Remarkable Women of Stockton

I grew up among strong, capable women. Deep in the Great Depression, before I was born, one of my grandmothers set up two businesses (that's right, TWO) in the San Francisco Bay Area to put food on the table after my grandfather took ill. Grandma J, a tiny Danish immigrant, ended up doing quite well for herself, thank you.

Tomato Queen Tillie Lewis (1901-1977)

Tomato Queen Tillie Lewis (1901-1977)

My other grandmother was just as tough. When Grandpa N lost his job at UPS, Grandma found creative ways to feed and clothe not only her own four children, but also an aging father and a very troubled younger brother. As the children left home, she moved into the workforce, transporting heavy equipment to Navy ships in San Francisco Bay during World War II, driving a school bus, and working in a school cafeteria.

I might also mention that she raced motorcycles as a youth … but that's another story.

Not everybody has grown up with such role models. So sometimes we need reminders of the accomplishments that strong, capable women have made throughout history.

Enter Remarkable Women of Stockton. In this delightful and engaging little book, former journalist and retired local librarian Mary Jo Gohlke reminds us about the contributions that twenty of Stockton's most notable women have made to their community, state, and the world.

Gohlke's cast of characters includes such well-known local figures as Julia Weber, Harriet Chalmers Adams, and Tillie Lewis. Slightly less famous but equally intriguing are Inez Budd, the eccentric wife of the only California governor from Stockton; Sarah Gillis, the owner-manager of a successful steamship line; and Elizabeth Humbarger, an outspoken supporter of educational opportunities for interned Japanese-Americans during World War II.

My personal favorite is Gohlke's brief biography of Margaret Smyth. Smyth bore the distinction of being not only an early female graduate from what became the Stanford University Medical School, but also, eventually, the superintendent of Stockton State Hospital.

Gohlke's historical scope ranges from the Gold Rush to the early years of the twenty-first century. Some of her subjects are remembered mainly because of roles they assumed by virtue of birth or marriage. More often they gained distinction by leveraging their own aptitudes or skills to make their marks against significant odds.

Remarkable Women of Stockton sparkles with lively prose. I recommend it highly. It can be purchased online directly from the publisher, History Press, or from or Barnes and Noble.

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