CALIFORNIA CULTURE,
1870–1918
CHAPTER 26

By 1870, the pioneer phase of California’s history clearly had ended. At San Francisco, the state’s premier metropolis, wealthy patrons set about to foster the arts and education. Other towns also began to establish museums, opera houses, and even symphony orchestras.

Especially notable was the emerging role of women in California society. Among those who contributed significantly to the new culture was Helen Hunt Jackson, originally a writer of children’s stories. Later, she combined an interest in raising the public consciousness over the mistreatment of Indians with a concern for neglect of California’s Hispanic past. Indeed, her articles in Century Magazine and her book ACentury of Dishonor (1881) stirred up national indignation over the plight of California’s abused Natives. However, her novel Ramona (1884) failed to achieve the same effect. Readers, instead, were entranced by Jackson’s romantic portrayal of the love affair between an Indian brave and a Latina maiden. This was taken as a true reflection of California’s idyllic mission era. Such an Arcadian stereotyping would later be dramatised by local actors in the town of Hemet, which still stages an annual “Ramona Pageant.”

There were other talented women of Jackson’s era. Among them was Helena Modjeska, a Polish actress who in 1876 established a short-lived Utopian colony near Anaheim. The flamboyant dancer Isadora Duncan, a San Franciscan, went on to world fame. A quite different, yet remarkable, woman was a former Georgia slave named Biddy Mason.

In order to reach California, Mason crossed the Great Plains in 1851 with three daughters, driving along a herd of sheep. In Los Angeles she found work as a nurse at a wage of $2.50 per day. Yet Mason managed to save enough

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