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First Things, April 2016

April 5, 2016
This month marks the beginning of our church’s 140th year.

First Church was founded on March 7, 1877. Next year, March 7 will mark our 140th anniversary. First Church is the oldest Unitarian (or Universalist) congregation in the Los Angeles area. That’s why we are the “First” church. Only the Unitarian churches in San Diego and Santa Barbara are older, and only by a few years.

First Church was founded by a remarkable couple named Theodoric and Caroline Severance. They had moved to Los Angeles from Boston in 1875. In Boston, Caroline was already an activist for a host of social justice issues of her time.

They traveled to Los Angeles on the transcontinental railway, which had been completed in 1869. The railway ended in Oakland so they continued by steamship to Santa Barbara, and then a stage coach to Los Angeles.

In 1875, the population of Los Angeles was less than 10,000 people. Presently there are more than 200,000 persons living just in the Koreatown/MacArthur Park neighborhoods.

Caroline and Theodoric bought a house near where USC is today and started our church in their living room. Caroline infused the same social justice spirit she had in Boston into her new church. She helped Los Angeles start a library, a women’s club (for political organizing), a kindergarten, a juvenile justice system. And her work to win women the right to vote finally succeeded in California in 1911.

Caroline Severance voted in the US Presidential election of 1912 at the age of 92. She died two years later.

Let’s take a year-long opportunity to celebrate this church, our remarkable founders, our long history, our promising future.

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