The Ebell Launches The Ebell Institute for the Study of Women’s History in Los Angeles

Posted by Patty Lombard

April 24, 2024

Lisa See, New York Times bestselling writer, novelist, and Ebell member, and Dr. Meredith Drake Reitan, The Ebell’s first scholar in residence opened the symposium with a panel discussion on history through artifacts. Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography

The lounge at the historic Ebell of Los Angeles was filled with students, scholars, Ebell members, and guests for the first Symposium hosted by the newly formed Ebell Institute for the Study of Women’s History on Wednesday.

“Wednesday’s symposium is an important step in correcting the long-standing biases in how women’s history is recognized, communicated, and taught,” Dr. Stacy Brightman, Executive Director of The Ebell of Los Angeles told the Buzz. “The attendance of a large, wonderful room-full of people on Wednesday will ensure that the knowledge gained that day will be shared far beyond The Ebell—in conversations, classrooms, businesses and civic arenas throughout Los Angeles.”

Dr. Stacy Brightman welcomed participants to the first public symposium hosted by The Ebell Institute on the study of Women’s History in Los Angeles. Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography

“Despite changing attitudes about women’s roles in civic, scholarly, and artistic spheres, women’s contributions have been overlooked, discouraged, and buried for centuries,” said Brightman. “We are going to change that by valuing and presenting the work of modern female scholars, while also uncovering the buried narratives of the historic women who helped build Los Angeles over the course of centuries.”

Brightman, the first-ever Executive Director of The Ebell, challenged the audience to use their new-found knowledge as a “hammer to shape the future.”

“I was thrilled to watch the first symposium on women’s history in Los Angeles because we are part of that history, said Laurie Schechter, Ebell President. “We were founded 130 years ago by women, for women. We are dedicated to inspiring and empowering women and building community. This symposium is part of our continuing commitment to creating a space for women and amplifying their voices, their stories, and accomplishments.”

The opening panel featured a conversation on women’s experiences and history as expressed through artifacts with New York Times bestselling writer, novelist and Ebell member, Lisa See and Dr. Meredith Drake Reitan, The Ebell’s first scholar in residence who is also associate dean in the Graduate School at the University of Southern California and adjunct associate professor in USC’s Price School of Public Policy and the School of Architecture.

Lisa See read from her great-grandmother’s journal.

See is renowned for her work of historical fiction that intertwines richly researched historical events with intimate family sagas inspired by her Chinese American family heritage. She was wearing a jacket made by her grandmother and shared several family artifacts and the stories they illustrate as examples of how what we save forms the narrative of our family. She also invited the audience to engage the next generation in saving memorabilia and storytelling.

See with a shoe kept by her grandmother illustrating the practice of binding feet.

Two academic panels featured unique presenters whose academic work was submitted through an open call for papers earlier this year. The third and final panel was co-presented with the American Film Institute on the role of women in early cinema.

Dr. Meredith Drake Reitan, Ebell President Laurie Schechter, Joanna Linkchorst, Jenna Snow, Victoria Bernal, Maiya Williams Verrone and Dr. Stacy Brightman. Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography

Panel #1: Businesswomen and Builders
Agnes Richards and the Advancement of Women’s Mental Health Care in the Early 20th Century, presented by Joanna Linkchorst
A Week in the Life of Florence Schmidt or Every Shero Needs A Sidekick, presented by Jenna Snow
Remembering Simona Martinez Bradbury, presented by Victoria Bernal
Bridget “Biddy” Mason: Early Civil Rights Activist, presented by Maiya Williams Verrone

Dr. Stacy Brightman, Dr. Andrea Thabet, Lindsay Stidham, Jackie Davis, Dr. ALison D’Amato and Laurie Schechter

Panel #2: Creating the Culture of Los Angeles
Sheroes and Anti-Sheroes: Dorothy Chandler, Grace Simons and the Remaking of Postwar Los Angeles, presented by Andrea Thabet, Ph.D.
Madame Wong and the Height of LA Punk Rock, presented by Lindsay Stidham
Valeska Gert, presented by Jacqueline (Jackie) Davis, Ph.D. candidate
Out of Oblivion: The Women of Early 20th Century Los Angeles Dance, presented by Alison D’Amato, Ph.D.

Dr. Stacy Brightman, Emily Carman, Sloan De Forest, Maya Montañez, Sara Blankfort Clothier, and Laurie Schechter. Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography

Panel #3: Women in Silent Cinema: Pioneers in LA History and Beyond
Sarah Blankfort Clothier from the American Film Institute moderated a panel of three Los Angeles-based film historians – Emily Carman, Sloan De Forest and Maya Montañez Smukler – on the role of women in the early Hollywood, the evolution of female filmmakers in the Golden Age of American cinema, and the continuing contributions of women throughout the 1970s until today.

(l-r) I-chin “Betty” Feinblatt as Katharine Cheung, Maria Elena Altany as Dolores del Río, and Regan Carrington as Charlotta Bass performing selections from “The Everywhere of Her.” Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography

In addition to the panels, there was a short performance of selected songs from “The Everywhere of Her,” an original musical celebration commissioned by The Ebell featuring the stories of three remarkable women who each shaped Los Angeles. At an event celebrating Amelia Earhart as the first female to complete a trans-Atlantic flight, Charlotta Bass, owner and publisher of the California Eagle, Katherine Sui Fun Cheung, first Chinese licensed female pilot, and Dolores del Rio, Mexican star of American/Mexican cinema, meet for the first time.

All the panels were recorded and will be available on The Ebell’s website shortly.

The Ebell of Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization founded in 1894 by women for women. It is focused on providing a vibrant and inclusive arts and culture hub that fosters the educational, cultural and social growth of women.

Dr. Meredith Drake Reitan, Lisa See, Laurie Schechter, and Dr. Stacy Brightman. Photo by Molly O’Keefe Photography Note: Reposted with permission from The Larchmont Chronicle.

Article reprinted with permission from The Larchmont Chronicle and The Larchmont Buzz.