Women’s History Month Remembers Sarah Montgomery Wallis

White Rose

Nineteen-year-old Sarah Montgomery and her husband Allen, a gunsmith, were members of an 1844 wagon train bound for Oregon that split off from the main group and instead headed for California as the Stevens-Murphy Party.  After weeks of arduous travel and time spent at a temporary camp near the Yuba River, the immigrants finally arrived at Sutter’s Fort in March, 1845. Sarah organized the first known quilting party in California, drawing up to 20 likewise isolated and lonely wives and daughters for her event from all over the sparsely-populated Sacramento Valley. During the Mexican-American War while her husband was away with a military regiment, Sarah shared quarters with other wives at Sutter’s Fort where she learned to read and write in classes taught by Eliza Gregson. At war’s end Allen went to Hawaii, deserting his wife. Two years later Sarah wed Talbot Green, who turned out to be an imposter named Paul Geddes, a Pennsylvania bank clerk who had absconded with bank funds and deserted his wife & children 10 years earlier. Sarah Montgomery Green, now pregnant, apparently had her illegal marriage annulled and took in boarders for a time. In 1854 she married Joseph Wallis, a prominent attorney/politician from Santa Clara. Later Sarah Wallis joined other strong minded ladies with progressive views, becoming president of the California Women’s Suffrage Association in 1870. After Judge Wallis’s death in 1898, Sarah moved to Los Gatos, where she died in January, 1905, six years before women in California won the right to vote.

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