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Church and State in the City

Catholics and Politics in Twentieth-Century San Francisco

William Issel

Publication Year: 2012

Church and State in the City provides the first comprehensive analysis of the city’s long debate about the public interest. Historian William Issel explores the complex ways that the San Francisco Catholic Church—and its lay men and women—developed relationships with the local businesses, unions, other community groups, and city government to shape debates about how to define and implement the common good. Issel’s deeply researched narrative also sheds new light on the city’s socialists, including Communist Party activists—the most important transnational challengers of both capitalism and Catholicism during the twentieth century.

Moreover, Church and State in the City is revisionist in challenging the notion that the history of urban politics and policy can best be understood as the unfolding of a progressive, secular modernization of urban political culture. Issel shows how tussles over the public interest in San Francisco were both distinctive to the city and shaped by its American character.

In the series Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy, edited by Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett

Published by: Temple University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Among the many people I want to thank, David Selvin and Robert W. Cherny stand out. On a blustery February day in 1993, I drove across the bridge from San Francisco to the Berkeley hills for an interview with David Selvin, a retired labor journalist and historian. I had recently...

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Introduction: City of Contests

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pp. 1-6

Many myths populate the conventional wisdom about American cities, but one of the most tenacious is the notion that San Francisco has always been the nation’s “Left Coast” city: a decidedly un-American carnival of secular humanism featuring warring tribes of radicals thumbing...

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1. “The True Interests of a City” : The Public Interest in a Divided City

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pp. 7-24

On January 7, 1897, James Duval Phelan, the newly inaugurated mayor of San Francisco, walked into the offi ce of the Merchants Association and asked its secretary “to prepare a list of names from which the Committee of 100 might be selected.”1 Three days before his visit, Phelan had...

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2. “The Need for Cooperation” : The Origins of the Liberal Growth Regime

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pp. 25-43

On September 1, 1941, a small crowd of curious bystanders and committed union members gathered under sunny skies in the small park at the foot of Market Street for the unveiling and dedication of the memorial to Andrew Furuseth. Th e Norwegian-born Furuseth, president of the...

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3. “No Quarter Can Be Given” : Catholics, Communists, and the Construction of the Public Interest

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pp. 44-65

On November 24, 1936, a St. Mary’s College student from North Beach named Joseph L. Alioto delivered a prize-winning speech in San Francisco. Alioto would go on to graduate in 1937 and then to earn a law degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In an address...

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4. “A Great Tragedy” : Catholics, Communists, and the Specter of Fascism

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pp. 66-79

San Franciscans kept informed about and were deeply concerned with, disturbed by, and divided over the political crises that roiled European aff airs, from Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome in October 1922 to Adolf Hitler’s Blitzkrieg against Poland in September 1939. City residents turned out in...

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5. “With Malice toward None” : Catholic Liberalism in San Francisco

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pp. 80-98

When young Joseph L. Alioto urged Catholics to borrow grand strategy from communists and organize a “Catholic Internationale” in 1936, he immediately joined the front ranks of San Francisco’s Catholic Action cadre of dedicated men and women determined to bring public...

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6. A “Different Era” : San Francisco Women and the Pursuit of the Public Interest

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pp. 99-118

When Julia Gorman Porter refl ected on her experience in party politics and urban planning in 1975, she described the 1960s as a turning point for women in public life. Porter was not repeating the familiar refrain about feminists challenging traditional gender roles and...


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pp. 119-124

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7. “Humanity Is One Great Family” : Jews, Catholics, and the Achievements of Racial Reform

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pp. 125-148

On August 12, 1957, Mayor George Christopher presided over the swearing-in ceremony for the seven members of San Francisco’s new Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity (CEEO). Approved by the Board of Supervisors aft er more than a decade of lobbying by civil rights...

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8. “Not for . . . Real Estate Values Alone” : Urban Redevelopment and the Limits of Racial Reform

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pp. 149-172

The nearly 5,000 fans who turned out for the Golden Gloves boxing tournament at the Civic Auditorium in 1948 cheered, shouted, whistled, and applauded when “Singing Sam” Jordan accepted the Diamond Belt aft er winning the light heavyweight championship fi ght. Jordan acquired his nickname...

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9. To “Alleviate Racial Concentrations” : The Public Interest in Education and Employment

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pp. 173-198

In August 1962, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to cancel the opening of the proposed new Central Junior High School, and in July 1964, the Board of Supervisors established the city’s Human Rights Commission (HRC). Th e cancellation of Central and the creation of the HRC occurred to the...

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10. “Land Values, Human Values, and the City’s Treasured Appearance” : The Freeway Revolt

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pp. 199-219

In January 1959, neighborhood preservationists and land use reformers convinced the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to rescind its approval of seven of nine freeways scheduled for construction by the state highway department.1 Extensive consultation then took place involving the supervisors...

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11. “I Came Out of the New Deal” : Redefining the Public Interest, 1967–1980

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pp. 220-250

When Joseph Alioto took the oath of offi ce to become San Francisco’s thirty-sixth mayor on January 8, 1968, nearly twenty years had passed since the San Francisco Communist Party urged its members to take the Catholic threat to their cause more seriously. In the spring of...

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Conclusion: Beyond the New Deal

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pp. 251-254

San Francisco in the 1980s was signifi cantly diff erent from the “Pacific Coast metropolis” of ninety years earlier. The Spanish–American War, two world wars, and a global Cold War had brought permanent new additions to the built environment and new residents by the thousands. International...


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pp. 255-310


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pp. 311-325

E-ISBN-13: 9781439909935
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439909928

Page Count: 330
Illustrations: 10
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 817880985
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Church and State in the City

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholics -- Political activity -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Church and state -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Religious pluralism -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Public interest -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Political culture -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Religious life and customs.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Social policy.
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