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 June 9th. 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 June 9th- October 9th, 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.