Victoria Ann Shorey Francis (1898-1971)

Victoria Shorey, Miriam Matthews Photograph Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections
Victoria Shorey
Miriam Matthews Photograph Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections

Victoria Ann Shorey was one of the first African American female whalers in San Francisco, California. Shorey was born on August 1, 1898, in California, one of six children born to William Thomas Shorey, California’s only African American whaling captain, and Julia Ann (Shelton) Shorey, a newspaper correspondent and civil rights activist.

Victoria Shorey was just one year old when she won first place after her mother entered her into the Colored Girls Division of the 1899 Mechanics Fair’s Baby Contest, held by The Mechanic’s Institute of San Francisco. She spent her early years on the sea with her father and family. Her father always took his family with him when he traveled, as whaling expeditions could last for up to a year. By the age of three, Shorey was able to steer a whaling bark, a ship with three or more masts. Her name appeared in a local black newspaper, The San Francisco Elevator, which described her as “baby Shorey at the wheel of the whaling bark Andrew Hicks.”

Shorey attended Oakland Technical High School, where she trained in typing. A 1916 newspaper article spoke of her as an “all-around athlete, one of the best lady tennis players around, and a prize waltzer.” She was also the star player and team captain of the school women’s basketball team. Shorey graduated in 1917.

After her father’s death in 1918, her mother took Victoria and her brother, William Jr., to Portland, Oregon, where she obtained a job as a clerk and supported the family of three on her own. The family returned to San Francisco in the mid-1920s, and a local 1927 census shows them living at 1268 28th Avenue, with William Jr. working as a waiter and Victoria as a stenographer for the law firm Larche & Maurice.

On June 25, 1930, Shorey married Earl A. LeBeouf in Oakland. It is unclear when the couple divorced, but Shorey remarried Willie Francis, with whom she remained with until her death. The couple had one daughter, Michelle. In her later years, Shorey-Francis worked with her mother on the board of the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People in Oakland. Additionally, she served her community through several charitable and social organizations, including the Supreme Household of Ruth, a sister organization to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, of which her father was a member. She died at the age of 72 on January 12, 1971, in Alameda County, California, and was buried in the family burial plot at Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California.