Collections Spotlight: Essie Parrish

November 22, 2021

Eric Stanley, Associate Director and History Curator

Essie Parrish was the spiritual leader of Sonoma County’s Kashaya Pomo who preserved the language and culture of her people. She raised 13 children, managed an apple cannery, was an accomplished basket weaver and, for many decades, provided spiritual focus for her people.


Essie Parrish in front of the Kashaya Roundhouse, 1963


Parrish- her Kashaya name was Pewoya- was born in 1902, on a ranch north of Fort Ross, seven miles inland. Many Native Americans made their home on the ranch and worked as farm laborers until 1920, when the federal government bought 42 acres on Skaggs Springs Road to establish the Kashaya Reservation.

Throughout her life, Parrish used her power to unify her people. She was the acknowledged center of the community, recognized as the last of four promised leaders sent to guide the Kashaya. After marrying Sidney Parrish, a Point Arena Pomo, she lived in Graton and Windsor, but always considered the Kashaya Reservation her home.

It became her mission to educate the Kashaya children in their language, culture, and laws. She compiled a Kashaya Pomo dictionary, working with Robert Oswalt, a Berkeley scholar in the field of Native American linguistics.


Essie Parrish (foreground) and Mabel McKay doing a weaving demonstration at the 1967 Valley of the Moon Festival

During World War II, the reservation emptied as families moved to the valleys for work in the orchards and hop fields. Essie and Sidney Parrish and their family moved to Sebastopol to the Barlow apple ranch, returning to the Stewart’s Point Rancheria each weekend, as gas rationing allowed.

After the war, Parrish broke precedent by opening the tribe’s ceremonial roundhouse to outsiders for the annual White Deer Dance and Strawberry Festival, bringing hundreds of visitors. She was there to greet Robert Kennedy when he came in 1968 on a fact-finding trip. Essie escorted him to the roundhouse and made him a gift of one of her baskets.

Parrish died in 1979 and is buried at the reservation- where the ceremonial roundhouse was locked upon her death, awaiting another “dreamer” to take her place.


Three baskets made by Essie Parrish.


The Museum of Sonoma County maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects, including several of Essie Parish's baskets. Her work was recently featured in the exhibition "From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County." 

More About MSC's Collection:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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Collections Spotlight: Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change

June 22, 2021

Eric Stanley, Associate Director and History Curator

June is Pride Month, celebrating victories in the LGBTQ rights movement. This June also marks 40 years since the CDC reported the first cases of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The story of the unlikely duo of Dennis Peron and “Brownie Mary” is an important part of the story of compassion and determination during the AIDS epidemic, a dark time in the LGBTQ community.

Mary Rathbun and Dennis Peron attending a Pride Parade, ca. 1995

Dennis Peron was a Vietnam veteran who arrived in San Francisco in the late 1960s. A friend and associate of Harvey Milk, Dennis Peron is known today as “The Father of Medical Cannabis.” He had been active in both San Francisco’s gay and underground cannabis communities for years when the AIDS epidemic struck. He also had deep connections to the Russian River community in Sonoma County. After he was arrested in 1990 over possession of marijuana for his ill partner, who was dying of AIDS, Peron decided to fight to change laws in California. He first helped pass San Francisco’s Proposition P in 1991, which allowed doctors in the city to recommend medical marijuana to patients.


Peron also founded California’s first medical cannabis dispensary, the San Francisco Buyers Club, in 1992. One of his partners there was a 70-year-old volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital, named Mary Rathbun. She had gained notoriety for baking cannabis brownies for AIDS patients.


Running afoul of the law several times, Mary’s third arrest took place in Cazadero in Sonoma County, where she was making brownies for patients. Dennis Peron recognized a public relations opportunity when he saw one and helped leverage attention on “Brownie Mary” to advance the cause of compassion for those suffering from AIDS.


One of the products of this unlikely duo is this 1993 edition of Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change now in the collection of the Museum of Sonoma County.

Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change, 1993



The Museum of Sonoma County maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects, documenting the region's rich history and celebrating local artists.

More About MSC's Collection:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

Behind the Scenes with Exhibitions, Programs, and Facilities Manager, Jon Del Buono

April 19, 2021

We know, his title is a mouthful (we're working on it). But behind everything that happens at MSC, you'll find Jon Del Buono. After more than 4 years at the Museum, let's hear more about his favorite projects, what challenges he faced in 2020, and what he's looking forward to.


Tell us about yourself and why you wanted to work in a museum

I have worked at the Museum of Sonoma County twice now. In 2015, I left MSC to attend graduate school. After receiving my master’s in history from the University of Montana, I moved back to Sonoma county. I rejoined the MSC team in 2018. I live in Santa Rosa with my wife, daughter, cat, and dog.

The reason I want to work in a museum is because I love learning and figuring out ways to make history compelling. For a while, I thought I would get a PhD and work in academia, but with the way humanities are being cut and the general lack of interest at most institutions to make history accessible to the public, I felt I needed to find a different path. I figured working in a museum would be a great fit for me since the goal of any good museum should be to make the humanities accessible to all.

Jon highlights a disappearing painting in an MSC April Fool's photo.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There are very few typical days for me because I wear different hats. I always have something new to work on. One week I am focused on installing a new exhibition and the next I am working to get a broken HVAC system up and running. And maybe the week after that I am focused on organizing a panel discussion or book talk. And sometimes I am doing all of these in the same week. Right now, because the museum is preparing to reopen the full campus, I am focused on installing multiple exhibitions in the historic Post Office building.

Jon installing the clock hand from the old Santa Rosa courthouse in the 2018 exhibition, Lost Santa Rosa.

What have been your favorite MSC memories, exhibitions, or projects?

My favorite exhibition is always the one I just finished installing. It is such a great feeling to see a project I have been working on for months finished and on the wall. But if I had to pick a few favorite exhibitions, it would be Slang Aesthetics: Robert Williams (2015), Kinetics: Art in Motion (2019), and Hole in the Head: The Battle for Bodega Bay (2014). Robert Williams, because he is a legend in the art and comic world and I got the opportunity to visit the Zap Comics headquarters in San Francisco. That place is museum to the odd and the strange: such a cool experience. Kinetics because it brought in so many new people to the Museum, plus you got to interact with the art and it is always fun when you get to touch the art. It feels like you are getting away with something. And Hole in the Head because I learned so much about the county that I have called home for most my life.

One of my favorite projects was organizing the Hot Rod Street Party we put on for the opening of the Robert Williams exhibition. It was something so different and it felt good to see the community show up and support us.

Robert Williams leads a tour of his 2015 Slang Aesthetics exhibition.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020?

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make engaging virtual programs and exhibitions. You do not get the same type of feedback you normally get from live events. With virtual programing, you still put in long hours to put it together, then you put it online and wait for clicks or comments. It is not the same as interacting with guests at an opening reception or live event. The other big challenge was keeping the facilities operational while everyone was working from home. At one point, each building had some maintenance issue that needed my attention. And at the same time, I was taking over organizing the public programs/education department. Another challenge was staying motivated while we could not be open. So much of the museum experience is seeing things in-person. I love walking the galleries and overhearing visitors talk about something they learned or a piece of art that really moved them. But it is nice to know that we are finally moving towards reopening all our galleries to the public.

Jon and MSC staff at the 2020 Women's March at Old Courthouse Square.

What projects are you excited about?

There are a few projects I am excited about right now. We are collaborating with a group of local artists to bring the Portal Service that was Downtown into the Post Office side gallery, which I think is very fitting. I am also working on converting the large side gallery in the Post Office into a permanent exhibition that highlights famous mid-century artists that called Sonoma County home. This is part of a larger project to reconfigure our galley spaces so we can have longer-running/permanent exhibitions that show off parts of our collection that do not make it out of storage often. The biggest, and perhaps the most exciting, project that has come out of this is the conversion of our upstairs mezzanine gallery into a permanent Sonoma County history exhibition (Sonoma County Stories). I do not want to say too much about this yet, but what we have coming in the next year or so is exciting and I think the community will love it.

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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Collections Spotlight: Elizabeth Hoen’s Watercolor

March 22, 2021

Megan Kane, Collections Manager

As we make our way through Women’s History Month and learn more and more about the inspirational women of the past, let us learn a little bit about a groundbreaking woman in the Museum’s collection. Here at the Museum of Sonoma County, the very first painting that was cataloged into our collection was in fact by a woman! This small watercolor, only 5.5 by 3.25 inches, is by Santa Rosa-born artist Elizabeth Hoen and was painted in 1908.

