Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Freda Ehmann (1839–1932) - Mother of Olive Oil Industry

"...not how much, nor how inexpensive 
but how good a product can we produce?"

This early mission statement was the slogan for Freda Ehmann, considered
by many as the "Mother of the California Olive Industry".

[Family mausoleum photo by Michael Colbruno; picture of Freda from company website]

Plot 48

In 1895, at the age of 56, Freda Ehmann found herself penniless and a widow. Her savings depleted, her sole tangible asset was a 20-acre olive orchard of dubious value. While her son, friends and a few lawyers urged her to file bankruptcy, Freda reminded her son that the family had always paid its debts. Thus began what a society at the end of the 1800’s would have seen as impossible steps of faith for a woman.

Mountain View Cemetery docent Peg Stone discusses Freda Ehmann:

"In looking back over these first pages of our business history, one might truthfully say that I did not know the enormity of the task which was before me." - Freda Ehmann, 1911

In the spring of 1898 Freda Ehmann got together enough money to take a marketing trip. First heading by boat to Vancouver, the year of the Klondike Gold Rush, she then traveled east with huge success in Philadelphia. By trips end, she had contracts for 10,000 gallons of olives though her orchard produced only a 1000 gallons. Her faith never allowed her to question whether she could pull it off. In 1898, the Ehmann Olive Company in Oroville, California was incorporated. 
Known around town as a compassionate, caring woman and boss, she not only gave this town and state a multi-million dollar industry, but used her influence to fight for the ability of others to better themselves, from worker's rights to women's suffrage. As a testament to her business and social stature in the early 20th Century, she counted Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt as her admirers. [From the Lodestar Olive Oil Company]

Her son, Edwin was the mayor of Oroville, California from 1919 to 1923.

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