A World Wide Peace – 1911

For Veterans Day 2022 – Reflections from the Past

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I, then known as “the Great War.” 

Twenty years later in 1938, November 11th was declared “Armistice Day,” dedicated to the cause of world peace. After two more wars (WWII and the Korean War), the US Congress renamed it “Veterans Day” in 1954 to honor all veterans of all wars.

Dedicated to the cause of world peace. Hmmm.

Back in 1911, even before America’s entry into WWI, my pioneer/activist Great-Grandmother Emily Hoppin wrote passionately about the cause of world peace in a 21-page handwritten speech that I recently found doing research at the Yolo County Archives and Record Center in Woodland, California. Written amid the rumblings in Europe leading to World War I, she pleaded for a better way than war.

Working for peace, she said, must be largely woman’s work.

On Veterans Day, November 11, 2022, with the backdrop of Russia waging a bloody war in the Ukraine, and other wars being waged around the globe, we pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed in wars. This seems a good time to share a selection of Great-Grandmother’s thoughts on war and peace written 111 years ago.

Why I Love Archivists (2)

(Re-formatted – Sorry, something went screwy in the layout. I’m such a perfectionist – hopefully this looks better!)

Like a kid in a candy store, I was surrounded by boxes of old documents from the 1850s to 1915, selected for me by the Archivists at the Yolo County Archives at my recent visit to Woodland, California in September. After years of researching my Yolo Pioneer and activist Great-Grandmother using online searches and old family documents, I was eager to locate primary sources, especially personal correspondence. But COVID hit in 2020, and I had to put my research visits on hold for two years.

Boxes, Ledgers, Maps, and Files
Emily Hoppin’s Scrapbook

I’m excited to finally be writing a comprehensive biography of Emily Hoppin, my great-grandmother.  Not just as an ancestor, but because she lived in an era where women were coming into new power in their communities. She was part of the struggle for women’s suffrage, and she fought to eliminate the devastating effects of alcohol from the lives of women and children. She was a farmer who ran an 800-acre farm and won the 1915 statewide election for President of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs (CFWC) based on her rural perspective, and she was a WWI peace activist.

Emily Hoppin 1915

But her gift, as Heather Lanctot, Yolo County Archives and Records Center Coordinator noted, is that she left a paper trail. Hundreds of women had joined in her efforts, but Emily left writings and speeches for posterity. Much of what she wrote has wisdom for today and will be part of her biography. Additionally, many Hoppin descendants had the foresight to donate family papers to the archives. Not many people think to do that, according to Mollie Watson, Assistant Director of the Niles History Center in Michigan.

I think about today’s electronic communications and wonder how much of our lives will be lost if not also documented in paper and archived. We may be saving trees and time, but those who follow us will have less access to our history.

As I fill in the details of Emily’s life, the deeper I research, the more content appears – like the multiplying brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Yikes! My cousins are now helping with Emily’s early days in Niles, Michigan. Nancy Peters, who lives in Michigan, and Cathy Altuvilla from LA, took my research questions to the archive staff at the Niles History Center to find answers, and while visiting, took photos of Emily’s family house, church, and the nearby St. Joseph River.

Niles History Center Assistant Director Mollie Watson,
and Cousins Nancy and Cathy
St Joseph River in Niles – also a setting in “Heart Wood”

Closer to home in California, I had the new experience of watching professional archivists at work. Before my appointment at the Yolo County Archives, I had sent two pages of areas I wanted to research, as well as some perplexing questions I had. Archives and Records Center Coordinator, Heather Lanctot, and Rachel Poutasse, Library Assistant, were on it!  I arrived to tables and carts filled with ledgers, maps, voter registrations, deeds, wills, probate records, and fragile bound newspapers from the 1850s to 1915. They not only gave me what I asked for, but as professional archivists, they knew what else would be relevant from their vast archive storage – materials I didn’t even know existed. You may enjoy this link to a behind-the-scenes look at the Yolo Archives: https://youtu.be/SEw0cZNhEdA .

Shirley with Yolo Archive Staff: Heather and Rachel

 After giving me an overview, I was set loose…like a kid in a candy shop!

There’s nothing comparable to the feel, the smell, even the sound of fragile pages rustling in my hands. But holding my great-grandmother’s actual 1911 voter registration (first woman to register in the Cacheville precinct after California women gained suffrage in 1911!), and examining her hand-written will? Those took my breath away.

And then there’s witnessing a gathering storm as I turned the bound pages of the 1915 Mail of Woodland newspaper and viewed the events leading up to World War I and the parallel events leading to Emily Hoppin’s election as president of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs.

