On September 25, the West Adams Heritage Association’s 2010 Living History Tour celebrated the 100th anniversary of California women’s voting rights by focusing on pioneering women who dared to venture in new directions in their lives and in a variety of professions.
The Living History Tour was first presented twenty years ago to bring the stories of early Los Angeles citizens to life and thereby tell the story of Los Angeles itself. In the intervening years WAHA has showcased more than 100 historic personages (mostly men), and this year’s 20th anniversary tour is departing from that tradition to present the women of the cemetery.
Amid the elaborate headstones and monuments of the historic Angelus Rosedale Cemetery (established in 1884) costumed actresses summoned the riveting stories of some of the most influential and fascinating women from the early history of Los Angeles. Although Marianne Muellerleille was the only professional actress all the performances were of equal calliber and easily evoked the spirits who seemed eager to have their stories told. The costumes were perfect and the sets simple but effective. Everyone attending left with absolute admiration for these early pioneers who succeeded in the struggle to express their talent, intelligence and passion in a time when these qualities were allowed expression only as "hobbies" or in women's clubs. There was also great admiration for the efforts of WAHA who created a beautiful and professionally realized production. Along the path between performances, the tour guides offered fascinating commentary about the cemetery, it's inhabitants and its statuary. Contact WAHA to be put on the list for notification of next years tour! NOT To BE MISSED! (photos of living actresses by Jeff Valdez, historical commentary by Laura Meyers)
She’s been dead since 1914, but on Saturday, September 25, Caroline Severance will come back from the grave to describe what it was like when she was fighting for women’s right to vote, and before that, for Abolition and other social reforms. She’ll be joined by fellow Southern California Suffragettes Clara Bradley Burdette, and Dora Fellows Haynes (first Los Angeles president of the League of Women Voters). Played by Marianne Muellerleille
Born to former slaves in 1895, actress Hattie McDaniel, who was the first African American to win an Oscar (for her role in Gone With the Wind), is credited with a series of other firsts: she was the first black woman to sing on American radio, the first to star on a network show (Beulah), and, in death, the first African American Academy Award winner to appear on a postage stamp.
McDaniel wished to be interred at what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but it’s then-owners would not break their color line, so when she died in 1952 she was buried instead at Rosedale, the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all creeds.
Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star, was born in the U.S., a laundryman’s daughter who succeeded in Hollywood, but the stigma of race never disappeared. Wong was not permitted to kiss any white leading male actors (which limited her film roles), nor could she marry a white man in America, yet she had significant roles in films such as Thief of Bagdad (1924) and Shanghai Express (1932) that today are cinema classics. Played by Sharlene Chou
Georgia Ann Robinson was another Suffragette and in 1916, the first black female police officer in Los Angeles and possibly the nation. Robinson was hired by the LAPD as a jail matron, but she became a detective. She was a leading member of the Sojourner Truth Industrial Club, and one of the founders of the NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter.
Played by Maahra Hill
Nellie Lutcher was a jazz pianist/vocalist whose bluesy swing riffs won her fame as the “Real Gone Gal” in the late 1940s, leading to worldwide tours and singing engagements with Nat King Cole, among others. Lutcher later became the first African American female board member of the Musicians Union Local 47.
Played by Wendy Calhoun
Nicknamed the “Diamond Queen,” Clara Baldwin Stocker was the heiress to “Lucky” Baldwin’s fortune. She was one of the only women to name a street ‘Stocker Boulevard.’ for herself in Los Angeles. Stocker made millions more when she sold the acres for development as Leimert Park.
Played by Mitzi March Mogul
The women of the nation’s press made their way into newspapers in the face of strong male opposition. Young Minnie Roswell (picture unavailable) left her Minnesota farm country home at age 15 in 1878 and made her way to Chicago, where she became the Windy City’s first “Gal Friday,” interviewing John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpont Morgan, William H. Vanderbilt and other financiers of the era for the Chicago Record newspaper. Played by Leah Miller