Welcome to Mary's Blogspot

We have set up this site for Mary's friends and family to share stories, memories, feelings, photos, whatever you like. Please add to it by clicking on Comments below any post.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marty's comments from the memorial

Mary and I were partners from the start in the development of Two Acre Wood, searching for land, meetings every week for years, designing the development, watching it grow and finally moving in in 1999.  Mary and Dave were stalwarts of the process and continued to be during the 10 years we have lived there.  Dave watches over the buildings and grounds and for many years Mary has been the tender of the landscape.  While she was able, she was out there every day – pulling weeds, planting things and keeping an eye out to keep it gorgeous.  Nourishing the garden as it nourished her, as her gardening companion Lilith said.

But Mary was also a lover of fun!
In the planning and design stage of TAW, we made sure to have outlets on the front patios for the margarita blender – this is how Club 21 was born.

One of the things about cohousing that Mary and I both loved was the casual, easy socializing that can be done when we all live nearby.  One person sitting on their front patio could soon result in a small party with each neighbor bringing a snack or a bottle of wine (or margarita fixings!) to share – no planning, no driving.  Mary dubbed these informal gatherings Club 21.  When a small child would come running up to grab some food and run off again, Mary would teach them to “take just one” and then join the conversation before taking another.  This discouraged some of the kids but also resulted in some fine stories from some of the little ones.

I brought this margarita glass for Mary’s altar in honor of the many fun Club 21 gatherings we shared.

But the fun didn’t stop with Club 21.
Mary had decorations stored away someplace for every occasion – Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day – we always made a party of it.

Going off campus too.  Mary, want to go see the Mime Troupe?  Sure!  Want to go to the movies?  Sure!  Want to go to Sea Ranch for Thanksgiving?  Sure!  She was up for everything.  Mary really knew how to pack her life full of fun and adventure.  When I heard they were going to China, I wanted to go too.  Mary was an amazing traveling companion.  She took notes and documented every story and fact, and didn’t miss a single possible side trip.  She wanted it all and she got it!  Somewhere I have her documentation of our China trip, which I ought to post on her blog.

And she had such a way with words! I am sure going to miss her witty conversation, great sense of humor and stories about women’s history.  There will never be anyone quite like her. Here’s to Mary (lift margarita glass)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Celebration of Mary's Life - March 6

All are invited to a celebration of Mary's life on March 6 from 3:00 to 6:30 or 7:00.  The first part will be a program of speakers, slides and videos telling about Mary's remarkable life.  This will be followed by a party with food and drink - just the way Mary would have liked it.

Event is at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa at the corner of West College and Stony Point Road.

It would be helpful if you would click on this Evite link and let us know if you are coming.

Women’s history once more, with feeling by Susan Swartz

Women’s history once more, with feeling

by Susan Swartz
Published: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 1:05 PM PST in the Sonoma West Times and News
Why do we have to keep dredging up women’s history? Why do we need all of March to talk about it? I mean, after all, that was then, this is now.

Can’t we just move on? We’ve got Hillary. We’ve got Nancy. We win Olympic medals. Women make history all the time. Yes, but we still have a couple of thousand years of male-dominated history to balance.

Thirty years ago a group of women in Sonoma County started doing the research on “where were the women?” and strove to do no less than rewrite, edit and fill in the blanks in history books. The Sonoma County Women’s History Project blossomed into the national women’s history project and March became women’s history month, recognized in all states.

One founder of the Women’s History Project was the late Mary Ruthsdotter of Sebastopol. Mary died this winter and her memorial was fittingly planned for this celebrated month. It will be Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa.

Mary really knew her history and would talk about the gutsy women of the past like old friends she’d just had over for coffee. One she described as “totally cool” was Jeannette Rankin from Montana, the first woman elected to Congress and who dared to vote against America entering World War I. “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake,” said Rankin — suffragist, peace activist and Republican.

Bay Area filmmaker Louise Vance claims Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the women’s rights organizer, for her favorite. She tells the story of Stanton growing up and hearing her father, a judge, tell women who were beaten by their husbands that they couldn’t run away.

“The law supported her being recaptured and returned to him,” said Vance, adding that Stanton vowed from then on “to tear out all the pages in her father’s law books that made women cry.”