I wonder what people in the future will say about the progression of today’s aggressive headlines and where we are heading. 

My dream was still to find Emily Hoppin’s personal letters or journals as a way to glimpse her inner world. The next afternoon, across Woodland at the Yolo County Historical Collection at The Gibson House, Iulia Bodeanu, Yolo County Museum Curator, presented me with more Hoppin file boxes.

Iulia Bodeneau with the Hoppin Files

I held my breath, for behind the folder of Gold Rush letters from my great-uncle, John Hoppin, was a thick folder of fragile, hand-written pages. Yes, Emily’s handwriting! Not personal letters, but about a dozen of her speeches, written in pencil, words crossed out, edits made, notes on the margins. Some I had never seen before. It was like discovering gold! Of course, Iulia wouldn’t let me have them, so we arranged to have them scanned and sent to me.

Selection of Emily Hoppin’s Handwritten and typed Speeches

I asked these ladies what it takes to be a professional archivist and was impressed with their educational background:

Heather Lanctot: BA in Music History with an emphasis in History and Literature, MA in Musicology (both from University of Oregon), MLIS with a specialization in Archives and Records Management (San Jose State)

Rachel Poutasse:  MLIS with a specialization in Archival Studies from UCLA

Iulia Bodeanu:  Masters in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. Bachelor of Arts in Art History and English from UC Berkeley


I returned to my mountain home, not only with a digital trunk load of documents, but with great respect for all the professional and volunteer archivists who work as guardians and guides to our past. Thank you!


Heart Wood is fictional history inspired in part by the life of Emily Hoppin. Many of her life events and writings are incorporated into the novel in the character of Eliza. My initial research on Emily and Charles Hoppin is posted on my website: shirleydickard.com under “Historical Research.”

Heart Wood can be found at your local library, bookstore, and online .

Why I Love Archivists

Like a kid in a candy store, I was surrounded by boxes of old documents from the 1850s to 1915, selected for me by the Archivists at the Yolo County Archives at my recent visit to Woodland, California in September. After years of researching my Yolo Pioneer and activist Great-Grandmother using online searches and old family documents, I was eager to locate primary sources, especially personal correspondence. But COVID hit in 2020, and I had to put my research visits on hold for two years.

I’m excited to finally be writing a comprehensive biography of Emily Hoppin, my great-grandmother.  Not just as an ancestor, but because she lived in an era where women were coming into new power in their communities. She was part of the struggle for women’s suffrage, and she fought to eliminate the devastating effects of alcohol from the lives of women and children. She was a farmer who ran an 800-acre farm and won the 1915 statewide election for President of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs (CFWC) based on her rural perspective, and she was a WWI peace activist.

Emily Hoppin 1915

But her gift, as Heather Lanctot, Yolo County Archives and Records Center Coordinator noted, is that she left a paper trail. Hundreds of women had joined in her efforts, but Emily left writings and speeches for posterity. Much of what she wrote has wisdom for today and will be part of her biography. Additionally, many Hoppin descendants had the foresight to donate family papers to the archives. Not many people think to do that, according to Mollie Watson, Assistant Director of the Niles History Center in Michigan.

I think about today’s electronic communications and wonder how much of our lives will be lost if not also documented in paper and archived. We may be saving trees and time, but those who follow us will have less access to our history.

As I fill in the details of Emily’s life, the deeper I research, the more content appears – like the multiplying brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Yikes! My cousins are now helping with Emily’s early days in Niles, Michigan. Nancy Peters, who lives in Michigan, and Cathy Altuvilla from LA, took my research questions to the archive staff at the Niles History Center to find answers, and while visiting, took photos of Emily’s family house, church, and the nearby St. Joseph River.

Closer to home in California, I had the new experience of watching professional archivists at work. Before my appointment at the Yolo County Archives, I had sent two pages of areas I wanted to research, as well as some perplexing questions I had. Archives and Records Center Coordinator, Heather Lanctot, and Rachel Poutasse, Library Assistant, were on it!  I arrived to tables and carts filled with ledgers, maps, voter registrations, deeds, wills, probate records, and fragile bound newspapers from the 1850s to 1915. They not only gave me what I asked for, but as professional archivists, they knew what else would be relevant from their vast archive storage – materials I didn’t even know existed. You may enjoy this link to a behind-the-scenes look at the Yolo Archives: https://youtu.be/SEw0cZNhEdA .

Shirley with Yolo Archive Staff: Heather and Rachel

 After giving me an overview, I was set loose…like a kid in a candy shop!

