Member Profiles and News

This is just a sampling of our members. Some have book covers illustrated on the Member Publications page; the pictures here represent other projects of members. If you are a member and would like to submit a profile or image, please email it to

Judith Strong Albert’s career as writer and educator has included lectureships at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley. Her book Minerva’s Circle describes four 19th-century New England women—Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, Lydia Maria Child, and Caroline Healey Dall—and explores their impact on late 20th-century feminists including Gerda Lerner, Gloria Steinem, Carolyn Heilbrun and Betty Friedan — with an eye to seeing how issues confronting the original circle have been met and dealt with over time. These persistent issues include women’s and children’s rights, civil rights and human rights. She is a contributing book reviewer for the Women’s Studies Interdisciplinary Journal.

John Hyde Barnard is a musician, writer, historian and a retired Los Angeles City Librarian. He recently signed a publishing deal for THE CREOLE INCIDENT: The Beginning of the End of Slavery. This historical narrative details how the Union and the Constitution were saved, twenty years before the Civil War, by the actions of a few select members of the House of Representatives, led by the venerable John Quincy Adams, along with a handful of radical abolitionists and nineteen individuals – who were all slaves. The book is slated for release in late 2022. John is still active as a musical arranger, director, publisher and performer and divides his time between Sausalito, Los Angeles and New York.

Stephen Barton has a Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and serves on the board of the Bay Area Community Land Trust. Retired from the City of Berkeley, he is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on housing policy and the history of housing-related social movements. His longterm project, a biography of Berkeley Mayor J. Stitt Wilson (1868 – 1942), a lifelong advocate for socialism as applied Christianity, was published by the Berkeley Historical Society in 2021. 

Alan Chadwick at Covelo Garden, mid-1970s (Alan Chadwick Archive)

Dot Brovarney works as a consulting historian through her business, Landcestry ( She specializes in research, oral history, writing, and exhibit development. Her current endeavor is an oral history of student apprentices who trained under master gardener and teacher Alan Chadwick at five organic gardens between 1967 and 1980 ( Brovarney, who earned her M.A. from UCSB, spent ten years in the museum field and recently researched and curated an exhibit on California native plant specialist Carl Purdy. She is co-author of the book Remember Your Relations: The Elsie Allen Baskets, Family & Friends (Heyday Books, 2005).

David Chadwick:


Illustration from David Chadwick’s novel “To Find the Girl from Perth”

In 1966 I started practicing Zen Buddhism at the San Francisco Zen Center with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who ordained me as a priest in 1971 just before he died. I continued my studies with Zentatsu Baker Roshi and helped the Zen Center develop its centers and businesses. For the last twenty years or so I’ve mainly worked on writing and preserving the legacy of Shunryu Suzuki, whose biography, Crooked Cucumber, I wrote. My three Zen websites are the main repository of this work, but I am aiming at several other books. is an extensive oral history, and presents the archive of Suzuki’s lectures, audio, transcripts, film, and photos. I am currently working with over a dozen volunteers online to develop and improve this archive.

Rossi and LaGuardia

Mayors Angelo Rossi (SF) and Fiorello LaGuardia (NY) on Golden Gate Bridge, 1937 (SF Public Library)

Rose Marie Cleese: My research/writing has taken two paths over the years. The first, more scholarly path includes the biography I’m currently researching and writing on Angelo J. Rossi, mayor of San Francisco from 1931 to 1944 and my maternal grandfather. I’ve also written several historical articles for the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society’s Panorama. The second, more commercial path, which is rooted in my editorial and copywriting career, includes my having written back cover and jacket copy for hundreds of non-fiction books. I’ve also copy-edited numerous trade books, including Castle in the Sky: George Whittell Jr. and the Thunderbird Lodge.

Annie Klobuchar Clemenc in 1913

Lyndon Comstock Lyndon Comstock worked in the field of community economic development. Since retiring, he has published books about Annie Clemenc and the 1913 Keweenaw copper strike, the early history of a Berkeley neighborhood, his grandmother in Salonica at the time of the Balkan Wars, and pre-abolition black history in central Kentucky. Other historical research topics include: USCT (United States Colored Troops) at Fort Pillow; the community of Bolinas, California; Croatian partisans in WW II; SDS (Students for a Democratic Society); and Chögyam Trungpa’s life in Tibet before 1959. He also served as a primary source for Cliff Rosenthal’s book about CDFI’s (Community Development Financial Institutions).