Elizabeth Hoen, Untitled, 1908, watercolor on paper, gift of Sonoma County Historical Society, 1984

Elizabeth Hoen is not only the first painter to have their work cataloged into the Museum’s collection, but she was also a prolific artist in California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and maintained a studio during a period when California art was largely dominated by men. Hoen was born in Santa Rosa, in 1868 or 1869. She was from an important family in early Sonoma County history. Her father, Berthold Hoen, purchased land from the Carrillo family that would one day be downtown Santa Rosa and assisted in laying out the original plan for the city of Santa Rosa. Hoen studied art with another prominent California-born artist, Lorenzo P. Latimer. As an artist, Hoen worked primarily in watercolor and painted landscapes, very often of Sonoma County. She had a studio in Los Angeles and worked from the 1890s through at least the 1910s. Hoen died in Santa Rosa in 1955.

This painting is a classic Hoen watercolor landscape, almost in miniature. We do not know where it was painted, but it could definitely be a Sonoma County landscape! It was gifted to the Sonoma County Historical Society by Mrs. Walter Nagel in 1963 and was part of the original founding collection of the Museum. The Museum has eight watercolors by Elizabeth Hoen in its collection today. Two of them are currently on display, including the first one, in our “35: Thirty-Five Artists for Thirty-Five Years” exhibition, and two additional Hoen watercolors were featured in “Landscape: Awe to Activism” in 2020.

(Clockwise from top left): Elizabeth Hoen, Along the Russian River, 1908, watercolor, gift of Grace Codding Cummings; Elizabeth Hoen, Untitled, 1908, watercolor on paper, gift of Sonoma County Historical Society, 1984; Elizabeth Hoen, Redwood Scene, 1908, watercolor, gift of Grace Codding Cummings

Today, the Museum of Sonoma County is working very hard to diversify its art collection, to include the work of all genders and artists of color and to ensure that its collection reflects the wonderfully diverse community of Sonoma County. While these efforts are ongoing, it is nice to look back and to know that at the very beginning, in the Museum’s founding collection, the work of a woman artist was valued and included as the first painting in our collection.

The Museum of Sonoma County maintains a permanent collection of over 18,000 objects, documenting the region's rich history and celebrating local artists.

More About MSC's Collection:

View "35:Thirty-Five Artists for Thirty-Five Years" Exhibition:

View "Landscape: Awe to Activism" Exhibition:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

Paid, Unpaid... Women's Work Visualized in Sculptures by Sawyer Rose

March 22, 2021

Karen Gutfreund, Guest Curator of Agency: Feminist Art and Power

We’ve now passed over a year in shutdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. While there is light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines becoming available, it’s hard to capture the scope and impact it has had on our lives, particularly for the caregivers who are primarily women. While writing this blog, thinking of feminist art and intersections in our daily lives, a Beatles song keeps popping up, “Places I'll remember, all my life though some have changed, some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain.”

This past pandemic year has seemed a blur with one day easing into the next. The lockdown had not changed as much for me as I quietly work away at curating exhibitions and my own art in a new location with my small family bubble. But this is not the case for so many women in the United States and globally. The work/life/home burden(s) for women were magnified tenfold during this time. The work of Sawyer Rose captures this imbalance perfectly, reflecting not just the past year but from years of systemic expectations for the role of women in society.

Sawyer Rose, Amira, 2017, Faux leather, wire, thread, silver solder, acrylic and Archival pigment print, Edition of 3, 72 x 180 x 96 inches and 36 x 24 inches

The life/work imbalance makes me think of the prevalent, stereotypical gender norms and expectations that still affect women both in the workplace and home. To raise awareness during Women’s History Month, I wanted to reflect on the important and beautiful work of Sawyer Rose that addresses gender work inequities. Her work Amira will be in the upcoming exhibition Agency: Feminist Art and Power, curated by me, opening in January 2022.

Sawyer Rose is a sculptor, installation, and social practice artist. Born and raised in North Carolina and a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, she currently lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout her career, Rose has used her artwork to shine a spotlight on contemporary social and ecological issues. The work with the Carrying Stones Project addresses women’s work. She uses art and data visualization to show the inequities that women in our society live with regarding paid and unpaid labor.

Sawyer Rose

Rose explores this double burden carried by women who have paid jobs but are also responsible for most of the home/domestic labor. The works are data visualizations created from information gathered from women who tracked the hours they spend on paid, unpaid work and leisure time. These works are personal narratives of women of diverse ages, ethnicities, working roles, and socio-economic statuses. Rose uses this unique combination of art and science to portray these findings, manifesting into large-scale installations. Her art tells a story that helps the viewer better understand the vast number of work hours each woman clocks in. Rose completes these stories by photographing the woman lifting and carrying her unique sculpture, bearing the burden of her hours in a real and physical way.

Sawyer Rose, Amira, 2017, Faux leather, wire, thread, silver solder, acrylic and Archival pigment print, Edition of 3, 72 x 180 x 96 inches and 36 x 24 inches

And the assigned value of this unpaid work is quite high. In 2016, Benjamin Bridgman at the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that if this value was included in national accounts, it would increase U.S. GDP by almost 4 trillion dollars, or 23%. This figure is astounding and shines a light on the importance of recognizing and addressing this issue. Rose’s art is significant because it helps us to illuminate the degree and amount of invisible labor that is managed by women, in lieu of them pursuing their own careers as freely as men in our gendered society.

Sawyer Rose says, “Before Covid-19, data shows that mothers who also had jobs outside of the home were shouldering 35 hours of unpaid domestic labor per week. But then during the pandemic, those same women are now averaging 65 hours per week on household tasks and childcare on top of their paid work. Additionally, women who earn less have fewer backup options as schools and care facilities remain closed.”

Statistically, in the U.S., women average more than four hours of unpaid labor in their homes and their communities each day. American women are doing almost twice as much cooking, cleaning, caring, and volunteer work as men, even if they are working full-time jobs.

In looking at this pattern through a wider lens, these extra burdens shouldered by women with the result is setting back overall progress on gender equity in the workplace. In response to the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, one in four US women are considering downsizing their careers or even leaving the workforce altogether, due to unshared domestic responsibilities. 25% of women--that is a staggering number!

This is not happening to men at the same time.

“No matter how far today’s women ‘Lean In,’ it’s hard to be the CEO when they are also the head chef, janitor, and caregiver,” says Sawyer Rose.

Rose’s goal in creating this work is to build bridges of understanding for those that may have never thought about these issues before. New work in progress will reflect on women in academia, mothers with children with disabilities, and women with family members that are incarcerated. She says, “The individual stories may not represent your life or your current situation, but they definitely depict the lives of many women you know and love, women who work with you or for you.”

She also has created a series of wall works that uses this data visualization to help explain some of the most hotly debated current labor issues: the gender pay gap and unequal representation of women in leadership positions.

Currently, women in the U.S. earn 81 cents for every dollar men make. This is the raw pay gap, which looks at the median salary for all men and women regardless of job type or worker seniority, but the disparity in pay widens for minorities. Black women, for example, earn 61 cents for every dollar that their White male counterparts are paid, the pay for Hispanic women is even lower.

Always optimistic and positive, Rose says “The good news, though, is that everyone can reap the benefits of a gender-equitable workforce: increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more profitable businesses, and healthier, happier partners and children.” She is working with lawmakers to address these issues of unequal pay and our system of caregiving in the US.

I cannot wait for Agency to open and to be able to share this powerful exhibition with the community. I look forward to celebrating Sawyer’s visually beautiful and eloquent work and her vision, telling important stories that benefit us all.


More about Sawyer Rose:

More about Agency: Feminist Art and Power:


About Karen Gutfreund

Karen Gutfreund has lived in all four corners of the United States but has now settled in the Bay Area in California from New York City. She has worked in the Painting & Sculpture Department for MoMA, Andre Emmerick Gallery, The Knoll Group, John Berggruen Gallery, and the Pacific Art League. She specializes in creating exhibitions in venues around the U.S. on themes of feminism and “art as activism” to stimulate dialog, raise consciousness, and encourage social change. Karen has been actively involved on the board of various arts organizations, is a member of ArtTable, and serves as the Northern California Representative for TFAP (The Feminist Art Project), and a partner in Gutfreund Cornett Art. Karen is also an artist, specializing in text-based activist/messaging art. She actively promotes the work of other artists as a curator with national touring exhibitions. Gutfreund resides in Windsor, California, with her family and is also building a ranch outside of Yosemite where she plans to host artist residencies.

