Native Daughters of the Golden West

Albany Public Library, via the Online Archive of California

I am always amazed by the number of women’s organizations that I have never heard of.  While looking through Calisphere, I discovered this photo of a 1948 meeting of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, a group that celebrates the pioneers who populated the state.  It was founded in 1889, a time of massive immigration.  I was surprised to discover that it still exists today

The only requirement to join is having been born in California.  That counts be out.  Like many Californians I was born someplace else. Although the organization now supports many different charities, one of its tasks is to keep a Pioneer Roster, documenting all settlers to the state by 1870. You would think that groups celebrating mainly white settlers would have gone out of style. 

Looking at the 1948 picture, you would think that the only women born in the state were white. Times have changed, though.  If I’m not mistaken, this 2019 photo from Stockton, California shows several Chicana faces. 

In comparing the two photos, we can see how special occasion dress has changed.  In 1948, all members were in evening gowns.  The oldest looking woman wears black, another is in white, and a few wear flowered dresses.  The sleeves of the older women in the front row are definitely longer than those of their younger colleagues.  In the 2020 photo there’s an interesting difference between the fashions of young and old.  We can’t see everyone’s bottom half clearly, but among those we can see there are more older women in pants than young ones. The dress code for this event clearly emphasized pink. 

This group is a sister organization to the Native Sons of the Golden West.  From the start, they celebrated their female constituency.  The local groups are called Parlors, not clubs.  And as is clear in both photos, flowered clothing is favored by both young and old.  That’s not surprising, since the California poppy is one of its symbols.  On their website I just discovered that April 9 is California Poppy Day. I’m sad I missed it.

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One Response to Native Daughters of the Golden West

  1. Bob Moeller says:

    I take it that even its current iteration Natives don’t include indigenous populations. The University of California, Irvine, acknowledges that it “is located on the homelands of the Kizh (Gabrieleño), Acjachemen (Juaneño) and Payómkawichum (Luiseño) peoples, who are the original stewards of the land colonially known as Irvine, California.” Maybe there’s room to lobby for still more “natives” to be members of the NDGW.

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