Col. Volney V. Ashford in Honolulu Rifles dress uniform

Col. Volney V. Ashford in Honolulu Rifles uniform

Neil Bernard Dukas has authored two books on the pre-annexation military history of Hawaii. He is currently working on a detailed biography of Colonel Volney V. Ashford (First Regiment of Hawaiian Volunteers), a comparative paper on the Hawaiian Articles of War, and a study of Hawaii’s armed forces during the reign of King Kalakaua. Website:


Andrew Smith Hallidie

Andrew Hallidie, 1876

Taryn Edwards is a Librarian for the Mechanics’ Institute of San Francisco and is researching the life of its President, Andrew Smith Hallidie—one of the most extraordinary figures of 19th century San Francisco—and his role within that 160-year-old institution. She is fascinated by the “mechanics” of writing in the digital age: how authors and historians manage their research, design their project’s structure, and use technology to supplement their workflow. She lives in the beautiful East Bay with her husband, daughter, and two energetic dogs. Her blog is at

Nathan Alexander Foxton is an artist living in San Francisco. Before moving there last year he had been working in Indianapolis, IN where he curated at the Harrison Center for the Arts and taught as an adjunct at Ivy Tech Community College, University of Indianapolis, and Herron School of Art + Design. He’s a figurative painter, constructing space from a two-dimensional perspective. He’s interested in telling stories through his art about the soul of place and has a background teaching art history among other subjects.

Leslie Friedman

Leslie Friedman

Leslie Friedman is a dancer and choreographer with an A.B. from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in modern British history from Stanford University. She has taught British history at Stanford, Case Western Reserve, and Mills College. Often her choreography is based on real historic events, such as World War I and the California Gold Rush. She has performed and lectured internationally, in part through the Fulbright Association and the US State Department. Artistic director of The Lively Foundation and co-editor of its international arts review The Hedgehog, her writing on history and the arts has been published in France, India, and Poland as well as in the US.

Romuvan_ritual_fireJim Gasperini is currently completing a cultural history of fire, provisionally titled Fire in the Mind – from the Burning Bush to Burning Man, How We Imagine Fire. Among his history-related publications since earning his B.A. from Williams College are interactive books about history for young adults for Bantam, a computer strategy game about Central America, Hidden Agenda, The Colburn Chronicles, an online family history, and stereograph sets for the White House Historical Association, National Historical Parks, and National Battlefields.


“Sailing to Australia,” ex-voto painting by Giovanni Vanoni

Marilyn L. Geary
Marilyn L. Geary is an oral historian and author focused on immigration and regional California history. A native Californian, she has written the family biography Miners, Milkers & Merchants: from the Swiss-Italian Alps to the Golden Hills of Australia and California. Her other works include: Marin City Memories, oral histories of Black shipyard workers who migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area during World War II; the Madonna del Lume Celebration, a Local Legacies project of the American Folklike Center, Library of Congress; and Marin Mindscapes: Art, Nature, Wellness. She is currently doing research on historic hot springs in Italy. More information at

David Goldberg  After studying biology at Columbia University, David came to San Francisco to be a Research Associate at UCSF. Later he metamorphosed into a photographer. In horticultural photography he shot three books plus calendars and many others. He taught Hort Photography for 22 years at UC Berkeley, from which he is now retired. His fine art photography moved in the direction of approaching documentary subjects through the prism of contemporary visual art, combining photography, painting & writing. His current projects are A Family History concerning immigration to America from the Russian Pale, and Truth, an examination of the fungibility of photographic & philosophical truth in a social, political & historical context. Website:

Bertram M. Gordon (“Bert”) is Professor Emeritus of European History at Mills College. His books include Collaborationism in France during the Second World War (1980) and The Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy and the Resistance, 1938-1946 (1998). He also co-edited “Food and France: What Food Studies Can Teach Us about History,” a special issue of French Historical Studies (April 2015), and has written on the history of chocolate in France, England, and California. His latest book, War Tourism: Second World War France from Defeat and Occupation to the Creation of Heritage, was published by Cornell University Press in 2018.

John Graham is a visual artist, writer and oral historian, whose body of work is about California. He is the creator of the El Fornio Story Cycle, detailing the happenings of a fictional city and county on the California coast. Visit the website to find out more. “Everyone Has A Story To Tell” is his oral history project for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, which records the stories of veterans for inclusion in the national record. John also records family histories. His walking tour, “A Meander: From Jurassic Seas to Woolly Mammoths, William Burroughs & The Pony Express,” takes place throughout the year in San Francisco. John received his Master of Fine Arts from UC Santa Barbara in 2002, with an emphasis in California history, colonial theory, and Spanish mission history. 

