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

Nikola Tesla

Elise Ackerman was a newspaper and magazine journalist for most of her career, working as a staff writer and reporter for U.S. News & World Report, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Knight Ridder organization. Following the decimation of the news media, she left newspaper journalism to pursue a career as a copywriter and nonfiction author. For the last five years, she has been working on a nonfiction book “about the first great tech race featuring three of the world’s greatest inventors—Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi—and their obsession to harness the fundamental force holding our world together.”

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.

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).


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

David Chadwick: 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.

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

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_fireAmong Jim Gasperini’s history activities since earning his B.A. from Williams College has been writing interactive books about history for young adults in the Bantam Time Machine series, writing and designing a computer strategy game about Central America, “Hidden Agenda,” designing and writing “The Colburn Chronicles,” an online family history. He is currently working on a cultural history of fire, provisionally titled “Fire in the Mind . . .”


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

Marilyn L. Geary is an oral historian and writer interested in immigration and regional California history. Through Circle of Life Stories, a history preservation service, she helps individuals, families, and organizations save their past. A native Californian born in the Santa Clara Valley, she is the author of Marin City Memories, a book based on the oral histories of African-Americans who migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area during World War II to work in the shipyards. She is currently writing a non-fiction account of the lives of three Swiss-Italian brothers who immigrated to California and Australia in the mid-1800s.

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.


Attacking the Spanish Infantry (about 1740)

Richard Herr: Serving in the US Army in Europe in World War II got me interested in the history of France, especially the French Revolution.  From there I  moved into the history of Spain, which became my area of specialization on the faculty of UC Berkeley. My archival research has been primarily on Spain in the 18th century, but teaching Western Civ and seminars has led me to write also on the history of agriculture and social and national identities in modern Europe and the US.

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).



James Hopper, Herman Scheffauer, Harry Lafler, and George Sterling at the Bohemian Grove, 1907, Courtesy Bancroft Library

Joanne Lafler, a founding member of the Institute (and of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars), did her doctorate at UC Berkeley in seventeenth and eighteenth-century British theater history.  After publishing her first book — a biography of the eighteenth-century actress Anne Oldfield —  she turned to early twentieth century California history.  The subject of her second biography is Henry Anderson Lafler (her husband’s father), a major figure in San Francisco’s bohemian world and still remembered for his eye-witness accounts of the 1906 earthquake and fires.



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:



Member News

Members' Recent Activities:

Leslie Friedman’s play, “The Exhibitionist,” received three Zoom presentations. Play by Play, the organization founded and led by Institute member Judith Offer, presented it on a program that included Judith’s play, “Not Too Kosher,” on January 31. That reading/ performance led to two more, on February 3 and 11. “The Exhibitionist” is a satirical, one-act play with two characters re-meeting on what might be a date. Jonathan Clark (Leslie’s husband) played Danny and Leslie played Lily. Leslie has also been invited to give a talk about her recent book, The Story of Our Butterflies: Mourning Cloaks in Mountain View, for Stanford’s program, Company of Authors.

John Graham’s second book, The Reeducation Of A Turd Peddler, is available for purchase ( He describes it as “historic, meta-fiction, and satire” which follows Junipero Serra’s heart “stuck in a jar for two hundred years and reveals who stole it and why.”

As of March 2021, Bert Gordon is Associate Editor of the Journal of Tourism History, a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor and Francis in England. He may be contacted with questions about the journal at: bmgordon@

Susan Nuernberg reports that she is moving back to Wisconsin, where she will continue her work on Charmian Kittrege London, transcribing and annotating her handwritten diaries (1904-1916) for publication by the University of Nebraska Press. She expects to complete her project in a year.

Welcome to our newest members, both currently residing in London, England. Laure Latham describes herself as “a blogger, storyteller and lawyer,” holding a B.A. in religious anthropology from Paris Jussieu University and a B.A. in law from La Sorbonne. She has practiced law at the Paris Bar and has taught international tax at La Sorbonne. Her writings include articles on the environment as well as children and the outdoors. Laure coauthored George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin and is currently working on a fictional account of Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California.

Esther Shallan is a philosopher (PhD in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University and Mphil in the philosophy of psychology from Kings College London) with interests and research on the problem of evil, the nature of suffering, and personality traits. She is also a psychotherapist working in North London who specializes in bereavement, depression, and anxiety disorders. Esther is currently working on a book entitled "God, Good and Evil: The Problem of Moral Evil Re-evaluated.”

Congratulations to Our 2020 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Steven Levi for expenses of a visual presentation of his poem, “The Contract," about women's suffrage.
Pam Peirce for editing of her biography of Katherine Gibson Wicks.

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