Vance has made a film called “Seneca Falls” that launches this month on PBS television stations across the country. It’s about America’s first women’s rights convention in 1848, a huge public protest by radicals demanding that women be freed from their social, political and legal slavery. It’s barely mentioned in history books.

The film follows a theater troupe of teenage girls from San Francisco who went to Seneca Falls in 1998 to perform a play at the 150th anniversary of the women’s convention.

When Vance field-tested the film last year she showed it to junior high and high school girls in Ohio. They were angered by what they saw and told Vance they had never spent one minute on women’s history in school. Same thing happened when she showed it to a group of high school girls in San Francisco.

It’s because what women were doing then wasn’t valued enough to be written down. Getting the vote was a huge story but there was so much more going on in terms of women’s rights. “How about the fact that it was once legal in some states to whip your wife,” said Vance.

What about women not being able to inherit property? Or not being allowed to go to college? Mary Ruthsdotter’s grandmother told her, “Some men used to think women belonged to them like their cows and pigs.”

So, yeah, we have to keep acknowledging our history.

And Vance has another idea. She wants to find a legislator who will push for a national bill mandating that women’s history be taught in all public schools.

Imagine the squeals and growls over that idea from those who still haven’t learned how to share.

Susan Swartz is an author and journalist in Sebastopol. You can also read her at www.juicytomatoes.com and hear her Another Voice commentary on KRCB-FM radio on Fridays. Email is susan@juicytomatoes.com.

From Jean Richards, Commissioner (retired), Monterey County Commission on the Status of Women

I will be there in thought today.  Mary will always be among us for certain!  In fact, I am showing Adelante Mujeres on Tuesday.  It is a great video and she put so much effort into it.  I first met Mary in the 90s at an Association for California Commissions for Women conference in Northern California.  Mary gave a great presentation and lit the women's history fire for many commissioners.  We have been spreading the word each March ever since!  What a fantastic treasure she was and her work will continue to inspire us.  If it can be done I would love to see a portion of one of her lectures posted on YouTube.  It would certainly bring comfort to those of us who miss her so.  When I put womens history in youtube's finder a few women pop up but I want Mary there, if it can be done.  Condolences to Mary's family and enjoy those wonderful memories.  Jean Richards, Commissioner (retired), Monterey County Commission on the Status of Women

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Message from Doris Weatherford – Historical Consultant to the National Women’s History Museum and a long-time friend of Mary.

On behalf of the National Women’s History Museum, I wish to extend sincere sympathies to everyone there, especially to her mother, Ruth, whom she honored with her name change many years ago, and to her daughter Alice.  Alice, she spoke of you with the pride that mothers have for accomplished daughters.  Mary understood the value of grandmothers and mothers and daughters yet to come, and those personal links underscored much of her public work. 

And of course, you, Dave – Mary and I spoke several times of how fortunate each of us has been in our choice of husbands!  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being the kind of man who understands and supports and can be depended upon to do the right thing, whether that thing is great or small.  I have particularly fond memories of when Mary, you, and your Uncle John came to dinner at our house -- and I want to recognize him, too, and acknowledge again the annual John Crawford Art Festival in Ruskin, Florida, which he endowed.

Such memorializing was always on Mary’s mind, even before she became ill.  She was driven by a powerful force to insist that women especially be memorialized, that the achievements of American women be remembered like those of men.  As everyone listening to this knows, she spent her life “writing women back into history” as a founder of the National Women’s History Project. 

After we became friends, I reminded Mary that our first communication had been when she sent a letter to my publisher, Prentice Hall, which they forwarded to me, in which she heatedly protested my omission of the National Women’s History Project from my American Women’s History: A-Z.  I called her and apologized, explaining that because NWHP was only about a decade old at the time, I didn’t yet think of it as “history.”  She did, though.  She knew that Women’s History Month and the Project would succeed and that NWHP itself would become history.

After that rather rough beginning, we became good – if geographically distant – friends.  Mary liked to write and wrote well. I always looked forward to seeing something from her, whether it came from the post office – as did her annual holiday cards – or later, by e-mail.  Our exchanges included oddball questions that few others would find worth pondering, but they showed the depth of her interest in women’s history.

