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Ladies to the Rescue
By Lynda Chittenden with research provided by Melissa Kurtz
In 1914 our Founder, Laura Lyon White, then California’s foremost club woman, audaciously proclaimed, “Clubs in their infinite variety have done more for the advancement of women intellectually, morally and physically than any other agency known to civilization.”
Really? At first I was skeptical, labeling her pronouncement just Progressive Era hyperbole. But after two years of Covid-caused isolation which allowed me to dive into a wealth of archival materials, I became a believer. The result? Ladies to the Rescue which, as the subtitle says, is a book which tells The Remarkable Story of the Women of the Outdoor Art Club who Shaped the town of Mill Valley.
In 1902 what was this town like? With no history of activism, what caused a group of local women to organize? They couldn’t vote, so how did they influence Town Trustees? How did this group fund and build a clubhouse in only two years? Once they had a clubhouse, why did their “home” become the town’s cultural center? Who were these women as individuals? What were the life experiences of some that compelled them to step out from their domestic worlds into public life? Why should we remember them? Are their voices relevant to us today? Curious?
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About the Author: Lynda Chittenden became an OAC member after 30 years of teaching in the Mill Valley School District. She says writing the book, Ladies to the Rescue, was similar to what she loved about the classroom — the joy of taking a chunk of fascinating, important information and making it accessible to students. When not busy learning something new, she probably is busy being Cody Chittenden’s Nana. Lynda’s previous works were written for teachers and published either by UC Berkeley’s Bay Area Writing Project or Boynton Cook Publishers.
About the Researcher: Melissa Kurtz began learning about local history as a docent in the Mill Valley Public Library’s History Room and serving on the Board of the Historical Society. When she joined the OAC, she volunteered to work in the OAC’s Archives, soon finding it a treasure trove with 120 years of historical documents. She has been Archive Chair for five years. Her 40-year experience in database development combined with a desire to understand how things came to be led to her insatiable appetite for finding outside sources of original documents that help tell the story of the OAC and its town, Mill Valley CA.
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