Local author Wanda Smith recently released a new book about some of the remarkable women who lived in Sonoma Valley in the mid-1800s and early-1900s.
Ladies of La Luna is a 100-page biographic and pictorial journey, with 178 photos, describing the interesting lives and accomplishments of local female basket weavers, ranchers, vintners, an abolitionist, authors, suffragists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. The book describes the major obstacles the women overcame, including poverty, male-dominated cultures, restrictive mores and laws, discrimination, epidemics, rebellions, and wars. Many of their family names — Carrillo, Vallejo, Hood, Ellen, London, Stanford, and Arnold — are still present in the names of local mountains, roads, ranches, and towns of Sonoma Valley.
Smith’s interest in history could be coded in her DNA, as many of her past relatives helped establish early American colonies, assisted in writing the U.S. Constitution, blazed a trail across the continent, established impressionist art in the United States, and fought in the Civil War and two World Wars. Smith learned of the contributions of early Indigenous women from her grandmother’s award-winning poems, compiled in her book, California Crystals. When Smith wrote Horses of the Wine Country, she discovered the role that Charmian London played in the success of her husband’s books and their Glen Ellen ranch.
After joining the 150-year-old Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club, Smith’s interest in early Sonoma Valley women expanded to those who formed the club and orchestrated its many historic contributions. Smith compiled information on them and other early notable women of the Valley of the Moon. She wrote Ladies of La Luna to ensure they would not be forgotten and with the hope that their stories would inspire current and future generations of women to achieve their goals regardless of the obstacles.
Ladies of La Luna, and some of Smith’s other books, can be purchased at the Oct. 9 book signing, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club, 574 First St., Sonoma. Books by Hilda Swartz, manager of the Friday morning Sonoma Farmers’ Market, will also be available.