Where Women Made History: West Coast Edition

As part of the commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the National Trust has been working to tell the full history—to uncover and uplift women across the centuries whose vision, passion, and determination have shaped the country we are today. Our goal: discover 1,000 places connected to women’s history, and elevate their stories for everyone to learn and celebrate.

Continuing the incredible stories we shared in our East Coast Edition guide, now we are highlighting five remarkable women who lived along the West Coast of the United States. Each of these women made an impact by breaking barriers and speaking up for the rights of others.

Have you encountered a place where women made history? They can be famous or unknown, protected or threatened, existing or lost. No matter their condition or status, these places matter, and we encourage you to share them with the world.

  1. Leonis Adobe, home of Espiritu Chijulla Leonis and Miguel Leonis.

    Photo By: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS CA-342

    Espiritu Chijulla Leonis — Leonis Adobe (Calabasas, California)

    Espiritu Chijulla is best remembered for the courageous legal battle she led after the death of her husband. A prominent Chumash Native American, Chijulla entered a common-law marriage with her husband, a French Basque rancho owner, in 1859. An unusual union for the time, it positioned their ranch to become one of the wealthiest and most successful in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, Chijulla’s husband died after thirty years of marriage, leaving her in a perilous situation. In his will, he referred to Chijulla not as his wife, but as his “faithful housekeeper,” leaving the majority of his estate to his French relatives. Chijulla responded by fighting to remain in their family home, demanding that the court recognize her as his wife by name and grant her a wife’s share of their assets. After sixteen years, the court awarded both to Chijulla, who died one year later, in 1906.

  2. Portrait of  Dr. Nettie Craig Asberry

    Photo By: Submitted via the Where Women Made History Campaign

    Dr. Nettie Craig Asberry (Tacoma, Washington)

    Dr. Nettie Craig Asberry, a suffragist and civil rights activist, is believed to be one of the first African American women to earn her Ph.D. She became interested in women’s suffrage while working as a secretary for Susan B. Anthony Club, whose speeches inspired her to take action. She went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, where she studied music. In 1913, after relocating to Tacoma, Washington, she founded the Tacoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In her fight for equality, Dr. Asberry protested segregation at Fort Lewis and at local venues in Tacoma. She became president of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women (one of many names by which the group is known).

  3. Exterior view of the Sharlot Hall Museum

    Photo By: Becky McCray via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Sharlot Hall (Prescott, Arizona)

    Sharlot Hall was the first woman to hold office in the Arizona Territory. She was a historian, an author, and a pivotal advocate for Arizona’s statehood. Appointed as Territorial Historian, Hall traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1925 sporting a dress fashioned out of Arizona copper. Three years later, she founded the Prescott Historical Society and the Gubernatorial Mansion Museum, the latter of which has since been renamed the Sharlot Hall Museum and is dedicated to preserving and advancing Arizona’s history and culture.

  4. View of Victoria Manalo Draves Park in San Francisco, California

    Photo By: Andrew Mager via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Victoria Manalo Draves (San Francisco, California)

    As the first woman to win springboard and platform gold medals in the 1948 Olympics, Victoria Manalo Draves is also the first female Asian American athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. Growing up in San Francisco with an English mother and a Filipino father, Draves faced a wealth of racial discrimination. She was trained separately (usually alone) from other swimmers at her local swimming and diving club, and was instructed to change her last name before competitions in order to mask her Filipino heritage. In 2006, the Victoria Manalo Draves Park (located in her hometown neighborhood) was named in her honor.

  5. Portrait of Anna May Wong in 1935

    Photo By: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

    Anna May Wong (Los Angeles, California)

    Considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star, Anna May Wong acted in a number of iconic movies in the early 20th century. These films included "The Toll of the Sea" (1922), one of the first movies to be filmed in technicolor, and "Shanghai Express" (1932), in which she starred opposite Marlene Dietrich. As an actress of Chinese descent, Wong faced an inordinate amount of discrimination during her career, often being asked to portray stereotypical Asian characters (sometimes in exchange for the promise of a more nuanced role in the future). This injustice inspired her to split her time between Los Angeles, where she was born and raised, and Europe, where she was able to star in a wider variety of roles onstage and onscreen. She ultimately returned to Los Angeles for good in the 1930s, and began to break barriers for all Asian actors. In 1951, Wong was cast as the head detective in "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong". She was 46 years old and the first Asian American to ever lead a U.S. television show. Unfortunately, her career was cut short when, in 1961, she suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 56.

Emma Peters is the marketing assistant at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A history graduate, she is constantly humbled by the way past lives and societies can alter the way we consume the present.

Every place has a woman's story to tell. Through Where Women Made History, we are identifying, honoring, and elevating places across the country where women have changed their communities and the world.

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