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Historical Legacies of Arcadia, Monrovia, Pasadena and Sierra Madre Women

“I have always felt compelled to be involved in my community.” Rachelle Arizmendi, Sierra Madre Councilmember. – Courtesy photo / Rachelle Arizmendi

By Danelle Woodman and Isabelle Cruz

Women’s History Month started off as a week-long celebration in March declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. According to National Women’s History Alliance, in 1987 Congress declared the whole month of March as Women’s History Month in honor and recognition of the “extraordinary achievements of American women.” This expanded over time and has been celebrated for 32 years since its establishment. We carry this tradition into the present, fully embracing the historical and present-day achievements of the women in our local communities.

Arcadia

Anita Baldwin inherited her father’s love of horses and generosity. – Courtesy photo

Anita Baldwin -Historical Figure

Anita Baldwin is one of the daughters of Arcadia’s benefactor, Lucky Baldwin. As a Baldwin, she inherited her father’s love of horses and generosity. For many years she kept the old Santa Anita homestead intact. When the time came, she broke it up to erect the Santa Anita Park Racetrack. Anita’s contribution is not limited to the racetrack. She was also known for discreetly paying the debts of the people she knew and cared for, and helped war veterans get back on their feet when they returned home. She protected trees and helped artists like Maynard Dixon. One of the most notable legacies Anita left the Arcadia community is the construction of Anoakia, her large, 17,000-square-foot mansion in the Italian Renaissance style on Baldwin Ranch. The home was considered local treasure and served the community well after Anita’s death. Unfortunately, the home no longer stands.

Monrovia

Anna H. Jones -Civil Rights Activist

Civil rights activist. Suffragist. Educator. Founder of the Anna H. Jones (Colored Women’s) Club. All these titles were ones Anna H. Jones possessed. Jones found her voice in the suffrage movement through her career as an educator. According to historical references, Jones sought to improve conditions for African-Americans through education. The Jones Club movement started in 1883 and sprung multiple clubs providing a moral and intellectual education for local African-American women and girls. In her later years, Jones moved to Monrovia in 1920 and after her death, her legacy continued through the establishment of the Anna H. Jones Club which was run by members of Jones’s family and the Monrovia community.

“As a leader in the classroom, I try to inspire students to be curious and demonstrate that learning never stops no matter how many degrees someone earns or how much experience someone may have.” Daniella Mazzeo, Monrovia middle school teacher. – Courtesy photo / MUSD

Daniela Mazzeo-Teacher

Daniela Mazzeo came to be a teacher after her own experience in Monrovia schools. Mazzeo teaches at Clifton Middle School in Monrovia and was recently honored for her tremendous work in the classroom. She explains that the women in her life have inspired her desire to teach and value education. She says, “My grandmother instilled in me the importance of education and family at a young age. She is the most kind, loving person that I have ever met, but she holds people to high standards and never lets them take the easy way out of tough situations.”

“Working closely with students and providing encouragement goes a long way in motivating them to take risks and try new things,” she explains. “As a leader in the classroom, I try to inspire students to be curious and demonstrate that learning never stops no matter how many degrees someone earns or how much experience someone may have.”

Pasadena

Butler persisted writing anyways eventually becoming a recognized and award-winning writer. – Courtesy photo

Octavia E. Butler -Writer

Pasadena was once known as the city of churches and is now popularly known as the one of the city of arts. One of Pasadena’s beloved creators of art is African-American science-fiction writer Octavia Butler. As a child Butler would frequent the library. Butler’s mother tried to discourage her from writing and wanted her to become a secretary. Butler persisted, eventually becoming a recognized and award-winning writer. Some of her most notable works include: “Parable of the Sower,” “Wild Seed,” and “Kindred.” Her work for the literary community is still widely recognized and used in some of today’s English literary selections in education.

Sierra Madre

Alice Brugman carried the wistaria vine in a gallon can and planted it in her Sierra Madre home. – Courtesy photo

Alice Brugman-Historical Figure

Some may not see the beauty of vines, but Alice Brugman – being the plant person she was – went out and bought one anyways in 1894 for only 75 cents. She carried the wisteria vine in a gallon can and planted it in her Sierra Madre home. Little did she know the vine would grow up to be one of the oldest, largest blossoming plants in the world records. The beloved vine is considered one of the seven horticultural wonders of the world. Brugman’s vine started an annual spring tradition for the Sierra Madre community called the “Wistaria Festival” where members of the community and general public are allowed to visit the infamous vine in full bloom.

“I have always felt compelled to be involved in my community.” Rachelle Arizmendi, Sierra Madre Councilmember. – Courtesy photo / Rachelle Arizmendi

Rachelle Arizmendi-Councilmember

They say if you want to see direct change, you have to start with your local community. For Rachelle Arizmendi, she plays her role in the community through her service as a Sierra Madre councilmember, a board member of the California League of Cities, a board member of the League’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, vice president of Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE) and other organizations. Arizmendi believes as a former mayor, and a current city councilmember, her positions allow her to influence the community in many ways. “I see my role as an elected official more as a representative of the community rather than a leader. It is my job and responsibility to ensure that the decisions I make and actions I take are in the best interest of the city and my constituents. In my other role as a vice president of a community development organization, my leadership role is necessary for the success of the clients we serve,” said Arizmendi. According to Arizmendi, all of the matriarchs in her family have influenced her in her life. Throughout her childhood, she had both her grandmothers living in her home for months at a time. She recalls that both women were strong willed, fiercely independent, and family was of the utmost importance. Arizmendi’s mother was an immigrant from the Philippines who came to the United States with an education, a husband, and little to nothing else in her pocket. Her parents both worked hard to raise a family and to truly live the “American Dream.” Her mother was always involved in the community and excelled in her career as a teacher. She taught her the importance of working hard, of having pride and integrity in your work, the value of surrounding yourself with good people, and heeding the call of giving back to your community.

There are many more women within our community that have influenced local government, schools, and fellow community members in various capacities. To the women who have left their mark in history and to the women who continue to inspire us today, we honor your strength, your power, and your determination to lead.

February 28, 2019

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