On Mother’s Day, I led a women’s history walking tour through downtown Los Angeles in honor of my own deceased mother. Mom was a passionate advocate for documenting women’s stories in Los Angeles. Sharing these stories seemed like the best way to honor her memory, especially since I incorporate her research into the tour script. Leading tours always has me slightly anxious but I’ve discovered it to be a helpful distraction from what can be a really depressing day. I’m so focused on preparing for the tour that I forget to be sad about Mother’s Day … well, I never really forget but the tour helps to dilute the sadness.
The idea of this women’s history tour started with my first Mother’s Day without my mom. Shortly before she died, we ended her birthday celebration by spending the night at the Hotel Figueroa, a structure built for women in the 1920s. She was so inspired this and the Variety Arts Center (originally the Friday Morning Club) across the street, she started an outline of a Women’s History Bar Crawl (we had, on occasion, been known to lead a few LA history bar crawls). So, on that first Mother’s Day without her, I attempted an informal women’s history walking tour down Figueroa based on her brief list. A handful of friends joined as we ambled down Figueroa discussing women’s history and sharing stories about our mothers and grandmothers. The always-insightful Dr. Meredith Drake Reitan summarized the event on her blog LAvenuesProject.
This Sunday’s tour was the fifth time I led folks through downtown and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of people! We talked about the women of El Pueblo and Union Station. We strolled through Biddy Mason Park. We peered through the glass of the Globe Lobby of the former Los Angeles Times while discussing Eliza Otis, wife of Harrison Gray Otis. Most know Eliza Ann Otis only as the the wife to the formidable and combustive founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Yet, when the pair bought the Los Angeles Times, she was co-owner and a member of the four-member Board of Trustees. And, as the author of “The Life and Times of Los Angeles: A Newspaper, a Family, and a City” Marshall Berges explained, Eliza “was virtually the entire editorial staff.”
So, with rain expected later this week, I’m wrapping up this post with Eliza’s 1889 reflections about May rain in Los Angeles: