This site weaves together the context of life in California during the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, specifically focused on the lives of two independent women who flourished during this time in San Juan Capistrano and Riverside. The ability of women to invent and re-invent their lives and livelihoods is not a product of our time, but has been in existence for centuries. Women’s experiences today look and feel different than in the past. Societal changes have occurred in workplace, political and home environments that afford women civil rights, fulfilling and empowering opportunities, and better assurance of equal treatment and pay. These changes, in large part, were due to the efforts of independent women who challenged the limited roles, rights and responsibilities historically afforded to women.
Through the 1950s, the history of California was rife with the endeavors and pursuits of men, and treated women sparingly. The advent of new genres in historical study beginning in the 1960s has altered the balance in a positive way. This site focuses in particular on the lives of two independent women who flourished in their time: Sarah E. Maloy, M.D., of Riverside and Doña Polonia Montañez of San Juan Capistrano. The site presents a variety of primary and secondary sources so the viewer may explore and investigate the theme of independent women and the places and spaces they occupied. Visitors may navigate through the site by the menu below or the pages to the right under “Read More…” Viewers will find a starting point for further investigation on the Sources and Further Reading page.