Honey Talks Sexual Secrets

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May 1, 2015 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground 







By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)


“The miners came in forty-nine,
the whores in fifty-one;
And when they got together
They produced the native son.”
– 19th century San Francisco song


Between the antipodean poles of promiscuity and celibacy is the rest of the world of desire.   Each of California’s periods of occupation — the time when many native tribes lived in the state, the Spanish-Mexican exploratory, mission and pastoral eras, and then the flood of Americans and people from all over the world after the Gold Rush of 1848 had different and often conflicting attitudes toward sexuality. The American episode has grown from legal and cultural repression to greater acceptance of interracial marriage, same sex love and greater equality between men and women.

One significant exception to that evolution in sexuality is prostitution: non-existent among pre-contact native people, initiated during the mission period, exploding as a trade during the Gold Rush, it remained legal until about 1910. Prostitution is still a crime.

Antonia L. Castaneda, “Engendering the History of Alta California, 1769-1848: Gender, Sexuality and the Family,” wrote: “As part of the natural world, sexuality, for many indigenous people, was related to the sacred and, as such, was central to their religious and cosmic order. Sexuality was celebrated by women and men in song, dance, and other ritual observances to awaken the earth’s fertility and ensure that they were blessed with fecundity. Accepted practices extended to premarital sexual activity, polygamy, polyandry, homosexuality, transvestitism, same-sex marriage, and ritual sexual practices. Divorce was easily attainable, and, under particular conditions, abortion and infanticide were practiced.”

Castaneda: “From 1769, when the first entrada (incursion) of soldiers and priests arrived in California to extend Spanish colonial hegemony to the farthest reaches of the northern frontier, women and girls were the target of sexual violence and brutal attacks. In the San Gabriel region, for example, soldiers on horseback swooped into villages, chased, lassoed, raped, beat, and sometimes killed women.”

Hugo Reid’s wife Victoria (also known as Bartolomea Comicrabit) was a widowed mission Indian, born in about 1802.   The Church granted her and her first husband two tracts of land: the Rancho Santa Anita and the Huerta de Cauti/Uva Espina. Only the governor, with the confirmation of the legislature, could grant land. After the Reids’ marriage, Hugo obtained legal title to his wife’s land in 1838 and in 1841. He obtained title to Rancho Santa Anita in his own name under Governor Pio Pico. The adobe structure in the Los Angeles County Arboretum called “the Hugo Reid” adobe was not their home, which actually may have been on the property that Victoria sold after Hugo’s death to Benito Wilson. That area – the Uva Espina land – is comprised roughly by today’s San Marino, inherited by George Smith Patton, son-in-law of Don Wilson and father of the famed World War II general. George Smith Patton, from a Southern state, criticized Wilson for having once married into a Mexican family, saying that Wilson had “sullied” the family Patton had married into.

The lands Victoria Reid acquired through the church after secularization were enormous. Few Indian women acquired land after secularization. According to Maria Raquel Casas’ research, Victoria had been the assistant to the mission’s llavera (key keeper) Eulalia Perez, a prestigious position at the mission – at all of the missions.   The key keeper at the missions locked in the Indian women into their dormitories and she was responsible for ensuring the young women’s morality. The morality ensured was the lynchpin to the padres’ control over Indian women’s minds and bodies, and the control of Indian women’s sexuality was the Spanish, and later the Mexican’s, control of the Indians.

Hugo Reid’s letters to the Los Angeles Star had therefore sound grounding in his wife’s personal experience. Castenada in her essay writes “(T)he priests at Mission San Gabriel attributed all miscarriages to infanticide and that Gabrielino women were punished (for miscarriages) by “shaving the head, flogging on fifteen subsequent days, (wearing) iron on the feet for three months, and having to appear every Sunday in church, on the steps leading up the altar, with a hideous painted wooden child in her arms, representing the dead infant.”

Some of the information about the Reid marriage is largely based on a purported biography about him, but so much of the biography is drawn from the author’s imagination that it is not reliable. The Maria Raquel Casas biography “Victoria Reid and the Politics of Identity,” cites more reliable sources.

Victoria may have been illiterate, although Casas maintains she was not because she had written several letters. Laura Evanston King, in “Hugo Reid and His Indian Wife,” published in 1898, states that Victoria was illiterate.   Hugo appointed Don Benito Wilson as her conservator. Wilson, who was to build a gracious home on the Uvas Espina property –this is now comprised partly by San Marino – showed a document that transferred the Uvas Espina into Wilson’s name. She had signed with an X.

The notorious priest Blas Ordaz – born in Burgos, Spain in 1792 — did not arrive at the Mission San Gabriel until 1848. In The Franciscan Friars of Mission San Fernando, 1797-1847, historian Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., wrote: “Father Ordaz was at least the father of a son by Maria Soledad Ortega and a daughter by Lorenza Manuela Juana, both baptized by Ordaz who inscribed in the Santa Ines baptismal register, ‘Legitimate son’ by an unknown father’ in 1830; ‘legitimate daughter by ‘an unknown father’ in 1832, respectively. Senorita Ortega had two children by Ordaz before marrying soldado Juan Leon Feliz in 1835. From www.myheritage.com. Maria was born in 1812, in Rancho Refugio, and she and Juan had two children. Her affair with the Father Ordaz began when she was about 17 and he was about 37.

On Juan’s death, Maria willed the Rancho Feliz to her son Antonio in 1853. When Antonio was dying in 1863, Antonio de Coronel accompanied by a lawyer visited Antonio, and together they wrote a will turning the Feliz Rancho over to Coronel. Coronel sold the property to James Lick. In 1882, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith acquired the property, an area roughly comprised of Griffith Park, the Los Feliz district and part of the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. The Feliz house, much altered, is the Ranger Station in Griffith Park.

In 1872-75, Ohio journalist Stephen Powers investigated about 2/3 of California tribes to write a series of newspaper articles. He did not look at how Indians lived south of the Tehachapi Mountains because he believed the mission system had changed how the Indians lived so much that he felt he would learn nothing worthwhile from listening to people of those tribes.

In 1875, Powers got in touch with Major J. W. Powell, then in charge of the Department of Interior’s Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. Powell agreed the collection of articles should be brought out in book form. This collection, added to later by Powers, is Tribes of California.

Powers’ writing on the Indians reveals his affection and respect for his subjects; nonetheless, he was a man of his time. His reading audience, moreover were Victorians.

In his “Preface” to Tribes of California, writing about the Pomo people:

“It is a humble and a lowly race which we approach, one of the lowest on earth; but I am greatly mistaken if the history of their lives does not teach more wholesome and salutary lessons – lessons of barbaric providence, plenty, and contentment, of simple pleasure and enjoyments, and of the capacities of unprogressive savagery to fill out the measure of human happiness, and to mass dense populations – than may be learned from the more romantic story of the Algonkins.”

In a chapter on the Karok people, he wrote:

“Before marriage, virtue is an attribute which can hardly be said to exist in either sex, most of the young women being a common possession; but after marriage, when the dishonor of the woman would involve also that of the husband, they live with tolerable chastity, for savages…Virtue therefore is exceedingly rare as an innate quality, but is simply an enforced condition; and indeed the Karok language, though rich in its vocabulary, is said to possess no equivalent for ‘virtue.’”

Notwithstanding that opinion, he later related in his book a legend about a maiden who goes to live down river from her people. When she begins to menstruate, she and young female companions endure great hardship to return her to her village so that she may go through a puberty ceremony. After the puberty ceremony, he explained, she may be married. Assuming native girls reached puberty at about thirteen, the period during which a young woman was a “common possession” had to have been very brief.

The term “common possession” is value-laden. It suggests the young women had no choice. The term suggests that women were property – and nothing Powers mentions in his book indicates the Indians viewed females as property; indeed, everything else he wrote points to an egalitarian relationship between men and women, other than that men hunted and fought wars; women did everything else. All work, however, was equally valuable and equally necessary.

His interpretation of “virtue” and his assumption that women were property corresponded to the Victorian cult of purity in women.

In 1943, Carey McWilliams in Southern California: an Island on the Land stated the native people did not have a tradition of prostitution. Nothing in Powers 1877 research suggests that native women engaged in prostitution north of the Tehachapi Mountains. McWilliams indicates the mission system was responsible for syphilis among the California native people, as do other sources.

Skeletal investigations in Europe, however, revealed no Pre-Columbian incidents of venereal or non-venereal syphilis. An investigation of Native American Indians reveals that – pre-contact – syphilis existed but that it was rare. Debra L. Martin and Alan H. Goodman report that infectious diseases became more frequent after Native Americans developed agriculture.   Inasmuch as pre-contact California Indians did not develop agriculture, McWilliams may be correct.

