Local History and Genealogy Notes

  • Source: Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, Oct. 9, 1911

    Source: Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, Oct. 9, 1911

Suffrage Will be the Theme by Katherine J. Rinehart

Leasa Graves, assistant director of the National Women's History Alliance, will present Ripe for Picking: The Impact of the Sonoma County Suffrage Movement. Ms. Graves will explore the topic of suffrage and role of Sarah Latimer Finley (1848-1937) as the Sonoma County Press Chairman of the Political Equality Association in detail.

Leasa and I are co-chairs of the Education and History Committee of WE 2020 – a countywide collaboration initiated by Supervisor Lynda Hopkins that has organized to commemorate the women’s suffrage centennial by honoring the past, celebrating the present, and advocating for the rights of all women of the future.

We hope Leasa's presentation will be the first of several events offered around Sonoma County as we and others prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which was approved by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920.

Do you or an organization you are affiliated with have plans to commemorate this milestone of democracy? The Centennial offers an unparalleled opportunity to research the history of the women's suffrage movement, examining closely those who were included and excluded and understanding the movement's relevance to issues of equal rights today? We'd love to hear from you. Please respond by using this simple survey.

Also, remember with advanced planning, the Sonoma County Library may be able to host your event, exhibit, etc. at one or more of our branches. For more information, please contact Katherine J. Rinehart at krinehart@sonomalibrary.org

  • Monthly Newsletter Sign-Up image

    Monthly Newsletter Sign-Up


The Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library is pleased to announce the launch of its new newsletter!

Read articles by staff members, stay in the loop on upcoming events, learn about us, our collection and the Sonoma County Archives, discover new books and hidden records, and follow links to interesting local history and genealogy related websites. Stay connected... We will be sending out the first issue Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

Subscribe by clicking this link (check the box for “History & Genealogy”) SIGN UP

  • Carrie Clinton Lane Chapman Catt (1859-1947). Source: Library of Congress image

    Carrie Clinton Lane Chapman Catt (1859-1947). Source: Library of Congress


The year 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment,  guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote. This historic centennial offers an unparalleled opportunity to commemorate a milestone in democracy and to explore its relevance to the issues of equal rights today.

At the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library, in partnership with National Women's History Alliance,  we're working with a team of volunteers to document those involved in the local suffrage movement as well as the sites where suffrage-related activities occurred. This research will feed into two related projects - a Votes for Women Trail Map and written biographical sketches that will be submitted to a national online biographical database managed by the Center for the Historical Study of Women and Gender at Binghamton University in New York.

Volunteers and library staff are making exciting discoveries on a weekly basis. For example, we just learned that Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), Iowa educator, two-time president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and founder of the League of Women Voters spoke to a large audience at the Petaluma Opera House on October 29, 1896.  Mrs. Catt had been invited to speak by the Petaluma Political Equality Club and was introduced by club president, Ellen H. Button. Mrs. Button, a native of Vermont, came to Petaluma with her husband Isaac V. Button in 1861 at the age of 22. In 1870, she was the treasurer of the Sonoma County Woman Suffrage Association, when she signed her name to a petition for women's suffrage that was sent to the California legislature. Mrs. Ellen H. Button was one of 398 Petaluma residents to sign the petition.

Many of those listed on that 1870 petition, including Ellen H. Button, continued to work on behalf of the suffrage cause for years. Thanks to the fact that a number of local newspapers are available digitally, determining the level of their involvement is much easier than it would have been in the past. Newspapers research is so important because these individuals are not often found in secondary sources and if they are their work on behalf of suffrage is often overlooked.

To learn more about our research and find out how you can get involved, please contact the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library

  • 20th Anniversary March on Washington photo

    20th Anniversary March on Washington

Sonoma County Library Closed on January 21, 2019

A friendly reminder that all Sonoma County Library branches will be closed this Monday, January 21, 2019, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This photograph, credited to Chester Higgins, shows people participating in the 20th Anniversary March on Washington, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to support the creation of MLK Day; August 27th, 1983. This image is just one of millions of rights-cleared images available free of charge through Britannica ImageQuest, which is available to all Sonoma County Library card holders.

  • Photograph of Santa Rosa's WCTU fountain courtesy of the California Historical Society photo

    Photograph of Santa Rosa's WCTU fountain courtesy of the California Historical Society

Santa Rosa's WCTU Fountain

Recently I was asked if I knew anything about Santa Rosa's Women's Christian Temperance Union.  My response was not a lot, but that I'd see what I could find out. We're lucky to have a copy of Petaluma's WCTU chapter minutes from 1911 to 1921 at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library, but no such records for the Santa Rosa Chapter exist within our collection.

By using various newspaper databases I was able to locate quite a bit of information about Santa Rosa's WCTU including the fact that they commissioned Kinslow Brothers to construct a granite fountain at the corner of Fourth and B Streets. The dedication took place on August 24, 1901, at which time the fountain was, according to a Press Democrat article, "received into the keeping of the City of Roses by its chief executive, Mayor James S. Sweet, who made a brief and very appropriate speech of acceptance."

The California Historical Society has a photo of the fountain taken after the 1906 earthquake. Note the caption presumably supplied by the photographer, James O. Rue: "The only thing on Fourth St. that remains intact."

The question now is where did the fountain go. Inquiring minds would like to know.