Best Street Name - 2011
Quiet, tucked-away Pleasant Street is within one of the most elegant square blocks in San Francisco, lined by century-old flats and tony Nob Hill apartment buildings, but it didn't get its name from all that encompassing opulence. The street is named after Mary Ellen Pleasant, one of the most remarkable people in San Francisco history. Born in Virginia around 1815 to a white father and an African-American voodoo priestess, Pleasant worked her way out of slavery, married a wealthy flour magnate, and became a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement, eventually bringing the Underground Railroad to Gold Rush-era San Francisco. Passing as white, she moved in the city's top social circles, picking up financial gossip and insider tips and amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune. After the Civil War, she publicly proclaimed her racial identity and won a lawsuit that ended segregation on the city's streetcars, earning her the title "the mother of the civil rights movement." Pleasant died in 1904 at her 30-room estate at Bush and Octavia; the nearby Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park features a commemorative plaque and a grove of eucalyptus she planted.