After European contact, at least one of California’s missions provided the first prostitutes in the state. Young entrepreneur Faxon Dean Atherton – later considered one of California’s finest citizens — wrote about the Mission San Josein 1836:

“All the young girls of the Mision [sic] are kept locked up nights by themselves, to keep them from mischievous pranks. They are under the charge of a man who is called an Alcalde, but I found that he knew the value of a 4 real piece, and understood what he received it for. There are some pretty fair girls amongst them, and what is more, devilish neat and clean.” (“Alcalde” in Spanish means a mayor, an is a mayor of a town. During the mission era, an “alcalde” was a native with a governing role. By “real,” Atherton referred to the Spanish word “royal” and meant a unit of money.)

Atherton died of “brain fever” according to Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. in the introduction to the diary. “Brain fever” as used in the nineteenth century sometimes meant an infection caused by syphilis.

The ratio of men to women in California was fifty-to-one at the beginning of the Gold Rush. By 1848, Indian women regularly engaged in prostitution as a trade. The second wave of prostitutes from other countries arrived in 1849 from Valparaiso, Chile. Some of these women married miners but most went to the “Fandango Houses,” cheap brothels in San Francisco.

Herbert Asbury wrote in The Barbary Coast that “(B)y the end of 1852, there was no country in the world that was not represented in San Francisco by at least one prostitute.” Asian women migrants – arriving in 1848 — worked from cheap single-room occupancies known as cribs, isolated in Chinatown alongside dives and gambling houses. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the “Order to Remove Chinese Women of Ill Fame from Certain Limits of the City.” The crackdown continued for several months until brothel owners agreed to occupy only certain buildings. Congress forbade the importation of prostitutes in 1875.   Prostitution did not become illegal, however, in most states until between 1910 and 1915.

Jack London first experienced sexual love with San Francisco prostitutes. He continued to visit San Francisco brothels during his first marriage, accompanied by his closest friend George Sterling and he visited a New York brothel during his second marriage.   At one point, he was afraid that venereal disease was the cause of his increasing ill health. He was to die of kidney failure when he was forty, possibly accelerated by his use of painkillers to alleviate his physical suffering. In 1993, Charles W. Denko, M.D., concluded London’s kidney failure was the result of systemic lupus.

The law did not affect homosexual behavior in California after the American occupation until about 1881.

The term “sodomy” began with the Biblical city of Sodom, which God destroyed because of its lack of hospitability to strangers. Later writers interpreted the destruction to homosexuality in Sodom. During the Spanish Inquisition, the Christian establishment killed and tortured Jews, heretics, witches and sodomites alike. Sodomy was loosely defined as any non-reproductive sex. Moorish society in Spain had a more relaxed attitude towards same-sex relationships.

Albert Hurtado, in Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California, wrote:

“There was one other sexual practice common among California Indians – male homosexual transvestism, or the so-called berdache tradition, which was evident in many North America tribes. The berdache dressed and acted like women, but they were not thought of as homosexuals. Instead, Indians believed that they belonged to a third gender that combined both male and female aspects. In sex they took on the female role, and they often married men who were regarded as perfectly ordinary heterosexual males…”

The mission system that separated men and women from each other until they married led to incidents of homosexuality. Inasmuch as Spanish soldiers raped Indian women, it is possible they raped men as well.

The California legislature adopted the common law by a statute of 1850. The common law included a prohibition against sodomy but, when the code was adopted in April 1850, California was a territory, not a state, so this statute, after California became a state, was invalid.

In 1855, the state enacted a law expanding the common law to cover an “assault with intent to commit sodomy.” The legality of the 1850 code was cleared up with a new one in 1872.   The first reported case under the anti-sodomy law was People v. Williams, 59 Cal. 397 (1881). The California Supreme Court stated in dicta that “Every person of ordinary intelligence understands what the crime against nature with a human being is.” Apparently not everyone did understand what “the crime against nature” meant, so in 1915, the State legislature enacted law that prohibited fellatio and cunnilingus.   Following that enactment a number of defendants successfully argued they didn’t know Latin. In 1916, an appellate court decided, in People v. Carrell, 161 P. 995 (1916) that Carrell did not know the meaning of the word “fellatio” when charged with committing fellatio on a woman. The California Supreme Court denied review. It looks like either no one was clear on what was a crime against nature or no one understood Latin.

People suffered from the egregious invasion of privacy caused by legal intrusion into their private lives. Police looked through stood on porches and ladders to look through windows. The law applied to heterosexual couples, and one couple was convicted because a man was found on his knees in front of a woman. Both were fully clothed.

One man was sentenced to 43 years for sodomy but then a court of appeal found that he had not had adequate representation (He had represented himself.) and deserved a jury trial.

Ben Tarnoff in The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, describes the contributions of four iconoclastic writers set against the background of bohemian San Francisco, an era that began with their work for the Golden Era in the last years of the American Civil War, and which continued with their contributions to the Overland Monthly.   Hart, Stoddard and Coolbrith co-edited the Overland Monthly during its first incarnation.

Hart and Twain left California but their writing about this state tilted the literary world’s axis away from more formal east coast writing to a vernacular, rougher western prose. Charles Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith became forgotten poets.

The public admired Stoddard’s exotic travel writing during his lifetime. He traveled to the South Seas and wrote about the pleasure he found in the company of the young native men. As biographer Roger Austen put it, “perhaps the greatest degree of homoeroticism can be found in (Stoddard’s) ‘Chumming with A Savage,’ based on his 1869 visit to Molokai.” This autobiographical sketch describes Stoddard’s relationship with Kana-ana, a Hawaiian adolescent with whom Stoddard fell in love. An example of Stoddard’s portrayal of same-sexuality in the South Seas arises when he first meets Kana-Ana: “(W)e went …through the river to his hut, where I was taken in, fed, and petted in every imaginable way, and finally put to bed, where Kana-Ana monopolized me, growling in true savage fashion … I didn’t sleep much, after all, I think I must have been excited.”

In spite of the fact that Stoddard was “almost feminine but not effeminate” (according to one journalist in a premature eulogy – Stoddard had been in a coma, revived, and didn’t die until several years later) and his prose revealed his sexual identity, albeit in a camouflaged way, he never admitted to his friend Ina Coolbrith that he was a homosexual, and she advised him that the cure for his sadness was to settle down and marry. When another female friend asked him why he remained a bachelor, he told her it was because he snored.

Mark Twain, however, referred to Stoddard as “a very nice girl.” Ambrose Bierce, once a friend, came to loathe him for his “inversion,” as did Carmel poet George Sterling. Bret Harte felt sympathy for Stoddard as an outsider – Harte was half-Jewish and felt himself as outsider. Harte’s sympathy for the outsider showed in his early writing. In 1859, Harte wrote editorials defending local Indians targeted by acts of violence that were being targeted by acts of violence from white settlers. Four months later, he wrote about the cold-blooded massacre of up to 200 Wiyot Indians, the majority of which were women and children. His writing created such a controversy that he received death threats and fled to San Francisco. Harte’s hatred of injustice threw a kindly blanket over his friendship with Stoddard.

Stoddard’s writing pulls down the mask and puts it up again so that the reader is left confused about what he meant. In his later travels in Europe and the Middle East – financed by daily contributions to the San Francisco Chronicle about his travels — he was never faithful to any man.

In Walt Whitman’s epistolary relationship with Stoddard, Whitman gently urged Stoddard to write in a stronger voice and to find his relationships – as Whitman did – with regular rather than exotic men. Whitman found his sexual relationships with policemen, dockworkers, and ordinary men.

Stoddard’s ornate and sentimental poetry, once respected, is Victorian writing that has not stood the test of time. Nonetheless, Stoddard became for a time San Francisco’s unofficial poet laureate and an exemplar of elegant bohemianism, in Kevin Starr’s words: “Chopin at twilight, Oriental bric-a-brac, incense, lounging robes, and fragrant cigarettes.”

Stoddard had a secondary secret. He took into his home teenage boys that he loved. When he had money, he helped them with clothing and education expenses. He also slept with them. No one at the time objected.

In one case, the boy’s mother, overwhelmed by financial responsibility, gratefully gave her son fifteen year-old Kevin O’Connor over to Stoddard, until Stoddard relinquished his teaching job and rented a room in the mother’s house.

In his late fifties – he was to live to age 66 — Stoddard began to be more forthcoming privately and in his writing.   He corresponded with Jack London, who understood that Stoddard was gay, and he met him once. Stoddard claimed that Jack was one of his “Kids.” Jack had told him emphatically that he loved women but perhaps Jack’s friendly acceptance of the poet who wrote in purple ink qualified him as a “Kid.”

About forty years after Stoddard’s death in San Francisco, homosexual literature jumped into the boxing ring of public opinion with the publication of “Howl.” This essay will return to the genteel pagan after a brief discussion of what happened in the around the middle of the twentieth century.

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) lived at 1010 Montgomery Street in North Beach in San Francisco when wrote the poem “Howl”—a ten minute walk from Ina Coolbrith’s former house at 1067 Broadway. The Beat Museum is at 540 Broadway. City Lights Bookstore is at 261 Columbus Avenue in North Beach. It takes four minutes to walk from the bookstore to Allen Ginsberg’s former apartment building on Broadway.

