Exhibition Opening Reception for Juana Briones y su California: Pionera, Fundadora, Curandera

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Please join us for a special reception as we celebrate the opening of the next major exhibition at the California Historical Society: Juana Briones y su California ~ Pionera, Fundadora, Curandera.

In this bilingual exhibition on the life and times of Juana Briones (1802-1889) -- pioneer, founder, healer  we experience the transformation of California under three flags: Spain, Mexico, and the United States. We navigate alongside Juana -- without a formal education yet dynamic, strategic, and resourceful -- through the social, economic, political, and legal upheavals of nineteenth-century California. Through paintings, maps, portraits, legal documents, and artifacts, we realize a vision of Juana Briones as a woman adaptable yet undaunted in her pursuits. More broadly, through her accomplishments -- as mother, landowner, business woman, and humanitarian -- we glimpse how some women, including those of Mexican and Spanish descent, influenced our state's history on a wide-ranging yet distinctively human scale.

In her time, this remarkable Californian of Spanish and African descent managed a farm and a dairy in Yerba Buena (later San Francisco) -- one of the town's earliest residents. She purchased and operated a 4,439-acre ranch in present-day Palo Alto. She adopted Native American orphans and used her skills as a curandera (healer) in the community. She filed for an ecclesiastic separation from her abusive husband -- a rarity in her time. She successfully defended her land claims in U.S. courts, becoming one of the state's first women to own property. No photograph exists of Juana Briones. Yet, from the objects in this exhibition an image begins to form in our minds of this potent, resourceful, and creative woman who convincingly represents the spirit and promise of our state.