"Ravenlocks," ca. 1917, by Anne Bremer

“Ravenlocks,” ca. 1917, by Anne Bremer

Ann Harlow is an independent art historian specializing in California art from 1850 to 1950. With an M.A. in art history from U.C. Berkeley, she worked at the Oakland Museum, Mills College Art Museum, and for sixteen years as the director of the art museum of Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, California. In addition to exhibition catalog essays, she has published two articles in The Argonaut, Journal of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. For several years she has served on the board of the Berkeley Historical Society. She is working on a biography of two prominent early-20th-century San Franciscans, artist Anne M. Bremer and arts patron Albert M. Bender.  Some of her writings are at


Alva Myrdal

Sondra R. Herman (“Sunny”) is a retired community college history teacher with an interest in peace studies, internationalism, and women in the European welfare states. She is the author of Eleven Against War: Studies in American Internationalist Thought, 1898-1921 (Stanford, Hoover Press, 1969) and has published essays on Alva Myrdal, Swedish social reformer and diplomat, in Scandinavian Studies (Summer 1995), Peace and Change (October 1998), Alva Myrdal in International Affairs (Uppsala, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Report No. 66, December 2003), and Feminist Writings from Ancient Times to the Modern World (Tiffany K. Wayne, editor, Greenwood Press, 2011), vol. 2.

Patrick Cahill

David Hirzel’s studies in polar exploration have resulted in several books and plays, with more on the way. Three volumes look deeply into the experiences of Irish explorer Tom Crean’s experiences in the Antarctic in 1901-1916 with Scott’s Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions and Shackleton’s Endurance. Rough Weather All Day presents Patrick Cahill’s daily journal of the disastrous Rodgers expedition in 1881. David’s Terra Nova Press is actively seeking unpublished first-hand accounts of maritime and polar experiences for consideration. When not pursuing a living in architectural design, he writes from his home overlooking the sea in Pacifica. Website:

Emporium Rotunda

Anne Evers Hitz is the author of Emporium Department Store and San Francisco’s Ferry Building (Arcadia), and she is currently working on a book about San Francisco’s lost department stores. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and St. Mary’s College Executive MBA Program with her own communications consulting firm. In her background is also four years as publicity director at UC Press and editor of Research Magazine. She is currently a member of City Guides, leading tours of the West End of Golden Gate Park and the Ferry Building.

With a background in museum exhibit design and multimedia development, as well as degrees from Harvard and UC Berkeley, Richard Hurley recently founded California Educational Multimedia, a 501(c)3 nonprofit designed to apply digital technology to historical education. His subject interests include California and the Civil War: he has co-authored a novel, Queen of the Northern Mines, and written a nonfiction book, California and the Civil War.

Kevin Knauss describes himself as “a novice historian, pursuing my research on the Gold Rush legacy around Sacramento and the American River. Most of my historical pieces are posted to my website along with pertinent maps, documents, and photos. I am currently in the final stages of my second book, B. N. Bugbey, Sacramento’s Last 49er Pioneer. Bugbey lived a colorful and eventful life in the Sacramento region. He went from a relatively successful vintner and land owner to a progressive socialist calling for radical land reform in the 1890s.”

Dan Kohanski has a lifelong interest in history, particularly European and American, a long career as a computer programmer, and a five-year stint in the Foreign Service. His current historical interest is the development of Judaism and Christianity and how the ways in which they developed have had consequences for the world. Dan has a BA in philosophy (Colgate) and an MS in computer science (Rutgers).


Laure Latham is a blogger, storyteller and lawyer. She holds a B.A. in Religious Anthropology from Paris Jussieu University, a B.A. in Law from La Sorbonne and is a lawyer at the Paris Bar. She also studied journalism at City College in San Francisco and copy-editing at UC Berkeley Extension. She has taught international tax at La Sorbonne and founded the award-winning blog, FrogMom. A passionate environmentalist, she has been published in National Geographic Education, the, The Londonist, DailyCandy and Sunset Magazine. She is the author of Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area and co-author of George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin. She is currently working on a historical novel about Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California.

Levi-Phantom Dogsled

Steven Levi’s video, “The Phantom Dogsled”

Steven C. Levi is a freelance writer and historian doing time as a grant writer in Anchorage, Alaska. He has written more than 80 books, many of them available on Kindle. He has two areas of expertise: the Alaska Gold Rush and the “teens”: America from 1911 to 1919. He is also the inventor of a new way of thinking which won a $40,000 grant from the University of Oklahoma in 2005.  You can take his tutorial by going to “Members” on the “Thinking Outside of the Box” link on his website:  Or you can buy his Kindle book on creative thinking, Eating a Bear with its Own Teeth.


Lawrence W. Levine

Cornelia R. Levine started as a historian of 20th-century Germany with a focus on the Weimar Period, 1918–1933. She is co-author with her husband, Lawrence W. Levine, of The People and The President: America’s Conversation with FDR (Beacon Press 2002). The book places letters to Franklin Delano Roosevelt from ordinary Americans following his “fireside chats” in context with essays on the historical background surrounding each chat. The Fireside Conversations: America Responds to FDR During the Great Depression (UC Press 2010) is a paperback edition of the pre-war part of the original. She is currently editing the transcript of her husband’s oral history.


