Series: Women's History in the Pacific West - California-Great Basin Collection

Biographies from Northern California, Central Valley, Sierra Nevada Mountains and Nevada

  • Devils Postpile National Monument

    Article 1: Genny Smith

    Woman sits on rocks in front of mountains

    Genny Smith worked tirelessly to protect the High Sierra Nevada’s natural beauty. She was a pioneering environmental activist and author who raised public awareness and organized multiple campaigns toward that end. Read more

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Article 2: Lilian Snooks

    Older woman  in peach blouse holds hand woven basket

    Lillian Bernice Snooks was at the forefront of the late-twentieth century campaign to preserve Atsugewi culture and traditions. She was part of an extended family of women who pursued this work at Lassen Volcanic Park and other sites in a concerted effort to reject the US assimilation campaigns that they had endured as children. Read more

  • Yosemite National Park

    Article 3: Shirley Sargent

    A black and white photo of woman with short hair on a bicycle, smiling

    Born on July 12, 1927 in Pasadena California, Shirley Sargent grew up to become a prolific historian of Yosemite National Park. Read more

  • Redwood National and State Parks

    Article 4: Laura Perrott Mahan

    Formal portrait of white woman in black dress with large bustle

    Laura Perrott Mahan used her prestige as a society woman to fight for the preservation of the redwood groves in Humboldt County and California in general, including in Redwood National Park. Read more

  • Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site

    Article 5: Carlotta Monterey O’Neill

    Black and white photo of woman looking up and wearing necklace

    Once an actress with abandoned dreams of joining a convent, Carlotta Monterey O’Neill collaborated with her playwright husband Eugene O’Neill on some of his most famous work during their five years in “Tao House” in Danville, California. Read more

  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area

    Article 6: LaNada War Jack

    Dr. Warjack standing next to a spray painted building with the words Red Power

    LaNada War Jack is a member of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes and a central figure in the twentieth- and twenty-first century Native American activist movements. Between 1969 and 1971, she helped to organize a nineteen-month Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island. Read more

  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Article 7: Julia Ann Shelton Shorey

    Well-to-do Black family of 5 pose for professional photo wearing fine Victorian clothing

    According to family memory, Julia Ann Shelton Shorey’s grandfather, Samuel Shelton, was brought west as an enslaved person in the 1840s and ultimately purchased his own freedom and that of his family in the new state of California. Read more

  • Devils Postpile National Monument

    Article 8: Maria Martina Labayon Aguirre

    10 people stand in front of 2-story Spanish style hotel. Sign on central door reads

    The image of the solitary Basque sheepherder passing through the Sierra Nevada presents only a partial picture of the complex social, economic, and family ties that bound the Basque community in California. While the men literally left their mark on the land through the drawings and glyphs they carved in what is now Devils Postpile National Monument, Basque women left their mark by providing cultural and social gathering sites for their communities. Read more

  • Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park

    Article 9: Betty Reid Soskin

    Women in park ranger uniform standing next to statue of Frederick Douglass

    Betty Reid Soskin is an East Bay-based civil rights activist, musician, and pioneering businesswoman. Through her work at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park, she has also become a leading spokesperson for the diverse experiences of domestic war-effort workers during World War II. Read more

  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

    Article 10: Kate Camden

    Group portrait of white family. Young, dark skinned indigenous women holds infant in background

    A Native American woman, possibly Wintu, known as Kate Camden lived and worked in the Camden household in Whiskeytown, California, during the Gold Rush. She was likely born around 1844, but her original name is not known, nor are details about her life before she worked for Charles and Philena Camden. Read more

  • César E. Chávez National Monument

    Article 11: Dolores Huerta

    Older women in black shirt with white pattern and black hair sits with her hands in lap, smiling.

    Co-founder, with César Chavez, of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta was born in 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico and grew up in Stockton, California. Her organizing and activism has focused on improving the lives and working conditions of agricultural laborers, especially among the Lantinx and Chicanx living in the United States. Read more

  • John Muir National Historic Site

    Article 12: Wanda Muir-Hanna

    Family poses on steps of Victorian home. 3 Women, seated, bearded man stands. Dog in foreground

    Wanda Muir-Hanna was one of the longest residents of the land that is now the John Muir Historic Site. She was the oldest child of Louisa “Louie” Strentzel and John Muir. Read more

  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

    Article 13: María Feliciana Arballo

    Drawing of woman with shawl wrapped around her

    María Feliciana Arballo, a 25-year-old widow of Afro-Latina descent with two small children, was one of about forty women in the Anza expedition when it began its colonizing journey from Sonora, Mexico to Alta California (upper California) in 1775. Read more

  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

    Article 14: Caro Luevanos-Garcia

    Woman smiles as she stands atop granite rock, spikey mountain ridge and blue skies in background.

