Department of the National W.C.T.U., and President of the Illinois W.C.T.U. from 1902-06.  She was elected a member of the General Assembly's Permanent Committee on Temperance of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1906.  She was a candidate on the Prohibition ticket, in 1902, 1904 and 1908, for Trustee of the University of Illinois;  was United States delegate to the Twelfth International Congress on Alcoholism, in London, in 1909; was Temperance Federation delegate to the World's Congress on Alcoholism, The Hague, Holland in 1911.  In 1913 she delivered an address at the World's Sunday School convention at Zurich, Switzerland, and that same year lectured at the World's Anti-Alcohol Congress, Milan, Italy, to which she was appointed by President Wilson.
       On July 4, 1924, at a program in Bixby Park sponsored by the Prohibitionists of Southern California, Miss Brehm was "officially" notified of her nomination as running mate to H.P. Faris, presidential candidate for the party.   It was hoped she would attract the vote of great numbers of newly enfranchised women.
At the 4th of July event, famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson presented the formal address of notification to Miss Brehm.  Miss Brehm followed with this response:

"The Prohibition Party has weathered the storms of more than half a century.  It has always held up high ideals of government and influenced the reforms for righteousness in our national life.  It was the first political party to declare that women were citizens and ought to vote on equal terms with men, which declaration was in its platform as early as 1872.  If all the voters who in time past have voted to outlaw the liquor traffic in State and County and town would in this year of our Lord, 1924, vote to utterly destroy it by voting a national ticket composed of platform and candidates who declare for its destruction and for the enforcement of the laws of the land, there would come about a new era in our national politics and our national life..."

      Miss Brehm vowed that if elected vice president of the United States she would see that the prohibition law was obeyed, taking its enforcement away from those that were too lenient.  She saw gaps in the structure of the prohibition law that needed tightening up, including the indiscriminate issuing of permits for the consumption of liquor for "sacramental" or "medical" purposes.

Though her party did not win the election, Marie Brehm continued to preach against alcoholism, but her life was soon to come to a tragic end.  At the Pasadena Rose Parade on January 1, 1926, a grandstand on which she was sitting collapsed.  The shock triggered a heart attack and she died on January 21, 1926.  The Second Presbyterian Church in Long Beach was packed to capacity for her funeral on January 27th, with friends and prohibition leaders from across the nation attending. She was also remembered at a community service held January 31st.  Following a Long Beach Municipal Band concert held in her honor, a vacant chair bearing a floral wreath and 66 bows of white ribbon symbolic of the years lived by Marie Bream was carried through the Municipal Auditorium. Though she had lived in Long Beach since 1917, following cremation her ashes were returned to Sandusky, Ohio, where she had been born 66 years earlier.  She didn't forget the city whose values so mirrored her own.  She left $1000 to Long Beach Community Hospital, which named a room in the hospital after her, and the the Women's City Club of Long Beach.

     Marie Brehm believed it was time for women to make changes in society. Perhaps her philosophy can be summed up in these words spoken in June 1924.

To women voters - Organize! If there are reforms that your inner being demands must be accomplished, don't fancy you can bring them about by electing one lone woman on a ticket where men hold all the other offices.  Organize!  Put a whole ticket of women in the field...and you will see the muck heaps of the past cleared away, and flowers of a beautified civil life blooming in their place."

* Marietta L.B. Stow ran for Vice President of the United States in 1884 under the National Equal Rights Party ticket, but it was not legal for her to do so since women could not vote or run in national elections.