Book Review: Remarkable Women of San Diego

Remarkable Women of San Diego

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Remarkable Women of San Diego
Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! Today’s post is shorter, but still great. I am focusing on a local history book titled: Remarkable Women of San Diego: Pioneers, Visionaries, and Innovators.

Book Review of Remarkable Women of San Diego: Pioneers, Visionaries, and Innovators

Remarkable Women of San Diego: Pioneers, Visionaries and Innovators.
Written by Hannah S. Cohen and Gloria G. Harris.
Charleston : The History Press, 2016, 144 pages (ISBN: 9781467118262)

To be completely honest, books like this, that delve into the not-so-famous but important people in history, are one of my favorite types of non-fiction. I love learning about the history of various communities, their local heroes, and who the people were who made these places what they are today.

This book, in particular, is a wonderful collection of biographies that explore the lives of twenty-eight women who have been (and continue to be) instrumental to San Diego’s past, present, and future. While San Diego has had European inhabitants since 1769 when the Presidio of San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcalá were established, San Diego as we know it didn’t start to grow until after 1850 and California became part of the United States.

And that is where this book begins. It is divided into four sections, the first three each encompassing a fifty-year span and the four section dealing with the time period between 2000 and 2015. Each section also focuses on six to eight exemplary women who lived and worked during that time period.


Six women are focused on in this first section. Among them are included:

Mary Chase Walker Morse – San Diego’s first public school teacher (and ardent believer in equal rights),

Kate Sessions – the ‘Mother of Balboa Park’ (as well as an early environmentalist), and

Helen Hunt Jackson – famous for her novel Ramona and who, as mentioned in this book, was inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin and stated, “If I can do one hundredth part for the Indian that Mrs. Stowe did for the Negro, I will be thankful,”.


The second section, encompassing the first half of the 20th century, details the lives of eight women of note including:

Ellen Browning Scripps – the founder of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, protector of the rare Torrey pine tree, and overall philanthropist,

Hazel Wood Waterman – architect and historical restorer of the Estudillo Casa in Old Town San Diego,

Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill – founder of the University of San Diego, and

Luisa Moreno – Mexican-American Rights Activist.


The third section, detailing the second half of the 20th century and a time of women breaking plenty of glass ceilings, also focuses on eight women including:

Joan Kroc – an amazing philanthropist who made San Diego her home and, as is stated in the book, “…distributed her fortune the way ‘the non-rich fantasize it should be done: no fanfare or foundations, no red tape or robber baron formality.”

Anita Figueredo – Trailblazing surgeon, BFFs with Mother Teresa and role model to Latinas the world over,

Anna Sandoval – First female Sycuan tribal leader who brought her tribe out of poverty

Bertha Pendleton – First black school superintendent in San Diego


The final section focuses on up and coming women who continue in the footsteps of those in the previous three sections. Among those included are:

Marye Anne Fox – renowned scientist and first woman to be appointed as permanent chancellor at University of California-San Diego

Shirley Weber – Founder of Africana Studies at SDSU

Toni Atkins – First lawmaker from San Diego to become the Speaker of the Assembly of the California state legislature

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to the women who have and are shaping San Diego. It is certainly an engaging read, and often I found myself wanting to research more about the women included.

The only thing I found marring the book were several factual errors: with examples such as Helen Hunt Jackson’s marriage date (stated as 1882 instead of 1852), birth dates for Florence Chadwick (two notations refer to her being born in 1918 as opposed to 1917) and Anita Figueredo (one notation stating she was born in 1917 as opposed to 1916), and the statement that Marye Anne Fox was ‘the first woman to be appointed as permanent chancellor in the University of San Diego system,…’ (there is no University of San Diego system, instead it was the University of California system – University of San Diego is a completely different entity altogether.)

Barring the few errors noted above and given how few women are really detailed in American history, this is an excellent book for any collection or library. If you or a loved one are interested in San Diego history, California history or women’s history in the US, this is a great addition to your or their collection.

Questions? Comments?

Questions or comments about this book? Do you know of other great local or family history books that I should review? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!

Remarkable Women of San Diego
Remarkable Women of San Diego
Remarkable Women of San Diego

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