LOS ALTOS, CA (May 23, 2023) – Illuminating the hardships, joys, and lives of female pioneers in California, “Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women” will appear at Los Altos History Museum from June 15 to July 23. The traveling exhibit from Exhibit Envoy features 30 first-person accounts collected from women who journeyed by land or sea to settle throughout California prior to January 1, 1854.
As preparations were being made for the commemoration of California’s Golden Jubilee in 1900, a letter printed in a San Francisco newspaper asked why “no provisions had been made for the pioneer mothers.” This spurred the Association of Pioneer Women of California to form. In a single ledger, the group collected and preserved the reminiscences of women who arrived in California before 1854. This incredible document, filled with over 800 handwritten stories of California pioneer women, is the basis for the exhibition, creating a more complete and balanced understanding of our shared history by highlighting women’s voices and experiences as they traveled to the golden state.
The ledger, however, does not represent all voices. An important section of the exhibition is comprised of 40 diverse portraits of unidentified women. These women represent the thousands of pioneers whose stories were never recorded.
“People often talk about the brave men who adventured to California in search of gold, land, and new opportunities. This exhibit brings a unique perspective on the women who brought their families to the West, often meeting up with the men later,” said Exhibits Specialist Jordan Grealish. “Bringing only the most essential items, these strong women had to make hard choices along the way, often going without food and water for the sake of the family. If their husbands died on the journey, the women needed a good amount of fortitude and resilience to make something of themselves.”
In addition to viewing the exhibition, teachers, historians, and researchers may now access the contents of the ledger online at pioneerwomen.californiapioneers.org. The digital transcriptions of each story tell the experiences of these women and their journey.
“Some described the journey as an adventure, and others as the hardest thing they had to go through in their life. It’s fascinating to read the very different experiences these women had,” said Grealish.
“Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women” was developed by the Society of California Pioneers and travels through Exhibit Envoy. Exhibit Envoy provides traveling exhibitions and professional services to museums throughout California. For more information, visit exhibitenvoy.org. For more about the Museum’s exhibit, visit losaltoshistory.org/PioneerWomen. The Museum is open Thurs-Sun, noon – 4 pm, admission free.
Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.
The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email email@example.com, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.
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Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, firstname.lastname@example.org