In 1943, at the Morningside Heights of Williams Burroughs, Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac, and the trio later became pivotal figures in the Beat movement. On one occasion, Ginsberg used his college dorm room to store stolen goods acquired by an acquaintance. Ginsberg plead insanity to avoid prosecution and spent several months in a mental hospital. In 1954, he moved to San Francisco to follow Neal Cassady, a young adventurer whom Ginsberg loved.   In San Francisco, he met Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In 1953, poet and artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti co-founded City Lights Bookstore and publishing company. Jack Kerouac Alley runs behind the bookstore. One of the plaques set in the ground in the alley is a quote from John Steinbeck: “The free exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.” Another plaque quote’s Lawrence Ferlinghetti: “Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations.”

In 1953, Rexroth wrote “Thou Shall Not Kill,” an indictment of what Rexroth believed America and its commercialism did to its poets, including a friend of his – Hart Crane, who had committed suicide by jumping off a boat off the coast of Florida. Crane associated his homosexuality with his vocation as a poet and saw himself as a social pariah. Queer theorist Tim Dean argues that the obscurity of Crane’s style owes itself partially to his position as a semi-public homosexual; that is, not quite closeted but not completely open out of legal and cultural necessity.   The poem ended with:

” And all the birds of the deep sea rise up
Over the luxury liners and scream,
”You killed him. You killed him. In your Goddamned Brooks Brothers suits,You son of a bitch.”

Ginsberg wrote drafts of the poem “Howl” in mid-1954 to 1955 and showed this poem to Kenneth Rexroth, who criticized it as too stilted and academic. Rexroth encouraged Ginsberg to free his voice and to write from the heart.

In “Howl,” Ginsberg denounced the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity. In a tumbling, “hallucinatory” style, he addressed sexuality, specifically homosexuality. You can find the text at the Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179381. The poem begins with these lines:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated….”

After the poem’s publication, San Francisco police arrested Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the manager of City Lights books on the charge of disseminating obscene literature.   Hon. Clayton W. Horn ruled that “Howl and Other Poems” had social importance, and it was not obscene.

The passages that attracted the censors’ attention::“…who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in police cars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication, “…who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts, “…who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,

“…who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,”

Back in 1903 a few steps past the Victoria Era, Charles Stoddard wrote n his novel For the Pleasure of His Company: An Affair of the Misty City: Thrice Told (1903), written six years before his death, Stoddard again played hide-and-seek about his sexual identity. He wrote briefly, however, a about his close platonic friendship with Ina Coolbrith — named “Elaine” in this autobiographical work — in his chapter called “Our Lady of Pain.”

“He (Stoddard’s alter ego Paul Clitheroe) crossed the beautiful bay, sparkling in the brilliant sunshine and fretted here and there by the scudding flocks of wild duck; he touched on the shores of Arcadia and grew happier in a moment. ‘I know where the trouble lies,’ said he to himself—yet a passerby might have overheard him, he was so in earnest ___’I am too much in the world; I see too many people, hear too many noise—the clash and the clang of traffic; my eyes are blurred, my ears are deafened; my heart is sick of it al’….In this mood he came to the door of the modest cottage, sitting back from a quiet street, in the midst of a well kept garden filled with old fashioned flowers. A large Maltese cat purring upon the doormat arched her back at his welcome, approached and threw her sleek body against his trouser leg in ecstatic abandonment. He took the beautiful creature in his arms for a moment, listening to its loud yet muffled purring ….While the two were gradually magnetizing one another, the door swung open and there stood a sad-faced, slender woman of pronounced Spanish type, with eyes that were full of tenderness and regret.

“’Elaine!’ exclaimed he, entering the cottage with puss still in his arms.

“’Well, dear Paul,’ said she in a low voice, a contralto voice in the minor key, ‘I began to think you were never coming again…’”

The house Paul arrives at is apparently Ina’s house in Oakland, during the years she worked as the free library as its first librarian and apparently spending her free time figuring out how to speak in a low contralto in a minor key.   He continues:

“It was a pretty room; the souvenirs of artist friends hung upon the walls; an old-fashioned set of bookshelves on one side of the room was stuffed full of books – most of these the gifts of their authors; the grate, wherein no fire was laid, was a pretty study of still life—like a grotto in some nook of the sea. A very sweet, but a sad place, alas! Paul never visited there but he felt the sorrow of Elaine weighing upon his heart when he went out from her. Her life had been one long and bitter disappointment. Her poems had won the praises of the noblest poets in the land, but they had not sold as they should have sold, far and wide, and to the world in general; even to the well informed literary portion of it, her name was too little known. Losing one after another of all who were nearest and dearest to her, she was by force of destiny compelled to lead the life of a slave, in order to clothe and feed herself though modestly enough. From morning till late in the evening she was on duty in a public office; only on Sundays and national holidays could she call her soul her own. This was Elaine, the sweetest singer of all the tribe in that golden land of song – and the saddest by right of silent, prolonged, helpless and hopeless suffering.”

That’s a bit much. Ina did have to work six days a week at the library to support her family, but she also played the guitar, danced and was pretty funny. An admirer once gushed, “Oh! Miss Coolbrith! I just live on your poems!” The poet riposted, “I’m glad someone can.”

Paul returns to Misty City that night by ferry. (The Bay Bridge would not be built until the 1930s.)

“(T)he late boat was crossing the still water by moonlight, and as he sat on the breezy forward deck watching the city they were approaching—a picturesque outline of shining hills pricked with a myriad of lamps, like clouds of fire-flies floating in the west—he was startled by a large soft hand being placed gently upon his shoulder, and a familiar voice calling him fondly by name.” (The hand was attached to a fat man Paul knew.)

Those paragraphs give a look into Stoaddard’s friendship with Ina Coolbrith but reveal Stoddard’s feelings on her behalf — it is unlikely that he would have sacrificed his writing time to work to support a family – not actually Coolbrith’s feelings.

Coolbrith considered writing her autobiography but decided that, if she told the truth, it would be scandalous. The circle of writers, poets and artists she influenced called her the Virgin Poetess. She didn’t talk about her marriage except through her poetry – and to Charles Stoddard, who did not write about it.

Coolbrith wrote during a time when Americans read and recited poetry, and she was the paramount western woman poet of her era. Tarnoff concludes that her poetry did not change American literature, and that her familial responsibilities constrained her development as a writer. Her contribution, he believes, was in her promotion of writers and artists –- but she was California’s first Poet Laureate. Her writing contributed to later Imagist poetry. As she was so widely read until the 1920s, the imagery in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899), a book set in Louisiana about sexual repression, may well have had its root in Coolbrith’s images.

Twain and Harte left California. Harte’s star ascended and plummeted. Twain became one of America’s most well known authors and lecturers.

Nigey Lennon — in The Sagebrush Bohemian:Mark Twain in California — states there was a romantic relationship between Twain and Coolbrith and Harte and Coolbrith. That Twain never mentioned Ina in his writings or elsewhere is support for her conclusion. In a defense of her position posted on Internet, she states the relationships were so well known that no one talked about them, and that Ina’s papers all burned in the ’06 fire and earthquake.   Tarnoff’s research indicated Ina did not meet Twain. Harte married Anna Griswold six years before he worked with Ina at the Overland Monthly.  

Close reading of Coolbrith’s poetry suggests she had one lover — her husband Robert Carsley — and that she remained faithful from the time they married when she was seventeen until her death.

Her life in California spanned her arrival on a covered wagon through Beckwourth Pass when she was eleven, the last years of culturally Mexican Los Angeles until she was twenty, the literary years on Russian Hill, her middle-age years spent as the librarian in Oakland’s first free library, her award as California’s first poet laureate in 1915, and her death in her niece’s house in Berkeley as a destitute old woman.

Scripps College Professor Cheryl Walker’s stunning The Nightingale’s Burden: Women Poets and American Culture before 1900 (1982) and Walker’s American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (1995) both rather uneasily claim Ina as a nightingale poet.

In Nightingale’s Burden, Walker identifies several categories of nineteenth century women poets’ themes: martyrdom and self-pity, renunciation, duty, the poet as captive, madness and torment, an appreciation of nature that verges on the hysterical, and the home or room as sanctuary. These themes reflect the internalization of 19th century realities of marriage, women’s economic/legal/political fragility, and death and illness.

Ina Coolbrith was not a nightingale. True, she often wrote in what historian Kevin Starr calls the “Lo! Hark! School.” Sometimes her writing is is self-pitying and too often melancholy, the rhythms rather stale, but her imagery is direct and clear — anticipating H.D.’s (1886-1961) Imagist poetry of the early twentieth century. She earned her living and supported and raised three children.   Coolbrith’s palette, moreover, was Californian.

