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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

Pioneer Activist Annie Bidwell

She was tiny—less than five feet tall—but determined and confident. In April 1868, she married tall John Bidwell, a prominent California rancher and statesman 20 years her senior, and took charge of his recently-completed three-story, 26- room residence on the Rancho del Arroyo Chico. The couple’s home, complete with gas lighting and the latest in 19th century plumbing and water systems, soon became the social and cultural center of the upper Sacramento Valley. Never content to be a mere society leader, Annie involved herself in many social causes such too. Interested in the future of the local Mechoopda people, she became active in state and national Indian associations. Born Annie Ellicott Kennedy in 1839, she grew up to be a firm teetotaler dedicated to the temperance movement, an active supporter of women’s suffrage, and a devout Christian who commissioned the building of Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church (completed in 1909). She is known for her contributions to social causes, Thirteen years before her death in 1918, Annie Bidwell donated some 2,240 acres for a park to Chico, the city her husband founded. Today the Bidwell Mansion is a State Historic Park, open to the public. March is National Women’s History Month.

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