Janet Louise Choynski (Fleishhacker) Bates was born on September 13, 1908 in San Francisco to Ethel Bessie (Berger) Choynski and Herbert I. Choynski, a family with multiple historic ties to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's parklands.
Herbert I. Choynski was the son of Isidor Nathan Choynski, a prominent San Francisco bookstore owner, comedian, and newspaper publisher. Herbert served as a First Lieutenant with Battery B, First Battalion of California Heavy Artillery, U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish American War. After the war he was stationed at Fort Baker with the same regiment. He went on to become a Colonel in the National Guard of California and served on the Finance Committee of the San Francisco Relief and Red Cross Funds during the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. During this time he married Ethel. Ten years later, he was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco when the Pershing home on post burned to the ground, killing General John J. Pershing's wife and daughters. As a civilian, he served on Governor James Budd's staff before his death on May 1, 1936 in San Francisco. He is buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco.
Janet was partially educated abroad in Italy and France and graduated from San Francisco's Hamlin School in 1928, marrying Mortimer Fleishhacker, Jr. shortly thereafter.
Mortimer Fleishhacker, Jr. was a descendant of a prominent San Francisco family that originally came to California during the Gold Rush. His grandfather, Aaron Fleishhacker, started a successful paper box manufacturing business and was often associated with San Francisco's famed "Silver Kings": Mackay, Fair, Flood, and O'Brien. His father, Mortimer Fleishhacker, Sr., used his experience in his father's manufacturing business to begin a successful career in a hydroelectric venture, the Great Western Power Company, which at the time was the biggest rival to Pacific Gas and Electric. He later transitioned from electricity to the banking industry, presiding over the Anglo California Bank while at the same time investing in a variety of diverse industries including irrigation, sugar-making, insurance, and wine. His uncle, Herbert Fleishhacker, as head of the Park Commission, led the effort to create the Fleishhacker Zoo and the Fleishhacker Pool. Mortimer was similarly charitable during his lifetime. In addition, he was active in San Francisco cultural institutions and served as a member of the boards of the San Francisco Symphony, the Museum of Modern Art, and Temple Emanu-El, as well as serving on the city's Planning Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of KQED and the American Conservatory Theater.
Janet C. (Fleishhacker) Bates was also active in San Francisco's wartime acitivities. She worked for the Red Cross and served a three-year term on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. While her husband, Mortimer, served with the U.S. Navy during World War II, Janet served as an Army Air Warning Service Observer. For her service she received the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Sweden's Royal Order of the Northern Star, Italy's Stella della Solidarita, and France's Officier de l'Ordre du Merite.
Over the course of her long and varied career as a philanthropist, Janet served as head of the National Council of Campfire Girls and as president of the board of trustees for the University of San Francisco. She was also an integral part of the League of Women Voters, the Children's Theater Association, the International Visitors' Center, the Salesian Boys Club, the Italo-American Society, the Red Cross, the Fine Arts Commission, and many other committees and organizations. In addition, she was the Membership Chair for the Fort Point and Army Museum Association for many years. After Mortimer's death, Janet married William Bates in 1985 and died on September 12, 1987 in Woodside, California.
Janet donated her family's effects to the Presidio Army Museum in 1976. Along with the featured items, the collection includes a gasmask with its associated instruction manual, plotter boards, and other items which elucidate the importance of civilian contributions to the war effort in San Francisco.