by Suki Wessling
When I found out that Santa Cruz had a female lighthouse keeper for 31 years, I naively wondered whether there were other female lighthouse keepers in her time. It turns out that Victorian women lighthouse keepers were a “thing”—stunningly, at the turn of the 20th century there were at least four of them along the Pacific Coast: Juliet Fish Nichols on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, Laura Hecox in Santa Cruz, Emily Fish at Point Pinos in Monterey County, and Julia Williams in Santa Barbara.
These four women did a hard, sometimes dangerous, often lonely job that was absolutely essential to the safety of the men whose ships they protected from the rocks.
In this program, we explore the lives of three of these keepers of the light through the work of three women who have researched them. Caroline Arnold wrote a picture book about Juliet Fish Nichols. Lynn Guenther a book for young readers about Laura Hecox. And the program features narrative interpretations of Emily Fish by actress, historian, and teacher Eleanor Morrice.
This program isn’t just historical, because history never stays confined to the past. As modern women learn about and interact with the past, we see our own lives in a different light. Learn how each of our interviewees gained understanding of the places they live, the jobs they do, and their own place in society through researching Victorian women lighthouse keepers.
- Keeper of the Light by Caroline Arnold
- Light of the Day by Lynn Guenther
- Lighthouse Point: Reflections on Monterey Bay History by Frank Perry
- “Emily Fish: The Socialite Keeper” from the Keepers Log
- “Lighthouses: An Island with Three”
- “Lighthouse: Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, CA” by Jerry McCaffery
- “1906 quake cranked up Santa Cruz economy” from Santa Cruz Sentinel
- Laura Hecox Collections at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
- Juliet Fish Nichols from LocalWiki
- Point Knox Lighthouse from Lighthouse Friends
- Point Pinos Lighthouse
- Santa Cruz Lighthouse from Lighthouse Friends