The idea of women poets as nightingales grew from John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” (1819). Keats’ poem draws on a minor figure in Greek mythology, Philomela or Philomel, whose brother-in-law cut out her tongue. In Ovid’s version of the myth, Philomel becomes a swallow, which has no song, and her sister became a nightingale. In Keats’ variation, Philomel becomes a nightingale.

East coast nineteenth century American women’s poetry was often melodramatic: but the economic and cultural experiences of women, even privileged white women, confined them.

Massachusetts’ family law was an example of America’s east coast inheritance from England’s legal system:

“At the turn of the nineteenth century, coverture laws significantly impeded the ability of married women to own and manage property in the United States. Unless a married woman obtained the protection of equity under the terms of an ante-nuptial agreement or a specifically tailored trust instrument, the common law entitled her husband to manage and control her land, to take for himself the profits derived from her real estate, and to own virtually all her personal property.”

Prior to the mid-1800s, most states accepted wife beating as a valid exercise of a husband’s authority over his wife. One exception, however, was the Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay Colonists, which declared that a married woman should be “free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband.” In 1850, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to explicitly outlaw wife beating. In 1871, Alabama rescinded the legal right of men to beat their wives. In 1945, the California legislature passed a law that made wife beating illegal.

Life expectancy reached 48 years in 1900. Women’s poetry reflected, consequently, frequent episodes of grief. Helen Hunt Jackson took up activism for Indian rights and writing as a way to assuage her grief when her first husband and her two sons died. Ina Coolbrith wrote “A Mother’s Grief” about the loss of her infant son in 1861 in Los Angeles when she was nineteen. Her father died young, and her mother became one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Smith was murdered. She made the Overland Crossing when she was ten years old and had no formal education until the family arrived in Los Angeles. Her husband tried to kill her, and the shame of divorce drove her to San Francisco. Her stepfather abandoned her mother to look for gold in San Diego County. Her brother-in-law and her sister died young, and Ina raised their children and the poet Joaquin Miller’s illegitimate half-Indian daughter. She worked for many years as a librarian and was fired.   The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco destroyed her home and with it her books, her writing, and her research. Life was, in fact, difficult for Ina.

During the American Civil War, the northern states lost ten percent of its young men.   The Southern states lost thirty percent. The war brought an end to the National Women’s Rights Convention, although white women and women of color served as spies and nurses. The fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution did not grant women suffrage. California female voting came earlier, but the United States was not to grant women the right to vote until 1920.

Women did, however, go to university after the Civil War, and for the most part they went to coeducational colleges. California state colleges admitted women after1870, but schools of medicine and law kept them out longer. In the United States by 1870 only .7% of the female population went to college. This percentage rose slowly, by 1900 the rate was 2.8% and it was only 7.6% by 1920.

Late in the 19th century, women’s poetry became quite successful, and its success should be taken in the context of women’s political and economic reality; that is, women had begun to be allowed educations but otherwise remained powerless and lived in a time when people died young – imparting a submissive and melancholic aspect to their written expression. Walker cites Fred Lewis Pattee:

“Their volumes, bound in creamy vellum and daintily tinted cloth, began more and more to fill the book tables, until reviewers no longer could give separate notice to them, but must consider the poets of a month in groups of ten or twelve.  The quality of the feminine product was high enough to find place in the most exclusive monthlies, and the quantity published was surprising.  The Atlantic Monthly, for instance, during the decade from 1870 published 108 poems by Longfellow, Whittier, Homes, Lowell, Aldrich and 450 other poems, and of the latter 201 were by women.”

Professor Walker writes that in 1900 several writers had “given this perplexing female condition a piercing look.  In that year Kate Chopin was recovering from the abusive criticism she had received in the review of The Awakening, a novel about a woman who refuses to answer ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Must too bold desires be quieted?’  Edna Pontellier, the novel’s heroine, follows the ignis fatuous of self-realization, ‘the light which, showing the way, forbids it’ and ends up a suicide.  Having tried to imitate the free bird, she must acknowledge her impotence against the constituted powers of patriarchal authority.  ‘A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.’  The only freedom left to her comes through death.” (Ignis fatus means a phosphorescent light that hovers over swampy ground at night. A secondary meaning is “something that misleads or deludes; an illusion.”)

Women’s fiction and poetry remained intensely personal in the twentieth century. Edna St. Vincent Millay inherited the personal going-mad-from-it- all nightingale legacy. Sylvia Plath’s writing has the greater simplicity and vivid beauty of twentieth-century outrage.   Plath’s only novel The Bell Jar (1963) uses the bell jar as the primary metaphor for feelings of confinement and entrapment. The main character feels that she’s stuck in her own head, spinning around the same thoughts of self-doubt and despair. Plath also, however, uses the bell jar as a metaphor for society at large, for the way that people can be trapped inside social conventions and expectations. Maya Angelou autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) employs the caged bird metaphor for a black girl’s experiences in a racist and male-dominated society.

The cultural expectations for women did not allow Ina to discuss either her divorce or her birth family’s polygamous past.

Josephine Anna Smith — called Ina by her family — was born in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1841. Her mother Agnes Coolbrith had converted to Mormonism in Boston. Her father Don Carlos Smith, a printer, was the brother of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Don Carlos died when Josephine was four months old of malarial fever, and Agnes married Joseph Smith, becoming his seventh or eighth wife.

When Josephine was three, an anti-Mormon anti-polygamy mob murdered Joseph and her uncle Hyrum. Agnes and three other Smith widows moved to St. Louis, where Agnes married alcoholic lawyer and lexicographer William E. Pickett. Recent Mormon research indicates Pickett had also converted to Mormonism, and that he had a second wife he left behind when he and Agnes decided to move to California.

In 1852, Josephine Donna Smith, age eleven, crossed the plains with her family in a covered wagon. She had never been in a school but Pickett carried with him a well-worn copy of Byron’s poetry, a set of Shakespeare, and the Bible. When she walked alongside her family’s wagon on that long journey, she made up poetry in her head.

Somewhere in the Nevada sands she buried her doll after it took a tumble and split its head. All the children of the wagon train attended the funeral as the doll was lowered into its grave.

African-Indian Mountain man and explorer James P. Beckwourth guided the caravan. Beckwourth’s father – and owner – had freed him. As the wagon train entered the pass, he put Ina and her older sister on the back of his horse and rode with them as they crossed into California and looked down at it. “Here, little girls, is your kingdom.” Ina was the younger child, so she may have sat in front of her sister and entered California a moment before her sister.

Coolbrith’s “A Summer Wind” begins with a passage that describes what she saw when he she was ten years old, slowly riding down the side of the Sierras into the Sacramento River Valley:

“Balmily, balmily, summer wind, 
Sigh through the mountain-passes, Over the sleep of the beautiful deep, 
Over the woods’ green masses; 
Ripple the grain of the valley and plain, And the reeds and the river grasses!”

The Pickett family lived in San Francisco for a short time when the city was still wild and dangerous and much of the city was still comprised of sandy undeveloped hills.

“In olden days, a child, I trod thy sands — Thy sands unbuilded, rank with brush and briar. And blossom—chased the sea-foam on thy strands/ Young city of my love and desire.”

Her family moved to San Bernardino – when it was still largely Mormon and part of Los Angeles County – and then to the pueblo of Los Angeles during the years Los Angeles was shared equally by former Mexican citizens and Americans.

The houses were flat adobes with courtyards planted with pepper trees. Vineyards, peach and pomegranate orchards grew along the then unconfined, broader and meandering Los Angeles River around El Aliso, the hundreds of years old giant sycamore close to the plaza where the Tongva people had gathered and later the pobladores who had founded the pueblo seventy years earlier. (El Aliso stood around where the County jail called “Twin Towers” is now.)

From Coolbrith’s “A Hope”:

“It befell me on a day long ago; ah, long ago! 
When my life was in its May, 
In the May-month of the year. All the orchards were like snow with pink-flushes here and there; And a bird sang building near. And a bird sang far away where the early twilight lay.”

The young Ina played the guitar and sang American and Spanish songs. She danced the fandango – an exuberant Spanish courtship dance of Moorish origin. The dance begins slowly with the rhythm marked by castanets, clapping of hands. Pio Pico – governor of California, of Spanish, African and Native American ancestry who looked, from his photographs, African but his brother looked Indian — introduced her to society at one of his many balls on his enormous rancho.

Kevin Starr, in Americans and the California Dream (1850-1915) wrote about the time just before California joined the United States:

“At balls and festivals Californian showed American that work was not everything. From twilight, when guitars, violins, and castanets began to play, until dawn of the next day; kept going by the juice of jimsonweed or fired by draughts of brandy – the Californian danced. Shouting encouragement to those who moved rhythmically in the stately contradanza, the joyous fandango, the sensual jota, or the intricate jarabe, the Californian celebrated a wedding, a harvest, a national or religious holiday, or perhaps just life itself. To many Americans California life seemed a perpetual round of feasting, dancing, love-making, and visiting back and forth. They condemned such unproductive carnival, but there were also times of quiet envy.”

