The Pioneering Women of Inyo County photo exhibit features the women who
left an indelible mark on Inyo County's history and development over the
past 150 years. The exhibit illustrates that many women of Inyo County
were not content with merely remaining in the background of life. They
were leaders in shaping our societies and the lives of all who inhabited
this vast region of Eastern California. Not only were they influential
contributors to their families and communities, they were also active
participants and leaders in the fields of medicine, education, science,
government, and the arts.
At its heart, Inyo County is a place of people and their stories. The intriguing and often untold tales of the women represented in this exhibit, along with many others who possessed their remarkable pioneering spirit, remind us that women played an essential role in the formation and development of Inyo County, as well as the entire Eastern California region.
The following are brief descriptions of some of the dynamic women featured in the exhibit, which relates how women were part of Inyo County's earliest history, and are still helping shape the county today.
Lola Travis came north from her birthplace in Mexico to become one of the wealthiest business owners in the county during the 1870s. Besides caring for her extended family, she owned a variety of brothels, taverns and hotels over the years in mining towns such as Cerro Gordo and Panamint City, as well as in such "respectable towns" as Lone Pine. Paiute women weavers left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and amaze. During the first half of the 20th century, such weavers as Susie Wilson and Isabel Hanson crafted baskets that mix exacting craftsmanship with stunning designs.
Marie Parcher was a journalist in Minnesota in the 1890s, and came to California with her husband, William, to start the Hollywood Citizen newspaper in 1910. Two years later, they purchased the Owens Valley Herald and moved to Bishop, where the family then built Parcher's Rainbow Camp at South Lake. The Parchers led the effort to establish the Eastern California Museum Association, in 1928, and Marie remained active in the county's civic and cultural affairs throughout her life. Lillian Linde Hilderman was one of the numerous postmistresses that tended to the mail in Inyo County. Hilderman became the Postmaster in Keeler in 1919, and stayed at her post for 37 years.
One of the pioneering doctors in Inyo County was Helen MacKnight Doyle, who set up her practice in Bishop in 1894, while her husband, Dr. Guy Doyle, maintained his office in Independence. The family eventually moved to New York, then back to Berkeley. In 1934, her autobiography, "A Child Went Forth," was published, and was reprinted in 1983 under the title, "Doctor Nellie."
A true Renaissance woman, Mary DeDecker raised a family in Independence, wrote numerous books on the region's history and plants, and, as a self-taught botanist, discovered three new plants, all of which now bear her name.
Still making her life her art and her art her life is Death Valley icon Marta Becket, who honed her dance skills in New York before landing in the Amargosa Opera House in 1967, where she continued her life's work as a dancer and artist.