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

Velocipede Spotlight: A Look Back at Cycling in Sonoma County

January 18, 2021

Jenny Bath, Education and Volunteer Coordinator
Eric Stanley, Associate Director and Curator of History

Jon Lacaillade
Model of c. 1870 Velocipede
Currently featured in the 2020 Artistry in Wood exhibition

"Justifiably referred to as 'boneshakers,' the earliest versions were made entirely of wood. Many variations of boneshakers were manufactured in the late 1860s and early 1870s. This model in oak sourced from a locally grown tree incorporates some of the earliest improvements in one piece." – Jon Lacaillade

In 2011, the Museum held an exhibition which explored the history and culture surrounding bicycles from the earliest Draisienne or “running machine,” to today’s high tech mountain bikes and everything in between, with a focus on Sonoma County, of course. Inspired by Jon Lacaillade’s velocipede in the 2020 Artistry in Wood exhibition, let’s take a look back at Sonoma County’s biking history with stories and images from the exhibition Customized: The Art and History of the Bicycle.

The velocipede (Latin for “fast foot”) was first created by Pierre Lallement in the 1860s. This was the first bicycle of its kind to include the pedals, which allowed bikes to operate in a much quicker and more efficient manner than the earlier models, which were propelled by the rider's feet striking the ground. Though these particular models were said to be incredibly uncomfortable (the combination of their wooden or iron wheels and cobblestone streets gave them the nickname “boneshakers”), they quickly launched a worldwide obsession.

Geroge Schelling Bicycle Shop, Santa Rosa, 1895 (MSC Collection). Schelling and his brother, Alex, also built the first automobile in Santa Rosa.

Quickly after their introduction, people began racing with bicycles. The very first women’s bike race took place in France in 1868 with the women riding velocipedes. By the 1890s most Northern Californian races were organized by local cycling clubs. Santa Rosa and Healdsburg formed Wheelmen clubs in the 1880s, during the era of the high wheel, and Petaluma added a club in the 1890s. Competition was an important part of the Wheelmen’s activities. The Santa Rosa club built a dirt track at the end of McDonald Avenue, while the Healdsburg Wheelmen hosted races at Matheson Field. An 1896 race in Healdsburg drew an estimated 1,000 spectators.

Santa Rosa Wheelmen at their Cherry Street Clubhouse, ca. 1900 (MSC Collection).

Many of these clubs were also instrumental in advocating for road reform and improvement. For instance, in 1895, Petaluma cyclists joined with the Santa Rosa Wheelmen to call for repair of the road between the two cities, complaining that the way between Petaluma and Penn’s Grove was almost impassable.

Jenkins Cyclery, 122 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, ca. 1900-1910 (MSC Collection).

Some of these Wheelmen made headlines, such as Fred J. Wiseman, who went on to build (and pilot) the plane which carried the first piece of airmail sanctioned by a US Postal Authority in May of 1911. Perhaps the most famous of the Santa Rosa Wheelmen was Ben Noonan, who in 1899 raced a train up the San Francisco and North Pacific Rail Line from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa. Using an iron frame 1899 Cleveland Bicycle, Noonan won the race in a mere 16 minutes, about the same time it now takes by car.

Luther Burbank, 1908 (Sonoma County Library Collection).

The route Noonan followed was just to the north of what would become the Joe Rodota Trail and closely mirrored the route legendary horticulturalist Luther Burbank would take down Sebastopol Avenue on his twice weekly commute from his Santa Rosa home to his farm in Sebastopol. According to oral tradition, Burbank was a notoriously terrible driver (stories tell of him crashing into the side of the Exchange Bank downtown) and preferred instead to bike.

Woman on bicycle (Healdsburg Museum).

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” – Susan B. Anthony, 1896

By the 1890s, women were riding bicycles in huge numbers, and bikes continued to be customized to accommodate female riders. The safety bicycle in particular gave women extreme mobility, allowing them unprecedented freedom and independence. Suffragists touted the bicycle as a "freedom machine" for women, and cycling came to symbolize the ideal of an independent New Woman. The bicycle craze in the 1890s also led to a movement for so-called rational dress, which helped liberate women from corsets, full-length skirts, and other restrictive garments, substituting the then-shocking bloomers. By the turn of the century, the liberation associated with bicycle riding was having profound impacts in the everyday lives of women, and leading to increased social emancipation.

Jon Lacaillade, Model of 19th century Penny-Farthing Bicycle, on view in 2020 Artistry in Wood exhibition.

Though these are just a few short glimpses into bike history, it is clear that the humble “boneshaker” was instrumental in creating a phenomenon. You can view John Lacaillade’s beautiful recreation of the original velocipede, as well as many other creations, online in our 2020 Artistry in Wood exhibition.


You May Also Enjoy

2020 Artistry in Wood

For over thirty years, the Museum of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Woodworkers Association (SCWA) have collaborated to present an annual, juried showcase of fine regional woodwork... (Read More).

Collections Spotlight: Topaz Room Menu

We are in the thick of the holiday season, and there is no denying that our usual celebrations look very different in 2020 than in years past. As I was trying to reimagine the holidays in a new smaller version, I found some inspiration in an unexpected place, a vintage restaurant menu in the Museum’s collection... (Read More).

Collections Spotlight: Rosenberg's Gift Box

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the busiest shopping season of the year just around the corner, let’s remember a local business that served the shopping needs of Santa Rosa and the whole county for decades, Rosenberg’s Department Store... (Read More).

Collections Spotlight: WWII Coconut

Our museum has a special connection to the Postal Service, as our iconic building is the former 1910 Post Office. The US Postal Service has helped keep us united and connected for nearly two and a half centuries and in this Collections Spotlight, we highlight USPS with an unlikely object from our collection: a coconut... (Read More).

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

A Very Merry Mulled Wine Recipe

December 21, 2020

Jenny Bath, Education & Volunteer Coordinator

What would the holidays in Sonoma County be without a little mulled wine? Mulled wine is the perfect holiday beverage to drink on a cold day. Since its first recorded origins in 2nd century Rome, this hot spiced wine has been a consistent winter time favorite, spreading all across Europe and beyond. Though every culture, region, town, and family have their own variant, the basic ingredients of wine, spice, and fruit stay the same.

This particular recipe is from my family and ties its origins to the Veneto region in the north of Italy. It changes a little every time I make it and half the fun is in experimenting with different additives, wine varieties, and spices. There really is no such thing as a bad mulled wine!


• 1 bottle (750ml) red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, etc.). When selecting your wine, go for a darker red, high in tannins and with fruity undertones—go for something drinkable, but affordable. Since you’re adding so much to the wine itself, you don’t want to waste your most expensive bottle.

• 2 tbsp mulling spice blend (preferably one with dried orange, clove, cinnamon, and star anise)

• ½ apple, cut into small cubes (Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, etc.)

• ¼ cup sugar

• Optional spices: cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, orange (slices, halves, or zest), sliced kumquat, almonds, rosemary, berries, allspice, lemon, honey, dried apple slices, etc. (Don’t stress too much about the particulars and use what you have on hand).

1. Gather and prep your ingredients. Spices should be left as whole as possible and placed into a tea strainer or wrapped in cheesecloth for easy removal.

2. Combine wine, mulling spice blend, apple, and any additional add-ins in a medium saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to boil the wine at any point!

3. Let simmer for 5 minutes, before lowing the heat and adding in your sugar to taste. The amount needed is going to vary greatly depending on the wine and fruit used. 

4. Continue heating for another 5 to 30 minutes depending on desired depth of flavor or serving time. Leaving the spices (such as oranges) in for much longer can cause bitterness.

5. Remove from heat and take out your spices.

6. Ladle into your favorite mug and enjoy! The apples will continue to infuse as you drink and they make for a wonderful snack at the end.

Enjoyed this recipe? Snap a photo and tag us on social media to share your results with us! Cheers and happy holidays!

