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Suffering Suffragettes!

Ashley Gardner stands inside the three-by-three-foot Women’s Hall of Fame mini-Greek temple and says three words to me as if they were Holy Scripture:

“A hundred years.”

She pauses. “Since 1911. That’s how long — that’s only how long — it’s been since we women were allowed to vote.”

That thought has never struck me before. It does now. I’m helped by the atmosphere. This is a hole in the wall of the Art Union building at 23rd and Broadway, halfway up Golden Hill, a couple of doors down from the Flying Panther Tattoo parlor. A poster stuck to the window reads “Discover a New World: Women’s History.” The sandwich board on the sidewalk shows an ancient black-and-white photograph of flowery-hatted dames in long dresses gathered in front of picket signs. “Come On In and Learn Why Women Ought to Vote,” a sign in the photograph reads.

Suffragettes in San Diego? Who were these people, these women from the time when the words from William Ross Wallace’s poem, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” were taken to mean: your place is in the home bringing up kids? Leave the running of that world to us men. Looking at those sturdy women, it also hits me that it’s largely because of them that today, in 2011, Western women have more freedom and choice and basic power than at any time in the past, oh, 3000 years. Maybe 10,000 years. It was agriculture that gave people more reliable supplies of food and, ergo, leisure time — to make war, for specialization and more narrowly defined roles, and for the domination game, where muscle preceded mind. It also hits me that women’s whole struggle to get here from there has been a sideshow for many of us males. Interesting, admirable, but no biggie. The only way I helped was in having an open mind and by not joining men’s rearguard actions in trying to keep women from joining clubs, getting jobs, being in positions where they might tell us what to do. Even so, who could resist the out-of-earshot jokes about women drivers, women wearing the pants, men being “pussy-whipped”?

Which brings me to the thought: We always talk about San Diego’s “Founding Fathers”: Juan Bandini, William Heath Davis, Alonzo Horton, John Spreckels.

Never our “Founding Mothers.”

“We women have lost so much of our history,” Lynn Schenk, lawyer and one-time congresswoman, said recently when I called to ask her why historians talk only of founding fathers. “There must have been so many who did extraordinary things, but we don’t know because unless they were an Ellen Browning Scripps or a Kate Sessions, their history wasn’t recorded. Until modern times, history has always been written by men, and women have not been included. We’ve lost the record of the founding mothers, the ones who came here by boat or stagecoach and either alongside, or singularly, helped build San Diego.”

This Women’s Museum may be the place to start righting this historical wrong. That’s why I’m here.

I enter the museum into a room filled with old photos hung on bright red walls, mannequins wearing suffragette-era dresses, an alcove filled with books on women, and a little gift shop selling women-made articles and iterations of a T-shirt with a quote by the Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

“There are so many San Diego women I admire,” says Ashley Gardner. She’s the live-wire leader of the Women’s Museum of California, recently changed from the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center, and before that, the Women’s History Reclamation Project. Gardner could pass for Julie Andrews with her vivacity, clear speech, and chiseled face. Behind her, a screen (“made possible by the generosity of councilmember Donna Frye and the Honorable Lynn Schenk”) flips the names and bios of Hall of Fame inductees, such as Madge Bradley, “Trailblazer” (each honoree gets a descriptive label), who became San Diego’s first female judge in 1953. And Alemi Daba, “Empowerer,” who, after being tortured and imprisoned in her native Ethiopia, has become a leader in San Diego’s 10,000-strong refugee community. And Jane Dumas, “Historian,” the Kumeyaay elder and teacher who helped found the American Indian Health Center. There’s “Dede” McLure, who’s been speaking up for women, African-Americans, and other minorities for 30 years. And Tanja Winter, who’s been out there on the streets, agitating for peace and nuclear disarmament (remember when we cared about that?) since she escaped as a child from Nazi Germany. Or how about Madame Tingley, the Theosophist who set up a lavish utopian colony on Point Loma in 1897 and was soon housing war orphans from Cuba, partly to “promote a better understanding of world cultures.” Or Amy Strong, the seamstress who made a fortune sewing the latest European fashions for San Diego’s matrons and retired on the profits to her “castle” in Lakeside. Or Margaret Robinson, who was African-American and married Albert Robinson, an ex-slave, and together they created the Robinson Hotel up in Julian — still prospering, the oldest continuously operated hotel in Southern California; Margaret was much-loved in the Julian community — and this was the redneck gold country of the 1870s, 1880s.

Women, all women… except who has heard tell of them, heard any one of them mentioned in the same breath as Alonzo E. Horton and John D. Spreckels?

Ms. Gardner can see I’m starting to get lost in this whirlwind of candidates. “Certainly, women in San Diego with drive and ideas were less constrained by tradition than, say, back East,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean they weren’t suppressed. I think of founding mothers as women who nudged, just a little, the direction we as a city have taken. Call it the ‘trim-tab effect.’ Buckminster Fuller made that concept famous. You don’t have to cause violent turns, just nudge your society into a better direction. We have an amazingly high caliber of women who have helped lay down good roots in this town.”

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Comments

MrsKramer Feb. 3, 2011 @ 5:26 a.m.

Another saying: "Absolute power corrupts." I am sorry to report that your friend & pioneer of women's rights of equal employment, Judy McConnell, has become corrupted and is now part of the Good Ole Boy network.

She has the blood of many innocent children on her hands by becoming a puppet for the US Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry. Judy forgot the laws along the way that perjury in strategic litigation to silence mothers of sick children is still criminal, even if one has written policy for the US Chamber.