There’s nothing comparable to the feel, the smell, even the sound of fragile pages rustling in my hands. But holding my great-grandmother’s actual 1911 voter registration (first woman to register in the Cacheville precinct after California women gained suffrage in 1911!), and examining her hand-written will? Those took my breath away.

And then there’s witnessing a gathering storm as I turned the bound pages of the 1915 Mail of Woodland newspaper and viewed the events leading up to World War I and the parallel events leading to Emily Hoppin’s election as president of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs.

I wonder what people in the future will say about the progression of today’s aggressive headlines and where we are heading. 

My dream was still to find Emily Hoppin’s personal letters or journals as a way to glimpse her inner world. The next afternoon, across Woodland at the Yolo County Historical Collection at The Gibson House, Iulia Bodeanu, Yolo County Museum Curator, presented me with more Hoppin file boxes.

I held my breath, for behind the folder of Gold Rush letters from my great-uncle, John Hoppin, was a thick folder of fragile, hand-written pages. Yes, Emily’s handwriting! Not personal letters, but about a dozen of her speeches, written in pencil, words crossed out, edits made, notes on the margins. Some I had never seen before. It was like discovering gold! Of course, Iulia wouldn’t let me have them, so we arranged to have them scanned and sent to me.

Iulia Bodeanu with the Hoppin Files
Selection of Emily Hoppin’s Handwritten and typed Speeches

I asked these ladies what it takes to be a professional archivist and was impressed with their educational background:

Heather Lanctot: BA in Music History with an emphasis in History and Literature, MA in Musicology (both from University of Oregon), MLIS with a specialization in Archives and Records Management (San Jose State)

Rachel Poutasse:  MLIS with a specialization in Archival Studies from UCLA

Iulia Bodeanu:  Masters in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. Bachelor of Arts in Art History and English from UC Berkeley


I returned to my mountain home, not only with a digital trunk load of documents, but with great respect for all the professional and volunteer archivists who work as guardians and guides to our past. Thank you!


Heart Wood is fictional history inspired in part by the life of Emily Hoppin. Many of her life events and writings are incorporated into the novel in the character of Eliza. My initial research on Emily and Charles Hoppin is posted on my website: shirleydickard.com under “Historical Research.”

Heart Wood can be found at your local library, bookstore, and online .

Creating Historical Fiction

Note to reader: I am struck by the irony of my post Creating Historical Fiction that I planned for today. Start with the facts, I write, but if you want a richer, more powerful story, try converting your story into a fictionalized version. We’re living in a time when a president is attempting to stay in power by creating a fictional version of the election. Future historians will help us understand the facts and how we responded thereafter. (SD – 1/12/21)


A thin, wavering curtain separates historical facts from the imagination of fiction. Research files may bulge with historical documents that provide the framework for fictionalized ancestors, but imagination and inspiration weave them into a deeper story.

Start with the Facts

Nearly every family has colorful characters and fascinating stories. You can probably think of a few yourself; maybe you have considered writing about them. But how? When I first became interested in my gold-rush era great-grandmother, I decided to write a biographical account of what I knew about how she came to California, ran an 800-acre farm, and worked to better the condition of her community.

Facts evolve into Fiction

At some point, I realized there was a larger story to tell – not just of her life and work, but how it related to the present generation, and even to our unknown future generations who will inherit our stories. I was encouraged to stretch into the realm of historical fiction. Gary Noy, editor of The Illuminated Landscape, A Sierra Nevada Anthology, agreed that fictionalized history carries an emotional resonance that far exceeds the presentation of facts. By writing a novel inspired by historical facts, I was free to tell a deeper, unhindered story.

From Fiction Back to Fact

Like the tip of an iceberg, fictionalized characters are more believable because of the bulk of research that lies beneath their story. Now that my fictionalized version is published, I return full circle to all the facts that launched Heart Wood. In conducting years of research, I’ve been delighted to know my great-grandmother as a larger-than-life thinker, writer, and activist. This research is now posted on my website under “Historical Research.” I am pleased to share my findings with my greater family and to make it available to the public for historical research.

I invite you browse the research that went into the creation of the past in Heart Wood. Perhaps it will be an inspiration to create something from your own family’s story!

