|Contralto singer Mabel Ritchardson in San Francisco, circa late 1930s.|
A review of Ritchardson's performance in The San Francisco Spokesman reads, "Mrs. Ritchardson scored another triumph in her career when she was presented in an intimate musicale, by a group of artists at the fashionable Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. Mrs. Ritchardson, the only colored on the program was introduced as a cultural leader of her race. The audience was spell-bound while she sang "Come Let Us All This Day" by Bach. For encore she sang "Vittoria Mio Core" by Carissima in Italian. She appeared later on the program with a group of Negro spirituals which were enthusiastically received."
I found this review of her work, along with programs, letters, and photos Mabel saved from her singing career. I was inspired by her dedicated pursuance of her craft, especially since this was an era where a woman's "place" was considered to be in the home. In spite of the obstacles facing all women, and especially Black women, she made her dreams a reality.
|Tom Ella King on her farm in Kingfisher, Oklahoma 1955.|
The stories of my ancestors have changed the way I look at the world and my place in it. Learning about how my family members lived, created, and thrived gives me courage to for my own life's journey.
The history of one's family is deeply personal, but it is also so much bigger than one family. The stories, photographs, and documents that are saved and passed down through generations are an important part of history. It is especially important to uncover and preserve the stories of women. So often the lives and achievements of women throughout history have been minimized or overlooked altogether, and their stories are lost.
|Sylvia King (seated, center) with her pupils at the Pleasant Valley one room schoolhouse in Kingfisher, Oklahoma|
I urge every woman to look into her past. This can seem like a daunting task, with so much to sort through and piece together. It also brings up painful memories for some. Recently I watched African American Lives, a program in which Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps prominent African Americans trace their family history. Gates spoke of how much of the African American legacy has been lost because it was simply too painful to talk about. documents and photos were thrown out, people closed up when asked about the past. And as family member pass away, that history can never be recovered.
|Hazel King (center) receiving an award in Washington, D.C. for "Outstanding Service in Cooperative Extension Work", 1952|
When women share their own stories as well as the (her)story of their ancestors, the history of our world is enriched, and others will be inspired to speak their truths. I hope anyone reading this feels empowered to research their own family's past, and share what they find.