“From Suffrage to #Me Too” opens with museum’s tribute to local women
By Jackie Reinhardt
Dale Messick, artist for the “Brenda Starr, Reporter” comic strip and Oakmont Gardens resident for many years before her death, is among 17 women recognized in a groundbreaking exhibition opening Jan. 25 at the Sonoma County Museum for Art and History.
Commemorating the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, the exhibition – “From Suffrage to #Me Too” – highlights remarkable women in Sonoma County who have broken through barriers in science, business, education, politics, law and other fields.
Besides Messick, the first syndicated female cartoonist, the exhibition also recognizes Frances McGaughey Martin, the first woman elected to office in the county in 1886 and local suffrage campaign leader; Essie Parrish, Kashia Pomo leader; Mary Ellen Pleasant, abolitionist; Augusta Metzger, business owner and philanthropist; Song Wong Bourbeau, prolific philanthropist who shared her family treasures as a reminder of Santa Rosa’s former Chinatown; Hansel Mieth, first female Life photographer; May Grace, founder of the Santa Rosa unit of American Women’s Voluntary Services; Alice Gray, an NAACP founder; Molly MacGregor, National Women’s History Project founder; Helen Rudee, the first woman elected to the County Board of Supervisors; Alicia Sanchez, immigrant labor organizer; former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey; Judy Sakai, SSU president; and Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County District Attorney.
Oakmont residents and others are invited to attend the opening reception on Friday, Jan. 24, between 5 and 7 p.m. for a special senior rate of $7, according to Susan Bercu, who is collaborating with Museum Curator Eric Stanley and Board Member Staci Patis on a room dedicated to anonymous suffragettes in Sonoma County. People will be able to submit snippets of stories and photos interactively, said Bercu, an Oakmont artist and avid museum-goer.
“The story of suffrage to #MeToo is important because it reveals an underlying reality: that suffrage was a great victory, but the issue of women’s rights and inclusion remains unfinished business,” said Stanley. “I hope visitors come away both inspired with the stories of women highlighted and impressed with the long march toward rights and inclusion.”
The exhibition is part of a yearlong celebration presented in coordination with the Sonoma County Library, the National Women’s History Alliance and the Sonoma County 2020 Women’s Suffrage Project. Admission is free to members, $10 prepaid and $15 at the door.
Located in downtown Santa Rosa on 7th Street between A and B Streets, the Museum of Sonoma County has its own history, having begun as the Santa Rosa Post Office and moved to its current location in 1975. The Museum’s board officers are all female.