I have spent the last months doing extensive research on Emma’s life. I have learned more about her family (especially her siblings); have found a letter in the Library of Congress from her to Carl Schurz, the Secretary of the Interior: see his reply to her); believe she befriended a famous Native American woman who was lecturing in San Francisco; have discovered she used several different names; found out she was fired from her job at the Women’s Pavilion and replaced by a Philadelphia woman; found out that she called herself a journalist until her incarceration in a mental hospital in California; learned she may have raised greyhound dogs; obtained her death certificate. I will be traveling to California next month to visit her grave site and see if there is any information about her at the mental hospital.
UPDATE: I visited the state hospital this summer and all the grave markers have been removed from the graves but the cemetery for those who died at the hospital is still there. It was almost dug up by a company that purchased the land decades ago for a golf course.
Emma Allison Marchand died on August 17, 1914, 100 years ago. She died in a state mental hospital in California, having a diagnosis of “senile psychosis” and cause of death by heart disease. She was there for almost 11 years. She is buried there, likely in the unmarked graves that were used for unclaimed bodies. I will be visiting the site this summer.
Rest in Peace, Emma.
UPDATE 2: Was there another Emma Allison in San Francisco at the same time, one who used the middle initial “B”? There is a record of an Emma B gaining citizenship who was a copyist. Still uncertain.
UPDATE 1: Very likely yes since Emma mentions to one person in 1876 that she previously worked as a copyist.
Did Emma Allison go to San Francisco to be a writer as she supposedly told one author? Here is a reference to an Emma Allison in San Francisco in 1882, working as a clerk at the U.S Surveyor-General’s Office. The title page of this directory and page 69 can be viewed in this PDF. This full document can be viewed and downloaded at Internet archive. Is this our Emma Allison?
Langley’s San Francisco Directory, 1882, p. 69
Emma’s mother dies in San Jose, California in 1887. Does this mean the family moved there after the death of Emma’s father, Richard, in 1877? UPDATE: Emma lists 1877 as the date of her entry into the United States on later census forms.
There is an Emma Allison who marries an A.D. Marchand in 1887. One possible connection between Marchand and the Emma Allison listed in the U.S. Surveyor-General’s office is that Marchand was a supervisor for a mining company. UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison.
See new information uncovered about Marchand in this post: Who was A.D. Marchand: A Treasure of Gold
The Woman’s Journal (a newspaper associated with abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone) reported that Emma Allison was found starving in her boarding room two months after the Centennial Exhibition opened. This report was later disputed by the Women’s Pavilion newspaper. UPDATE: Lucy Stone also later disputes the story, pointing out that it was very likely the food the sickened her. Later reports also suggest that many workers at the exhibition became ill with Yellow Fever and other diseases.
No record of Susan B. Anthony or Matilda Gage discussing this incident have been found in their letters, diaries, or other accounts (so far). A PDF of the full page of the newspaper is here.
“Women vs. Whisky in Philadelphia,” The Woman’s Journal, July 1, 1876, p. 1
How did Emma Allison get hired to run the steam engine in the Women’s Pavilion? The only mention of the process suggests that a Mrs. Wright (
probably Martha Coffin Wright, Lucretia Mott’s sister correction: it was Henrietta Hoskins Price Wright, wife of Robert Kemp Wright) suggested hiring a female steam engineer. How Emma was chosen is still unknown.
An Emma Allison, age 22, from Grimsby, was listed as an inmate at the Toronto Insane Asylum. Is this the same Emma Allison? UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison.
Is this also the same Emma Allison? UPDATE: This is the same Emma Allison. She lists her profession for years as a journalist, one time stating that it was for the Daily Graphic. This balloon adventure was reported by dozens of newspapers across the country and Emma later tells her account of the story to a reporter in California.
In 1879, off the coast of California, a young woman named Emma Allison was caught in scandal as she traveled as a reporter in a hot air balloon. Full story below, but here is an image I found that is possibly the first and only one we have of Emma (if this is our Emma Allison).
Here is the report from the National Police Gazette, page 5 of this July 19, 1879 issue. NationalPoliceGazette1879-p4-5 can be seen here.
A Los Angeles Times version of the story was printed on July 8, 1879.LAT-July1879balloon