Phoebe Apperson Hearst


Phoebe Apperson Hearst

A Life of Power and Politics

Alexandra M. Nickliss

664 pages
20 photographs, index


May 2018


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2018


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2018


$39.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Phoebe Apperson Hearst: A Life in Power and Politics Alexandra M. Nickliss offers the first biography of one of the Gilded Age’s most prominent and powerful women. A financial manager, businesswoman, and reformer, Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the wealthiest and most influential women of the era and a philanthropist, almost without rival, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hearst was born into a humble middle-class family in rural Missouri in 1842, yet she died a powerful member of society’s urban elite in 1919. Most people know her as the mother of William Randolph Hearst, the famed newspaper mogul, and as the wife of George Hearst, a mining tycoon and U.S. senator. By age forty-eight, however, Hearst had come to control her husband’s extravagant wealth after his death. She shepherded the fortune of the family estate until her own death, demonstrating her intelligence and skill as a financial manager.

Hearst supported a number of significant urban reforms in the Bay Area, across the country, and around the world, giving much of her wealth to organizations supporting children, health reform, women’s rights and well-being, higher education, municipal policy formation, progressive voluntary associations, and urban architecture and design, among other endeavors. She worked to exert her ideas and implement plans regarding the burgeoning Progressive movement and was the first female regent of the University of California, which later became one of the world’s leading research institutions. Hearst held other prominent positions as the first president of the Century Club of San Francisco, first treasurer of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, first vice president of the National Congress of Mothers, president of the Columbian Kindergarten Association, and head of the Woman’s Board of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst tells the story of Hearst’s world and examines the opportunities and challenges that she faced as she navigated local, national, and international corridors of influence, rendering a penetrating portrait of a powerful and often contradictory woman.

Author Bio

Alexandra M. Nickliss is an instructor of history at City College of San Francisco. 


Phoebe Apperson Hearst is deeply researched, and the persistent reader will be rewarded with a vivid portrait of the challenges faced by women with ambitions outside the home in the latter part of the nineteenth century. . . . [Hearst’s] life story shows how women—especially rich women—exercised power before they had the right to vote.”—Melanie Kirkpatrick, Wall Street Journal

"Modern feminists, masculists, historians and students or avid readers of American history can all benefit from having this book in their collection."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

"Nickliss succeeds beautifully in this rich portrayal of a fascinating woman, one of many wealthy women who wielded their philanthropy to empower themselves and others at the same time."—Joan Marie Johnson, South Dakota History

“A captivating portrait of a fascinating woman who insisted on her right to determine the possibilities of her fortune and to increase women’s ability to enter the public sphere on their own terms.”—Sarah Deutsch, author of Women and the City: Gender, Space, and Power in Boston, 1870–1940 

Phoebe Apperson Hearst is a compelling biography of an influential Gilded Age and Progressive Era female reformer and philanthropist who was also important to the history of anthropology. Alexandra Nickliss engaged in extensive archival primary source research to produce a comprehensive history of a powerful woman and her tumultuous times.”—Margaret Jacobs, author of A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World

“A Missouri schoolteacher who became a California power broker, Phoebe Apperson Hearst was more than simply the possessor of a famous surname. She was a suffragist, feminist, philanthropist, and devotee of causes ranging from archaeology to women’s and early childhood education. Alexandra Nickliss’s deeply researched and ably argued biography presents Hearst as an important figure in her own right and offers many fresh insights into her life and achievements.”—Anne M. Boylan, author of Women’s Rights in the United States: A History in Documents  

“[Alexandra M. Nickliss] makes a compelling case for Phoebe Apperson Hearst’s evolution into a powerful player in Bay Area culture and politics. She reveals the role of religion, education, power, and feminism in Hearst’s life and offers much-needed insight into the dynamics of female reform in the urban West.”—Abigail Markwyn, author of Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Author’s Note    
1. Ability    
2. Money    
3. Political Agenda    
4. Power by Design    
5. Benefits for Women    
6. Limits    
7. National Politics    
8. The Vote    

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