Site  by Lynne Landwehr © 2001







A Timeline of
Women's History in
San Luis Obispo County History
compiled by Lynne Landwehr

This timeline is an ongoing project.
To suggest changes or additions,
please e-mail
lelandwehr @ yahoo.com (but with no spaces in the address)
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     Here and there in county history, one finds the name of a famous female, but most of these well-known women were only passing through, or here for short intervals. They include suffragette firebrand Susan B. Anthony, saloon-buster Carrie A. Nation, Polish war relief champion Helena Paderewski, actress Lillian Russell, Irish-born poet and patriot Ella Young, and America's first licensed female pilot, Harriet Quimby. Architect Julia Morgan designed not only Hearst Castle above San Simeon and the Monday Club building in San Luis Obispo. Photographer Dorothea Lange stopped in a Depression-era pea-pickers' camp in Nipomo just long enough to shoot the series of images of Florence Thompson and her children that would be known as the "Migrant Mother" photographs.

     But the above women lived most of their lives elsewhere. In the largely rural history of this county, where the bulk of work was physical and unrelenting, with few opportunities to shine in the public spotlight, many women toiled in obscurity, but nevertheless made lasting contributions to the county's quality of life. These women came from all points on the globe, but whether they spoke Spanish or English, Chinese or Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, or something else, they were the glue that held families together, the muscle that kept living quarters clean and civilized, and the force behind many civic improvements. 

     As opportunities evolved, more and more women joined the paid workforce and made their contributions in more public ways. The handful of women whose names are included here represent thousands and thousands of women whose lives and work were not publicly recognized, but whose contributions were nonetheless vital. What follows is a brief timeline from the Mexican period onward. 

     1830s/1840s Hispanic women such as Manuela Carlon de Branch and Maria Joséfa Carrillo de Dana arrive in county, settle on Mexican land grants
     1833 Catarina Avila Rios and husband arrive in San Miguel, where they will later build the adobe known as the Rios-Caledonia.
     1835 Angustías de la Guerra Ord visits Mission San Miguel and notes its decline: "I found not even a glass in which to drink water….All of the assets of the Mission, herds, etc., had disappeared." 
     1837 Ramona Carrillo Pacheco de Wilson receives 48,834-acre Suey rancho as Mexican land grant 
     1842 Maria Concepción Boronda receives 3,506-acre Potréro de San Luis Obispo Mexican land grant
     1846 Ramona Carrillo Pacheco de Wilson and other women of SLO pueblo confront Colonel John Charles Frémont and obtain the liberty of José de Jésus Pico
     1850 (approx.) Ramona Carrillo Pacheco de Wilson and husband build first frame house in San Luis Obispo (current site of SLO County Historical Museum)
     1866 Sarah Hays arrives in San Luis Obispo, is first English-speaking woman in the city, second in the county
     1868 New arrival Emma Smith, with her baby in her arms, is lifted by hanging wicker basket from a sailing vessel to the bluff above Cave Landing-the standard access when arriving by ship
     1876 Sisters of the Immaculate Heart arrive to teach at mission-affiliated convent school in SLO
     1876 Nellie Bromley (Latimer) makes copies of Chumash pictographs on Painted Rock in the Carrizo Plain
     1877 Rena Bell Terry begins teaching in one-room school in North County for $60 per month
     1880s/1890s Nellie Hollister Jack, on her property at 536 Marsh Street, raises young trees, especially eucalyptus and locusts, which she gives away for planting throughout the county
     1886 Jane Woods Phillips and husband move their family from SLO to Templeton to demonstrate that the newly founded town is a safe place to raise a family
     1887 Helene Goldtree and husband build home at 1212 Garden Street/SLO (currently the Garden Street Inn)
     1888 Christine Jack begins ranching on 1400 acres at head of Santa Rosa Creek in Josephine district west of Templeton
     1890s Women of Arroyo Grande stage annual Sweet Pea Fairs
     1892 Cecilia Blackburn suggests that the Paso Robles town clock to be placed at corner of 12th and Park Streets be made in an acorn shape, to reflect the acorns/oaks/robles connection of town's name
     1893 Eng Gon Ying, wife of pioneer labor contractor and merchant Ah Louis, gives birth to son Young Louis, one of first babies born to the local Chinese community
    1896  (May 12) Ordained Methodist minister, physician, temperance lecturer, woman's suffrage orator, and peace advocate Anna Howard Shaw speaks to a packed Maennerchor Hall on Marsh Street/SLO.  Her talk is sponsored by Political Equality Club and she is  introduced by Mayor E.P. Unangst.   [This information was kindly submitted by Carol McPhee Norton.]
     1896 (October 12 & 13) Women's rights champion Susan B. Anthony speaks at Maennerchor Hall under auspices of Political Equality Club [This information was kindly submitted by Carol McPhee Norton.]

