Women’s History Month Celebrated In Ukiah Last Sunday (3/14/10)

Ukiah Poet Laureate Theresa Whitehill with honorees
Katarzyna Rolzinski, Molly Dwyer, and Peg Kingman


The Women’s History Month celebration in Ukiah was this Sunday (3/14). It’s a great tribute to originator Val Muchowski that the event is now in its 27th year.

This year’s honorees were local women authors Peg Kingman and Molly Dwyer, and women’s history scholar Katarzyna Rolzinksi.

Vivian Sotomayor Power presents Neil Bell with an appreciation
of his late wife Susan Bell, for her extensive help in the community

The Developing Virtue Girls’ School Orchestra
playing traditional Chinese instruments

Kingman talked about the fun of writing a novel – a piece of fiction.  She actually did do a lot of research around her new novel, “Not Yet Drown’d.”  She got a laugh by saying that research is her favorite form of procrastination.  Kingman then took our current leadership to task for not differentiating between truth and fiction.

Author Molly Dwyer also made a powerful presentation.  Dwyer’s new book is “Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein” – about the life of Mary Shelley.  She noted that libraries file Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley together with her writer mother Mary Wollstonecraft – as if it were one person.  People know the names of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron even though they are unfamiliar with their works.  But although everyone knows the work “Frankenstein,” most people are unfamiliar with its author.

Dwyer said that women need to build up a critical mass of material in order for women’s genius to benefit a world that sorely needs that perspective.  As it is now, women emerge, create, and are forgotten; subsequent women thinkers must reinvent what went before.  Shakespeare built upon a solid wall of great writing before  him.  Women need to gain enough recognition to preserve structures of their own to build on.

This year the Women’s History Celebration committee finally honored one of its own, Katarzyna Rolzinksi, who has worked hard putting together many of the previous events.  This year’s theme “Writing Women Back Into History” was a natural for Rolzinski who gave examples of history being “His Story” and the need for “Her History.”

The featured speaker was Sonoma County  Assemblymember Noreen Evans.  Evans noted that suffragette Clarina Nichols, who struggled for women’s right to vote during the 1800’s, actually came from Potter Valley.  Evans was also impressed with the number of local women officials there are in Mendocino County.

Currently the Assessor-Clerk Recorder, Auditor-Controller, County Counsel, CEO, DA, HHSA Interim Director, Human Services Director, Head Librarian, Museum Director, Public Defender, and Treasurer-Tax Collector are all women.  There are two women county supervisors, Kendall Smith and Carre Brown, as well as many women on city councils throughout Mendocino.

The event is sponsored by the National Women’s Political Caucus, whose mission is to get women into office.

There was also a lot of entertainment.  Ukiah Poet Laureate Theresa Whitehill read some of her poems.  The audience was particularly taken with her psalm to the evil pleasures of chocolate.  The Developing Virtue Girls School orchestra opened the event with songs played on traditional Chinese instruments.

The Inland Valley Women’s Chorus sang several songs, including one on marriage equality written by chorus director Madge Strong.  The group meets every Tuesday evening at the Center for Spiritual Living in Ukiah, and welcomes new singers.  Ana Araiza closed the festivities with a moving interpretation of the song, “They Are Falling.”

The Women’s History Celebration is always a great show.  And it’s remarkable the number of politicians who faithfully attend.  Six actively campaigning candidates were present along with numerous public officials, three county supervisors and various city councilmembers – including emcee Mary Landis.

This year’s event was dedicated to Susan Bell, who died unexpectedly last year.  Bell was active for many years at the Ukiah campus of the Mendocino Lake Community College.  But she did more than teach math and computer skills.  She leaves behind many students who credit her with guiding them through the arcane passages of academia.  Vivian Sotomayor Power, who worked with Bell for many years, presented Neil Bell with a special recognition for his wife’s work in the community.

In addition to the National Women’s Political Caucus of Mendocino County, The 27th Anniversary Celebration of Women’s History Month was also presented by the  American Association of University Women of Ukiah, the Ukiah Saturday Afternoon Club, and the Soroptimist International of Yokayo Sunrise.  This is the second year that the celebration has been held at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, which lent a warm ambience to the event.