Jane Stanford: Timeline

Adapted from A Chronology of Stanford University and Its Founders by Karen Bartholomew, Claude Brinegar, and Roxanne Nilan (Stanford Historical Society: Stanford, CA, 2001).

1828 August 25:
Jane Elizabeth Lathrop is born in Albany, NY to Dyer Lathrop and Jane Ann Shields. Jane's father is a merchant. She is the third of seven children, six of whom survived infancy.
1850 September 30:
Jane marries Leland Stanford in Albany. They live in Port Washington, Wisconsin, where Leland has established a law career.
Fire destroys Leland's law office, and he decides to join his brothers in California. Jane, pressured by her family, remains with her parents in Albany to care for her ill father. The couple remains separated for three years while Leland establishes himself as a Sacramento merchant. Some in Albany speculate that Jane has been deserted - but she and Leland exchange numerous letters. (Over 40 years later, Jane destroys the letters after Leland dies. She feels they are too personal and cannot bear the thought of them being discovered and read after her own death.)
Leland returns to Albany following the death of Jane's father. Leland and Jane travel together to California and settle in Sacramento.
1861 July:
Leland (who will be elected governor of California in September of this year) and Jane purchase a house on Eighth and N streets in Sacramento. They later remodel it into a 44 room mansion. Today the mansion is open to the public as a state historic park .
Jane gives birth to Leland DeWitt Stanford, her only child, at the Stanford residence in Sacramento. She is 39 years old, and her son quickly becomes the focus of her life.
1876 July:
Leland Stanford purchases Mayfield Grange, 650 acres of land near Menlo Park. Over the next ten years he expands his holdings to over 8000 acres by purchasing adjoining farms and enjoys success in the breeding and training of trotting and thoroughbred horses. This property, named the Palo Alto Stock Farm after a tall redwood tree along San Francisquito Creek, is the future home of Stanford University.
[Archive Photo - Jane and Anna Maria Lanthrop playing billiards]
1876 Fall:
The Stanford family moves into a new 50-room home in San Francisco, located on California Street between Powell and Mason. Work on the mansion began following the move of the Central Pacific Railroad Offices to San Francisco in 1873.
Jane accompanies her son, who by this time has asked to be called Leland Stanford Jr., on his first tour of Europe. Leland Jr. is keenly interested in museum collecting. After they return home, Jane helps him catalog and display the antiquities he collected on the trip.
1883 May 26:
The Stanfords depart from New York for their second European tour.
1884 March 13:
Leland Jr. dies in Florence after several weeks of illness with typhoid fever. His death profoundly affects both parents, who begin planning memorial projects as they travel home with his body.
1884 May:
The Stanfords arrive in New York, but railroad business keeps them on the East Coast. Leland and Jane visit the presidents of Harvard, Cornell, and MIT to discuss their plans to establish a new university in California.
1884 November:
Jane and Leland arrive home. Leland Jr.'s body is laid to rest in a small mausoleum near the Stanford home at the Palo Alto Stock Farm. (Later, it is moved to a larger mausoleum designed to hold the bodies of all three Stanfords.)
1885 November 11:
Leland and Jane officially establish Leland Stanford Junior University by signing the Founding Grant at their home in San Francisco. From the start, the university is nonsectarian, coeducational, and open to students regardless of economic status.
1887 May 14:
The cornerstone of the university, at what is now Building 60, is laid on what would have been Leland Jr.'s 19th birthday.
1887 December:
The Stanfords, having abandoned earlier plans to build an entirely new residence, remodel their Palo Alto home. This building is later used as the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children. It is torn down in 1965 prior to the construction of the Stanford Children's Hospital.
Jane works on plans for a campus museum to memorialize her son.
1891 October 1:
Leland Stanford Junior University opens with a formal dedication ceremony. Jane had prepared a speech, but she is overcome with emotion and does not deliver it.
1893 June 20-21 :
Leland Stanford dies at his Palo Alto residence. Since he had managed the university as if it were part of his estate, his death creates a financial crisis. The situation becomes worse when the federal government sues the Stanford estate for outstanding debt owed by the Central Pacific Railroad. For several years Jane funds the university out of the allowance granted to her for the maintenance of her household, and she assumes an increasingly large role in the management of the university.
[Photo - Jane Stanford Jewels Bookplate]

Jewel Fund Bookplate

1898 Nov 2:
With the university's financial difficulties nearly resolved, Jane embarks on an ambitious building program. She begins by laying the cornerstone for the Thomas Welton Stanford Library (now Wallenberg Hall), the first of the Outer Quadrangle buildings.
1898 December:
The Leland Stanford estate officially clears probate. Jane gains complete control of the university's finances. Although university president David Starr Jordan requests money for faculty salaries, books, and equipment, Jane focuses resources on building projects such as the Outer Quad, Memorial Church, Memorial Arch, expansions to the museum, a chemistry building, a gymnasium, and a library.
Jane converts her parents' home in Albany, NY into a shelter for working women and their children.
1899 May 31:
Concerned that the proportion of women in the student body has been steadily rising (from 25% at the time the university opened to 40% in 1899), Jane amends the Founding Grant to allow no more than 500 female students to enroll at any given time. Although she believes in the importance of education for women, Jane fears that a large proportion of women in the student body will discourage men from attending - and believes that an all-women's university would not be a suitable memorial to her son.
[Archive Photo - Jane Stanford in Japan circa 1902]
Jane gives control of the Stanford mansion in Sacramento to a Catholic charity. She also establishes the first scholarship at Stanford University, using money from an account that had belonged to her son.
Jane clashes with President Jordan on the issue of Professor Edward A. Ross, chair of the Sociology Department. Jane, who disagrees with Ross's pro-labor and anti-Japanese opinions, wants him to be fired. His dismissal sparks controversy over academic freedom for professors, which eventually leads to the development of the tenure system.
1903 January 25:
Memorial Church, Jane's monument to her late husband, is dedicated. Although the building is finished, decorative work continues for two years.
1903 June 1:
Jane relinquishes control of the university to the Board of Trustees. She is elected president of the board on July 6th. In August, hoping to encourage the board to act independently, she embarks on an extended trip to Australia, Asia, and the Middle East.
1905 January 14:
While at her San Francisco home, Jane drinks a glass of water which is found to contain strychnine. Sick with a cold, she stays in San Jose while private detectives investigate the incident. She decides to move up her plans to travel to the Orient rather than return to San Francisco.
1905 February 13:
Jane gives permission for the Board of Trustees to sell her jewels and establish a "Jewel Fund" for library purchases. She had previously attempted to sell her jewels while in London for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, but found no one willing to pay her asking price.
1905 February 28:
Jane dies in Honolulu at the age of 76. She believes that she was poisoned, and tests reveal small amounts of strychnine in her bottle of bicarbonate and in her stomach. However, since strychnine was routinely used in certain medicines at the time, including medicines Jane was known to have taken, her cause of death remains undetermined.
1905 March 24:
Over 6000 people attend Jane's funeral, overflowing Memorial Church. After the church service, mourners follow the casket down Palm Drive to the mausoleum where Jane's husband and son already lie. Jane's will provides relatives and various charities with three million dollars; the balance of her estate goes to the university.
[Archive Photo - Jane Stanford's Funeral procession]