Once she raised the topic of colors and flowers in the suffrage movement: was it true, she asked, that white and purple were the colors and white lilies the flower?  The creativeness of the query sent me back to the thousands of pages in the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage.  The last three volumes were written or co-written by Susan Anthony’s press secretary, Ida Husted Harper -- a Californian who shared with Mary and me an interest in color and flowers -- and there was a surprising amount of information to satisfy our curiosity.  Delaware suffragists, for example, used jonquils as their symbol, and when women demonstrated at the 1916 National Democratic Convention in St. Louis, they created a “golden lane” of yellow ribbons and carried yellow parasols.  Only Mary would ask a question like that, though.  She was unique.

We also enjoyed each other’s company at the 150th anniversary of the women’s rights movement in Seneca Falls, New York.  I wrote a book aimed at that 1998 event – which actually was published near you, by ABC-Clio in Santa Barbara.  When I listened to my phone messages later, I was thrilled to hear one from Mary, saying that she had run through the Rochester airport looking for a pencil to mark things in the book.  It made me so happy to know that she -- who knew so much about women’s history -- found pencil-worthy information.  Mary always was learning and loving to learn and more than willing to share ideas and sources. 

One of her great characteristics, in fact, was her openness about including others on whatever agenda she was promoting.   I still can see her standing at the front of a bus as NWHP participants did a tour of women’s sites in Washington, DC.  We were on our way to the house where Mary McLeod Bethune lived after Franklin Roosevelt appointed her as the first African-American to head a federal agency.  Mary (Ruthsdotter, not Bethune) explained all this and then spotted me and said something like:  “You’re from Florida, Doris, and she was from Florida.  Get up here and add to what I’ve said.”  Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary was a natural networker who immediately grasped who should know what about whom – and she brought it all together to selflessly promote women’s history.

After her retirement from NWHP, she became very supportive of the National Women’s History Museum, which plans to build a museum dedicated to American women on the National Mall in Washington.  Mary contributed generously to NWHM, and her family has asked that others do the same.  NWHM is proud to include Mary on its Honor Roll listed online and in its Chronicle of American Women.  Both of these will be part of the museum when it is completed – and this is the first museum authorized by Congress and located in our nation’s capital.  It is right and fitting that Mary would be named in it.

From afar, my love and good wishes to all who loved Mary Ruthsdotter.  I shall memorialize her for the rest of my life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mary's report from WOMBAT mountain bike camp 11/03

I'm just back from WOMBAT camp (WOmen's Bicycle and Tea Society), run bythe zany champeeeeeon mountainbiker, Jacquie Phelan. Three days, 2nights at the Saratoga Youth Hostel, and a grand adventure. What did Ilearn,you ask?I learned I am fast. Or at least fast enuff not to feel slow aroundpeople like me. And I now know I've got sufficient stamina, too. Campwas fun, and I did learn a lot. And I've got abrasions, small holes,and bruises that prove I warn't no woos, either. At one point I did acomplete face-plant in the duff, so I've got red patches on my cheeksand chin this morning -- red badges of courage? I still am not adept athairpin turns, but I can describe how to do them as well as the nextperson, and someday I'm bound to catch on and complete one withouthop-hop-hoping downhill on one foot instead! Meanwhile, I can wow allthe little kids by doing a dramatic skid and then riding off thedirection I came from. Maybe I can, I mean. I've done it once, whichI'll be reminiscing about often.How was the weather? Glad you asked! You know me as tending to definea good time partly by how agreeable the weather is/was. Well. Ithailed so hard the first afternoon that one of the roads in the area(Santa Cruz mountains) was closed, but we rode anyway. The rest of thetime it was COLD but dry. Fortunately I'd brought hi-tech undies, but myfingertips nearly froze off on the cold brake handles, which I stayed inCONSTANT contact with.The class usually has 8 women, but Hallowe'en cut into the numbers whichwere to be 3, but one bailed out so then there were two. The otherwoman had driven down from Idaho, where she does road races now andthen. Shewas 54, in about the same condition I'm in, so we were well matchedthere. Jacquie Phelan is in her late '40s, has about 1% body fat andmuscle galore, is funnnny, a compulsive talker, very daring, and reallyreally good as a teacher. With just two of us in the class we got allthe attention we could want. "OK, now - PASS ME!!" Jacquie'd say as Iteetered along a single-track groove on a steep hillside, and my gawd Icould do it! We rode one long and lovely trail through a state park, the lateafternoon light filtering through the madrone and maples -- lovelylovely. It ended on a grueling uphill (of course), and as I crested andsaw we were back on the road I rang my bell with great delight, grabbingthe attention of the man sitting in a car right there reading, with allhis windows rolled up. Seemed odd to me, but oh well. So, off we rodemerrily toward our car. And then the State Parks cops showed up, billyclubs in their holster thangs, ticket book in hand... Turns out bikesaren't allowed on those trails. THAT's what that sign meant! But as"girl" can be held against a person, it should also work in favor and itdid this time: they let us go with aonly a stern warning. We were contrite and haaappy again. You'd havelet us off, too, huh Liz?!Now I'm back riding my desk, promising to send i.d. theft information tothis person and passing on that legislation idea to the next.Meanwhile, scenes from the great outdoors will be playing right behindmy eyelids!Dessert beckons. I hope to see you soon, here or there, Liz.xoxox,Mary Ruthsdotter, Bachelorette of Finesse degree holder