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

Embroidered Suffragist Sunflower

September 22, 2020

Jenny Bath, Education and Volunteer Coordinator

In honor of National Voter Registration Day on September 22nd and the recent Centennial of the 19th Amendment, create your own embroidery featuring the colors (purple and gold) and symbol of the Suffragist movement (sunflower).

Suggested Materials:

• Embroidery Floss: DMC 18, 3820, 801, 550 (optional colors: 742 and 310)
• Embroidery needle
• Fabric to stitch onto: linen, cotton, canvas, denim, etc.
• 4” embroidery hoop
• Pencil
• Scissors

Stitch Types:

• Straight/Satin
• Back stitch
• French knot

Step One:


The very first step is to gather all of your materials. Feel free to adjust to what you have on hand or are able to collect. I chose the color scheme and design to pay homage to the Suffrage Movement of the early 20th century. If you don’t happen to have any embroidery floss on hand and are unable to purchase any, regular sewing thread should work fine, as long as you combine the lengths of thread to match the number of embroidery floss strands. For example, instead of separating out 3 strands of floss for the petals, you would cut 3 equal lengths of thread. Furthermore, if you cannot find an embroidery needle, a regular needle should work, though it might be a little more cumbersome to thread and pull through your fabric. 
In terms of fabric, you can really stitch on anything! I used a scrap of an old cotton bed sheet. It is easier if your fabric has minimal stretch and a tighter weave, but feel free to get creative. You can even make the design wearable by stitching onto a ballcap, the back pocket of a pair of shorts, or even a denim jacket!

Step Two:
Next, you’ll want to sketch out your design. I’ve gone ahead and created a mock up here that you are welcome to trace, or you can use it as inspiration to create your own. I do recommend finalizing your design on paper first, and then tracing, especially if you are using a white fabric, as some pencil marks can be a touch tenacious to fully erase. When tracing, I prefer to draw on the back side of the hoop, so that the fabric can make direct contact with the drawing, making it easier to see the original, and so that I have a better understanding of my boundaries. Remember that the inner hoop is a little smaller than the outer hoop and isn’t super visible while stitching. 
I found the best tracing setup was to hold my paper design up to a white screen on my computer, then hold the hoop ever that and use the computer screen as a backlight while I gently traced the design. You could also use a window or flashlight and flat tupperware lid!
If your fabric is too dark or thick to see though, you can either sketch onto the fabric with chalk or a washable highlighter, use carbon transfer paper, or a water soluble stitch medium. 

Step Three:
Now that you have your outline, it’s time to start stitching! Begin by threading your needle with three strands of your lighter yellow thread (DMC 18). If you are using embroidery floss, this means you’ll need to separate the strand in half. To create a knot, wrap the end of the thread around your index finger twice, roll the thread loop between your finger and thumb a few times until it starts to slip off, then pinch it and pull with your other hand to tighten. This is much easier if your finger is slightly wet.
Start filling in the front petals with a basic straight or satin stitch. I prefer to stitch up from the base of the petal to the top and I suggest starting in the middle of a petal, with your longest stitch, working your way out first down one side and then the other. Make sure you are placing your stitches just below the previous one as you work out to the edges of each petal. The closer the distance, the fuller your petal will be and the more severe, the skinner your petal will look.
Keep working your way through all the front petals using this same method. Don’t worry if things start to look a little wonky at this stage, there is very little that finishing backstitching and detailing can’t fix later.

Step Four:

Once you finish working through the front petals, it’s time to switch to three strands of your darker yellow thread (DMC 3820) to fill in the back petals. Again, use a satin stitch, starting in the middle of a petal and working your way outwards, filling in the gaps between each pair of front petals. Make sure to keep all your stitches as close together as possible.

Step Five:

Using the same darker thread, again in 3 strands, start to outline your back petals. Start at the very top of the triangle, and bring the thread back down at the bottom corner, right up against the closest front petal. Repeat this same stitch on the other side, making sure to come up through the same hole you made at the top.

Step Six:

Following the same method of Step Five, take 3 strands of your lighter yellow and begin to outline your front petals. Start at the top of the triangle and come down at the bottom, where it meets the next petal. Some of your petals might have a bit more curve to them, which makes it difficult to neatly outline in one full stitch. If this happens, simply break your stitch into two parts, making sure to use a back stitch so that it looks as seamless as possible.


Step Seven:

Now it is time to start filling in the center of your sunflower, This is done with French knots, using four strands of your brown thread (DMC 801). To avoid excessive tangles and limit the amount of fabric stress, I recommend doubling 2 strands of floss, rather than actually using four strands. Thread 2 strands through your needle, and instead of knotting one end and leaving a tail by the top, knot both ends together so that your thread forms a continuous loop on the needle.

To form a French knot, come up through the fabric, wrap the thread twice around your needle, and go back down right next to where you first came up, keeping constant tension of the thread until your needle makes it all the way through the fabric. Then let go and finish pulling through the thread. (See image below).

Continue filling the center with knots, working in a circular pattern.

Optional: For added texture and dimension, use an even mix of black (DMC 310) and brown thread for the French knots by threading one strand of each onto your needle and tying all the ends together. This works well to fill the very middle of your sunflower center, as I did, or can be used for the whole center.

Step Eight:

Add some finishing details around the flower using either a more orange-yellow (DMC 742) or your darker yellow. Thread 3 strands and soften the transition from petals to center by creating a ring of French knots around the edge. These don’t have to be placed as close together as your brown knots, and in fact look better if they are a little more spaced.

Optional: Use that same color (DMC 742) to add 3 small straight stitches to the base of each front petal, going a little less than half way up the petal.

Step Nine:

The lettering is done with 6 strands of a vibrant purple thread (DMC 550). Again, I recommend threading your needle with 3 strands and knotting both ends together. Using a backstitch (making sure your thread goes back through a previous hole to create a conscious effect) begin each word, working out from the middle. With "O"s and "M"s, I find it easier to start in the middle of each letter. The smaller you make your stitches, the curvier you can make your lines. For example, I used 8 stitches to create each "O" and the "S."

Step Ten:

To finish, erase any left over pencil markings, remove the fabric from the hoop, and wash your design using cold water and the gentlest cycle. Dry flat, or tumble dry on low, and cool iron as needed. If you are using the hoop to frame and display, stretch out any wrinkles by returning to the hoop with the fabric is still slightly damp. Trim the excess fabric so that it is just long enough to tuck and wither tape or glue to the hoop.

And you're done! 

We'd love to see your final creations! Share them with us on social media by tagging the Museum of Sonoma County.

Facebook: @museumofsonomacounty
Instagram: @museumsoco
Twitter: @museumsoco


Learn more about the Women's Suffrage Movement and the stories of incredible women by exploring the exhibition "From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County."

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.

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Looking Back at the Influenza Pandemic of 1918

September 22, 2020

Eric Stanley, Associate Director and Curator of History



The historic influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919 has recently received more attention for obvious reasons. The experiences of that trying time echo across the decades, resonating with the events of today and the threat of the coronavirus. 

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Spanish Flu, named for the country where it was first identified and incorrectly believed to have originated, spread rapidly through Europe and to the United States. Assisted by the churning movement of people during World War I and close living conditions such as those of soldiers in camps, the virus spread widelySoldiers returning from France carried the contagion to Army camps on the East Coastas the first illnesses were noted in March of 1918. 

Santa Rosa’s Company E at Fort Mason in 1917. The movement and crowded living arrangements for soldiers contributed to the spread of influenza. (MSC collection).

Northern California 

By October 1918the influenza had entered a second wave that was infecting military camps throughout the nation, including Mare Island in California. In San Francisco, Army personnel were quarantined, schools and places of public entertainment were closed, and the wearing of masks became law. Authorities imposed a $5 fine on people in public without masks, the equivalent of $85 today. In November, the people of the Bay Area were told the flu was waning and they could abandon their masks. Unfortunately, a third wave of the flu hit in December 1918 and renewed closures and mask requirements brought objections from private citizens and business ownersThe mask law and closures were reinstated through February 1Consistent social distancing measures would have cut the death rate by 90 percent, according to some estimatesSan Francisco ended up losing 673 people per 100,000 residents.  


Sonoma County 

Just weeks after the flu appeared in San Francisco, there were 150 people ill in Santa Rosa. The first cases spread in places with cramped living conditions. The children at the Salvation Army’s Golden Gate Industrial Farm and Orphanage at Lytton, north of Healdsburg, became ill at a rapid rate until about 150 of the 250 children were sick. Helen Groul, a 10-year-old orphan, was the first in Sonoma County to die from the flu. Ultimately, 175 people would perish from the influenza in the county, out of a population of about 50,000.

