As I focus on Women’s History month, I cannot leave out the women who shaped Santa Monica. Let me start with the one who owned the land that is now Santa Monica, Arcadia Bandini. She was born in 1825 into one of the most prominent California families.
At age 14, she entered an arranged marriage to 43-year-old Able Stearns whose shipping and other commercial enterprises made him one of the wealthiest men in California. He passed away in 1871, leaving everything to his wife, Arcadia.
In 1875, the same year that Santa Monica was first planned out, the widowed Arcadia married Colonel Robert S. Baker, business partner of Senator John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica. Arcadia and her husband divided their time between their Los Angeles residence in the ornate Baker Block and their home on Ocean Avenue, known as Ocean Cottage.
By 1879, Arcadia, wealthy in her own right, bought out her husband’s land and business holdings, and with Baker’s death in 1894, expanded her business partnership with Senator Jones to establish the Santa Monica Land and Water Company, which subdivided and developed 50,000 acres in West Los Angeles. You will find a bronze bust of Arcadia Bandini in the rose garden in Palisades Park.
Next, let us not forget about Santa Monica’s own Shirley Temple Black. She started as a child actress, becoming Hollywood’s number one box-office draw from 1935 to 1938. However, Shirley Temple Black’s multiple talents also made her into a singer, dancer, businesswoman, and diplomat, even becoming the first female Chief of Protocol of the U.S. and serving as a U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
Last but not least, let us not forget the ERA. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress on March 22, 1972, and sent to the states for ratification. In order to be added to the Constitution, it needed approval by legislatures in three-fourths (38) of the 50 states. By 1977, the legislatures of 35 states had approved the amendment. However, it was never fully ratified, so Kamala Lopez, the maker of the film Equal Means Equal, is taking the time to visit the states that voted not to ratify the ERA. So far, she has visited two of the three.
By Becky Lantry