It’s Wednesday and I’m thinking about women. In a week and a half I’ll be giving a talk at the Petaluma Regional Branch Library. The subject is the Ladies’ Improvement Club which was founded in 1896 by what a San Francisco Call reporter termed “Petaluma’s New Women” whose main objective was to improve and maintain two of Petaluma’s existing parks – or plazas as they were called at the time. The first officers of the club were Addie Atwater, president; Rena Shattuck, vice president; Kate C. Weston, secretary; Stella Newburgh, corresponding secretary; and Zoe Fairbanks, treasurer.
I’m enjoying researching the lives of these women and their colleagues; the times in which they lived and the larger City Beautiful Movement of which they were a part. As I prepare for my presentation I can’t help but think of another woman who was equally committed to the improvement of Petaluma and advocated for more parks and preservation of Petaluma’s rich historic and architectural heritage - Helen Putnam.
Helen DuMont Putnam (1909-1984) was elected as Petaluma’s first female mayor in 1965. She held this position until 1978. In 1979, she joined Helen Rudee as the second female member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. There is much to be shared about Ms. Putnam’s accomplishments as an educator, mayor, and supervisor, but for the purposes of this post I’d like to highlight a walking tour she organized in May of 1975.
The walking tour coincided with Historic Preservation Week – something Mayor Putnam had codified by an official proclamation in which she called “on the people of the City of Petaluma and especially the preservation organizations, historical societies and other civic groups, to observe the week with activities and ceremonies designed to call attention to the urgent need to save our historic landmarks for the enjoyment and edification of our people present and future and to demonstrate our lasting respect for the unique heritage.” (Source: The Petaluma Argus-Courier, May 8, 1975).
The tour took place on May 18th. The tour began at the Petaluma Public Library on B and Fourth Streets. The tour goers were taken around the downtown with specific attention given to 11 buildings. Mayor Putnam was instrumental in planning the tour and served as hostess. The event was sponsored by the City of Petaluma, Heritage Homes of Petaluma, the Historic and Cultural Preservation Committee and the Petaluma Bicentennial Committee.
These days we can count on the volunteers associated with the Petaluma Museum to give tours of not only the downtown, but of the waterfront and various residential neighborhoods. Wouldn’t it be great if they could be joined by members of the City Council on occasion? Perhaps in May 2018. May is in fact National Historic Preservation Month.