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 pioneer 20 years her senior, and took charge of his three-story, 26 room mansion on Rancho del Arroyo Chico. Their home, complete with gas lighting and the latest in 19th Century plumbing and water systems, became the social and cultural center of the upper Sacramento Valley.  Concerned for the future of the local Mechoopda tribe, Annie was active in state and national Indian associations.  She was also an amateur botanist who found, in the acreage around their home, the first specimen of a small annual plant subsequently named Bidwell’s knotweed.  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 Presbyterian who commissioned the building of today’s Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church (completed in 1909).  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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