Judy forgot that you can't deem a Ca citizen guilty of libel, while not being able to cite evidence of them being impeached as to the subjective belief in the validity of their words.

Check out App Ct records Case No. D054496 & cross reference against what Judy and her fellow judiciaries have written as Opinion,to see just how misbehaved your friend Judy, Chair of the California Commission on Judicial Performance, has become. You will find history making stealth case law that interests of the US Chamber supercede all laws.

I am published in a medical journal regarding what your friend, Judy, would like to see me gagged from writing & her aiding of it. http://freepdfhosting.com/377df5aa08.pdf

IJOEH, 9/07 "In the spring of 2003, Veritox, a risk-management company that provides defense testimony in mold litigation, and of which two of the authors of the JOEM article are principals, was paid $40,000 by the Manhattan Institute to convert the ACOEM Statement on Mold into a “lay translation” to be shared through the United States Chamber of Commerce with stakeholder industries..The authors unfairly presented the essence of the mold controversy as, “Thus the notion that ‘toxic mold’ is an insidious secret ‘killer’ as so many media reports and trial lawyers would claim is ‘junk science’ unsupported by actual scientific study.”

I was able to get a Federal GAO audit of fraud in policy that your friend, Judy, has aided in an insurer fraud cost shifting scheme. http://freepdfhosting.com/49717ac6af.pdf

Even sister pioneer judges are dying while Judy plays politics with the courts and tries to choke my whistle. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/01/31/attorneys-claims-dangerous-levels-of-mold-in-broward-courthouse/

The authors of US Chamber mold statement are seeking an injunctive relief that I be gagged from writing of the fraud of the US Chamber and how it is connected to policy. Coincidentally, this would also gag me from writing of Judy's role in aiding fraud. Well behaved women rarely make history...nor do the save thousands of lives by stopping corrupt judges like your friend, Judy. http://freepdfhosting.com/71a20b8643.pdf

The truth about Judy & her role in aiding insurer fraud adverse to the public's best interest. http://katysexposure.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/truth-out-sharon-kramer-letter-to-andrew-saxon-mold-issue/

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MrsKramer Feb. 3, 2011 @ 3:03 p.m.

My apologies for redundancy. This link works to the above documents referenced. If it doesn't in this final post, just search "Katy's Exposure Well-Behaved Women"

Katy's Exposure Blog Re: This Article.

"Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History & Not Well-Behaved Women Who Become Judicial Puppets Of The US Chamber of Commerce Need To Be Stopped"

http://katysexposure.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/well-behaved-women-rarely-make-history-not-well-behaved-women-who-become-judicial-puppets-of-the-us-chamber-of-commerce-need-to-be-stopped/

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Visduh Feb. 7, 2011 @ 9:03 p.m.

I think the point of the cover story was to illustrate the extensive changes that women have experienced in the past four decades. That story of the shall-we-call it "integration" of the Grant Grill has been told many times. Seems to me that a couple other young women were part of the story, one of whom was named Kay Jarvis, later Kay Jarvis Prokopf, who wrote restaurant reviews for the late and unlamented Evening Tribune. 1969 was the watershed year for the gender equality movement, or call it feminism if you prefer.

The notion that the city's power lunch gathering spot was excluding women as recently as about 40 years ago seems at least mildly outrageous now. That's especially true when you realize that they were excluding young professionals, the sort of clientele that such places now covet. The Grill would love to pack its tables with all such women now, but sadly that will never happen. The Grill lost its grip shortly thereafter as the "in" spot of in spots when Tambo de Oro came along in downtown, and Lubach's gained the upper hand. Isn't it curious to note that neither of those exists?

The comments about our local "Judge Judy" are a bit out of place. I agree that she's made some really dumb decisions over the years and should just resign or retire, and should have done that twenty years ago. But that frontal assault on her judicial record belongs in a forum where the readers might be sympathetic. Judy is just a footnote to the story, not the central character.

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MrsKramer Feb. 18, 2011 @ 7 a.m.

Dear Visdah,

I would have to disagree with your comment that comments regarding "Judge Judy's" recent misbehavior making recent history do not belong attached to this article. This historical article is of the origin of how the San Diego Good Ole Boys Club became the San Diego Good Old Boys and Girls Club. It seems to promote that what was done by some misbaving women 40 years ago should be viewed in a positive light.

But when you read the story and are aware of some recent history, the article details how the future antics of the misbehaving women could have been predicted as status quo for forty years and nothing for women to be proud of in history.

What it says is, some women with law degrees in the seventies walked into a restaurant in downtown San Diego, bluffed and intimidated a poor little a matrie d' by citing known irrelevant case law from New York and used this known irrelevant case law to demand a spot at the table of the Good Ole Boys Club. This was the birth of the SD Lawyers Club. Nice!

There is nothing terribly funny or anything to be proud of for women in that scenario. If anything, it illustrates the motivation and goals of the women with law degrees who did not set out to make the legal profession, professional. They merely set out to add a couple of more chairs to the table of politics and power grabs in our local legal and judicial system.

The reason one studies history is so past mistakes are not repeated in the future. Forty years later, Judge Judy's continued misbehavior making recent history is current living proof that this was the original goal. And THAT is the history lesson to be learned from this article for women in the legal profession in San Diego.

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Visduh Feb. 18, 2011 @ 8:28 a.m.

Well, now that you've elaborated on your reasons for your comments, it is clear that you have a point. BTW, if you reread my comment you'll see that I wasn't defending the judge at all. I did just the opposite. I'm no great fan of Lynn Schenk either.

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