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Preservationist Josephine McCracken: Pioneer Feminist of the Early 1900s

  • REI 400 El Paseo de Saratoga San Jose, CA, 95130 United States (map)

At the turn of the 19th century, Josephine McCracken of Santa Cruz became an indispensable voice for redwood preservation. Her activism inspired the women’s network essential for the successful 1901 campaign to create Big Basin State Park. Her journalist friend, Louise Jones, became a founder of the Sempervirens Club together with Santa Clara publisher Carrie Stephens Walter. While continuing as a passionate advocate for preservation, Josephine mentored key women in the movie industry: Mary Pickford, Zasu Pitts and the groundbreaking producer Beatriz Michelena. McCracken was also a leading figure in the San Francisco Bay area literary scene. She authored a collection titled the Overland Tales and was a close friend and contemporary of such luminaries as Bret Harte, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. Join historians Traci Bliss and Randall Brown as they celebrate Women's History Month with this story of how one woman overcame major obstacles, including escaping a homicidal husband in Texas and losing her Santa Cruz Mountains home to fire, to become a full-time journalist and advocate for women.

About the Speakers: Traci Bliss, an emerita professor of Education, has won several national awards for her documentary films and authored five books, most recently Santa Cruz’s Seabright with co-author Randall Brown. Her current focus, writing about environmental history in the Santa Cruz Mountains, emphasizes the vital yet underreported role of women in redwood preservation. Traci, whose family arrived in Santa Cruz in the 1840s, is a life member of the Society of California Pioneers. Her BA, MA and PhD degrees are from Stanford. 

Randall Brown, former Board President of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, recently received the Distinguished Historian Award from the Santa Cruz County History Forum. Brown and Bliss have co-authored several articles including “Saving Big Basin: Heroes and Heroines” and “The Saratoga Road to Big Basin” in Redwood Logging and Conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains: A SPLIT HISTORY. Brown serves as a history writer for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District and as a columnist for the Press Banner.