     1896-1915 Dr. Sigrid Helgesen, the county's first trained female physician, practices in Templeton
     1901 (January 21) Carrie A. Nation speaks in Arroyo Grande
     1905 Jeannette Weill Sinsheimer organizes opening ceremonies of the Carnegie Library/SLO after extensive fundraising 
     1906 Mossie McHenry's millinery shop (894 Monterey Street/SLO) is the only county property damaged by shocks related to the great San Francisco earthquake
     1907 Magdalina Pinkert finds relief from her rheumatism through mineral waters at Merry Hill (Paso Robles), then bottles the water and ships it throughout the state
     1909 (Thanksgiving Day) Local chapter of Native Daughters of the Golden West dedicates Camino Real bell and marker in front of SLO Mission
     1913 Templeton Women's Civic Improvement Club founded
     1914/1915 Chumash speaker Rosario Cooper of Lopez Canyon works with anthropologist John Peabody Harrington to record phrases from her vanishing obispeño dialect of Chumash language
     1915 Mabel Lewis plans and designs much of Atascadero Colony's decorative landscaping
     1917 Mary Trejo born in Lopez Canyon; her memoirs, published 83 years later, detail a vanished way of life 
     1918 Emma C. Righter, R.N., serves as nurse with the American Expeditionary Force in World War I
     1919 Julia Morgan commences designing Hearst's estate at San Simeon
     1920 Arroyo Grande Board of Education member Clara Edwards Paulding turns her home into a hospital for influenza patients, rather than let the high school be closed and temporarily used as a hospital
     1921 Mary Gail Black is hired as reporter by SLO Daily Telegram
     1922 Francia LaDue founds Theosophists' Temple of the People in Halcyon
     1923 (April) Queenie Warden instrumental in Federated Women's Clubs of Southern California holding convention in San Luis Obispo
     1925 Monday Club (SLO) founded 
     1927 Emma C. Righter, R.N., establishes Mountain View Hospital at upper end of Marsh Street/SLO
     1927 Monday Club lobbies for construction of Sunny Acres ("Children's Retaining Home") above General Hospital; provides $3500 for lawn, trees, and benches in SLO's Mitchell Park
     1928 (approx.) Elsie Louis wins California State Spelling Bee. 
     1928 Las Amigas Women's Club founded in Morro Bay
     1928 Grace Barneberg, President of the Monday Club (SLO), enlists architect Julia Morgan to design club's building on Monterey Street
     1929 Irish-born poet Ella Young publishes The Tangle-Coated Horse, which she has written while visiting the Dunite community near Halcyon
     1930s Sisters Mitsu and Yotsu Sakamoto are among the Nisei children attending Japanese school in Pismo Beach following their regular shoolday
     1930s Mary Whitlock, R.N., serves medical needs of Morro Bay, which has no resident physician 
     1930s Marion Davies stages lavish parties at Hearst's estate above San Simeon
     1932 Take Eto is honored as Mother of the Year by Shin Nichi Bei organization of Los Angeles. 
     1934 Jane Horton (Bailey), future historian of Morro Bay, is first Poly Royal Queen
     1936 (March) Dorothea Lange takes "Migrant Mother" photographs (of Florence Thompson and children) in Nipomo
     1940s County women are active in the war effort through the Motor Corps, the Red Cross, victory gardens, sales of war bonds, scrap-metal drives, scanning for Japanese planes, recreation programs for servicemen
     1942 (March) Take Eto and her family must leave their Los Osos Valley farm in relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans to sites away from coast
     1942 Toshiko Eto, of Los Osos, a graduate of the Stanford University School of Nursing in San Francisco, accepts a position as nurse at the Manzanar Relocation Camp 
     1942 Louisiana Clayton Dart, president of Monday Club, responds to wartime labor shortage and leads volunteers in summer-long emergency harvest of local tomato fields
     1943 (December 16) Beulah Etzweiler organizes the first free weekend breakfast for servicemen staying at the Pismo Beach Army Recreational Camp; with a corps of volunteers, and later coordination by Ruth Graham and Ruth Paulding, 25,000 free breakfasts will be served
