Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women

Arbuckle Gallery at the Pacific Hotel (2020-2021)

Illuminating the hardships, joys, and lives of female pioneers in California, Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women features 30 first-person accounts collected from women who traveled 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.” In turn, The Association of Pioneer Women of California was formed. The group collected and preserved the reminiscences of women who arrived in California before 1854 in a single ledger. This incredible document, filled with over 800 handwritten stories of California pioneer women, is the basis for the exhibition at History San Jose. The ledger and exhibition create a more complete and balanced understanding of our shared history by highlighting women’s voices and experiences as they traveled to California.

The ledger, however, does not represent all voices. As such, an important aspect of the exhibition is the inclusion of forty diverse portraits of unidentified women. These women represent the thousands of pioneers whose stories were never recorded; each one had a story to tell which is lost to time.

Image credits Daniel Charm, History San Jose.

  • Trunk lock detail

Exhibit Partners

We would like to thank our exhibit partners and sponsors: Exhibit Envoy, Society of California Pioneers, and Robert Bettencourt.