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Sarah Wallis

Sarah Wallis or in full Sarah Armstrong Montgomery Green Wallis (1825–1905) was an early Anglophone settler in California and first President of the California Woman Suffrage Educational Association.

She was born Sarah Armstrong in southern Ohio in 1825 though her family later settled in Missouri in 1839 where her father died in 1842. She became a hired girl for John B. Townsend. She married Allen Montgomery and joined the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party which traveled to California over what was to become known as Donner Pass in 1844. They settled near Sutter's Fort where she learned to read and write but eventually moved to San Francisco. In 1847 her husband, Allen Montgomery, went to Hawaii where he was believed to have died. In 1849 she married Talbot Henry Green, a businessman associated with Thomas O. Larkin and rising politician in San Francisco. In 1851 a local newspaper reported that Talbot Green was in fact Paul Geddes, a married man wanted for bank fraud in Pennsylvania. Talbot returned to Pennsylvania to clear his name but did not return to California. Sarah had had a son by him and in 1854 divorced him; he made over some money for her and his son which made her independent. Later the same year Sarah married Joseph Wallis. In 1856 she acquired the title to Mayfield Farm, 250 acres, in what is now southern Palo Alto and she and her husband settled there, built a large home,[1] and had several more children. She invested in the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad and persuaded them to have a station (now the California Avenue station) in the town of Mayfield.[2][3][4]

Though wealthy in her own right, after her marriage to Joseph Wallis it was legally in his name due to the law governing married women's property at the time; a law she lobbied to change. Both became staunch supporters of women's suffrage hosting meetings at her farm including one for Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she toured the west. In 1873 the California State Woman Suffrage Educational Association was founded with Sarah Wallis as president. She lobbied successfully for women to practice law in the California court system and that women could attend the California state college.[2][5]

In 1875 California had an economic depression which forced her to sell Mayfield Farm and move to a smaller holding in Mayfield, the town. This in turn she lost after her husband's death in 1898. She moved in with her eldest son in Los Gatos and died there in 1905. She is buried in Union Cemetery, Redwood City.[2]

Sarah Wallis park at the site of her second home in Palo Alto is named for her[6] California Registered Historical Landmark 969 marks the site of her first home in Palo Alto.[7]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Barron Mansion Fire: Red-Hot Resentment". Palo Alto History. Retrieved 26 July 2017.  The house would exist until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.
  2. ^ a b c Staiger, Steve. "Sarah Wallis: A 20th-century life in the 19th century". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved 22 July 2017. 
  3. ^ Graham, Doug (2003). "History". Barron Park Association Newsletter. Fall 2003. Retrieved 23 July 2017. 
  4. ^ Regnery, Dorothy (1986). "Pioneering Women: Portraits of Sarah" (PDF). The Californian (Magazine of the California History Center, De Anza College). 8: 6–8. Retrieved 23 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Nijhawan, Avni (10 October 2011). "Sarah Wallis: 100 Years of Women's Suffrage". Palo Alto, CA Patch. Retrieved 23 July 2017. 
  6. ^ "Sarah Wallis Park -". City of Palo Alto. Retrieved 22 July 2017. 
  7. ^ "CA-969 Home Site of Sarah Wallis". photos.historical-markers.org. Retrieved 23 July 2017. HOME SITE OF SARAH WALLIS - Sarah Armstrong Wallis (1825-1905) was a pioneer in the campaign for women's voting rights. In 1870 she was elected president of California's first statewide suffrage organization which in 1873 incorporated as the California State Woman Suffrage Education Association. The home she built on this site, Mayfield Farm, was a center of suffrage activities attracting state and national leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ulysses S. Grant.