NSGW Drum Corps celebrating end of World War I in Sebastopol, 1918. The drum corps members and the boy in the foreground are wearing influenza masks. (Sonoma County Library Collection).

Heroic Efforts 

While it can be distressing to examine the tragedy of 1918 and 1919, it can also be inspiring to consider the way in which people came together to combat that historic influenza outbreak. Much like today, the heroic efforts of many people were required to combat the virus. 

An ambulance covered with roses with Red Cross nurses appeared in the 1917 Rose Parade. (MSC Collection).

Nurses may have been the most heroic. In the wake of World War I, there was a desperate shortage of nurses. It was their direct care for the sick that was in the greatest demand and presented the highest, personal risk. In Santa Rosa, the call for help went out when a lack of caretakers and health workers became increasingly problematic due to the rising number of influenza cases. But it wasn’t just trained nurses that responded. Jessie Wheeden, the supervising nurse at a temporary hospital in Santa Rosa established in early January 1919, praised volunteers who were business college students pressed into nursing duties, as well as teachers and housewives who made meals for the sick. 

Influenza Ward, Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C., 1918. (Public Domain, Library of Congress).

One Hero of the Influenza Pandemic: Frances O’Meara, Believe it or Not! 

Frances L. O’Meara, a longtime teacher in Santa Rosa, was among the women who volunteered to help during the influenza crisis-but she did more than cook meals. You might recognize her name. In 1918, a former pupil of O’Meara’s from Santa Rosa High School, Robert Leroy Ripley, began publishing his cartoon of obscure sports facts and oddities from across the globe called “Believe It or Not!” Over a decade later, after gaining wealth and widespread fame, Ripley credited Miss O’Meara for encouraging him to illustrate stories and poems in her English class when he struggled with writingRipley believed her encouragement had put him on the path to fortune and fame. This testimonial and the success of her former student would become the main reason that O’Meara’s name was widely remembered. 

Frances O’Meara and Robert Ripley in Santa Rosa in 1936. (Sonoma County Library Collection).

Looking back, Frances O’Meara deserves credit for quite a lot more. On October 17, 1918, she was listed among the contributors to a fund to help the orphanage at Lytton, where so many children had become ill. Her donation, the largest one listed, was $500which would be nearly $7,500 today. In November, O’Meara was appointed head of the Woman’s Army for War Service in Santa Rosa. The article in the Press Democrat from November 9, 1918 notes that O’Meara named four colonels and twenty captains to “handle emergency matters in Santa Rosa.” Even as the World War was heading toward the armistice only days later, Santa Rosa was gearing up for another conflict. An article appearing just below the announcement of O’Meara’s appointment stated that the “validity of the health ordinance prohibiting public gatherings during the epidemic of Spanish Influenza was upheld by the state supreme court…” Emergency matters in Santa Rosa revolved around the influenza.

The groundbreaking of the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse in 1908. The clubhouse would serve as a Red Cross temporary hospital during the influenza pandemic. Frances O’Meara’s mother, also named Frances, appears near the center of the group holding the large shovel. (MSC collection).

Frances O’Meara was a longtime member and officer of the Saturday Afternoon Club. Founded in 1894 as a women’s group seeking the betterment of its members and the surrounding community, the club had involved itself in everything from the call for public playgrounds, establishment of a county library, hospital improvements, and advocacy for women’s suffrage. In 1908, they had constructed a clubhouse in Santa Rosa on 10th Street. During World War I, women met there to make surgical bandages for military hospitals. Frances O’Meara played a key role in establishing the clubhouse as a temporary Red Cross Hospital for influenza patients in early 1919. The temporary hospital was supervised by a professional nurse but relied on volunteer caretakers, including numerous teachers who cooked meals for patients in the “domestic science room” at Santa Rosa High School.  

In a hopeful article on January 19, 1919, the newspaper noted that the Red Cross Hospital’s job appeared to be approaching completion and patients numbered “only 17 and all were reported as doing very well.” Influenza cases would rise and fall in waves, with some cases even as late as 1920, but it was the care and dedication of people like Frances O’Meara that helped guide Sonoma County through the heart of the pandemic.

Office staff of George P. McNear's Mill at the corner of B Street and Petaluma Boulevard South wearing masks, November 18, 1918. (Petaluma History Museum and Library Collection).

Petaluma’s 1918 Influenza Battle 

Contributed by John Sheehy


In June of 1918, the government deployed Petaluma’s mayor, a saddle maker, to Portland, Oregon, to run a large saddle plant for the U.S. Cavalry fighting in World War I. City councilman Dr. Harry S. Gossage, a prominent local surgeon, was chosen to fill the mayor’s remaining term. Aside from a minor deficit in the city’s budget, Gossage’s mayoral challenges appeared relatively routine. On the horizon, however, signs of a larger threat loomed; one, it turned out, Gossage was uniquely qualified for. 

The good news that American forces fighting in Europe had achieved their first major victory was accompanied by word from Spain that a deadly influenza was spreading across the continent. The influenza soon spread to U.S. military bases and by midsummer, Petaluma newspapers were running obituaries of local enlisted men stationed in Army camps out East and in the Midwest. 

Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington D.C. during the influenza pandemic of 1918. (Public Domain, Library of Congress).

In mid-September, as Allied forces began their final offensive of the war in Europe, a San Francisco man returning from a visit to Chicago brought back the disease. Although he was immediately quarantined in a hospital, by the first week of October influenza had spread to a couple hundred people in San Francisco. A week later, the pandemic reached Sonoma County. 

As local newspapers began running obituaries of former Petaluma residents killed by the disease in other parts of the Bay Area, Dr. Gossage, who also chaired the city’s board of health, held a special meeting of the city council on the epidemic. Although no cases of influenza had been reported in Petaluma, the mayor raised the issue of a general closure to get ahead of it. 

Many feared such an order would do more harm than good, inducing panic and crippling the economy, and ultimately proving ineffective. Others argued it was probably too late to take such action, as Santa Rosa already had sixty reported cases, and California overall 19,000 cases. 

Advertisement that appeared in the Press Democrat 1919 noting the Board of Health closure of theaters, but also encouraging customers to keep an eye out for "Coming Attractions.”

On October 19th, California’s State Board of Health ordered the closure of all theaters, dance halls, and schools, along with a ban on public gatherings. Churches were exempted, although it was strongly recommended they either cancel services or hold them in the open air, which is what St. Vincent’s Catholic Church did two days later. 

Despite the closures and gatherings ban, the centerpiece of the state’s crusade against the influenza was the face mask. Initially, a mandatory mask order was issued only to health care workers and members of households where there were cases of influenza. But within days of the closure order, nearly everyone on the streets of Petaluma was wearing a mask. “Sewsters” at the Red Cross were busy making them for anyone who wanted one, with prices capped at ten cents each ($2 in today’s currency) to hinder profiteering. People were advised to boil their masks once a day for sanitary purposes, and detailed instructions were issued in the newspapers for those who wished to sew their own masks. 

The influenza arrived in Petaluma the third week of October, quickly claiming the life of Joseph Biaggi, a Swiss-Italian farmworker, as its first casualty. On November 2nd, Mayor Gossage issued a mandatory mask order for anyone venturing outside, as well as to merchants and their clerks, and people working in offices. 

Red Cross volunteers, 1918. (APIC / Getty Images).

Wearing a mask immediately became a symbol of wartime patriotism. The Red Cross bluntly declared that “the man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.” It worked for most residents, but there were still many slackers who flaunted the order by wearing their masks beneath their noses or else around their neck while smoking. Petaluma police began arresting and fining these slackers $1 for the first offense, and $5 for the second ($20 and $100 in today’s currency). 

Advertisement that appeared in the Press Democrat 1918-1919.

Due to a shortage of nurses—many of them were away, serving in the war effort—the health system was quickly overwhelmed, as was the telephone system, which doctors, nurses, and druggists depended upon for communicating with patients. Things became worse when a number of women operators at the local switchboard came down with the flu. The Petaluma Argus issued an appeal to women to refrain from “gossiping on the line,” so as to reserve the phone system for those critically ill. 