    Caro Luévanos-Garcia leads by example and social media to encourage hiking and other outdoor recreation among Latinx communities, especially middle-aged and senior populations. Read more

  • Manzanar National Historic Site

    Article 15: Alice Piper

    Large group of Owens Valley Paiute in front of one-room wooden building in shrubby landscape.

    Manzanar is most frequently associated with Japanese incarceration; however, its story stretches back thousands of years as part of the homelands of the Owens Valley Paiute and other Native peoples. Just thirty-four miles from Manzanar, Alice Piper, a 15-year-old Paiute student, made history in 1924 by successfully suing the Big Pine School District to integrate their classrooms and allow Indigenous students to attend their newly built school. Read more

  • Pinnacles National Park

    Article 16: Piu-uina

    Indigenous woman with dark braids looks directly into camera

    Piu-uina came from the Chalon people, whose homeland encompasses what is now Pinnacles National Park. She lived most of her life within the Spanish mission system in California, but she also managed to pass down her Chalon identity to her descendants. Read more

  • Point Reyes National Seashore

    Article 17: Sarah Seaver Randall

    A faded portrait of man with hand on woman's shoulder, sitting for professional picture.

    Sarah Seaver Randall came to California for gold and became a prolific landowner and dairy farmer in Marin County’s Olema Valley. Following the murder of her husband William E. Randall in 1860, she raised five children alone, expanded her family’s ranch, and developed a successful model for commercial dairy sales. Read more

  • Fort Point National Historic Site

    Article 18: Mary Lange

    Artistic rendering of long room with arched ceilings and hospital beds

    Mary C. Lange served at Fort Point as the sole hospital matron, and one of few women, in the period 1861-1862 at the recently constructed brick garrison that protected Unionist San Francisco from Confederate attack by water during the US Civil War. While no military threat materialized, Lange’s work exemplifies the expanded roles women began to play in medical support during the Civil War. Read more

  • Tule Lake National Monument

    Article 19: Hana Shimozumi Iki

    Japanese woman in flouncy white dress and coiffed hair sits for studio portrait

    Born in Hawai‘i and raised in San Francisco by Anglo-American guardians, Hana Shimozumi still had to prove her “Americanness” throughout her life. As a young opera star, Shimozumi encountered frequent incredulity at her unaccented English from those who assumed she was a Japanese national. Years later she faced the ultimate assault on her American identity. During World War II she was sent to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center solely because of her Japanese ancestry. Read more

  • Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

    Article 20: Diana McDaniel

    Black woman stands at podium speaking to crowd in front of river

    The public memorialization of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine owes much to the work of Reverend Diana McDaniel, whose uncle was one of around 1,800 men who worked at Port Chicago during World War II. These men witnessed the war’s largest loss of life on the US mainland when an explosion on July 17, 1944 killed 320 men, two thirds of whom were Black Americans, and injured hundreds more. Read more

  • Great Basin National Park

    Article 21: Beatrice Rhodes

    Rough, single story log cabin with door and window in shrubby desert

    Beatrice Rhodes spent ten years (1920-30) as the steward of Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park along with her first husband. Her time there coincided with the era’s burgeoning automobile tourist industry, fueling a desire among many to explore the US West and escape the pressures of urban modernity. Rhodes’ role as an advertiser, tour guide, and even entertainer at the Lehman Caves embodied this trend to seek excitement and individuality in the rural West. Read more

  • Redwood National and State Parks

    Article 22: Lucille Vinyard

    Woman kneels in lush grass next to evergreen sapling in foggy forest

    Lucille Vinyard became known as the “Mother of Redwoods” for her environmental organizing. Her work contributed to the creation of Redwood National Park in 1968 and its subsequent expansion in 1978. The environmental movement in California traces its modern origins to the Save the Redwoods League and to the work of conservationist John Muir, tending to privilege the stories of white men while downplaying, and often ignoring, leaders like Vinyard. Read more

  • Lava Beds National Monument

    Article 23: Toby Riddle

    Native American woman with long hair, stripped shawl and beaded necklace, gazes at camera.

    Toby Riddle was a Modoc woman who served as a translator for the US Army during the Modoc War of 1872 to 1873, which took place in the ancestral homelands of the Modoc people, now part of Lava Beds National Monument. Read more