Picture of winemaker standing between rows of vineyards with a wine glass
Akiko Freeman of Freeman Vineyard and Winery

Sonoma County Honors International Women's Day

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International Women's Day on March 8 is the perfect time to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Women's History Week, which eventually became National Women's History Month, at the movement's birthplace: Sonoma County.

The Movement's Birthplace: Sonoma County

Up until the 1970s, women's history was practically an unknown topic in school curriculums or in general public consciousness. So 43 years ago the Education Task Force of Sonoma County created the first 'Women's History Week' that started March 8, 1978. More than 100 women participated by making special presentations in classrooms, and an essay contest drew hundreds of entries. The week's finale was a parade and program in downtown Santa Rosa.

In February 1980, President Carter declared the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women's History Week. The National Women's History Project was founded that same year, with its headquarters in Santa Rosa and a goal of 'writing women back into history.'

By 1986, 14 states had declared March as Women's History Month, and in 1987 Congress declared March as National Women's History Month in perpetuity.

Sonoma County Women Leaders

Picture of Leslie Wiser and Sarah Deragon of Radical Family Farm
Leslie Wiser and Sarah Deragon of Radical Family Farm

This unique place of Sonoma County has been shaped by incredible women in their fields. They've taken the lead in cultivating the land and learning from it, like Leslie Wiser, who grows the food of her Chinese-German heritage with her partner Sarah Deragon on their Radical Family Farm in Sebastopol.

Women here have shown a strong connection to animals, such as Jamie Mickelson of Sonoma Mountain Beef Cattle and Deborah Blum of Goatlandia. They've broken barriers and built community in the wine industry, like Kim Stare Wallace, owner of Dry Creek Vineyard, and Marimar and Christina Torres, the mother/daughter owners of Marimar Estate.

Two women smile while cooking
Marimar and Christina Torres

In the Sonoma Valley, there's Brenae Royal, the millennial, Black vineyard manager making all the farming decisions that make Monte Rosso Vineyard grapes so premier.  In Sebastopol, Akiko Freeman is an acclaimed former art historian who now infuses elements of her native Japan into her winemaking at Freeman Winery. And then there's Amy Bess Cook, who champions women-owned wineries through WOW Sonoma. These women continue adding to the legacy in many ways started by wine industry legends like Merry Edwards and Carol Shelton who call Sonoma County home. 

But women are making a name for themselves elsewhere, too. In the craft drink industry there's Tara Jasper of Sipsong Spirits, Amy Groth of HelloCello & Prohibition Spirits, and Ashby Marshall of Spirit Works Distillery, which was named the 2020 National Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute. Women here brew world-class beer, like Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company, and shine a cider spotlight on Sonoma County, such as Ellen Cavalli of Tilted Shed Ciderworks.

Women also lead in the kitchen, including entrepreneur Crista Luedke of boon eat + drinkEl Barrio, and BROT; Chef/Owner Liza Hinman of Spinster Sisters; Mimo Ahmed, Pastry Chef at Glen Ellen Star; Leah Scurto, award-winning pizza chef and co-owner of Pizza Leah; Marianna Gardenhire of Backyard restaurant; Casey Thompson and Melanie Wilkerson of Folktable; and Duskie Estes of Black Pig Meat Co. and Farm and Pantry. 

Women make specialty food products, such as Candice Koseba of Sonoma County Bee Company; Deb Rock, owner of Sonoma Hot Sauce; Lisa Gottreich of Bohemian Creamery; Donna Pacheco of Achadinha Cheese Company; Sheanna Davis of Epicurean Connection; Leslie Goodrich of Lala’s Urban Farmstand; and Sallie Miller and Gwen Gunheim of Miracle Plum.

They've led us outdoors, including Erin Ellis of Triple Creek Horse Outfit; Siki Waters of Water Treks EcoTours and Kayak Rentals; and Margaret Lindgren of Unbeaten Path Tours & Yoga. They run museums, including Jean Schulz of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Holly Hoods of the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society, and have launched film festivals (Kathryn Hecht of the Alexander Valley Film Festival). They're artists and creatives, including SCAPE Mural Project, Maria de Los Angeles, Bud Snow, MJ Lindo-LawyerAdelle Stoll, and many more.

Still other industries, such as wellness, have the women of Sonoma County to thank. Rosemary Gladstar, Sonoma County native and known as the “Mother of Herbalism,” founded the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville in 1978. Herbalist, nutritionist, and whole foods chef Lily Mazzarella owns Farmacopia, an apothecary and integrative health clinic that is currently offering online community classes. Erin Wilkins, owner of Herb Folk in Petaluma, brings her personal ancestral healing traditions into her practice as an Asian American herbalist and Japanese acupuncturist.

Sisters Pandora and Emma, and her daughter Sabrina, are behind Three Sisters Apothecary, which creates artisan bath and skin care products using centuries-old traditions. West and Pure Apothecary, owned by holistic estheticians Laura Heath and Sarah Carlson, brings non-toxic beauty products to intimate skincare. At Renew Yoga Petaluma, owner Pamela Maldonado teaches with the concept “Be Love, Do Love” at the center of each practice. And finally, the dhyana Center, a premier Ayurvedic School, self-care studio and community center, was founded by DeAnna Batdorff, Ayurvedic and Tibetan Practitioner and Educator, Massage Therapist, Western Herbalist, Nutrition Counselor and Clinical Aromatherapist.

We are so grateful for these, and so many other women who have made Sonoma County what it is today.

Upcoming events around International Women's Day:

International Women's Day Celebration

Participate in a crafts and garden workshop at Sonoma Garden Park.

Women in Arts

Join the Museum of Sonoma County for a panel discussion featuring Donna Brookman, Maria de Los Angeles, and Linda Vallejo, three artists from 35: Thirty-Five Artists for Thirty-Five Years

Drawing the Line

Join the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Scholastic graphic novelists Gale Galligan, Michelle Mee Nutter, Molly Knox Ostertag, Maria Scrivan, and Shannon Wright as they discuss creating stories that empower girls today. 

How to Draw Lucy

Learn to draw everyone’s favorite fussbudget, Lucy Van Pelt! Explore Lucy’s multi-faceted personality and learn to draw some of her many expressions with Mary Shyne, staff artist at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates.