Florence Richardson Wyckoff (1905-1997), Fifty Years of Grassroots Social Activism


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1567 Florence Wyckoff's three-volume oral history documents her remarkable, lifelong work as a social activist, during which she has become nationally recognized as an advocate of migrant families and children. From the depression years through the 1970s, she pursued grassroots, democratic, community-building efforts in the service of improving public health standards and providing health care, education, and housing for migrant families. Major legislative milestones in her career of advocacy were the passage of the California Migrant Health Act and, in 1962, the Federal Migrant Health Act, which established family health clinics for the families who follow the crops along both the eastern and western migrant agricultural streams.

Volume I: Early Years (1905-1937)

353 Florence Richardson Wyckoff, circa 1935.

1987, xi, 118 pp., 1 illus.

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume I: The Early Years (E-Scholarship)

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume I: The Early Years (UCSC Digital Collections)

This volume includes a discussion of Mrs. Wyckoff's childhood in Berkeley; education and development as an artist; foreign travel; the origins and early evolution of Mrs. Wyckoff's social concerns during the depression years; her activities in the Theater Union; the 1934 General Strike in San Francisco; activities in labor organizing in YWCA Industrial Department and workers' education efforts; the individuals who inspired and influenced her course as an activist in social and economic legislative activities.


Volume II: Families Who Follow the Crops 1937-1959

1989, 141 pp.

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume II: Families Who Follow the Crops, 1937-1959 (Escholarship)

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume II: Families Who Follow the Crops, 1937-1959 (UCSC Library Digital Collections)

Families Who Follow the Crops is divided into four sections. In the opening section Wyckoff discusses her participation in the New Deal gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Culbert L. Olson and her participation in the Olson "crusade", where she became an ardent advocate in behalf of the dispossessed migrant agricultural population in California. In the second section Wyckoff chronicles her political and social life in Washington, D.C., during World War II, where she continued to lobby for migrants at the national level by fighting to maintain the existence of the Farm Security Administration and to educate congress on agricultural issues. She worked with a number of organizations including the National Consumers League, the Women's Joint Congressional Committee, the Office of Price Administration, and Food for Freedom on public education and legislative lobbying on agricultural issues. The third section begins with Wyckoff's settling in Watsonville after the war, where she became a key figure in developing health and social services in Santa Cruz County, including the establishment of the Pajaro Valley Health Council and the Visiting Nurses Association, and in influencing grassroots, community-based health and social service planning. She discusses a number of significant developments in the evolution of local social services. In the final section of the volume, Wyckoff discusses her work on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Children and Youth, to which she was first appointed by Governor Earl Warren in 1948. Her tenure on this advisory committee continued under four governors during which she continued to pursue her investigations of the needs of migrant families and children. One of the most significant developments which grew out of her work on the Children and Youth's subcommittee on Children of Seasonal Farmworkers was the organizing of the five Conferences on Families Who Follow the Crops during the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a major organizer of these events, Wyckoff and her colleagues brought together growers and migrant workers, and convened as well social workers, migrant ministers, teachers, public health workers, labor officials, and members of rural county governments, all of whom were working in different ways to address the living conditions and well-being of migrant families. Wyckoff's interdisciplinary approach in the organizing of the conferences was in itself pioneering and laid the groundwork for legislation addressing migrant health needs. This legislation established public health clinics for farm workers nationwide-- along both the eastern and western migrant streams. The volume concludes with Wyckoff's commentary on the first Conference on Families Who Follow the Crops.


Volume III: Watsonville Years 1960-1985

1990, 183 pp., 3 illus.

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume III: Watsonville Years, 1960-1985 E-Scholarship)

For the complete text [PDF] of Volume III: Watsonville Years, 1960-1985 (UCSC Library Digital Collections)

This volume continues Wyckoff's story of the arduous political struggle for federal and state legislation providing for health services for migrants, the California and Federal Migrant Health Acts. Once this legislation was in place, Wyckoff was involved in a new battle to insure continuing budget appropriations for the migrant health programs. In her narration, Wyckoff provides additional chapters on her fifteen-year tenure on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Children and Youth, including the involvement of the Rosenberg Foundation in funding pioneering migrant public health services in the San Joaquin Valley; the changing living and social conditions of migrant workers during the period 1948-58; and the organizing of farmworker communities through citizen education and political action. Wyckoff also discusses many individuals who were significant in different areas of the struggle-- Anthony Rios and the CSO; notable growers, labor contractors, and public-spirited physicians, politicians and congressional staff members. The culmination of her varied work on the Governor's Committee was the organizing of the five Conferences on Families Who Follow the Crops, held in California between 1959 and 1967.

The remaining two sections in this volume focus on Wyckoff's national and local work addressing and linking the issues of poverty and citizen participation. She chronicles her membership during the Kennedy Administration on the Study Committee charged with conceptualizing policy initiatives for what later came to be known as the War on Poverty. Some of the topics in this section include the concept of mainstreaming the poor; the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth; working with urban youth and the Watts Riots; the origin of the Headstart Program; and the function of the Citizens' Crusade Against Poverty.

In the volume's final section, Wyckoff discusses her philosophy of citizen participation; describes how the War on Poverty emerged in Santa Cruz County; outlines some of its political and social consequences; and indicates how the Watsonville community defined and attempted to meet the housing, educational, and health needs of the migrant families so crucial to the region's agricultural economy.