Mar 8, 2020
by Elaine B. Holtz
By Elaine B. Holtz
The exhibit, “From Suffrage to #MeToo Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County,” explores the changing expectations, challenges, and obstacles to inclusion that women have faced and the remarkable people who broke through the barriers.
Before the Women’s Suffrage Movement women were looked down upon socially, economically, and politically. Socially women were viewed as less important than white males therefore they were denied of many rights. Women were raised to believe that their sole purpose in life was to cook, clean, and take care of the family.
Did you know that Abigail Adams wife of President John Adams advised her husband, ” don’t forget the ladies,” as he left for the Constitutional Convention of 1787, assembled for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution?
Did you know Maria Yanacia Lopez de Carrillo was the original grantee of Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa, the land on which Santa Rosa, California would later be founded?
Did you know that in 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the primary author of the Declaration of Sentiments, also known as the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments? This document emerged from the Seneca Falls Convention in New York and launched the woman’s suffrage movement in the United States in July 1848. It was signed by 68 women and 32 men—100 out of some 300 attendees at the First women’s rights convention to be organized by women.
Did you know that the National Women’s History Project, now known as the National Women’s History Alliance, was founded in Sonoma County giving us National Women’s History Month?
Did you know that in 1975 the Supreme Court denied states the right to exclude women from juries?
Did you know that the official flower of the suffrage movement was the sunflower? These questions were answered for me when I visited this groundbreaking exhibit at the Museum of Sonoma County.
The exhibit takes you on a journey from 1890-1920, Suffrage and the Road to Reform and continues to 1920-1049, Prosperity and Recession, Doors Opened and Doors Closed then on to 1940-1960, Wartime and Work f ollowed by 1960-1989, Breakthrough and Backlash to 1990-2020, Marching On.
As you come to the end of the experience there is an array of posters from the Women’s March 2020 and my two favorites by anonymous women are, “I march because women long ago Marched for me!” and, “Girls just want to have Fundamental human rights.”
In the same area is a film with scenes from the 2017 Women’s March that was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
You can find more info on this mach at www.Womensmarchfilm.com
As you walk through the exhibit to give you a sense of history there are many interesting displays including one of the 1950 Santa Rosa Telephone Exchange switchboards and a 1950 picture of the operators with their headsets on. While I was gathering information for the story and since I worked for the telephone company in 1956, I was able to give visitors a demonstration on how it worked.
It was amazing to find out that women were their primary workers. An interesting bit of information in the ‘50s is that women most commonly held positions as secretaries, bank tellers or clerical workers, sales clerks, private household workers and teachers. Bringing us up to date according to the last US Census, the top five jobs for women include secretary holding out at No. 1, then cashier, elementary and middle school teacher, nurse and nursing aide.
To honor the population of Asian Women in Sonoma County there is a beautiful display of Asian artifacts along with honoring Song Wong Bourbeau (1909-1906 the, daughter of Tom Wing Wong, an enterprising Canton-born man considered to be the “mayor” of Chinatown . She was a member of the Soroptimist, the American Legion Auxiliary and active in charitable causes. She was the last resident of Chinatown in Santa Rosa. The display of artifacts of her early home and clothing gives us a clear look back in time.
Sonoma County has a rich history of Native Americans and to honor their presence is a beautiful display of baskets created by Essie Parish (1902-1979) of the Kashaya Pomo of Sonoma County, She was a true trail blazer and worked tirelessly to preserve the languages and culture of her people,
Writing about and preserving history is so important and when you see the old 1920 Oliver Typewriter and a 1921 Olympia Travel Typewriter used by Sonoma County Historian Gaye Lebaron in 1960 and I could not help but flash back to when there was no white out or correction tape yet.
One of my favorite displays, and a publication that I knew very little about was the display on the comic strip, Brenda Starr one of the first comic strips written by and for women. Starr is an independent professional who exemplifies the modern woman making her a great role model for teens. In reading strips on display I could not help feel disappointed that I did not discover her when I was a young woman.
Be sure to stop in at the voting booth and fill out a special Election Ballot, “Her Story Remembered,” where you can fill out a ballot highlighting an unsung groundbreaking woman in your life. Whether they are a family member, friend, teacher, or other inspirational person who inspired you, this is a special place to honor that person.
There is so much to see and experience and would take the whole paper to tell the story and that is why I want to encourage my readers to attend, bring your friends, family and particularly the young men and women. For women it is a journey into our history and knowledge about the courage and strength of all those who shoulders we are standing on and for men not only a glimpse of history but an understand of the struggle women have gone through to gain the privileges we have today and yes we still have a long way to go.
“I’m a fifth-generation Sonoma County resident and I had never heard some of these stories before. Once you learn about these incredible women and the impact they made on our community, you see Sonoma County through a new filter and better understand how it’s all connected.” - Museum Manager
The exhibit will continue to September1 3, 2020.
The museum is located at 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa, OPEN Tuesday through Sunday 11am tp 5pm INFO: museumsc.org/sufferage-metoo
Elaine B. Holtz is co-producer /Host with Kenneth E. Norton of “Women’s Spaces” on KBBF 89.1FM Monday 11-12 noon & 11-12 midnight. Streaming on kbbf.org ,www.womensspaces.com
Please support our sponsors:
LOCAL GUIDE to Cannabis Dispensaries and Delivery Services, Sonoma County & Beyond.All dispensaries have verified their information.
Sonoma County Bike Shops and Groups. Find LOCALLY-OWNED Bicycle Shops for NEW, Used and Rental Bicycles as well as REPAIR. Look for a bike-riding group that suits your needs and style.
Find Goldsmiths and Jewelers who create custom designs, offer jewelry repair, estate appraisals, and gems.