From the Library Image Archives: Three Remarkable Women from Santa Monica
December 28, 2017
by Susan Lamb
In a year when TIME revealed “The Silence Breakers” as the Person of the Year, we want to celebrate three remarkable women in Santa Monica’s earlier days. They accomplished a great deal without much fanfare and the impact of their hard work is still being felt today.
Arcadia Bandini de Baker
Portrait of Arcadia de Baker, 1885. Courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives/ C.C. Pierce Collection.
Many considered Arcadia Bandini de Baker the “Godmother” of the City of Santa Monica because she had such an impact on current public use lands. Born in 1825 in San Diego to a socially elite California family, she married a wealthy landowner at age 15 and moved to Los Angeles. As a widow, she married again, this time to another wealthy landowner and one of the founders of the City of Santa Monica, Colonel Robert S. Baker. Arcadia designed one of the first maps for the city, creating an original vision of land use in Santa Monica.
Arcadia, along with Colonel Baker, notably deeded the land for a National Home for Disabled Veterans in 1888, which is now the Veterans complex in Westwood. In 1891 she donated the land of today’s Pacific Palisades Park to the City of Santa Monica. Around the beginning of the 20th Century, she donated land in Santa Monica Canyon to create the first experimental forestry station managed by Abbott Kinney, the founder of Venice. She also supported the community by giving land for a Presbyterian Church and St. Augustine by the Sea. Her commitment to education was evidenced by gifts of land for schools and for a permanent location for the Bay City Women’s Club.
Elfie A. Mosse
Elfie Mosse in the Children's Room of the Santa Monica Public Library, circa 1900. Courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives/ Ernest Marquez Collection.
Born in San Francisco on December 12, 1867, Elfie Mosse moved to Santa Monica with her mother at a young age, following the untimely passing of her father. She attended Santa Monica High School.
In 1890, Mosse became the first City Librarian; and for the first 14 years, she was the only staffmember in the library. During her tenure, she kept a log of every book, magazine and map obtained by the Library with funds or through donations from the good citizens of Santa Monica. The logs are written neatly in ‘Librarian Script,’ which was taught to Miss Mosse when in training at Los Angeles Public Library. She dealt with complaints about ‘inappropriate’ material with grace and aplomb. She always upheld the idea of the right to read.
Books, reading and service for children always mattered to her. In each location for the Main and two branches established during her tenure, there was always a special space for children’s literature and books. Story times for children began early in the Santa Monica Public Library. She oversaw development of collections in foreign languages to support those seeking asylum from other countries, including Spanish-language books for the people working in the lima bean fields by the Fairview Branch Library. Maps and technical works were obtained to support civilians and military personnel involved in World War I. She touched many lives and helped people learn about the world during the difficult times of World War I and the Great Depression.
After serving the City for 49 years, Miss Mosse retired and passed away in 1939. She is Santa Monica’s longest-serving City Librarian.
May Sutton Bundy
Wimbledon champion May Sutton Bundy (second from left) with other women tennis players at the Uplifters Club in Rustic Canyon, 1947, photographed by Ernest McNey. Courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives.
May Sutton Bundy was born in Plymouth, England on September 25, 1886. The youngest of six children, May joined her siblings in building a clay tennis court at her family’s home in Pasadena where the family moved. May Sutton’s most pronounced characteristic was tenacity. This proved of value, as she was the youngest woman ever to win the singles title at the U.S. National Championships at age 17 and the first American player to win the singles title for women in Wimbledon in 1905. This also made her the first non-British woman to win the title.
May Sutton vowed that she would never marry a man who could not beat her at tennis. She became May Sutton Bundy on December 11, 1912 when she married Tom Bundy, a three-time men’s doubles champion at Wimbledon. In 1956 May was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She lived in Santa Monica, playing tennis into her 80s. She was buried at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, following her death in 1975.
The Library Image Archives illustrate the history of the Santa Monica Bay Area from 1875 to the present day with historical photographs, postcards and other images including views of the City and its landscape, the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, historic buildings, beaches, Douglas Aircraft and the Southern Pacific Railroad, Venice, Topanga, Malibu and the Pacific Palisades Historical Society Collection of images. Images in the Archives were donated to the Library from both public and private collections.