1856-1863

Click on a First Lady's name to read more about her at the California State Library website.
  • Jane Stanford
    1862-1863
    The third of seven children, Jane Lathrop grew up in a well-to-do home in Albany. Jane met Leland Stanford while he was studying law in Albany and they married on September 30, 1850. Leland left for California shortly after their marriage while Jane remained in New York for five years caring for her ill father. After her father’s death, Leland returned to New York and he and Jane set sail for San Francisco on November 16, 1855. The Stanfords eventually moved to Sacramento where they purchased the mansion on 8th and N Streets that now operates as the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park. In 1900, Jane donated the mansion to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento for the “nurture, care and maintenance of homeless children.” The home was used as an orphanage by the Sisters of Mercy until 1987. After their only son Leland Stanford Jr. died in 1884, the couple endowed Leland Stanford Junior University in honor of their beloved child. Jane oversaw the University’s operations until her death on February 28, 1905.
  • Maria Downey
    1860-1862
    Maria de Jesus Jacinta Guirado was born into an influential California family. Her father, Don Rafael Guirado moved from Guaymas, Mexico, to Whittier, California, in 1833. In 1852, Maria married John Downey, an Irish immigrant who made a fortune after starting a drugstore and bank in Los Angeles. He also founded the town of Downey. Maria was described as educated, beautiful, and refined. She felt that one of her duties as First Lady was to help the less fortunate.
  • Sophie Latham
    January 9-14, 1860
    Little is known about Sophie Birdsall’s early life. Known as the “Belle of the Prairie,” Sophie was a favorite of early San Francisco and Sacramento society. Sophie married Milton Latham on October 1, 1853, in San Francisco. They had no children. Sophie’s tenure as First Lady was extremely brief. After holding the office of Governor for a mere five days, Milton Latham was elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator David Broderick. Milton Latham was not reelected to the Senate in 1863 and he and Sophie moved back to San Francisco.
  • Lizzie Weller
    1858-1860
    Elizabeth "Lizzie" Brockelbank Stanton married John Weller on June 20, 1854, in New York City while he was serving in the United States Senate. The only known fact about Lizzie’s early life is that John was her second husband. She, in turn, was his fourth wife. John and Lizzie had one child, Charles. In addition, two sons from John's previous marriage and one son from Lizzie's previous marriage were part of the household. No information has survived regarding Lizzie’s activities as First Lady.
  • Mary Johnson
    1856-1858
    The Zabriskie family moved from New Jersey to California in 1849. Her father, James C. Zabriskie, settled the family in Sacramento to practice law. Mary married Colonel J. Neely Johnson on June 26, 1851, and they had two children. Upon being elected governor in 1856, J. Neely Johnson and Mary held the first gubernatorial inaugural ball in California. Mary was a leader in Sacramento society and well fitted for the role of First Lady. In 1869, the family moved to Washoe, Nevada, where J. Neely ran the Bowers Mine.

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