Bonda Lewis as Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Bonda Lewis, an actor and teacher of theater arts, has done extensive research in order to write and perform a series of one-person shows about historic figures Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Isabella Bird, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, and Sara Bard Field. Her latest production, The Powder Keg, is about army nurses from the Napoleonic Wars to World War Two. See her website, Performances Off the Shelf. She is also working on a historical fiction series for young readers starting with the Orphan Trains and continuing into the women’s suffrage movement.


Fanny Trollope

After growing up in Arizona, Celeste Lipow MacLeod earned Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and did graduate work at Columbia University. She has traveled in Europe, Australia and Asia, with extended stays in India and Japan, and has lived in London, Copenhagen and Rome. She has published two books: Horatio Alger, Farewell, about working-class American migrants of the 1970s, and Multiethnic Australia. Her book in progress, A Woman of Unbearable Opinions: Fanny Trollope’s Singular Eye on Early America, highlights some national characteristics that Fanny Trollope (Anthony’s mother) saw in 1830, which have endured.

Lucia Mathews Self-Portrait, c. 1899

Lucia Mathews Self-Portrait, ca. 1899

With a BA and MFA from Mills College, Stephanie McCoy is the author of Brilliance in the Shadows: A Biography of Lucia Kleinhans Mathews (Arts and Crafts Press, 1998) and the novel Sweet as Cane (Pen and Mouse, 2012). Her second novel, The She-Novelist of Venice, based on the last years of the American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson, is forthcoming.

Juana Briones

Jeanne Farr McDonnell is the author of Juana Briones of 19th Century California (University of Arizona Press, 2006). She worked for many years to preserve the Juana Briones adobe in Palo Alto, unsuccessfully, although the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the property to its “Most Endangered” list one year.  At present, she is co-authoring a book for the Palo Alto Historical Association about Mayfield, the original town that evolved into Palo Alto. She is also working on a book about Agatha Christie’s work and is serving as a co-historian of the Women’s Club of Palo Alto, preparing for a centennial in 2016.

Robert McNally’s history interests cover the American West and Native America. He has written or co-written ten nonfiction books including The Modoc War: A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America’s Golden Age (Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which won the Gold Medal in Californiana at the 87th Annual California Book Awards in 2018. He is a much-published poet and writes feature stories, news, and essays for a variety of publications. Robert’s BA (international studies) is from Ohio State University; his MA (political science) is from UC Berkeley.

mem-prof-Mellini_caricatureMellini caricaturePeter Mellini, Ph.D. Stanford, taught modern world history, modern European history, and the history of Journalism at Stanford, Sonoma State, and San Francisco State for 34 years. He is the author of two books: Sir Eldon Gorst: the Overshadowed Proconsul (1977) and In VANITY FAIR (1983) plus numerous articles and reviews on national symbols and the modern media, especially PUNCH. In the 1980s and 1990s he was a stringer at The Economist. In retirement he tutors history and indulges a passion for mystery fiction in books and television.  He was a founding member of the Institute.


Dr. Robert Semple

Peter G. Meyerhof is a practicing dentist with an interest in the history of California during the early to mid 19th century. He has written a comprehensive biography of Dr. Robert Semple, a California pioneer who contributed greatly to the American annexation of California. Portions of this work have been published in The Argonaut and the Colusa County Wagon Wheels. He has also carried out original research on other pioneers, the early history of printing in California, the Sonoma Mission, and the first theatre in California. He is currently researching the lives of several less well-known Californios of the 1830s and 1840s.

MillerK-freedom-atop-capitol-domeKatya Miller has authored historical articles about the Statue of Freedom atop the US Capitol Dome, published in the US Capitol Historical Society’s beautiful magazine, The Capitol Dome. With a fellowship from the Architect of the Capitol and USCHS, she is writing the book Beloved Freedom: Secret on the Capitol Dome, as well as a children’s book about this icon of Freedom and America. She holds a degree in Design and Art History from the University of California, Berkeley, with a thirty-year career as a metalsmith and jeweler. Her author website,,  has PDF copies of her articles.

Caryatid, © Margaretta Mitchell

© Margaretta Mitchell

Margaretta K. Mitchell (“Gretta”) is a photographer, author and educator who exhibits her fine art photography nationally. She is the author of five books; two are contributions to the history of photography. Her photography was included in the book and traveling exhibition, A History of Women Photographers (1994). She is represented by Robert Tat Gallery in San Francisco and PHOTO Gallery in Oakland. In 2011 she created a short film, Fire Ruin Renewal, to commemorate the Oakland hills fire of October 1991. She does both traditional portrait photography and lower-cost digital portraits that are useful for websites and book jackets. She also produces books for private clients.  Website:

Mote-VikingSue Mote (B.A. in English, Harvard; MS in Community Development, U.C. Davis) is a freelance journalist and novelist. She wrote Hmong and American: Transition to a Strange Land (2004) and is currently writing a novel about Viking times in Western Norway. She notes: “I’m interested in knowledgeable input in the area of ‘experiential archaeology,’ in which practice and scholarship inform each other. Looking to breathe authentic immediacy into my writing . . . I learned a good deal by dueling with a savvy friend with wooden swords.”