Thoughts on hearing of the passing of Mary 1/8/10

10/14/44 – 1/8/10

My friend Mary Ruthsdotter passed this afternoon. She was 65 and we had been friends for over 30 years. I met Mary through a mutual friend in around 1977. She had just moved her husband Dave and daughter Alice to Sonoma County from Los Angeles in pursuit of a better quality of life. They rented a house in Windsor and had a beautiful garden. They later bought a home in Santa Rosa and then moved 10 years ago to a co-housing community in Sebastopol that they helped found.

Mary and Dave’s home became a destination for me every few months. In summer we picked blackberries, went to the county fair, and canoed on the Russian River. We traded gardening tips and political opinions. Over the years I’d rent homes on the river for a weekend or week and Mary and Dave would come for dinner or a hike or boating afternoon. Mary was generous with time as a friend; her visits were not 30 minute affairs, but long afternoons or overnights with trips to the bakery in the morning. We shared a love of fresh food and savored the latest seasonal fruit. I often came home from a visit with a bag of fresh picked fruit or vegetables from their garden.

We liked the county fair for a number of reasons. The Sonoma County fair featured a central garden exhibit each year, organized around a theme. It might be a 3 story high dragon (one of my favorites) or a Disney story. It was always interesting and sometimes spectacular. We liked the sheep dog trials; we liked the county fair junk food and were quite particular about how the cinnamon buns with frosting were supposed to taste. One year Mary got tickets for the rodeo and we wore western shirts and went. Mary was generally up for anything and I’m surprised we never went to a tracker pull. We did go to the classic car show and vote on our favorites. Dave, who’d owned a car body shop for many years and actually knows about cars, admired how they were put together; Mary and I admired the paint jobs, especially the flames down the sides kind. Mary and Alice won prizes at the county fair. Alice for making a doll house; Mary for grapevine pruning. These are the ones I know about; there are likely others.

Mary was a feminist and allowed her beliefs to shape her life. She was one of the founders of the women’s history project and spent years traveling the country advocating for women’s history and training others to share our stories. The first grants to start the history project were written on Mary’s dining room table at the rented house in Windsor. I have tee shirts, posters and a wealth of understanding from my years visiting Mary at work and hearing about her trips and projects. During my last visit with her 10 days ago, I had a cup of tea with her and selected a women’s history project mug to drink from. Besides the history project work, Mary was chair of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, an aide to her local assembly member, active in ecological and conservation groups. In retirement, she’d begun exploring groups she wanted to volunteer with, looking at the library, the open space groups and others. Her illness took away much of her energy and stamina and cheated us of the leadership she would’ve provided in the last decades of her life.

Mary grew up traveling because her father worked for what I think of as the foreign service. As an adult, she loved to travel and she and Dave (and Alice as a child) truly traveled the world. They spent months in Latin America, Asia and Europe. After she because ill, Mary still managed trips to China, India, Japan, Australia and the US southwest.