The declaration of Armistice Day on November 11th, marking the end of World War I, sent a record number of people wearing masks into the streets of Petaluma for a celebratory parade. Two weeks later, as the local epidemic subsided, Mayor Gossage suspended the mandatory mask order, authorizing the opening of schools, theaters, dance halls, and churches just in time for Thanksgiving. The next day, a large crowd gathered on Main Street near the town clock and celebrated by burning their masks in a large metal tub. 

The reprieve proved to be only temporary. Another wave of influenza came roaring back after Christmas, with 243 new cases and 35 deaths reported in San Francisco. People were again warned to avoid crowds, and for a few weeks Santa Rosa reinstated its mask order. In Petaluma, an outbreak of influenza cases followed in April of 1919, forcing the closure of Petaluma schools for the remainder of the school year. 

By that time, 305,856 cases of influenza had been reported in California, and 20,904 deaths, making for a ratio of 68 deaths per thousand cases. 175 of the deaths had occurred in Sonoma County. 

In May, with the influenza appearing to be over, an exhausted Dr. Gossage, who had balanced his mayoral duties with those of treating his patients, announced he would not run for reelection that summer, but instead devote his time to his family and medical practice. 

The following winter however, the cold weather brought a fourth and final wave of the disease. Although its mortality rate was half that of the previous winter’s influenza, Petaluma was hit harder than other cities its size, reporting 319 cases and 5 deaths by February of 1920. The city health board issued another ban on gatherings and closed all theaters, dance halls, schools, and churches. 

To its dismay, the board also reported that slackers continued to hold dinners, card parties, and social gatherings in defiance of the ban, despite the many tragedies the town had experienced over the past year. 

Advertisement that appeared in the Press Democrat 1918-1919.

Did an earlier wave of the virus hit in 1916? 

Viruses still present us with many mysteries. While the so-called “Spanish Influenza epidemic seemed to emerge in 1918, the most active year for the flu in the United States since the 1890s was actually 1916. At the time, scientists did not have the benefit of equipment that could identify viruses. Microscopes did not allow for the direct observation of viruses like H1N1 until decades later. Instead, scientists looked at bacterial causes. Today, scientists are much better equipped to study viruses- even those of the past. Researchers using historic documentation, genetic evidence, and the unusual patterns of the “Spanish Flu,” have been working on the idea that the H1N1 virus that caused the pandemic was present in the United States as early as 1915. 

Could the H1N1 flu have been present in California earlier than previously thought? The Press Democrat newspaper from 1916 contains numerous references to “La Grippe,” a general term for the flu used for years before and after 1916. When recognized or noted member of the community became ill, the newspaper mentioned their names. For example, the January 3, 1916 edition of the Press Democrat carried a note that, “well-known artist Elizabeth Hoen…is suffering from an attack of la grippe.” Numerous similar articles appear in 1916. 

Burials in the Chanate Cemetery-- the burial location of the poor in Santa Rosa-- suddenly peaked in 1916. They jumped from 26 the previous year to 48 in 1916. In 1917 and 1918, they sank back to 34 and 20, respectively. Given that the influenza epidemic struck in 1918, the spike in burials at that early date is somewhat surprising. Was it the same illness that would later be called Spanish Influenza? It may be impossible to know, but the large jump in burials at the Chanate Cemetery raises the issue. 


Chanate Cemetery statistics courtesy of Jeremy Nichols.

Coronavirus illustration (Public Domain, CDC)

100 Years Later 

A great many parallels can be seen between the 1918 Influenza pandemic and the Coronavirus, including the spread of disease in crowded and cramped places, debate over closures and mask requirements, and the mysteries associated with viral pandemics. But by looking back at the flu in Sonoma County, we can also see the heroic efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and to care for the sick and take inspiration from those efforts.   

While science has advanced significantly, many mysteries remain surrounding these rapidly spreading viruses. In 2008, researchers discovered what made the 1918 flu so deadly: a group of genes that allowed the virus to weaken a victim’s lungs, making them vulnerable to bacterial pneumonia. No doubt, similar discoveries will shed light on COVID-19 and help in the development of treatments.  

Since 1918, there have been several other influenza pandemics, including from 1957 to 1958, and another from 1968 to 1969. Neither outbreak was as deadly, but still killed tens of thousands of Americans. More than 12,000 Americans perished during the H1N1 (or “swine flu”) pandemic that occurred from 2009 to 2010.   

Each of these more recent pandemics brings renewed interest in the “Spanish Flu.” Sometimes called the “forgotten pandemic,” the 1918-1919 Influenza outbreak was overshadowed by WWI and hidden by news blackouts and inconsistent record keeping. But by not forgetting and studying events of the past, we continue to accumulate knowledge and information that might serve us in combatting viruses like COVID-19. 



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Mirando al pasado de la Pandemia de la lnfluenza de 1918 

22 de septiembre, 2020

Eric Stanley, director asociado y comisario de historia

Traducciones por Javier Torres

La histórica pandemia de la influenza de 1918 y 1919 ha recibido más atención recientemente por obvias razones. Las experiencias de ese duro periodo han reverberado a través de décadas, resonando en los hechos de hoy y la amenaza del coronavirus.

“Gripe española,” así bautizada por el país donde se identificó por primera vez e incorrectamente ubicado como el país de origen, se extendió rápidamente a través de Europa y los Estados Unidos. Ayudado por el agitado desplazamiento de gente durante la Primera Guerra Mundial y estrechas condiciones de vida tales como la de los soldados viviendo en campamentos, el virus se diseminó ampliamente. Los soldados que regresaban de Francia acarrearon el contagio a los campos militares de la costa este, y las primeras enfermedades se observaron en marzo de 1918.

Compañía E de Santa Rosa en Fort Mason en 1917. El movimiento y los arreglos de vivienda abarrotados para los soldados contribuyeron a la propagación de la influenza (colección MSC).

Norte de California 

Por el mes de octubre de 1918, la influenza había desatado una segunda ola que estaba infectando los campos militares lo largo de la nación, incluyendo Mare Island en California. En San Francisco, se puso en cuarentena a miembros del ejércitose cerraron las escuelas y lugares de esparcimiento público, y el uso de mascarillas se convirtió en ley. Las autoridades impusieron una multa de $5 a la gente que no usara mascarillas en público, un equivalente a $85 de hoyEn noviembre, se le dijo a la gente del área de la bahía que la influenza estaba menguando y que podrían dejar sus mascarillas. Desafortunadamente en diciembre, se desató una tercera ola de influenza y los nuevos cierres y requisitos del uso de mascarillas generó las objeciones de ciudadanos y dueños de negocios. La ley de uso de mascarilla y cierres se restableció con duración hasta el 1º de febrero. Unas medidas consistentes de sana distancia habrían reducido la tasa de mortandad en un 90 por ciento de acuerdo a los cálculos. San Francisco perdió a673 personas por cada 100,000 residentes 

Condado de Sonoma 

Pocas semanas después de la aparición de la influenza en San Francisco, hubo 150 personas enfermas en Santa Rosa. Los primeros casos se dieron en lugares con condiciones de hacinamiento. Los niños de la Granja Industrial del Salvation Army’s Golden Gate y el Orfanato en Lytton, al norte de Healdsburg, comenzaron a enfermar rápidamente hasta que 150 de los 250 niños se enfermaron.  Helen Groul, una huérfana de 10 años de edadfue la primera persona en morir de influenza en el Condado de Sonoma. Al final, 175 personas de una población total de 50,000, perecerían por causa de la influenza en el condado. 

El Cuerpo de Tambores de NSGW celebra el final de la Primera Guerra Mundial en Sebastopol, 1918. Los miembros del cuerpo de tambores y el niño en primer plano llevan máscaras de influenza. (Colección de la biblioteca del condado de Sonoma).

Esfuerzos Heroícos 

Aunque puede ser estresante examinar la tragedia de 1918 y 1919, también puede inspirarnos a considerar la manera en que la gente se unió para combatir el brote histórico de la influenza. A semejanza de hoy, se requirió de los esfuerzos heroicos de mucha gente para combatir el virus. 

Una ambulancia cubierta de rosas con enfermeras de la Cruz Roja apareció en el Desfile de las Rosas de 1917. (Colección MSC).

