Living History

New inclusions in the exhibit include Rumsien ethnographer Isabel Meadows (left) and multilingual translator Jone Quock Mui.

For a long time the Monterey Regional Airport’s art gallery showed an exhibit titled Against the Odds: Pioneering Women of Monterey County. It was made up of panels of women’s bios and pictures, all deceased, who over two centuries surmounted various obstacles (men probably being the leading one) and made big contributions to the life and culture of Monterey County.

They included women like Anne Hadden, the first librarian for Monterey County who famously delivered books by riding a mule through wilds of the county. And painter E. Charlton Fortune, who initialized her first name, Euphemia, to escape gender discrimination.

“Julia Platt was a brilliant academic in marine biology but could not get a job in academia,” says Meg Clovis, the gallery’s co-curator. “She became quite the political activist in Pacific Grove and became its first female mayor.”

That display went up and stayed up for 15 years while time marched forward around it. Until Clovis and co-curator Susan Klusmire took a recent look at it.

“It wasn’t very diversified,” Clovis says. “It didn’t accurately reflect the complexion of our county.”

So they did research, got help and funding, and updated it, replacing 10 of its 60 notable people with women of color and giving it a style refresh.

One new inclusion is Mae Johnson, a longtime local educator and community champion who died in 2015 at 82. Another is Perfecta Garcia Encinales, a Salinan Indian whose basketry is now preserved at UC Berkeley. The changes help keep this Monterey County exhibit historical and not antiquated.

Walter Ryce has been an arts writer, calendar editor, culture columnist, sometime photographer, and one-time web content coordinator for the Monterey County Weekly. He began working at the paper, which is based in his hometown of Seaside, in 2007.

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