In December, I told her I was planning a trip to Oxford and she pulled out Rick Steve’s map and put post-it arrows on a half dozen spots she and Dave had visited and I should see. She was the perfect person to talk about travel with; she was interested in spending time in and getting to know a country. She read about and watched videos about travel and was planning a trip to see her aunt Virginia in the southwest this spring. We’d also been discussing Montana and she’d been looking at historic lodges to stay in.

I went on the trip to China with Mary and Dave and I couldn’t keep up with her. If there was an extra outing: to a show, for instance, she went. I stayed back and rested one night when she and Dave went to the theater; Mary bought a mask which hangs on the wall in their home now.

Although she didn’t brag about it, Mary had an artistic side. She had a great sense of color and used it to paint the inside of their home, sew, do stained glass, pottery and garden.

About 5 years ago, before she was even 60, Mary was diagnosed with multiple myleoma, a tough kind of blood cancer. I remember when she told me she was ill. She was sitting in their back patio; she was still very healthy and well, but she told me she had blood cancer as I arrived for a visit. She and Dave had been at a retreat, as I recall, and she screamed in pain. The cancer had eaten through a part of her back. It would go on to attack her ribs, shoulders, skull and hip. Radiation and chemotherapy beat it back and allowed her to travel, garden and do lots of things she loved doing for several years.

But this fall, she developed congestive heart disease and spent 3 spells in the hospital in the last 3 months. Today, she was getting ready to leave after a 3 day stay. She and Dave were waiting for the doctor to discharge her. She ate lunch and was walking around the ward with a nurse. She was happy to be going home, joking with the nurse and other patients by waving a “royal” cupped hand as she passed by. Then she stopped, said “oh no” and collapsed. She could not be revived and her cardiologist suspects she died from a blood clot to the brain because her collapse was so quick and complete.

Less than a year before she was diagnosed with multiple myleoma, Mary sent me an email titled “Mary’s big adventure.” It was the story of her going to women’s mountain bike camp in the Santa Cruz mountains. She was older than the other students but held her own, returning home banged up but happy. Mary loved bike riding. She was also a dare devil and especially liked riding carnival rides that make you throw up or going fast down a hill on her bike and occasionally wiping out.

Mary and Dave have been family to me most of my adult life. We have watched each other’s children grow up, had lots of adventures; shared some heartache and hard times. I could count on Mary to be proud of my accomplishments, but mainly to love me as I am. She and Dave came to my birthday parties and drove to Oakland the day my family purchased our home. She defined friendship to me.

In my refrigerator are two blocks of tofu. Mary and I discussed a receipe I have for coconut encrusted tofu at our last visit. In an email exchange 5 days ago, right before her last trip to the hospital by ambulance, we made a plan for me to bring my marinated and pressed tofu to her home for us to cook. On my bed is my cookbook with the recipe. In my car are children’s games and puzzles that I packed a few days ago. She’d accepted my offer of their loan for the upcoming visit of her daughter and oldest grandson next week.

It is hard to interrupt this friendship. The plans to make sugar skulls for day of the dead next year, to go to Montana or Arizona; to watch movies about the UK in preparation for my trip; to tour the grounds at Two Acre Wood and comment on what needs pruning, what to replace or add. To try our hands at topiary or to taste test waffle recipes.

Dave called me after work this evening and I was in my car. I came home, talked to him, and then decided to go out to the planetarium. I’d been wanting to see a show there on the Maya and their astronomy and math. I went and also took advantage of Friday night dinner there too. This is exactly the kind of outing Mary would’ve enjoyed.

Mary was angry at being ill, and also overwhelmed by the relentlessness of her ever increasing and changing medical problems. I’m angry at losing her and not getting to be old together. After all these years, I will not have my friend to retire near to. Even so, I am so grateful to have had her as my friend.

Liz Hendrickson

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gardening with Mary

Every time I work in the garden at Two Acre Wood that Mary nourished and that nourished Mary so much, I think of her and miss her.

When she was well enuff for us to work together there, we talked of everything from Susan B. Anthony to Michelle Obama as well as our own lives and histories.  I sure miss those talks.

So glad to have known her, and so much appreciate all her work in  the world and the garden.


Marty's personal collection of Mary pictures - click to play