Las enfermeras quizás fueron las más heroicas. En los albores de la Primera Guerra Mundial, había una escasez de enfermeras. El cuidado directo que daban a los enfermos era la demanda más grande y al mismo tiempo representaba el riesgo personal más alto. En Santa Rosa, el llamado de auxilio se dio cuando la falta de cuidadores y trabajadores de la salud llego a ser un problema creciente debido al aumento en el número de casos de influenza. Y no solo fueron enfermeras capacitadas las que respondieron. Jessie Wheeden, la supervisora de enfermeras en un hospital temporal establecido en Santa Rosa a principios de enero de 1919, elogio a los voluntarios que siendo estudiantes universitarios de administracion de negocios se vieron exigidos a realizar funciones de enfermería, así como los maestros y amas de casa quienes prepararon comida para los enfermos.

Sala de Influenza, Hospital Walter Reed, Washington, D.C., 1918. (Dominio público, Biblioteca del Congreso).

Una Heroína de la Pandemia de la influenza: ¡Frances O’Meara, Aunque Usted no lo Crea!

Frances L. O’Meara, una maestra de muchos años en Santa Rosa, estuvo entre las mujeres voluntarias que ayudaron durante la crisis de la influenza—pero hizo más que solo cocinar comidas. Tal vez reconozca su nombre. En 1918, un antiguo alumno de O’Meara de la Santa Rosa High School, Robert Leroy Ripley, empezó a publicar una caricatura de hechos extraños y curiosidades de todo el mundo llamada “¡Aunque usted no lo crea!” ("Ripley's Believe It or Not!"). Una década después, habiendo ganado fortuna y amplia fama, Ripley reconoció a Miss O’Meara por alentarlo a ilustrar historias y poemas en su clase de inglés cuando tenía problemas escribiendo. Ripley creyó que su aliento lo había puesto en el camino de la fortuna y la fama. Este testimonio y el éxito de su antiguo estudiante seria la razón principal por la cual el nombre de O’Meara seria ampliamente recordado.

Frances O’Meara y Robert Ripley en Santa Rosa en 1936. (Colección de la Biblioteca del Condado de Sonoma).

Mirando al pasado, Frances O’Meara merece crédito por mucho más. El 17 de octubre de 1918, estuvo en una lista de contribuyentes de un fondo para ayudar al orfanato de Lytton, donde tantos niños se enfermaron. Su donación, la más grande listada, fue de $500, lo que hoy serían cerca de $7500. En noviembre, O’Meara fue designada encargada del Woman’s Army for War Service en Santa Rosa. El artículo del Press Democrat del 9 de noviembre de 1918 describe que O’Meara nombro a cuatro coronelas y veinte capitanas para “administrar asuntos urgentes en Santa Rosa.” Aunque la Guerra Mundial se encaminaría a un armisticio solo días después, Santa Rosa se estaba preparando para otro conflicto. Un artículo que aparecía justo debajo del anuncio del nombramiento de O’Meara declaraba que la “la validez de la ordenanza sanitaria prohibiendo reuniones públicas durante la epidemia de gripe española fue ratificada por la suprema corte estatal…” Los asuntos de urgencia en Santa Rosa giraron alrededor de la influenza.

El inicio de la construcción de la casa club de los sábados en 1908. La casa club serviría como hospital temporal de la Cruz Roja durante la pandemia de influenza. La madre de Frances O’Meara, también llamada Frances, aparece cerca del centro del grupo que sostiene la pala grande. (Colección MSC).

Frances O’Meara fue una miembro y oficial de mucho tiempo del Saturday Afternoon Club. Fundado en 1894 como un grupo de mujeres que buscaba el progreso de sus miembros y comunidades, el club se involucró en todo lo que pudo: el apoyo a áreas de juego para niños, el establecimiento de bibliotecas en el condado, mejoras de hospitales y la defensoría del voto a la mujer. En 1908, habían construido una casa club en Santa Rosa en la Calle 10th .Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, las mujeres se dieron cita ahí para elaborar vendajes quirúrgicos para hospitales militares. Frances O’Meara tuvo un rol clave para establecer la casa club como un hospital temporal de la Cruz Roja para pacientes con influenza en los inicios de 1919. El hospital temporal fue supervisado por una enfermera profesional, pero dependió de cuidadores voluntarios, incluyendo a muchos maestros quienes prepararon comidas para los pacientes en el “aula de ciencias domesticas” en la Santa Rosa High School.

En un esperanzador artículo del 19 de enero de 1919, el periódico reseñó que el trabajo del Hospital de la Cruz Roja parecía aproximarse a la conclusión del proyecto y que los pacientes eran “solamente 17 y todos se reportaban evolucionando muy bien.” Los casos de influenza subían y caían como olas, con algunos casos apareciendo aún a finales de 1920, pero fue el cuidado y la dedicación de gente como Frances O’Meara lo que ayudo a guiar al Condado de Sonoma a través del corazón de la pandemia.

Personal de la oficina del molino de George P. McNear en la esquina de la calle B y Petaluma Boulevard South con máscaras, 18 de noviembre de 1918. (Museo de Historia de Petaluma y Colección de la Biblioteca).

La Batalla de la Influenza de 1918 en Petaluma 

Contribuido por John Sheehy


En junio de 1918, el gobierno desplegó al alcalde de Petaluma, un hacedor de sillas de montar, a Portland, Oregón, para administrar una gran planta de sillas de montar para la Caballería de los Estados Unidos que peleaba en la Primera Guerra Mundial. El concejal de la ciudad, Dr. Harry S. Gossage, un prominente cirujano local, fue elegido para suplir al alcalde por el periodo restante. Además de un pequeño déficit en el presupuesto de la ciudad, los retos gubernamentales de Gossage parecían solo rutina. En el horizonte, sin embargo, se avecinaban signos de una mayor amenaza; una para la cual, Gossage resulto plenamente calificado.

Las buenas nuevas de que las fuerzas estadounidenses que luchaban en Europa habían logrado su primer gran victoria iba acompañada por una noticia venida desde España de que una mortífera influenza se diseminaba a lo largo del continente. La influenza pronto se extendió a las bases militares de los EEUU y a mediados del verano, los periódicos de Petaluma imprimían obituarios de hombres locales enlistados y apostados en campamentos militares del este y el medio oeste.

Manifestación en la estación de ambulancias de emergencia de la Cruz Roja en Washington D.C. durante la pandemia de influenza de 1918. (Dominio público, Biblioteca del Congreso).

A mediados de septiembre, mientras las fuerzas aliadas comenzaban su ofensiva final en la guerra en Europa, un hombre que regresaba a San Francisco de una visita a Chicago trajo consigo la enfermedad. Aunque se le puso en cuarentena en un hospital, en la primera semana de octubre la influenza había sido diseminada a un par de cientos de personas en San Francisco. Una semana después la pandemia alcanzó al Condado de Sonoma.

A medida que los periódicos locales empezaron a publicar obituarios de previos residentes de Petaluma ultimados por la enfermedad en otras partes del área de la bahía, el Dr. Gossage, quien también presidia la junta de salud de la ciudad, convoco a una junta especial del concejo de la ciudad para tratar el tema de la epidemia. Aunque no se habían reportado casos de influenza en Petaluma, el alcalde planteo el tema de un cierre general para adelantarse a ello.

Muchos temieron que dicha orden haría más mal que bien, induciría pánico y paralizaría la economía, y al final resultaría ineficaz. Otros argumentaron que probablemente era demasiado tarde para tomar dicha acción, ya que Santa Rosa ya tenía sesenta casos reportados, y California un total de 19,000 casos.

Anuncio que apareció en el Press Democrat 1919 en el que se señalaba el cierre de los cines por parte de la Junta de Salud, pero también animaba a los clientes a estar atentos a las "próximas atracciones".

El 19 de octubre, la Junta Estatal de Salud de California ordenó el cierre de todos los teatros, salones de baile, y escuelas, junto con una prohibición de reuniones públicas. Se exentó a los templos, aunque se recomendaba firmemente, que cancelaran sus servicios o que los celebraran al aire libre, que es lo que la iglesia católica de San Vicente hizo dos días después.

