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Mulholland, Catherine, 1923- | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Mulholland, Catherine, 1923-

Historical Note:

Catherine Rose Mulholland was born at Hollywood Methodist Hospital in Hollywood, California on April 7, 1923, the first of three children born to William "Perry" and Addie Camelia Haas Mulholland. Perry (1892-1962) was the eldest son of William Mulholland (1855-1935), former Chief Superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Lillie Ferguson Mulholland (1867-1915), daughter of James (1831-1910) and Francis Ann Fish Ferguson (1837-1926). Addie (1896-1980) was the eldest daughter of John (1867-1917) and Katie May Ijams Haas (1877-1968), early settlers in the San Fernando Valley. Catherine was raised on a citrus and walnut ranch known as the Mulholland Orchard Ranch, located  at the west end of the San Fernando Valley between the towns of Chatsworth and Northridge, an area formerly known as Zelzah.

Catherine's grandfather William Mulholland first began purchasing property in the San Fernando Valley in 1912, and by the time of her birth had amassed more than 650 acres of fertile farm land. In 1916, her father Perry took over the management of the ranch, and in 1921 brought his new bride home to a cluster of small bungalows referred to as the West Ranch. Over the next two years, the couple designed and built a new home that that would eventually become known as the "Homeplace." In 1925, Perry and Addie would welcome a son, Richard "Dick" Perry, and in 1931 another daughter, Patricia Ruth, would complete the family.

Catherine's early education primarily took place at Winnetka Avenue School, with the exception of the 1931-1932 school year when she and Dick were sent to the Los Angeles Progressive School. As Catherine herself writes, "In a quest for better schools, I became something of an academic vagabond." She spent a year living at her maternal grandparents' home in Studio City while attending North Hollywood Junior High School, and two years living at her grandfather Mulholland's home while attending the Marlborough School for Girls in Los Angeles. Catherine eventually made her way back to the Homeplace, graduating from Canoga Park High School in 1940.

Catherine earned a bachelor's degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley in 1945, a master's degree in English at Columbia University, New York in 1947, and returned to UC Berkeley to pursue a doctorate degree later that year. In September 1949 Catherine met and married Gerard Timothy Hurley (1924-2013), a professor at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California. Over the course of the next several years she taught English at a community college and pursued a career as a playwright.  In the late 1950s, the couple adopted three children, a girl and two boys. When they divorced in 1976, Catherine returned to the San Fernando Valley where her writing shifted toward documenting regional history and her family's role in the development of the greater Los Angeles area.

Catherine Mulholland's first published book, Calabasas Girls: An Intimate History (1976) tells the story of her mother's family, some of the first homesteaders in the west San Fernando Valley in the early 1880s. Her second book, The Owensmouth Baby: The Making of a San Fernando Valley Town (1987) is a detailed account of the individuals, organizations, and government entities involved in the acquisition of water from the Owens Valley, and its relationship to early twentieth century real estate development in the San Fernando Valley. William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles (2000), Catherine's third published book, is a biography of her paternal grandfather, William Mulholland, whose controversial career as Chief Superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power worked to shape the course of Southern California history. Catherine's last book, Calabasas Lives: Pioneers of a Western Outpost (2009) is a compilation of the many family stories and local legends passed down by the pioneer families of 19th century Calabasas. Over the course of Catherine Mulholland's writing career, she also produced more than twenty-five plays, and dozens of articles, essays, and short stories.

In addition to her career as an historian and writer, Catherine Mulholland was an active and engaged civic leader and public speaker whose interests included urban and suburban development, civil rights and school desegregation, environmental politics, the preservation of historic landmarks, public utility reform, and myriad California water issues. Catherine played an integral role in local concerns, serving on the board of Water and Power Associates, the President's Advisory Board at California State University, Northridge, and as Mayor of the city of Canoga Park. Catherine was a passionate and prolific public speaker whose presentations for historical societies, civic and non-profit organizations, private clubs, educational institutions, galleries, museums, and libraries never failed to charm audiences. Catherine Mulholland passed away at her home in Camarillo, California on July 6, 2011, from natural causes.

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