By Dick Carlson
The unheralded contributions made by women to San Diego’s social and cultural development over the past century cannot be easily plucked from a casual survey of the city’s history. But, fortunately there rest in the heavy files of the Title Insurance and Trust Company Historical Collection hundreds of wonderful photographs of the women in San Diego’s yesterday. The images fairly leap from those faded pictures and vibrate with character, charm and courage despite the frequent anonymity of women’s “place” in the past. Historians and others have often over-looked the contributions of women to a city’s destiny, yet it is clear that the strength of the people in the following photographs affected the parts played by all of us on today’s stage.
The early settlers of San Diego were women and men of spirit and determination. They arrived on foot, in wagons and ships after crossing treacherous plains and seas to begin life anew. In those beginning days burdens for most everyone were heavy, but they were often heaviest for women. Alongside the men they cleared the land, furrowed and sowed for planting and built the first homes. And all the while they carried San Diego’s future in their arms and in their wombs. Who were these women? What was their influence on the city’s destiny?
So many of San Diego’s women, a few celebrated but the majority long forgotten, prompted people to finally look at what counts most in human beings—simple merit. The niche of women in the city’s past was a quiet one, but it was solid and broadened with social change. Unaware of their place in a vanguard, these women broke down the barriers to excellence and fulfillment for their sex and in so doing they rerouted old paths to the pursuit of liberty and happiness. They persevered against mighty odds and their small victories really proved to be large. They created hope.