Patrick Chauvel in Cambodia, 1973

Photojournalist Patrick Chauvel in Cambodia, 1973

Elizabeth Nakahara is a former freelance writer for The Washington Post‘s Style section. She also has written for the online magazine, The Digital Journalist. She currently is writing a book about photojournalists who specialize in international, hard-news coverage, and how their role has evolved over the past four decades.

Charmian Kittredge London

Charmian Kittredge London

Susan Nuernberg wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on Jack London at UMASS Amherst, taught English at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and retired in 2011. She moved to Santa Rosa and became a docent at the Jack London State Historic Park where she realized there was a lot she didn’t know about Jack London’s wife, Charmian Kittredge London. Through in-depth archival research, she found that Charmian led an intrepid Bohemian life in the Bay Area before marrying Jack, that she collaborated with him, wrote three books, and curated his legend following his death. Susan has lectured and published newspaper and scholarly articles on Charmian, and now she is attempting to write a biography of her.


Boarman Diploma

Kathleen O’Connor is a certified archivist with more than 30 years of experience. She worked at the National Archives regional branch in San Bruno for 20 years. She acquired expertise in Native American records, US Naval history in the Bay Area and the Pacific, and federal agencies’ records generated in Hawaii. She has done presentations on the Pearl Harbor attack, the Amelia Earhart search, asbestos litigation, the Radiation Experimentation records search, and cryptographic activities in Hawaii before WWII. Since 2005, Kathleen has worked as an archives researcher and as a consultant on archives. She is currently an archivist working for two Bay Area Catholic religious women’s’ archives and one small liberal arts university. She has presented talks on these archives as well.

mem-prof-Offen-museumKaren Offen is a historian and independent scholar, affiliated with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Stanford University.  She is on the board of the International Committee on the Historical Sciences and previously served on boards of the  International Federation for Research in Women’s History and the virtual International Museum of Women (San Francisco), where she originated a women’s history blog, “Clio Talks Back.” Karen’s many publications include European Feminisms, 1700‑1950: A Political History (Stanford University Press, 1999; now available in French) and Globalizing Feminisms, 1789-1945 (Routledge 2010). Karen is finally completing her book on the “woman question” debate in modern France. Website:


“Compared To What?” Poster

Judith Offer (“Jody”) is a playwright who has done several plays about American, Californian, or Oakland history.  She is particularly interested in portraying various ethnic groups and events involving women’s issues.  For example, see the web site from her play called A Shirtwaist Tale, about the 1909 Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike,  Judith has also written a teachers’ workbook, California History Plays for Young People, available through the Book Handler in Bonita, Ca.  For more information see

PeetPhyllis Peet taught women’s studies and directed a women’s program at Monterey Peninsula College. She received her Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, specializing in American art and architecture. Her interests are women in history and art history, including fine prints and photography.

   Katharine Gibson

Pam Peirce is writing a biography of Katharine Gibson (1893-1960), a “New Woman,” whose still-read pseudonymous memoir of four years in a mental asylum and subsequent recovery has never been connected to her successful and unconventional life as a museum art educator and author of books for children. Pam previously published Golden Gate Gardening: Third Edition, Sasquatch Books, 2010. She has also published an essay, “A Personal History of the People’s Food System,” about her perceptions of an alternative food movement in the 1970s, in the book Ten Years that Shook the City, City Lights Press, 2010. Web site:

mem-prof-Pels-Hardscratch Jacquelin Pels (“Jackie”) earned her B.A. in journalism at UC Berkeley (30 years after high school) and is devoted to “real people’s history.” She was a copyeditor at the Contra Costa Times and S.F. Chronicle and now—as Hardscratch Press, named for a family codfishing station in the Aleutian Islands—edits and publishes books of memoir and community history. Her own books are Unga Island Girl [Ruth’s Book]; Cuando llegabas, nieto mío; Any Tonnage, Any Ocean, and Family After All: Alaska’s Jesse Lee Home (Vol. II, Seward, 1925-1965), which won the Alaska Historical Society’s “Contributions to Alaska History” award. Details at

Edith L. Piness (“Edee”) has a Ph.D. in history from the Claremont Graduate University. Her primary academic interest is in British policy and indigenous response in South and Southeast Asia. She has lectured, written and published in this field.  She was a member of the California Postsecondary Commission from 1978-1980 and of the California Student Aid Commission from 1980-1991, serving as Chair from 1984-1986. She has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Pitzer College for many years and has held board positions with the California Historical Society (President 1993-1996), California Missions Foundation, and San Francisco Historical Society.

