Exhibition highlighting California pioneer women opens this week
Traveling exhibition features 30 first-person accounts from women who traveled by land or sea to settle throughout California
– A new museum exhibition illuminating the hardships, joys, and lives of female pioneers in nineteenth-century California will open at the Spooner Ranch House in Montaña de Oro State Park on Thursday. The exhibition, titled “Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women,” is sponsored by the Central Coast State Parks Association and will be available to view from Thursday to Oct. 9, 2022. The traveling exhibition features 30 first-person accounts collected from women who traveled by land or sea to settle throughout California during the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1900, The Association of Pioneer Women of California formed and collected the reminiscences of women who arrived in California before 1854 into a single ledger. This document, filled with over 800 handwritten stories of California pioneer women, is the basis for this exhibition. While many historical accounts of nineteenth-century California highlight male homesteaders and gold rush miners, these stories don’t provide a complete picture of life in the West. Together, this ledger and exhibition create a more balanced understanding of this history by highlighting the voices and stories of women who made California their home.
The ledger, however, does not represent all the women who came to California, as so many of them did not leave written records behind. An important section of the exhibit consists of forty diverse portraits of unidentified women. These women represent the thousands of pioneers whose stories were lost to time and never recorded.
An exhibition launch event will take place on Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the Spooner Ranch House. Sponsored by the Central Coast State Parks Association, this event will include guided tours of the new exhibition, appetizers, refreshments, and the acoustic folk music of Miss Leo and Her Bluegrass Boys. A lifelong California native, Miss Leo’s songs are “inspired by the natural treasures of her homeland intertwined with authentic melodies of decades past.” This event is free and open to the public. Following the launch event, the exhibition can be viewed at the Spooner Ranch House during open hours, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week.
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 www.exhibitenvoy.org.