Women Who Defied the Odds

By Joanne A Calitri   |   March 14, 2019

The Santa Barbara Public Library is celebrating and recognizing Women in History Month, March 2019. Heading off the program is their March 8 (Carpinteria branch) and March 10 (downtown Santa Barbara branch) free event titled, Women Who Defied The Odds,featuring the stories of six women in U.S. history portrayed by actors from Santa Barbara’s Drama Dogs. S.B. City College professor and author Terre Ouwehand conceived the idea and wrote the screenplay. The actors, directed by Ken Gilbert,use dramatic dialog with the audience and are accompanied by projected photographs and live flute music.

Lutah Maria Riggs (photo courtesy Beverley Jackson)

Told in six parts, the women in history being presented are: 

Marian Anderson (1902-1993):One of the best contraltos of all time, she was the first African American singer to perform at the White House and also the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Rachel Carlson (1907-1964): Biologist and science writer, she is perhaps best known as the author of Silent Spring, published in 1962. She spent most of her career working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service and saw early on the problems inherent in the use of toxic substances for pest control. 

Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973): Republican House of Representatives, the first woman to hold federal office in the U.S., a woman’s rights advocate, and opposed both World Wars.

Lutah Maria Riggs (1896-1984): The first licensed female architect in Santa Barbara and the first woman in California to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. She designed the Lobero Theatre, El Paseo, library at Botanic Gardens, and the Vedanta Temple.

Margaret Sanger (1883-1966): A nurse and birth control pioneer who held a distinction between birth control and abortion and opened the first birth control clinic.

Harriet Ross Tubman (1820–1913): A slave who escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, and later a Suffragette. 

Interview with Terre

Why did you spearhead this program? 

I’ve always been interested in women’s history. My book, Voices from the Well: Dramatic Portraits of Extraordinary Women (Old Hand Press, 2015), is about many historical women, and I worked with DramaDogs Theater Company S.B. several times. I’ve wanted to see at least six women of history come alive – that’s what theater does. I chose the public library to make it very accessible to everyone, and presented the idea to Community Relations Librarian Jace Turner and Programming & Marketing Librarian Jen Lemberger last year. They thought it was great idea for Women in History Month 2019, so I wrote the script and DramaDogs provided the actors. This event is only at the S.B. Public Library, with one performance March 8 at the Carpinteria branch and one March 10 at the downtown Santa Barbara Central Library.

Tell us about the presentation

Actor Leslie Gangl Howe portrays Rachel Carson and Jeanette Rankin, actor Diva Johnson portrays Marian Anderson and Harriet Tubman, and actor E. Bonnie Lewis portrays Margaret Sanger and Lutah Maria Riggs. The director of the play, Ken Gilbert, is also the narrator, who provides a description about each woman in history being presented and their circumstances. The actors dialog the woman’s circumstances with the projected photographs and live wooden flute music played by Bob Sedivy and Larry Powell. We hope to reach everyone in the community with this diverse presentation.

411: March 8 performance at Carpinteria Library, 5141 Carpinteria Avenue
; March 10 performance at Santa Barbara Central Library, 40 East Anapamu Street


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