Arbuckle Gallery at the Pacific Hotel

Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women

The gallery is currently closed to the public due to restrictions in place related to COVID-19. In the meantime, you can explore the exhibition — including curriculum resources — through The Society of California Pioneers’ website, and our own gallery images below (unless otherwise noted, all objects are from History San Jose’s Collection). Image credits Daniel Charm, History San Jose.

Gallery Hours: Monday through Sunday, 12-5pm

Illuminating the hardships, joys, and lives of female pioneers in California, Her Side of the Story: Tales of California Pioneer Women features 30 first-person accounts collected from women who traveled by land or sea to settle throughout California prior to January 1, 1854.

As preparations were being made for the commemoration of California’s Golden Jubilee in 1900, a letter printed in a San Francisco newspaper asked why “no provisions had been made for the pioneer mothers.” In turn, The Association of Pioneer Women of California was formed. The group collected and preserved the reminiscences of women who arrived in California before 1854 in a single ledger. This incredible document, filled with over 800 handwritten stories of California pioneer women, is the basis for the exhibition at History San Jose. The ledger and exhibition create a more complete and balanced understanding of our shared history by highlighting women’s voices and experiences as they traveled to California.

The ledger, however, does not represent all voices. As such, an important aspect of the exhibition is the inclusion of forty diverse portraits of unidentified women. These women represent the thousands of pioneers whose stories were never recorded; each one had a story to tell which is lost to time.

Exhibit Partners

We would like to thank our exhibit partners and sponsors: Exhibit Envoy, Society of California Pioneers, and Robert Bettencourt.

About Clyde Arbuckle

Clyde Arbuckle was instrumental in preserving San José’s history by collecting historic materials, and founding the San José Historical Museum, which later became History San José. Find out more about Arbuckle’s contributions to local history and his legacy at History San José.

About the Pacific Hotel

The Pacific Hotel was originally located at 74-80 South Market Street in downtown San José, near the Plaza de César Chavez. The first hotel at this location was founded in 1860, but the Pacific Hotel itself was not opened until 1880. Charles Schiele, a Prussian immigrant and former waiter, purchased the property, then known as Otter’s Hotel, and was the first owner of the Pacific Hotel. Schiele remained in charge for seven years, until he sold the hotel to Julius Neifing and Jacob Schlenker and was elected to the San José City Council. Schlenker owned the hotel with different business partners until 1903, when he sold it to George Pfeffer. The Pacific Hotel remained in business until July 1907, when the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company bought the building. Read more.