Lizzie Glide

Glide Memorial Church was established by Methodist philanthropist Elizabeth “Lizzie” Helen Glide (1852-1938) in honor of her husband, Joseph Henry Glide (1835-1906).

Lizzie Snider was born in Fillmore, Bossier Parish, Louisiana on October 1, 1852.23 Her parents were Dr. Thornton Andrew Snider (1824-1900), a physician, and Mary Jane Connell Snider (1830-1883). Lizzie was the third of ten children.24 According to a biography of Lizzie Glide written by former Glide Memorial Church minister Julian C. McPheeters in 1936, the Snider family was very religious and lived on a plantation operated by slaves.25

At the age of 14, Lizzie Snider moved to Lebanon, Tennessee to attend the Greenwood Seminary for Young Ladies. She graduated two years later, in 1868, with a degree in mathematics.26 Two years tuition at Greenwood was $800—the equivalent of $14,700 in 2017—an indication of the Snider family’s wealth.27

In 1867, Dr. Thornton Snider left Louisiana on a steamer bound for California to find a home for the family in Sacramento. The rest of the Sniders followed a few years later.28 Once in California, the Presbyterian-raised Dr. Snider found the local Presbyterian church to be “very unsympathetic with Southerners, and even at times abusive of Southern people.”29 Thus, the Sniders joined the Southern Methodist Church.

Lizzie Snider was very active in the church, teaching a boys’ Sunday school class and participating in many other programs. Lizzie Snider married Joseph Henry Glide (1835-1906) in 1871. Born in England, Glide immigrated to the United States c. 1852.30 After a brief stay in Philadelphia, Glide moved to Chicago and then to California in 1857, settling in Grass Valley, California, a commercial center of Gold Rush activities.31 A year later, Glide moved to Vacaville and set up a business raising thoroughbred sheep and cattle. His business grew into one of the most successful in the state, with thousands of acres of ranch land in Sacramento, Solano, Yolo, Colusa, Glenn, Tulare, and Kern Counties.32 According to McPheeters, Glide was a pioneer in land reclamation and constructed one of the first water-conveyance systems in Yolo County near Sacramento. 33

Joseph and Lizzie Glide lived in what later became known as the Glide Mansion at 910 H Street in Sacramento. They had five children: Joseph H., Jr.; Elizabeth; Mary L.; Thornton S.; and Eula. Joseph Glide died in October 1906 at the age of 70.34After his death, Lizzie Glide continued living on H Street in Sacramento. The 1910 census shows her as 55 years old and living with her daughters Elizabeth and Eula, as well as three servants.35 Her occupation is “capitalist,” as she had assumed responsibility for her husband’s business operations. Glide was reportedly very successful in her business ventures, which became highly profitable when oil was discovered on Glide-owned ranch lands in Kern County in California’s Central Valley.

Lizzie Glide’s first major religious philanthropic project was the establishment of a mission for the poor in Sacramento sometime after 1889.36 McPheeters attributes her turn toward philanthropy to a spiritual experience with the evangelist Samuel P. Jones in 1889. At a revival meeting, Glide answered Jones’ challenge to live a life wholly consecrated to God. “To her it meant Christ became her ‘all in all,’” a “sanctification caus[ing] her to give her life [and finances] in the service of the Lord.”37

Glide’s next project was the erection of the Mary Elizabeth Inn at 1040 Bush Street in San Francisco. Opened in June 1914, the Mary Elizabeth Inn provided housing for nearly 100 single, working women.38 Glide’s primary directive for the Inn was: “Girls of all nationalities and religions are to share the reasonable rates of the Christian-sponsored home.”39 The Inn was described soon after its opening:

Some years ago the desire was formed in the heart of Mrs. J. H. Glide to build and furnish a home for business-women in San Francisco. She visited many such institutions in different parts of the United States and studied their construction and appointments from every possible angle. The result is the elegant, commodious, and convenient structure [Mary Elizabeth Inn]….

It is the design of [Glide] that a real religious atmosphere shall pervade the entire institution and the real power, beauty, and glory of Christianity permeate all departments, and that nothing repugnant or unnaturally austere be permitted. Every social amenity is to be extended to the women who will make the Inn their home. 40

One of the Inn’s first residents described the importance to her of the Mary Elizabeth Inn:

I came to the city in 1914 looking for work, which I found at the Inn…. As a young girl, the big city could have been a frightening place for me without this secure home. I remember Mrs. Glide’s friendliness, she took a personal interest in every one of us. We each had the privilege of choosing our own room. The girls employed in the home, along with the guests, made up one big family…. That first year our youngest guest was a 16- year-old high school girl, although the ages usually were from 18 to 35.41

Lizzie Glide moved to Berkeley, California c. 1916 into a house designed by architect Julia Morgan (160 The Uplands).42 Beginning in 1921, Glide commissioned dormitories for women on two different college campuses: Lizzie Glide Hall at Asbury University in Kentucky (1921, architect unknown) and Epworth Hall at the University of California, Berkeley (1927, James W. Plachek). Glide Hall at Asbury was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1924. Epworth Hall is extant and designated a local landmark (Berkeley Landmark #223). McPheeters notes that Lizzie Glide also helped fund Wesley Methodist Church in San Francisco (address unknown), Epworth University M.E., South Church in Berkeley (Telegraph and Durant Avenues), and Central Church in Sacramento.43