Before 1850, Americans married into Mexican and into Indian families, and acquired land in Southern California. Hugo Reid married a San Gabriel mission Indian and acquired extensive land near the mission through that marriage. Don Abel Sterns renounced his Jewish heritage and became a Catholic and Mexican citizen. At age 43 married Arcadia Bandini, aged fourteen. Arcadia brought a sizeable land dowry. Benjamin Davis Wilson – “Don Benito” – married Ramona Yorba, daughter of Bernardo Yorba. Bernardo Yorba inherited the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.   Today, this area comprises Santa Ana, Villa Park, Anaheim Hills and part of Irvine. He purchased the 13,328 acre Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana. The grant included today’s Yorba Linda. Don Benito purchased the part of the Rancho Juruba, part of today’s Riverside County from Juan Bandini, and Rancho San Pascual – Altadena, Pasadena, Alhambra, San Marino and San Gabriel. He also co-owned Wilmington.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Americans gradually subsumed the Mexican culture.   Mexican and Anglo lawyers, including Pickett, became the greatest beneficiaries, acquiring Mexican land in exchange for representation in court contests.

The arrival of Americans who did not marry into the gente de razon abruptly changed life in the pueblo. In a one-year period starting in September of 1850, 31 people were murdered in Los Angeles. Out of a population of only 2,500, this is by far the highest homicide rate in American history. This does not include the murder of Indians, Blacks, Asians and Mexicans, which were not considered crimes. The homicide rate between 1847 and 1870 averaged 158 per 100,000 (13 murders per year), which was10 to 20 times the annual murder rates for New York City during the same period.

With one remarkable exception – its anti-miscegenation law — California initially adopted the Mexican family law system.

Caroline Berneo Newcombe wrote:

“When a California wife scared hogs out of her mud kitchen in 1832,she had some things in common with a Visigothic wife living in fifthcentury Spain. Both women worked ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with their husbands to survive in harsh conditions. Both women enjoyed a community property system which regarded the relationship between husband and wife as an economic partnership…”

Newcombe contrasts the inherited Spanish legal system from the common law system inherited from English law. Under the common law, the husband and wife were “one person in law.” The legal female existence merged with the husband’s, which meant in practice that the woman had no separate legal identity. In the Spanish system, the wife managed her separate property. This idea continues into California law. In the English system, she did not – which explains why many women elected to be spinsters in the eastern and the southern states because the eastern and southern states — except for Louisiana, which inherited the Code Napoleon — relied on the common law.

California also passed legislation that allowed women the right to divorce (1851).

This was the confusing, violent venue the Pickett family entered when they moved to Los Angeles.

The first public school in Los Angeles opened in 1817 and lasted a year. Don Ygnacio de Coronel – Antonio Coronel’s father — ran a school from 1838-1846. His daughter Soledad, the first woman teacher in Los Angeles, taught music. This school ran whenever there was money from the Ayuntamiento and when parents could pay. It was located during the first part of this period in the Coronel residence on Los Angeles Street near Main. The early schools had been for boys only. Few girls received any formal education. Girls’ education consisted of learning to embroider, to cook, and to make and mend their own clothes and those of their family, and they learned these skills at home.

In January 1851, the Reverend Henry Weeks and his wife opened an English school. The Reverend Weeks had charge of the boys and his wife had charge of the girls. They taught for $150 a month, but they provided the schoolroom. In 1855, the first public school building was opened on the northwest corner of Second and Spring and the following year a second one was opened on north Main Street. They were known as School No. 1 and School No. 2 respectively. They were two-story brick buildings, each having two school rooms and two recitation rooms. The first one was located in the suburbs of the city. “Nearby was a corral where Wilson, who ran a draying (carting) business kept his horses. Between the school and the corral were clustered small workshops, a windmill, some chicken coops, and a blacksmith’s shop which served as terminus of the Butterfield transcontinental stages where they ‘fetched up’ three times weekly.”

Ina attended, according to her biographer, “the first public school,” which may mean she attended the school at Second and Spring Streets. Her second stepfather William Pickett brought with him to California a small library, which included the works of Shakespeare and Lord Byron. Her birth father Don Carlos Smith – who died soon after she was born – edited periodicals for the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Los Angeles Star/Estrella published Ina’s first poem when she was fifteen, so she probably learned to read and write before she began a formal education.

Close to her death in 1925, she wrote: “Retrospect,” which recalled her days in Los Angeles when she was a young girl:

“A breath of balm—of orange bloom! By what strange fancy wafted me through the lone starlight of the room? And suddenly I seem to see the long, low vale, with tawny edge of hills, within the sunset glow cool vine-rows through the cactus hedge and fluttering gleams of orchard snow.
“Far off, the slender line of white against the blue of ocean’s crest, the slow sun sinking into night quivering opal in the west.
“Somewhere a stream sings, far away. Somewhere from out the hidden groves and dreamy as the dying day comes the soft coo of mourning doves.

“One moment all the world is peace! The years like clouds are rolled away and I am on those sunny leas, a child, amid the flowers at play.”

She married at seventeen, and the Los Angeles Star/Estrella printed a few words about her wedding in 1858 to Robert Carsley in the home of Dr. D. F. Hall near the San Gabriel Mission. (This was the Molino Viejo, or Old Mill, that still stands in San Marino.) Los Angeles society’s acceptance of this marriage showcases the paradox created by the Mexican law’s acceptance of inter-racial marriage and the American government’s prohibition of it.

Carsley was born in 1833 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1830, the white population of New Bedford grew by 57.2 percent but the black population increased by 86.6 percent. Eighty-two percent of black people living in Massachusetts lived in New Bedford. A number of black men served on whaling ships.

From 1851-1853, Carsley worked as a blacksmith on a whaling ship Eliza Adams out of New Bedford sailed to the Falklands, Chile, Hawaii, Mexico, through the Bering straits into the Arctic Ocean and back. The New Bedford Whaling Museum indicates he was a dark-skinned seventeen-year old in 1851. The information did not include race.

FindAGrave.com indicates that from 1858-1861 Robert Carsley was married to Josephine Donna Smith, who was later known as Ina Donna Coolbrith.
Harris Newmark, in his Sixty Years in Southern California (1916) briefly mentions her husband Robert Carsley:

“Minstrels and circuses were occasionally presented, a minstrel performance taking place sometime in the fifties, in an empty store on Aliso Street, near Los Angeles. About the only feature of this event that is now clear in my memory is that Bob Carsley, played the bones (“The bones” were a folk music instrument made of two bones played in each hand.); he remained in Los Angeles and married, later taking charge of the foundry which Stearns established when he built his Arcadia Block (Abel Stearns built a 2 story commercial building and named it after his wife Arcadia Bandini in 1858) on Los Angeles Street.”

The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, consisted of variety acts, dancing and music performed by white people in blackface. The black performers used the show as a way of solidifying black identity; and the white performers who smeared burned corks on their faces acted like black people to make fun of black people.

Robert Carsley was a partner in the Salamander Ironworks, which built jails, iron doors, and balconies. He came from Massachusetts, which had been the first slave state, but a judicial decision ended slavery in that state in 1783. An African man named William Kerley (Carlsey) had arrived in the ship “Confidence” in 1638 and was a freeman in 1666, and he is likely an ancestor of Robert Carsley. William owned land and was a selectman and representative.

In 1776, seven out of the Thirteen Colonies that declared their independence enforced laws against interracial marriage. Although slavery was gradually abolished in the North after independence, this abolition at first had little impact on the enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws. An exception was Pennsylvania, which repealed its anti-miscegenation law in 1780, together with some of the other restrictions placed on free blacks, when it enacted a bill for the gradual abolition of slavery in the state. Later, in 1843, Massachusetts repealed its anti-miscegenation law after abolitionists protested against it. As the US expanded, all the new slave states as well as many new free states such as Illinois and California enacted such laws.

California 1850 statutes provided in part:

“An Act Regulating Marriages:

“53. All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are declared to be illegal and void.

“54. Whoever shall contract marriage in fact, contrary to the prohibitions in the two preceding sections, and whoever shall solemnize any such marriage shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by fine or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the jury which shall try the case; … the fine to be not less than $100 nor more than $10,000and imprisonment to be not less than 3 months nor more than 10 years.”

The primary impetus to the anti-miscegenation laws was the hope of preventing racial blurring. If “races” were not kept distinct, disparate treatment of people became more difficult. The economic and political consequences of mixed marriages are obvious: one group of people could not be kept subordinate in one group could freely intermarry with another.

The secondary impetus, however, was aimed at women: to reduce their freedom of choice in the most intimate aspects of their lives; that is, to maintain their “purity.”