Oliver Pollak was until 2012 professor of history at the University of Nebraska, Omaha (Ph.D. from UCLA). Among his 11 books (and 650 articles) are To Educate and Serve: The Centennial History of Creighton University School of Law, 1904-2004, where he also received his J.D., and Empires in Collision: Anglo-Burmese Relations in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Since moving to the Bay Area he has gotten involved in local history, and since joining the Institute board he has become engrossed in the history of the Institute, reviewing 40 years of our newsletters. 


Tilden Daken in his  studio, circa 1928

Bonnie Portnoy: Following a retail career in senior management positions with Joseph Magnin, Gump’s, Cost Plus World Market and Just Desserts, Bonnie launched the legacy project for noted early California plein air artist and adventurer, Tilden Daken (1876-1935), her grandfather.  The website,, features a representation of his art from more than 4000 works and a glimpse of his adventurous painting expeditions in the West during the early part of the 20th century. Portions of the in-progress biography of the artist have been published in recent issues of The Sonoma Historian, including stories of his adventures with his friend Jack London.

Reese-wiwh-logoLyn Reese (BA Mount Holyoke; MA Stanford University, history) began the task of integrating women’s history into the middle through high school World History curriculum in the 1970s. Besides conducting teacher workshops, consulting for textbooks, and publishing books, in 1990 she created the Women in World History Curriculum website, The site provides information about her fifteen document-based middle through high school history units, including “I Will Not Bow My Head: Documenting Women’s Resistance in World History” and “Spindle Stories: World History Units for the Middle Grades,” as well as book reviews, essays, and a variety of lessons for teacher use.

mem-prof-Robbins-Calabria_in_Italy.svgCatherine C. Robbins (“Cathy”) is a journalist and non-fiction author. Her most recent book All Indians Do Not Live in Teepees (or Casinos) was published in 2011 by Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press. The book, which is about contemporary American Indians, is now in its second printing. Robbins has also published numerous articles on a wide variety of subjects in press organizations such as High Country News, the Denver Post, The New York Times, and Her work-in-progress is Nobody Travels South of Rome: Finding Calabria. The book explores the contemporary life of Italy’s most southern―and least-known―region in its historical context.


Vladimir Dzhunkovsky

Richard Robbins (“Rob”) (Ph.D., history, Columbia University, 1970) taught Russian history at the University of New Mexico for 40 years.  His area of special interest is Russian imperial administration and administrators.  He has published three books: Famine in Russia, 1891-1892: The Imperial Government Responds to a Crisis (Columbia University Press, 1975); The Tsar’s Viceroys: Russian Provincial Governors in the Last Years of the Empire (Cornell University Press, 1987); and Overtaken by the Night: One Russian’s Journey through Peace, War, Revolution and Terror (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). The latter is a biography of Vladimir Dzhunkovsky, a high-ranking official whose life spans the revolutionary era from the “Great Reforms” of Tsar Alexander II to the “Great Terror” of Joseph Stalin.

Chapel at Fort Ross, California

Maria Sakovich (M.P.H.; M.A. History, Sonoma State University) is a public historian and independent scholar. She researches, writes, and develops exhibits in the areas of immigration, family, and community history. Her articles have appeared in anthologies, as well as Prologue and The ArgonautLa Nostra Storia–Italian Americans in Richmond grew out of the exhibit of the same title at the Richmond Museum of History. Her current work explores the migration of refugees from Russia after the 1917 revolution and civil war and their resettlement in California in the 1920s and 30s.

Michael Several writes: ” Having never been an academic, I have had the luxury of learning about a great variety of subjects, and taking my time to investigate each one at a leisurely pace. This life long journey resulted in articles on empire building in Ancient Egypt, public memory in Los Angeles, anti-Chinese racism in Redlands, and institutional and community formation of the San Gabriel Valley Jewish community.
Currently, I am researching the social, economic and demographic impact of the environment, the introduction of new communication technology, advances in horticulture, and the completion of water and transportation projects on the San Gabriel Valley between 1873 and 1886.

