Hardly Helpless.

You know that old western stereotype of the hapless barmaid waiting around a dusty saloon for an brave cowboy or lawman to rescue her. Take care of her. Make her an honest woman. Not so in California. In reality, California women weren't waiting around for a man, but were working to build the fast-growing society of the West. They were fiercely independent. Powerful. Far from hapless. ​And h​ardly helpless.​ The roots of California women go deep, growing out of the social, economic, and political climate upon statehood in 1850.​ SHE IS CALIFORNIA tells herstory.

Gender Imbalance

The gold rush brought 300,000 people to California between 1849 and 1855. Only 1 woman for every 20 men. This lopsided gender ratio did more than make women a scarce commodity—it made them powerful. Gave them choices, both in work and in relationships. A man desperate for a woman's company had to work hard to win her over.​ ​

Laws Giving Women Freedom

When nearly every other state in America (and the world) had laws restricting women's rights, the California Constitution of 1850 and local county laws freed women from constraint. Influenced by Spanish law instead of American or British law, women were granted property, custody, and divorce rights. As a free state, without the slave labor of the South or the rigid class structure of the East, the California economy gave woman enormous opportunity to work. Away from family and freed from expectations and traditions, many women redefined their roles, grabbing independence and power. They helped build California, opening businesses, running ranches and farms, practicing law and medicine, designing buildings, operating printing presses, managing restaurants, cooking meals, owning hotels, and painting and writing about the West. They were civic leaders, wives, mothers, and friends.

Do you know of a remarkable women in California history to include on the site. Post your suggestions below:

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California State Seal

Hardly Helpless.

You know that old western stereotype of the hapless barmaid waiting around a dusty saloon for an brave cowboy or lawman to rescue her. Take care of her. Make her an honest woman. Not so in California. In reality, California women weren't waiting around for a man, but were working to build the fast-growing society of the West. They were fiercely independent. Powerful. Far from hapless. ​And h​ardly helpless.​ The roots of California women go deep, growing out of the social, economic, and political climate upon statehood in 1850.​ SHE IS CALIFORNIA tells herstory.

Wendy M. Voorsanger She is Calififornia

Gender Imbalance

The gold rush brought 300,000 people to California between 1849 and 1855. Only 1 woman for every 20 men. This lopsided gender ratio did more than make women a scarce commodity—it made them powerful. Gave them choices, both in work and in relationships. A man desperate for a woman's company had to work hard to win her over.​ ​

Wendy M. Voorsanger She is Calififornia

Laws Giving Women Freedom

When nearly every other state in America (and the world) had laws restricting women's rights, the California Constitution of 1850 and local county laws freed women from constraint. Influenced by Spanish law instead of American or British law, women were granted property, custody, and divorce rights. As a free state, without the slave labor of the South or the rigid class structure of the East, the California economy gave woman enormous opportunity to work. Away from family and freed from expectations and traditions, many women redefined their roles, grabbing independence and power. They helped build California, opening businesses, running ranches and farms, practicing law and medicine, designing buildings, operating printing presses, managing restaurants, cooking meals, owning hotels, and painting and writing about the West. They were civic leaders, wives, mothers, and friends.

Wendy M. Voorsanger She is Calififornia

Do you know of a remarkable women in California history to include on the site. Post your suggestions below:

Please enter a message.

California State Seal