The idea of “purity” of women was code for the belief that men owned their wives.   California’s 1850 law against intermarriage – later amended to prohibit marriage between people of Asian descent and whites – was a reification of the dominant American idea that women were a form of property. The Americans who took over California were afraid that California’s status as a “free” state would mean black men would be free to own land, take jobs, and marry white women.   Discrimination against African-American workers remained legal until the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Los Angeles passed a zoning code that divided the city into black areas and white areas. The US Supreme Court found L.A.’s racial zoning unconstitutional in Buchanan v. Warley. 245 U.S. 60. (1917) Courts enforced private restrictive covenants, however — which prohibited African-American, Jewish, Hispanic and Asian ownership of homes in white areas until the United States Supreme Court decision of Shelly v. Kramer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948). The right of California women to marry whom they wanted to marry came a little later, through the Perez decision.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), which ceded California to the United States, established that former Mexican citizens in California would be treated as “white,” in spite of their mixed ethnic origins, at least, with respect to marriage.   Until the 1948 California Supreme Court decision in Perez v. Sharp 32 Cal.2d 711, the 1850 statute codified in Civil Code Section 60 in 1872, prohibited the marriage of a white woman of Mexican descent, classified as “white” according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with a Negro, although Andrea Perez was a Mestizo. The California Supreme Court held the ban against interracial marriage unconstitutional.

The Perez decision marked the first time since Reconstruction that an anti-miscegenation law had been invalidated. It was not until Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), that the United States Supreme Court ended the states’ bans on interracial marriage.

Bob Carsley’s marriage to Ina in Mexican society –Los Angeles in 1858 was legally American but culturally still Mexican – would have been unremarkable among the gente de razon.

Carlsey and his seventeen-year-old wife Ina lived behind the iron works.   (The Arcadia block was destroyed to make way for the 101 Freeway. Arcadia Street now runs along the freeway not far from the courthouse.)  They had a child who died before he was a year old.

Returning from a minstrel show in San Francisco, Carsley became obsessed with the idea that his wife had been unfaithful to him. Coolbriith’s biographers don’t tell us why.   There may have been an Iago on the ship carrying him back to Los Angeles, and/or that he suffered a mental breakdown. He apologized profusely but said he understood her reasons, and his life after the divorce and return to the East Coast suggests he was not at all insane.

Ina was staying with her mother and stepfather William E. Pickett in their adobe when Carsley arrived back in the pueblo and attempted to murder her and her mother. He screamed repeatedly – in that very tiny quiet pueblo – that Ina was a whore.   Pickett gathered up his rifle and shot his hand off, which calmed down Carsley. He later apologized over and over. Desdemona died at Othello’s hand. Ina elected to file for and got an uncontested divorce within three months. Huntington’s digital archives indicate she filed for divorce in December 1861, when she was twenty. The Huntington digital archives also show that Abel Stearns had foreclosed on Carsley’s ironworks in July 1861. The young couple had lived behind the ironworks, which may explain why Ina was living with her mother and William Pickett that night when her husband tried to kill her and her mother.

Although history remembers Robert Carsley as “abusive” – and certainly the attempt to kill her was an incident of abuse – the truth may be that he was temporarily deranged by his grief over their child and the loss of his income.

Carsley moved to Brooklyn, but also in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he patented burners for illuminating gas and gas heaters that used little fuel and a lathe that turned spherical shapes. He and his much younger third wife had a son in 1890, soon after they married and soon after he divorced his second wife for desertion.   He was one of the directors of a gas-heating business and married twice more before his death in 1905 from kidney failure.

On her part, after she divorced Carlsey, Ina chose to move to San Francisco because, although divorce was legal, her former friends crossed the street to avoid meeting her. Most of her family came with her on the ship to San Francisco (No trains, yet, terrible roads). She worked at first teaching school. Pickett gave up the practice of law and got a job as a printer working at times for the Californian, Golden Era, and American Flag. Soon, however, after Ina’s sister and her sister’s husband died, adding two more children to the household, Pickett left the family and they did not hear from him again.

Harte was the Monthly’s first editor, and he published the “Luck of Roaring Camp” (1868), which placed him at the forefront of American writers. “Luck” was a bastard infant whose mother died – “She was a coarse, and it is to be feared, a very sinful woman” — and miners took care of him until the baby also died. Harte pushed the limits of Victorian sentimentality mixed with terrible outcomes for women who had sex without marriage, and the public ate it up.

After Harte’s death (in 1902), Ina wrote:

….”I see him often, with the brown hair half tossed from the leaning brow, the soft yet keen gray eyes uplifted with a tear or laugh from the pen-pictured scene.
“And hear the voice that read to me his dear world-children-and I listen till I seem back in the olden days; they are the near
and these are but a dream.”

The Overland Monthly published short stories written by the 28-year old Mark Twain. Henry James once asked Mark Twain if he was acquainted with Brett Harte. “Yes,” Twain replied. “I know the son of a bitch.”   They fell out. They reconciled. They fell out again.

Ina was still a beautiful woman in her twenties and thirties. Although she looks like a brunette in the two early photographs of her, she had fair hair and gray eyes.

She lived with her mother, stepfather and stepbrothers at 1302 Taylor Street on Nob Hill in 1867 and the early 1870s. This was a good neighborhood. Her stepfather and one of her stepbrothers worked for San Francisco newspapers, and, at that time, the word “bohemian” meant journalist. This is where she she met with Harte, Twain, Stoddard, Joaquin Miller and other Bohemians to talk about a new way of writing – writing that was different from East Coast writing

In “From Russian Hill,” Ina mixes in memories of Los Angeles with images of her view from her house of the Golden Gate long before the bridge existed. The lover she mentions is probably Robert Carsley because she had no other. In this poem, her young lover sits with her when she is an old woman.

Around 1902, she moved to 1604 Taylor Street. The Great Fire of 1906 destroyed this house. She moved to 1067 Broadway in 1910.   The 1604 Taylor address is located on a rather higher elevation than the house she later built on Broadway, The Taylor Street building was destroyed in the earthquake but there is a 1905 photograph of the view from Ina Coolbrith’s window in the USC digital archives, and the window’s view is the one from 1604 Taylor Street. Although the photograph shows mostly fog, it looks like she could have seen the Bay from that window, so she may have been in her early sixties when she wrote From Russian Hill. Sunset magazine published the poem in 1915, the year she received California’s award as its poet laureate but she could have written the first draft of her poem in either house. In 1915, Ina was seventy-four.

The poem shows her interest in the history of the hill where she lives.

A short distance from 1607 Taylor – and directly across from today’s Ina Coolbrith Park – was a cemetery where Russian sailors were buried in about 1848. The summit was hard clay and a better place for graves than in the sandy ground that comprised much of San Francisco’s hills. Ina wrote, “Here, from long ago, Rezanov’s sailors slept.” Actually, if Rezanov’s sailors died, they were probably not the Russian sailors buried near her house. Rezanov visited the Presidio in 1806, and he died in 1807 in Krasny Yar, now Krasnoyarski, Siberia.   Ina’s friends included Gertrude Atherton. Atherton published her novel Rezanov in 1906. I place Ina’s first draft, therefore, of From Russian Hill in 1906 shortly before the April 18, 1906 earthquake that destroyed 1607 Taylor Street, when Ina was sixty-five.

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, was a Russian nobleman who promoted Russian colonization of California. He fell in love with Concepción Argüello, daughter of the Spanish governor of Alta California and Presidio Commandante. She was thirteen. He was forty-one. Nikolai returned to Russia to ask for permission from the tsar to marry her. On the journey, he fell from his horse in Siberia and died. A year later, the girl learned of his death and became a nun. The deliberate juxtiposition of the Rezanov sailors on her hill – her history may have been inaccurate but maybe there were earlier graves at the summit of Russian hill — and the old romantic story of a young girl who loses the man she loves and vows celibacy, with Ina’s reference later in the poem to the man who loved her suggests that Ina kept secret the fact that she loved one man all of her life and remained celibate.

Ina may have not made any vow. She was a public person and any sexual relationship outside of marriage would have been noticed. She felt she had to leave Los Angeles when she was twenty because polite society looked down at her because she had divorced. She had admirers, of course she did, she was beautiful. According to the U.S. Federal Census, in 1860, there were two men for every woman. After, however, her stepfather abandoned the family, she supported her mother, niece and nephew, and later Joaquin Miller’s illegitimate half-Indian daughter. Ina’s responsibility was to her family.

Although Ina writes that “There, the Presidio…” she could not have seen the Presidio from the same window as she saw Mt. Tamalpais.   The reference may have been employed to show, however, the vast panorama from Russian Hill.

Ina again refers to her location in San Francisco, the city the lights of which are like stars below her window, when she writes about the tang of salty spray and the scents from the gardens of houses around her, scents that replaced the chaparral that had once covered Russian Hill.

