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Museum of Sonoma County exhibit honors pioneering women who shaped the county

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IF YOU GO

What: “From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County”

When: Saturday through Sept. 13, with a opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday

Where: Museum of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa

Admission: $7-$10, free for children age 12 and younger; also $7-10 for the reception

Information: 707-579-1500, museumsc.org

OTHER EVENTS CELEBRATING WOMEN:

— “The 19th Amendment” -- An exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States. Artists’ opening reception: 5-8 p.m. Feb. 7; exhibit continues through March 27. Santa Rosa Arts Center, 312 A Street, Santa Rosa. 707-293-6051, santarosartscenter.org

— “The Billie Holiday Project” — Stella Heath, with her band and guest Jason Bellenkes on saxophone and clarinet, performs in a salute to the legendary jazz singer at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Occidental. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. 707-874-9392, occidentalcenterforthearts.org, billieholidayproject.com,

_ Diane Keaton — The Academy-Award winning actress talkers about her book, “Brother & Sister: A Memoir.” at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. $45 in advance; $50 at the door. Ticket includes a copy of the book. 415-444-8000, marinjcc.org

— “The Many Women of Color in Early California” — Teacher and author Ida Rae Egli, a Mendocino native, speaks at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Mission San Francisco Solano, 114 E. Spain St., Sonoma. $10. sonomaparks.org.

— International Women’s Day Concert — The Dirty Cello band, jazz singer Stella Heath, rocker Shelby Lanterman, songsmith Claudia Russell and the harmony group Muted Jewel Tones perform at 8 p.m. March 7 at the HopMonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. $15-$25. 707- 829-7300, hopmonk.com

— “Women in Conversation” — Actress Laura Dern speaks at 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, following a 4:30 p.m. pre-show party. 50 Mark Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $58-$78. SoCoWomenEvents.com, lutherburbankcenter.org

A century ago, after a long, laborious battle in Congress and state legislatures, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, granting women the right to vote nationwide.

Decades later, in 2006, the #MeToo movement got its start on social media, exposing and protesting sexual harassment and sexual assault. An avalanche of allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017 vastly raised the profile of the movement and prompted accusations that led to the downfall of other prominent men.

The Museum of Sonoma County employs these two historic milestones as bookends for its new history exhibit, “From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County,” saluting more than a dozen local women leaders, past and present.

One of the show’s honorees — Alicia Sanchez, longtime union organizer and board present of the bilingual radio station KBBF — pointed out that the struggle is far from over.

“It is incredible that it has taken 100 years, or 200 years, to get equality for women and people of color,” Sanchez said.

“We have to keep going and not get depressed, and appreciate what we’ve accomplished. We have come some of the way, but not far enough.”

With newspaper clippings, quotes, written histories and artifacts including banners and badges, the exhibit examines contributions by local women to the long, hard and still unfinished battle for equality.

“We decided on a chronological look at women’s history in Sonoma County,” said museum board member Staci Pastis, who worked with the museum’s history curator, Eric Stanley, on the exhibit. “We went through and chose women from each chapter in our history.” Some of the women are honored for their roles as local political pioneers, such as the late Helen Rudee, the first woman elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and the late Helen Putnam, who was the first woman mayor of Petaluma and later served on the board of supervisors.

Lynn Woolsey, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives as congresswoman from California’s 6th District from 1993 to 2013, is included. So is Jill Ravitch, the first woman to serve as District Attorney in Sonoma County, who is still in office.

Other women in the museum’s exhibit broke barriers in other ways, through education, art and leadership. Judy Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University, is the first Japanese-American woman in the country to lead a four-year university.

Alice Gray is one of the founders of the Sonoma County chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The late Hansel Mieth was the second woman staff photographer to be hired by LIFE magazine, after Margaret Bourke-White.

And the late Dale Messick, who moved from Chicago to Sonoma County to retire, was the first syndicated woman cartoonist in the U.S., known for the “Brenda Starr, Reporter” comic strip she created.

The celebration isn’t limited to famous women in public life, Pastis said. In a small side room, visitors can pay tribute to mothers, wives, daughters and other women who have been important in their lives.

“Visitors can come in and vote for women they think need to be honored,” she added. “We actually got a real voting booth, and results will posted on the wall.”

The exhibition is part of year-long celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, presented in collaboration with the Sonoma County Library, the National Women’s History Alliance and the Sonoma County 2020 Women’s Suffrage Project, Stanley said.

“Instead of just focusing on suffrage, we wanted to look at what women have done over the course of the past century,” the curator explained. “#MeToo has a negative connotation, but it’s part of the message that the whole women’s movement is still unfinished business.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

IF YOU GO

What: “From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County”

When: Saturday through Sept. 13, with a opening reception 5-7 p.m. Friday

Where: Museum of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa

Admission: $7-$10, free for children age 12 and younger; also $7-10 for the reception

Information: 707-579-1500, museumsc.org

OTHER EVENTS CELEBRATING WOMEN:

— “The 19th Amendment” -- An exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States. Artists’ opening reception: 5-8 p.m. Feb. 7; exhibit continues through March 27. Santa Rosa Arts Center, 312 A Street, Santa Rosa. 707-293-6051, santarosartscenter.org

— “The Billie Holiday Project” — Stella Heath, with her band and guest Jason Bellenkes on saxophone and clarinet, performs in a salute to the legendary jazz singer at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Occidental. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. 707-874-9392, occidentalcenterforthearts.org, billieholidayproject.com,

_ Diane Keaton — The Academy-Award winning actress talkers about her book, “Brother & Sister: A Memoir.” at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. $45 in advance; $50 at the door. Ticket includes a copy of the book. 415-444-8000, marinjcc.org

— “The Many Women of Color in Early California” — Teacher and author Ida Rae Egli, a Mendocino native, speaks at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Mission San Francisco Solano, 114 E. Spain St., Sonoma. $10. sonomaparks.org.

— International Women’s Day Concert — The Dirty Cello band, jazz singer Stella Heath, rocker Shelby Lanterman, songsmith Claudia Russell and the harmony group Muted Jewel Tones perform at 8 p.m. March 7 at the HopMonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. $15-$25. 707- 829-7300, hopmonk.com

— “Women in Conversation” — Actress Laura Dern speaks at 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, following a 4:30 p.m. pre-show party. 50 Mark Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $58-$78. SoCoWomenEvents.com, lutherburbankcenter.org

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