You may have heard of Ellen Browning Scripps, a businesswoman known for owning a chain of newspapers and a philanthropist who established the Scripps Oceanography Institute. But, you may not have heard of Belle Benchley, the former director of the San Diego Zoo, or Ruth Alexander, a female aviation pioneer.
A new book titled, Remarkable Women of San Diego: Pioneers, Visionaries and Innovators, tells the stories of these women and 25 others who have made significant contributions to San Diego’s history.
Some of the women highlighted in the book include Luisa Moreno, who established the United Fish Cannery Workers Union during World War II and Bertha Pendleton, who was the first woman and first African American to lead San Diego schools as the superintendent.
Authors Hannah Cohen, president of the Women’s Museum of California, and Gloria Harris, a clinical psychologist, answered questions from Times of San Diego about the book:
How did you decide which women to profile?
We used several resources to start our selection of subjects. Both of us did a great amount of research, contacted people who were knowledgeable with women’s history, and worked with archivists at the Women’ Museum of California and The San Diego History Center. After we compiled names and did further vetting, we discussed the possibilities and began the process of elimination. If we disagreed, we discussed our reasons and compromised. We are very pleased with the final choices and believe they are truly remarkable women.
Were there any surprising facts about these women you discovered during your research?
Yes, so many they are too long to list. We were not familiar with many of the women in the book and learned numerous facts for the first time. And even with the women about whom we thought we knew a lot, there was certainly more we did not know. It was so satisfying to discover page after page and source after source about incredible lives these women led and how much they contributed to the culture and history of San Diego.
Who had the biggest influence or impact on San Diego?
That is not a fair question! Together they significantly contributed to our county’s development. Each had an unquestionable positive impact together they form a lasting collaborative legacy.
What message would you both like to send to those who read this book?
The value of women individually and as a gender are never to be underestimated. They are strong, intelligent, caring and ambitious. For the young women who read this book, we want them to be inspired by those who paved the way. We want them to learn that despite barriers, challenges can be overcome.
The Women’s Museum of California will host a book launch party at 2 p.m. Saturday. To RSVP, go to womensmuseumca.org.
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