Ina’s present when she wrote From Russian Hill frames – like her window frame – her past in her youth in Los Angeles.   “Ring out thy solemn tone, O far-off Mission bell! I keep the tryst alone with one who loved me well — a voice I may not hear! Face that I may not see, yet know a presence near to watch the hour with me. .” Ina married Robert Carsley in El Molino Viejo, the first mill that had been established by the San Gabriel Mission. The mission is far off in time to her when she is sixty-five, almost half a century from her wedding day. The San Gabriel Mission is two and a half miles from El Molino Viejo, so the bell’s ring would have been distant. San Francisco’s Mission Dolores is three miles from 1607 Taylor Street, but she keeps a “tryst” with someone that night as she looks from her window, and Ina had no connection with San Francisco’s mission.

Following is “From Russian Hill”:

“Night and the hill to me! Silence no sound that jars. Above of stars a sea, below, a sea of stars!
“’Tranced in slumber’s sway the city at its feet. a tang of salty spray blends with the odors sweet from garden-close and wall where the madrona stood, and tangled chaparral, in the old solitude.
“Here, from the long ago, Rezanov’s sailors sleep. There, the Presidio, beyond, the plumed steep (Mt. Tamalpais in Marin across the bay).
“The waters, mile on mile foam-fringed with feathery white;
the beaconed fortress isle, (Alcatraz) and Yerba Buena’s (Yerba Buena is both the old name for San Francisco and an island in the San Francisco Bay) light….
“Ring out thy solemn tone, O far-off Mission bell! I keep the tryst alone with one who loved me well — a voice I may not hear! Face that I may not see, yet know a presence near to watch the hour with me. .“How stately and serene the moon moves up the sky!
“How silvery between/the shores her footprints lie! (“Her footprints” refers to the moon’s path on the water. Ina’s spoke Spanish fluently. “La luna” is female)
“Peace that no shadow mars! Night and the hill to me! Below, a sea of stars! Above, of stars a sea!”

During the 18 years she was a librarian, Ina wrote, “In the Library”:

“Who say these walls are lonely and may not see the motley throng that people it, as thick as bees the scented clover beds among.
“They may no hear, when footfalls cease? And living voices — for awhile — the speech in many tongues and keys adorn each shadowy aisle. (When Ina worked in the Oakland library, it was gas-lit, and the gas jets threw shadows down the aisles.)
“Here are the friends that ne’er betray; companionship that never tires; here voices call from voiceless clay, and ashes dead renew their fires.

After she lost her job at the Oakland library, the Bohemians helped find her work.

On June 29, 1915, Ina’s good friend Jo McCracken traveled from Santa Cruz, where she had moved after the fire, to attend Ina Coolbrith Day at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. She watched from the overflowing audience as Coolbrith was named the first California Poet Laureate. After several more speeches were made in her honor, and bouquets brought in abundance to the podium, Coolbrith addressed the crowd: “There is one woman here with whom I want to share these honors: Josephine Clifford McCracken. We are linked together, the last two living members of Bret Harte’s staff of Overland writers.” McCracken was then ushered up from her seat in the audience to join Coolbrith on stage.

Ansel Adams’ photographic portrait of Ina Coolbrith at a party in her honor held just before her death in 1928 reveals an old woman with a ruined face wearing a large white lace Spanish mantilla covering her thinning hair. One reporter described her as having “clear, luminous eyes, very sensitive and expressive hands, and a young voice, quick, animated, and fluent.”

A Los Angeles California bride would have worn the white lace mantilla elevated above her head by an elaborate comb. She might have held a starched white fan. Ina wore her mantilla simply like a confirmation girl, or as she may have worn it when Pio Pico escorted her into the ballroom; nonetheless, the mantilla was evocative of her marriage in a tiny pueblo when she was seventeen. The following is her “Fragment from an Unfinished Poem:”

“Oh, balm, and dew, and fragrance of those nights

Of Southern splendor ’neath a Southern sky! The soft star-closes to the golden days I dreamed away, in that far, tropic clime, wherein Love’s blossom budded, bloomed and died!

“How many arrows from Time’s quiver fell around us, love — unheeded! — while we roamed through fruited avenues of odorous limes, of citron and banana – where the air seemed swooning with its weight of rifled sweets – or down the spectral glen where the black stream over jagged gashes of gray rocks whirled shrieking.

“Long crimson blossoms of pomegranate boughs swung censor-like above us, and we saw afar in the dim south the long castellated rocks piercing the silver-veined tissues of the night. We caught blue glimpses of the hills beyond and like a diamond set in the cleft art of an emerald, the tiny lake shone out its un-shadowed crystal mirroring a sky aflame with stars. We heard the low soft plashing of the waves against the shore and caught snow-gleaming of an odorous weight of milk-white lilies, stirred by the slow tide.”

Ina was 67 years old in 1908, probably two years after “From Russian Hill.”. Women still could not vote. Women in California, however, had entered a new era. Mills College for women, begun as a women’s seminary in 1852, earned a charter as a university in 1885. Jack London’s second wife Charmian learned stenography and typing at Mills in about 1891. Women enrolled at UC Berkeley.

In 1908, the federal Bureau of Indian hired Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed, a lesbian couple, to work as “field matrons” on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in the Klamath River Valley. Arnold had studied business at Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, and agriculture at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. As young women, Arnold and Reed spent five years (1901-1906) farming a fifty-five acre plot. They then worked as urban organizers in New York for City and Suburban Homes Company, a philanthropic organization building affordable decent homes for the working poor. The BIA instructed them to exercise a “civilizing influence” on members of the Karok nation. They were eager, Arnold said, not to be “ladies—the kind who have Sunday Schools and ever say a bad word, and rustle around in a lot of silk petticoats.” Instead, the couple spent two years becoming increasingly like the Indians.   One of the white men they meet asks if “the girls” have any “men folk.” They tell him they do not.   That was the only comment made to them about their relationship with each other, although they shared a bed wherever they stayed.

At the end of their term, they wrote In The Land of the Grasshopper Song, they road horseback over the grassy hills they had seen two years before.

“There were houses and barns and glimpses of the valley, and the road grew harder and smoother. Soon the reins were tight and we were on the downgrade, going faster and faster as the horses picked up speed. Ahead of us the clouds were pink and orange as we drove into the sunset.

“Suddenly, far to the west, something glimmered in a broad band of shining light.

“’It can’t be,’ Mable cried out. ‘Oh, it can’t be the Pacific!’

“’I guess it’s the ocean, all right,’ said Mr. Denny as he swung across a bridge and rattled into Blue Lake. A factory was in front of us. A steam whistle blew for six o’clock. There were stores and restaurants and white people, crowds and crowds of white people.

“Far behind us were the mountains. We could see them, tall and shadowy in the twilight. But there was no break in them as we looked back. The mountains had closed behind us, shutting us out from our life on the Rivers. We were no longer members of the Steve family or of the Essie family. We had said our last good-by to A su-tha-pee and to the trail and to Maria and Mr. Darcy and White Puppy. We were white people in the white man’s country.

“We were down below.”

In the following decades the authors of Grasshopper Song worked as organizers and activists in cooperative housing, credit unions, adult education, rural development and Indian rights.

In 1911, California women won the right to vote. All states made “wife beating” illegal by 1920. Since the 1970s, the criminal justice system recognized domestic violence as a serious crime rather than a private family matter.

The United States Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S.1 (1967) invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act states: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” The Act added “sexual orientation” as a prohibited category of discrimination in 2005.

In Marina Point, Ltd. v. Wilson, 30 Cal. 3d 721 (1982), the California Supreme Court recognized the Unruh Act prohibited “arbitrary discrimination,” includes the right of families with children to live in rental housing. After several years of landlord litigation against this ruling, single and divorced mothers have equal access to rental housing.

California legislation requires that when one partner in a marriage has enough resources to pay for his own and for his (or her) attorneys, the court should grant attorney fees, an advance that allows greater equality of representation in divorces.

Same sex marriage first became legal in California in 2008 as the result of the California Supreme Court ruling in In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (2008).   In 2010, a federal court ruled that Proposition 8 — an initiative by the people of California that prohibited same sex marriage – violated the United States Constitution.   Support for same sex marriage moved above 50 percent in 2010 Seventy-three percent of San Francisco residents and 64% of Los Angeles supports it.


Recommended film

Howl (2010)

Recommended reading

Roger Austen (Author), John W. Crowley (Editor), Genteel Pagan: The Double Life of Charles Warren Stoddard (University of Massachusetts 1991)

Woodrow Borah and Sherburne F. Cook, “Marriage and Legitimacy In Mexican Culture: Mexico and California,” California Law Review, Volume 54, Issue 2. May 1966.

Maria Raquel Casas, “Victoria Reid and the Politics of Identity,” Vicki L. Ruiz, Virginia Sanchez Korrol, editors, Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community (Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005)

Antonia L. Castaneda, “Engendering the History of Alta California, 1769-1848: Gender, Sexuality and the Family,” Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush, pp 230-260.

Richard H. Chused, “Married Women’s Property and Inheritance by Widows in Massachusetts” A Study of Wills Probated between 1800 and 1850.” Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, Volume 2, Issue 1, September 2013.