Leather case with 1840s documents, Glen Ellen Historical Society

Jim Shere was raised in Sonoma County and has a psychotherapy practice at Jack London Village, an historic settlement near Glen Ellen. He is the director of the Glen Ellen Historical Society and a board member of the Sonoma County Historical Society. Since 2010 he has been cataloguing the John Pierre and Myrtle Serres/Shirley Roberts Collection, artifacts and primary documents that accumulated on a ranch in the Valley of the Moon since the middle of the 19th century, when the ranch was still part of the original Agua Caliente Land Grant.  His personal website, with reports on parts of this collection, is


Kapuzinerberg, Salzberg postcard March 14, 1917

Carol Sicherman (BLitt, Oxford, 1962; PhD, English, University of Wisconsin, 1963) taught English and African literatures at Cornell and Lehman College for 37 years. She has published  books and articles in both literary fields, winning the Conover-Porter Award from the African Studies Association in 1992 for two reference works on Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Her most recent books were Becoming an African University (2005) and Rude Awakenings: An American Historian’s Encounters with Nazism, Communism and McCarthyism (2012). She is currently researching a collection of 96 postcards in German, Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew sent to family members in Eastern Europe in 1905-18.


Tilly Losch

Margaret Simmons, the daughter of late member Ann Marie Koller, is editing her mother’s manuscript on dancer Tilly Losch to be published by the University of Florida Press. She spent her youth in Paris where she married, had children, danced and went to college. She owned a little book bindery and an antiquarian store. She has taught English and French (and sometimes theater) all over the world including Korea, Cambodia, Japan, and Taiwan.

SodokoffSteven Sodokoff, a “time ambassador” and fourth-generation private jeweler to San Francisco’s society and connoisseurs, is also a history enthusiast. He followed his heart back to San Francisco after graduating with a BS from Cornell University, where he studied and taught communication arts. His passion for photography and the history of the birth of San Francisco drove him to start cataloging the numerous surviving monumental timepieces around town. His soon to be published book Timepieces: Hidden in Plain Sight is a pictorial and historic guidebook of San Francisco. It shows how time helped shape the development of San Francisco as a modern city.


Edward Upward

Peter Stansky studied at Yale and Cambridge and completed his Ph.D. at Harvard, where he taught before moving to Stanford University, where he held the endowed Frances and Charles Field Chair in History. Now retired, he has written extensively on modern British culture, particularly on William Morris, George Orwell, the Bloomsbury Group, the London Blitz, as well as on Julian Bell and John Cornford.

Walt Stevenson: As a full-time management faculty member at Golden Gate University, Walt incorporates discussion of historical events into his teaching about business management and critical thinking about current events—especially in his context of business (corporate social responsibility) classes. His history interests also include the history of San Francisco, the history of regulation, the history of anti-racism and Lake Tahoe history. For the future: history of the Silk Road and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. Walt is also an amateur two-dimensional artist working in water media.


Sir Walter Raleigh

Charles Sullivan studied history, psychology and English literature at Swarthmore College. Later he earned a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from New York University, and held various teaching and administrative posts at Georgetown and other institutions. In recent years he has resumed the study of history, using primary sources at Oxford and elsewhere to develop a deeper understanding of the Elizabethan age of discovery. He is writing a book about Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, and a group of lesser-known figures, based on research he presented at the London meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries in 2015.

Thacker-Abigail Fillmore

Abigail Fillmore

Elizabeth Lorelei Thacker-Estrada (“Liz”) (Master of Library and Information Studies, U.C. Berkeley) is the Merced Branch Library Manager in the San Francisco Public Library system.  She has published articles and chapters about First Ladies of the United States, and she is working on a biography of Abigail Powers Fillmore, who founded the White House Library.  In 2010, she spoke at the “Reading in the White House” symposium at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Louis Trager:  I’ve been a journalist since 1980 (Examiner 1985-97). I’m researching liberal U.S. interventionists in the middle third of the 20th century, concentrating on 1940-56. They included obscure organizers, cloak-and-dagger operators including Allen Dulles, and such other luminaries as Paul Douglas, Henry Luce, Reinhold Niebuhr, Drew Pearson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Stassen and Walter Winchell. They shaped the decades-long “Vital Center” consensus through extensive captive media, prominent pseudo-NGOs, and initiatives in both parties including Americans for Democratic Action. I’m starting with Arthur J. Goldsmith, a New York industrialist, financier, philanthropist and elite foreign-policy activist who became “the dragon of the Waldorf,” a bête noire to the far right.


