Celebrating Women’s History Month in OC
In the field of women’s history, Orange County is a goldmine. It is home to the fastest woman on record, a former First Lady, world-famous actresses and singers, Olympic medalists and more. And so, with March’s National Women’s History Month before us, parents needn’t look far when seeking ways to teach and inspire children.
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Beside every man stands a strong woman – and that’s especially true when he happens to be president of the United States. Learn more about one former president’s right-hand woman at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
First Lady Patricia Nixon was a woman of firsts. She was the first, First Lady to visit an active combat zone, address a Republication National Convention, and toss a ball at an MLB game. She was also a staunch women’s rights advocate who endorsed the equal rights amendment, again becoming the initial First Lady to do so. Museum visitors can learn about Mrs. Nixon’s numerous accomplishments; including her disaster relief work, support of the arts, and volunteerism. She served as First Lady from 1969 to 1974, while her husband was the 67th president of the United States.
The Lyon Air Museum
Santa Ana, www.lyonairmuseum.org
Don’t let those Hollywood blockbusters fool you – it wasn’t just men who commanded the skies during the Second World War. An estimated 350,000 women served in United States air force the war, including women air force service pilots (WASPs) who flew an estimated 60 million miles delivering planes from factories to bases.
Kids can learn more about these brave, courageous and amazing women at the Lyon Air Museum, which features a dedicated display to their work. The pioneer pilots supported the war efforts, despite facing serious resistance from military commanders. They were denied military benefits, required to buy their own uniforms, and did not receive insurance. A total of 38 WASPs were killed while serving their country. The WASP program, which ran from 1942 to 1944, is said to have opened the doors for women in today’s air force. At the souvenir shop, pick up WE LOVE TO FLY, a book about WASPs written by museum docent Nancy Robison.
Florence Joyner Olympiad Park
Mission Viejo, www.cityofmissionviejo.org
Parents can turn a trip to the playground into an educational and inspirational experience at Florence Joyner Olympiad Park. It was renamed in 1999 in memory of Florence “Flo Jo” Joyner, a former Mission Viejo resident considered to be the fastest woman to ever live.
The track star won a Silver Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics, followed by three Golds and a Silver at the 1988 Summer Olympics. She continues to hold world records in women’s 100- and 200-meter sprints. She was also known for her wild style; she raced in four-inch nails and flashy body suits.
Joyner lived in a residential neighborhood near the park and, alongside her husband, worked with local track and little league teams. Joyner died at age 38 after suffering an epileptic seizure. The park, at 22760 Olympiad Road, also features an Olympic plaza complete with plaques honoring other Mission Viejo Olympic athletes.
Arden Helena Modjeska House and Gardens
To go, or not to go: That’s the question parents may ask themselves before visiting a Modjeska Canyon attraction that was once home to a world-famous Shakespearean actress. The historic home and garden site was once the residence of Madame Helena Modjeska, one of America’s most beloved actresses who spent decades starring in Shakespeare plays throughout the country.
After buying the small ranch, Modjeska and her husband hired a world-renowned architect to transform it into the house it is today. Modjeska named the property, surrounded by oak groves, “Arden” because it reminded her of the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Tours are offered at 10 a.m. on most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Visitors must be at least 12 years old, reservations required by calling 949-923-2230.
Santa Ana, oc.discoverycube.org
Many kids have an insatiable interest in astronomy. Parents can feed that curiosity by telling them the incredible story of Sally Ride, an astronaut and astrophysicist who in 1983 became the first American woman to travel to space.
Ride, born in SoCal, also holds the record for being the youngest American astronaut in space (then 32). After learning about Ride’s accomplishments, children can visit the Discovery Cube’s Mission Control exhibit to engage in interactive displays on aerospace, Mars rovers and satellites. Visitors can step inside the replica of a jet propulsion lab control room to experience the “ultimate hands-on space mission” or visit the Boeing Rocket Lab to learn about space, rockets and engineering. After her space travels, Ride helped launch The Sally Ride Science Academy, which promotes gender equality while encouraging student interest in math and science.
Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center
Take a walk through the ghosts of closets past at the Muzeo Musem, which features a unique exhibit showcasing the fashions of the 1900s. Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times highlights the styles of TV series Downtown Abby, a popular period drama. Fans can stroll through a “costume chronicle” of the early nineteenth century in an exhibit rich with jewelry and nearly 40 costumes.
Since Dressing Downton is expected to be a popular one, visitors will be admitted by time entry. Museum goers are advised to buy tickets online; same day walk-ups will be accommodated by availability. The exhibit runs through May 7.
By Michelle Thompson