     1948 (approx.) Ethel Cooley, dean of girls at SLO High School, establishes German student exchange program to improve international understanding
     1950 San Luis Obispo Junior College teacher Margaret Maxwell assigns her art appreciation class a project involving revitalizing the center of SLO; students will design early plans for a plaza in front of SLO Mission
     1953 (approx.) Stella Louis and husband co-found Chinese Student Association at Cal Poly
     1954 Rose McKeen, Helen Peters, and other members of the  Soroptimist Club begin campaign for a plaza in front of Mission San Luis Obispo
     1954 Take Eto honored as "Mrs. Issei of the Year" by annual Los Angeles Nisei Festival
     1956 Juanita Tolle joins the Public Health Department as a field nurse; she will serve the department for 33 years, retiring as Director of Nursing Services
     1958 (December 24) Phyllis Madonna and husband greet first guests at the Madonna Inn
    1961 Kathleen Jackson Goddard Jones visits the Nipomo Dunes for the first time; from this point on she will work unceasingly with the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club to stop the proposed nuclear power plant on PG&E shoreline dunes property 
     1962 County chapter of League of Women Voters founded
1967 Under the leadership of Juanita Booth, the Cuesta College nursing program is accredited by the California State Board of Registered Nurses
     1969 Mothers for Peace founded
     1971 Local chapter of Friends Outside forms to assist wives and families of jail inmates and CMC prisoners
1972 Candidacy of Suzanne Paizis of Santa Cruz for State Senator in the district representing SLO County, awakens many San Luis Obispo County residents to women’s issues.  (Information kindly provided by Carol McPhee Norton.)
     1972  Betty Branch establishes childcare facility at “Grandmother’s House”
     1972  Maxine Lewis incorporates Grassroots II as a non-profit organization
1974 (October) Mary Gail Black and Carol McPhee Norton head a group of some 50 women in a campaign to persuade the Board of Supervisors to establish a Commission on the Status of Women  (Information kindly provided by Carol McPhee Norton.)
     1975 Women’s Resource Center founded.  (Information kindly provided by Carol McPhee Norton.)
     1975 (April)  Commission on the Status of Women is established, with Carol McPhee Norton as the first chair.  (Information kindly provided by Carol McPhee Norton.)
1977  Sjany deGroot and husband begin caring for disabled infants
1978-79 Status of Women Commissioner Anne Cruikshanks leads campaign to fund SLO County Women’s Shelter. (Information kindly provided by Carol McPhee Norton.)
1979  County’s Women’s Shelter program is started by a group of Morro Bay women who begin taking abused women into their homes
1981 Juanita Booker of Paso Robles is chosen to sing the national anthem at inauguration ceremonies for President Reagan
     1982 Ruth Brackett elected County Supervisor
     1984 Evelyn Delaney elected County Supervisor
     1989-1999 Grace Mitchell serves as President of Cuesta College
     1993 Joan Clark and husband complete Chapel Hill in Shandon
     1994 Gloria Velásquez publishes Juanita Fights the School Board, the first novel in her "Roosevelt High School" series for young adults
     1995 Jackie Jo Marlins of Atascadero is women's muzzleloading/shooting state champion 
     1996 Peg Pinard elected County Supervisor
Democrat Lois Capps is elected to the 105th Congress by special election (March 10) to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, U.S. Representative Walter Capps, and is later reelected to succeeding Congresses.
     1998 Shirley Bianchi elected County Supervisor
     1999 Marie E. Rosenwasser becomes President of Cuesta College
     2003 Dedication of Elizabeth MacQueen's statue "Iron Road Pioneers" honoring early Chinese contributions


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