Gary Cowles, “A Tale of Two Adobes: Searching for the Real Hugo Reid Adobe,” Los Angeles Corral, Summer 2011, Number 263. http://www.lawesterners.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/263-BI_263.pdf. (Accessed April 9, 2015)

Tim Dean, “Hart Crane’s Poetics of Privacy,” American Literary History 8:1, 1996)

Trisha Franzen , Spinsters and Lesbians: Independent Womanhood in the United States (New York University Press (1996)

Aleta George, Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California’s First Poet Laureate (Sheridan Press, March 10, 2015)

Gertrude Atherton’s Rezanov, on-line: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/491/491-h/491-h.htm.

Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed, In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country in 1908-1909. (University of Nebraska Press (1957)

Herbert Asbury, The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld (Basic Books 2002)

Ed. Gordon Ball, Allen Ginsberg. Journals Mid-Fifties: 1954-1958 (Harper Collins, 1995.)

Richard Griswold del Castillo, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990)

Robert L. Griswold, Family and Divorce in California, 1850-1890, (State of New York Press 1982)

Larry P. Gross, James D. Voods, The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society and Politics, (Columbia University Press 1999)

Robert Heizer, “Impact of Colonization on the Native American Societies,” San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, Winter 1978, volume 24, number 1.

Edward Herny, Shelly Rideout, Kate Wadell,, Berkeley Bohemia (Gibbs Smith, 2008)

Albert L. Hurtado, Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California, (University of New Mexico Press, 1999)

 Laura Evertson King, “Hugo Reid and His Indian Wife,” https://archive.org/stream/jstor-41167702/41167702_djvu.txt. (Accessed April 10, 2015)

 R. A. Lenhardt, “Beyond Analogy: Perez v Sharp, Antimiscegenation Law, and the Fight for Same Sex Marriage,” California Law Review, Volume 96, Issue 4, August 2008.

 Nigey Lennon, The Sagebrush Bohemian: Mark Twain in California (Paragon House 1990)

Debra L. Martin and Alan H. Goodman, “Health conditions before Columbus: paleopathology of native North Americans.” Western Journal of Medicine, January 2002, 176 91), pages 65-68

 Eric Monkkonen, “Western Homicide: The Case of Los Angeles, 1830—1870,” Pacific Historical Review, 74 (Nov. 2005), 609.

 Patrick D. Morrow. “Power Behind the Throne: Ina Coolbrith and the Politics of Submission.” Kate Chopin Newsletter 2.1 (1976): 13–18.

Poetry Foundation biography of Allen Ginsberg: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/allen-ginsberg. (Retrieved March 26, 2015)

Stephen Powers, Tribes of California, introduced by Robert F. Heizer, (University of California Press, 1976)

 Caroline Bermeo Newcombe, “The Origin and Civil Law Foundation of the Community Property System, Why California Adopted It and Why Community Property Principles Benefit Women,” University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Gender and Class, Volume 11, Issue 1, 5-22-2013,

George Painter, “The Sensibility of Our Forefathers, The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States.” http://www.glapn.org/sodomylaws/sensibilities/california.htm. (Retrieved March 13, 2015).

Fred Lewis Pattee, A History of American Literature Since 1870 (New York Century Company 1915), p 335.

Josephine D. Rhodehamel, Raymond F. Wood Ina Coolbrith: Librarian and Laureate of California, (1986). Ancestory.com lists one Josephine D. Rhodehemal, a retired librarian born in 1901, who died in 2000. If this is the same Josephine D. Rhodehamal, she and James F. Wood wrote the biography of Ina Coolbrith when Rhodehamal was in her eighties.

Kevin Starr, Americans and the California Dream (1973)

Cheryl Walker, editor, American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (1995)

Charles Stoddard, For the Pleasure of His Company: An Affair of the Misty City: Thrice Told (1903) (Available for free on-line at https://archive.org/details/forpleasurehisc00stodgoog.)

Ina’s many addresses are reported by the Fern Hill Times: https://fernhilltoursdotcom.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/ina-coolbrith-the-nob-hill-berth-of-the-west-coast-bohemians/. (Retrieved March 3, 2015)

All of Coolbrith’s poetry can be read for free on-line. http://www.poemhunter.com/ina-d-coolbrith/. (Retrieved March 21, 2015)

http://josephsmithpapers.org/person?name=Agnes+Moulton+Coolbrith+Pickett   (Retrieved February 14, 2014)

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cagha/history/losangeles/los-angeles-bench-and-bar.txt.   (Retrieved February 14, 2014)

http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=stephcarson&id=I30724(Retrieved February 14, 2014)

http://www.jacklondons.net/inacoolbrith.html. (Retrieved February 14, 2014)

https://archive.org/stream/adventuresoflife00beckrich#page/n9/mode/2up. Free on-line life story of James P. Beckwourth. (Book published first in France in 1860).

http://www.beckwourth.org/Trail/#. (Retrieved February 13, 2014).

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi. (Retrieved February 13, 2014)

Dale L. Laker, “Wolf Dying,” The Calamity Papers.” http://www.jacklondons.net/writings/WolfDying/page_four.html. (Retrieved March 25, 2015).


State and federal laws gradually recognize that the right to privacy protects gender choices, marriage choices, and homosexuality, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the United States Supreme Court held that the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution protects implicit rights enumerated in its penumbra, including the right to privacy. Article 1, section 1 of the California Constitution states: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” (Section 1 added November 5, 1974, by Proposition 7, Resolution Chapter 90, 1974).

The Supreme Court of California ruled in In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (2008)that existing statute and in initiative measure limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violated the rights of same-sex couples under the California Constitution. Proposition 8, a California initiative barring same-sex marriage was overturned in the U.S. District Court case Perry v. Schwarzenegger, later called Perry v. Brown. The Hollingsworth v. Perry ruling in federal court re-established the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.



Pio Pico State Historic Park. 6003 Pioneer Blvd.

Whittier, CA 90606
(562) 695-1217 Email:parkinfo@piopico.org. The park holds a fiesta in June,

Pío used his political influence to build a vast land empire, and was one of the few California dons to hold onto his land after the American take-over. Pico and his fellow dons entertained often and in grand style. Weddings and religious festivals were some of the opportunities to invite family and friends for weeklong celebrations. By 1855 he and his brother Andres Pico held 532,000 acres, making Pico one of the richest men in California. The adobe was always filled with people. Many members of Pico’s extended family lived there at various times. Vaqueros tended the rancho’s large herds of cattle and horses. Pico also invited his friends for company, card playing and gambling on horse races.

Pio accompanied Ina to a ball when she was a young woman. The ball may have been held at his adobe.

He didn’t build the Pio Pico House at the edge of the plaza near Union Station in Los Angeles until 1869. By then, Ina and most of her family – except for Agnes and her family. They remained in their small adobe, which was on Broadway, until Agnes’s husband died, and she became seriously ill.

The Avila Adobe (1818) in the California State Historic Park is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles.   The structure suggests how Ina and her sister lived in their Los Angeles days.

Autry National Center.   4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (323) 667-2000. The Autry’s exhibits change. It contains western art, Native American exhibits, 19th century dresses, western movies, and a great deal of background – including a background tape of what the creators of the tape imagine as the city noises in the 19th century (horses, dogs, a blacksmith) – that give a sense of what life was like around the time Ina lived in Los Angeles.

Mount Ina Coolbrith is visible from Beckwourth Pass through which Ina and her sister entered California. Beckwourth Pass is located at the eastern edge of Sierra Valley at Chilcoot-Vinton, California in Plumas County, 20 miles (32 km) east of Portola, California and 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Reno, Nevada

Ina Coolbrith Park at Taylor and Vallejo Street in San Francisco. The park is located near both of her Russian Hill homes. Between 1867 into the early 1870s, Ina lived at 1302 Taylor Street. She moved South of Market to 1139-1/2 Folsom in about 1874. In 1875, she moved to 91 Ninth Street and the in 1875, she moved to 1267 Webster, in Berkeley. In 1898, she moved back to San Francisco to work at the Mercantile Library and resided at 618 Golden Gate Avenue near Van Ness. In 1900, she lived in the Western Addition at 2913 Bush Street. In 1901, she lived at 1200 Leavenworth. Around 1902, working as the librarian of the Bohemian Club, she lived in the Southeast slope of the hill at 1604 Taylor Street just above Broadway. She built her new house on Russian Hill at 1067 Broadway in 1910. She lived in New York for a time and also in Berkeley at 2731 Hillegass near Telegraph and the UC Campus. From 1925 to 1926, she lived at 112 Lyon Street, in the Haight. She lived with her niece’s family at 2902 Hillegas Avenue, and her funeral service was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal. She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery next to her mother.   Mountain View Cemetery is at 5000 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland.

Here is a YouTube video on Ina Coobrith’s passage into California by filmmaker Robert Lee Grant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJE36S7nHps.






















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