A pesar de los cierres y la prohibición de reuniones, la parte central de la cruzada estatal contra la influenza fue el uso de la mascarilla. En un principio la orden de uso obligatorio de la mascarilla fue emitida solo para los trabajadores de la salud y miembros de hogares donde había casos de influenza. Pero a pocos días de la orden de cierres, casi todo mundo en las calles de Petaluma usaba mascarilla. “Sewsters” en la Cruz Roja estaban ocupadas haciendo mascarillas para aquel que quisiera una, con precio máximo de diez centavos cada una ($2 en valor actual) para impedir la especulación. Se le aconsejó a la gente que hirvieran sus mascarillas una vez al día por razones sanitarias, y se emitieron instrucciones detalladas en los periódicos para aquellos que desearan coser su propia mascarilla.

La influenza llego a Petaluma la tercera semana de octubre, rápidamente cobrando la vida de Joseph Biaggi, un trabajador rural suizo-italiano, siendo su primera víctima. El 2 de noviembre, el alcalde Gossage emitió una orden obligatoria para cualquiera que se aventurara a salir, así como a los comerciantes y a sus dependientes y a empleados de oficina.

Voluntarias de la Cruz Roja, 1918. (APIC / Getty Images).

El usar mascarilla inmediatamente se convirtió en un símbolo de patriotismo en tiempo de guerra. La Cruz Roja declaró contundentemente que “el hombre o mujer o niño que no use mascarilla ahora es un negligente peligroso.” Eso funcionó para la mayoría de los residentes, pero hubo muchos “negligentes” que desafiaron la orden portando la mascarilla abajo de la nariz o en el cuello mientras fumaban. La policía de Petaluma comenzó a arrestar y multar a los negligentes con $1 por la primera falta, y $5 por la segunda ($20 y $100 en valor actual).

Anuncio que apareció en Press Democrat 1918-1919.

Debido a una falta de enfermeras- muchas de ellas estaban fuera, sirviendo en la guerra- el sistema sanitario se vio rápidamente abrumado, al igual que el sistema telefónico, del cual dependían los doctores, enfermeras y farmacéuticos para comunicarse con los pacientes. Las cosas empeoraron cuando un numero de operadoras del conmutador local se enfermaron de influenza. El Petaluma Argus hizo un llamamiento a las mujeres para que evitaran “chismear en la línea,” para reservar el sistema telefónico para aquellos críticamente enfermos.

La declaración del Dia del Armisticio el 11 de noviembre, que marcaba el final de la Primera Guerra Mundial, lanzo un numero sin precedentes de gente portando mascarillas a las calles de Petaluma para un desfile de celebración. Dos semanas después, al disminuir la epidemia local, el alcalde Gossage suspendió la orden obligatoria de portar mascarilla, autorizando la apertura de escuelas, teatros, salones de baile, y templos justo a tiempo para el Día de Acción de Gracias. Al día siguiente, se congregó una muchedumbre en la Main Street cerca del reloj del pueblo que celebró quemando sus mascarillas en un largo tubo de metal.

La suspensión resulto solo temporal. Otra ola de influenza regreso reventando después de Navidad, con 243 nuevos casos y 35 muertes reportadas en San Francisco. Se le advirtió otra vez a la gente que evitara las multitudes, y por unas semanas Santa Rosa reinstaló la orden del uso de la mascarilla. En Petaluma, un brote de casos de influenza llegó en abril de 1919, forzando el cierre de escuelas en Petaluma por lo restante del año escolar.

Para ese entonces, se habían reportado 305,856 casos de influenza en California, y 20,904 muertes, resultando en una proporción de 68 muertes por cada mil casos. 175 de las muertes habían ocurrido en el Condado de Sonoma.

En mayo, cuando parecía que la influenza había acabado, un exhausto Dr. Gossage, quien había combinado sus obligaciones de alcalde con las de atender a sus pacientes, anunció que no buscaría la reelección ese verano, sino que en lugar de ello dedicaría su tiempo a su familia y a la práctica médica.

El siguiente invierno, sin embargo, el frío clima arrojó una cuarta y última ola de la enfermedad. Aunque su tasa de mortalidad fue la mitad de la previa influenza invernal, Petaluma fue golpeada con más fuerza que otras ciudades de su tamaño, reportando 319 casos y 5 muertes por el mes febrero de 1920. La junta de salud de la ciudad emitió otra prohibición de reuniones y cerró los teatros, salones de baile, escuelas, y templos.

Para su consternación, la junta también reportó que los negligentes continuaron reuniéndose para cenas, jugar cartas, y convivencias sociales desafiando la prohibición, a pesar de las muchas tragedias que el pueblo había experimentado el año pasado.

Anuncio que apareció en Press Democrat 1918-1919.

¿Nos pegó en 1916 una ola anterior del virus?

Los virus aún se nos presentan con muchos misterios. Mientras que la epidemia llamada “gripe española” pareció surgir en 1918, el año más activo de la influenza en los Estados Unidos desde los 1890s fue 1916 en realidad. En ese tiempo, los científicos no tenían el beneficio del equipo que podría identificar los virus. Los microscopios no permitían la observación directa de virus como la H1N1 hasta décadas después. En su lugar, los científicos buscaron causas bacterianas. Hoy, los científicos están mucho mejor equipados para estudiar los virus- aun los del pasado. Los investigadores utilizando documentación histórica, evidencia genética, y los raros patrones de la “gripe española,” han estado trabajando con la idea de que el virus H1N1 que causó la pandemia estaba presente en los Estados Unidos desde por lo menos 1915.

¿Podría haber estado presente en California la influenza H1N1 antes de lo previamente pensado? El periódico Press Democrat de 1916 contiene numerosas referencias a “La Grippe,” un término general para la influenza utilizada por muchos años antes y después de 1916. Cuando un miembro reconocido o destacado de la comunidad se enfermaba, el periódico mencionaba sus nombres. Por ejemplo, el 3 de enero de 1916 la edición del Press Democrat imprimió una nota que decía, “la bien conocida artista Elizabeth Hoen…está sufriendo de un ataque de la grippe.” Numerosos artículos similares aparecieron en 1916.

Los entierros en el Cementerio Chanate—el lugar de sepultura para los pobres en Santa Rosa— incrementó repentinamente en 1916. Brincaron de 26 el año previo a 48 en 1916. En 1917 y 1918, volvieron a bajar a 34 y 20, respectivamente. Ya que la epidemia de la influenza golpeo en 1918, la escalada de entierros en esa fecha temprana es algo sorpresiva. ¿Fue la misma enfermedad que luego sería llamada “gripe española”? Tal vez sea imposible saber, pero el gran aumento de entierros en el cementerio Chanate plantea la pregunta.

Las estadísticas del cementerio de Chanate son cortesía de Jeremy Nichols.

Ilustración de coronavirus (dominio público, CDC)

100 Años Después

Existen muchos paralelos entre la pandemia de la influenza de 1918 y el Coronavirus, incluyendo la propagación de la enfermedad en multitudes y lugares hacinados, el debate sobre los cierres y la exigencia del uso de la mascarilla, y los misterios asociados a las pandemias virales. Pero mirando al pasado de la influenza en el condado de Sonoma, podemos ver los esfuerzos heroicos para prevenir la diseminación del virus y para cuidar a los enfermos y encontrar inspiración en aquellos esfuerzos.

Mientras que la ciencia ha avanzado de manera significativa, muchos misterios todavía rodean a estos virus de diseminación rápida. En 2008, los investigadores descubrieron lo que hacía al virus de la influenza de 1918 tan mortífero: un grupo de genes que permitía al virus debilitar los pulmones de la víctima, haciéndolos vulnerables a la neumonía bacterial. Sin duda, descubrimientos similares arrojarán luz sobre el COVID-19 y ayudarán al desarrollo de tratamientos.

Desde 1918, ha habido varias otras pandemias de influenza, incluyendo una de 1957 a 1958, y otra de 1968 a 1969. Ningún brote fue muy mortífero, pero aun así mato a decenas de miles de estadounidenses. Mas de 12,000 estadounidenses perecieron durante la pandemia H1N1 (o “gripe porcina”) que ocurrió de 2009 a 2010.

Cada una de las más recientes pandemias creó un interés renovado en la “gripe española.” Algunas veces llamada la “pandemia olvidada,” el brote de la influenza de 1918-1919 se vio ensombrecida por la Primera Guerra Mundial y encubierta por bloqueos informativos y un inconsistente mantenimiento de registros. Pero al no olvidar y estudiar los eventos del pasado, continuamos acumulando conocimiento e información que quizás nos sirva para combatir a virus como el COVID-19.