Christopher Webber is a retired Episcopal priest and author of a number of books on a variety of subjects ranging from Beowulf (The Beowulf Trilogy) to biographies of preCivil War abolitionists like James W.C. Pennington and James McCune Smith. His latest publication (2019) is Christian Psalms for Worship and Prayer. A collection of hymns is due out before the end of the year (2020). Website:

Tim Welsh: I am the owner and operator of the Welsh Income Tax Service in Hayward, California. Founded by my father in 1960, it’s one of the oldest independent income tax filing assistance practices in California. However, my real passion in life is a blog I created in 2013, A then and now tour and history of San Francisco through updated comparison pictures I’ve taken, it includes vintage photography, films, literature, and personal recollections. The site is a lot of fun to work on and attracts views from visitors around the world



Member News

Members' Recent Activities:

Peter Stansky, professor emeritus at Stanford, received the Peter Davison Award from the Orwell Society in recognition of “outstanding ability and contribution to the study of George Orwell.” The judges considered Professor Stansky’s ground-breaking investigations and publications over fifty years, which have continued into the present day with the publication of The Socialist Patriot: George Orwell and War (Stanford University Press, 2023) and Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press, 2020). “Virtual meetings have allowed Professor Stansky (who was 91 in 2023) to remain a major contributor to discussions and colloquia on Orwell, permitting readers and students from around the world to interact with him.” Peter notes that “the late Peter Davison was the editor of the 20 volumes of the collected Orwell which made it possible for me to continue to work on Orwell without going to archives.”
Dot Brovarney’s seminal research on noted California native plant expert, Ukiahan Carl Purdy, will inform the upcoming issue of Eden, the journal of the California Garden and Landscape History Society. “My access to both personal and business records held by Purdy’s descendants enabled me to flesh out much of a fifty-year career which also included his work as a horticulturalist, nurseryman, writer, and
landscape designer.” Dot’s book, Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon, continues to sell well. Kirkus Reviews states “Brovarney deftly mixes regional history, ecology, and character studies of people who shaped and were shaped by the land, writing in lucid . . . prose dotted with flights of vivid
lyricism.” To read the complete review, see Mendocino Refuge at
Nathan Foxton reports that he is “showing work in the group show “The Big Softie” at Soft
Times Gallery, 905 Sutter Street, February 1 - 24. It opens February 1st, 6-9pm during the First
Thursday Art Walk of the lower Polk and Tenderloin neighborhoods. I am facilitating a professional practices group for artists at my studio in the 1890 Bryant Street Studios building in addition to organizing collector tours with studio visits and artist talks.”
Joe C. Miller will be teaching a class on women’s history in the College of Marin Community Education program, “Wild Women Suffragists—A Forgotten Side of Women’s History.” The class meets weekly, on Thursday evenings, 7:10 - 8:30, starting February 1 and ending on the 29th (no class on the 22nd). Joe
will also give a talk at the Merced branch of the San Francisco Public Library on Saturday, February 17. He reports that his recent talk on the subject at Mary’s Woods Retirement Community near Portland, Oregon was well received.
The discovery of a cabinet found on a San Francisco street containing hundreds of old Kodachrome slides of early Bart construction, city agencies, and family photos from the 1960s prompted Tim Welsh to add to his collection on his website “San Francisco Film Locations Then & Now.” Tim writes: “I took current photographs at the approximate location of some of the vintage slides of BART construction along Market Street in 1967 and 1968 for a comparison.” See the BART slides here; for the full story of the discovery of the Kodachrome slides see Friedman reports that she has been writing reviews of historical works and poetry. “Several of the poetry collections have significant historical content. For Wind—Mountain—Oak: The Poems of Sappho, a new translation, I needed to get back to very early Greek history, the burning of the Alexandrian library, and cultural developments that led to 18th- and 19th-century translations. I also traced Sappho’s lines—of which there are so few—in Walt Whitman lines and a J.D. Salinger title. Another book of poetry, membery, grew out of a woman channeling the lives of her grandparents during the Partition of India and Pakistan. It was a valuable window into the experiences of the Sikhs. The fate of Punjab, its language, religion, and customs, is seldom included in Partition histories. I also wrote about a novel, What Start Bad a Mornin, following Jamaican families to the United States.
Anne MacLachlan, researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), organized and spoke at a symposium in honor of the late Carroll Brentano, a long-time Institute member. “University History Past, Present and Future,” took place at the UC Berkeley Women’s Faculty Club on October 5, 2023. She notes: “Carroll’s work made major contributions to the history of the University of California. She firmly believed that a university and all those in it should know its own history. To that end she was the moving force in creating the University History Project in 1989 and launching two periodicals documenting the history of the University of California. ‘The purpose of creating the new series’ she wrote in the introduction to the Chronicles of the University of California was ‘to increase the store of institutional memory and thereby to revitalize institutional identity and enhance community.’ Now more than ever as documenting the history of the university seems to be on the decline, her purpose is even more significant. Several symposium speakers commemorated Carroll’s contributions. The program was concluded by Gia White, who spoke about the first African American students at Cal, based on an article she wrote for the campus project celebrating 150 years of women at Berkeley. Her article represents the mix of reflection and painstaking research which Carroll Brentano fostered during her lifetime.” A recording of the symposium is available at the CSHE website; find Gia White’s article here.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to