Image - Stanford campus and book cover

San Francisco

Who Killed Jane Stanford?

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Penetrating the fog of the coverup surrounding the murder of Stanford University's cofounder, historian Richard White deftly sifts through the evidence and reconstructs the full story. In 1885 Jane Stanford and her husband, Leland Stanford, co-founded Stanford University in memory of their deceased son. After Leland's death in 1893, Jane steered the university and its policies into eccentricity and controversy for more than a decade. When she died in 1905, her vast fortune was still the university’s lifeline.

To foreclose challenges to her bequests, Stanford's president and his allies insisted it was death by natural causes. But it was a murder, by strychnine poisoning, and the culprit walked. Against a backdrop of San Francisco’s machine politics, corrupt policing, tong wars, and heated newspaper rivalries, White’s search for the murderer will draw you into Stanford’s imperious household and the tumultuous politics at the university. And he reveals that, although several suspects had both motive and opportunity, only one had the means.

MLF Organizer
George Hammond

This program has 2 types of tickets available: In-person and online-only. Please pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.

Safety Protocols:

• In-person capacity is limited.
• Masks are required in the building.
• We follow best practices laid out by the CDC and state and local guidelines.
• All guests, staff and volunteers must be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination.
• Elevators are limited to a maximum of four (4) people at a time.

Our LEED Gold-certified building is designed to cool with outside air, using digitally controlled moveable windows and large ceiling fans. We are deploying additional HEPA filters inside to scrub the air. This is all in addition to increased cleaning of surfaces throughout the building.

Copies of Who Killed Jane Stanford? are for sale during checkout and at the program (U.S. domestic shipping only for online sales).

A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

Author photo by Jesse White; Stanford University photo by Y S / Unsplash.

All ticket sales are final and nonrefundable.

Thu, Jun 16 / 5:30 pm PDT

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Image - Richard White

Richard White

Margaret Byrne Professor Emeritus, Stanford University; Author, Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits, and the Birth of a University

Image - George Hammond

In Conversation With George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates


5 p.m. doors open & check-in
5:30–6:30 p.m. program
6:30 p.m. book signing
(all times PDT)


Free for members
$10 nonmembers
$35 with book
Free for members
$5 nonmembers
$30 with book