Emily and Charles Hoppin (Yolo, California, 1850-1915)

The ancestors whose story inspired me to create Eliza and Silas in Heart Wood

I have recently posted over 25 documents and photographs on my website , including:  

Charles Hoppin’s letters home from the Gold Rush (1850-1863)

An oral history with my grandmother, Dorothea Hoppin Moffett, about growing up on the Yolo Ranch with her mother, Emily Hoppin

Pages of Emily Hoppin’s personal scrapbook (1890s-1915) with news clippings of her campaign for president of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1915

Photographs, maps, and selected documents from internet research

Conducting historical research has changed dramatically over the years

The Internet was unheard of when I first started investigating my family’s history in the late 1980s. To locate and read documents back then, I had to get in my car and travel to distant libraries and archives. Today, it’s a different world: my recent internet search for “Emily Hoppin, Yolo” found over 240 references to her in the California Digitalized Newspaper Collection!

AND…without the invaluable assistance of the Yolo County Archives and Records Center, Emily’s scrapbook would still be sitting on my bookshelf.  I am grateful to Coordinator Heather Lanctot who scanned each page with their large-sized scanner so that the scrapbook can be read on my website, and in time, will be a permanent public record at The Yolo Archives. Like all volunteer-based organizations during this time of COVID, The Yolo Archives appreciates donations (bit.ly/fyca-join).

I hope you will enjoy browsing my Historical Research page and perhaps be inspired to be creative with your own family’s history. If you’re curious about writing historical fiction, traditional memoir, or a biography, you can find a wealth of support on the internet, on-line classes, writing coaches, and books.

“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges into the past.” – James Joyce, Ulysses


Heart Wood can be purchased online and at all bookstores

Thank you for supporting independently-published authors and local bookstores!

HERE: To support your local, independent bookstore

HERE: To purchase on Amazon (ebook and paperback)

www.shirleydickard.com


Open House at shirleydickard.com

You’re invited to an Open House at the newly remodeled website dedicated to my eco-novel: Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.

Years ago, when Heart Wood was in its infancy, I created my first website and blog. Having since outgrown the space, I’ve been working with a web designer to give it an updated look with new rooms and décor. Please stroll around and take a look!

There is one last room I want to remodel and I’m hoping readers can help me. If you click on the “Research” tab, you’ll see tabs for Past, Present, and Future. These are where I’m gathering Present data and evidence of mankind’s cumulative impact on the Future, as well as my family’s historical documents from the Past.

If you’ve read Heart Wood, you may share my concern for what we’re doing to our air, water, food, and earth, and the impact on our health and longevity – especially of our children. You can contribute by sending articles and links that I can post. Discussions welcome!

Thank you to Sky (who actually spent her first years in the mythical “Luna Valley”) for this first article: Why the World is Becoming Allergic to Food  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-the-world-is-becoming-more-allergic-to-food?utm_source=pocket-newtab.  Cue the rise of Pharm.food!

For history buffs, especially my family, I will post all the documentation I gathered about my great-grandparents, Emily and Charles Hoppin of Yolo, California – the inspiration for the characters of Eliza and Silas in Heart Wood. In my research, I found previously unknown speeches, writings, and interviews with Emily Hoppin. She was a woman before her time and now, 100 years later, her voice can be heard! I invite anyone with information about Charles and Emily Hoppin to add to this documentation on my website.

Please sign the guest book by leaving a comment. If you see any corners that need attention, let me know. I’m learning how websites nowadays must work across all types of screens: computers, tablets, and mobile devices – rather like a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe board! My appreciation to Katie (who also grew up in the “Luna Valley”) and her design team at Urban Sherpa Marketing: www.urbansherpa.marketing 

Heart Wood has Arrived!

Now that social isolation has become the norm, how about curling up with a good book? The coronavirus will continue to alter our lives in unimaginable ways, but at least we can still enjoy reading! 

Heart Wood will transport you into the lives of three women of the past, present, and future as they cope with their changing worlds. No viruses, I promise! The most common reaction I do get to Heart Wood is “this gives me goose bumps!”

You can order Heart Wood on Amazon Here

The ebook version will be available online soon and Heart Wood will eventually be available in local independent bookstores. Be sure and ask for it and support your local indie bookstores!

“To my own surprise, I don’t expect new authors to be so sly or quick in engaging, holding, and enlightening their readers. Whenever I pick Heart Wood up, I always regret having to put it down. Shirley DicKard is extremely good.”
             – Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, essayist, environmental activist 

SYNOPSIS

Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future

Deep in the heart of a small oak writing desk is a legacy that mysteriously connects three family women across centuries and generations in their fight for the future.

     Shima’a, an ancient woman with disturbing visions of the Earth’s demise, sends a message of warning, and a seed of hope, forward in time within the heart of an acorn to three family women:

     Eliza: Post Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley, late 19th century.

     Harmony: Back-to-the-land homestead in the Sierra Nevada, late 20th century.

     Amisha: Dystopic San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada, late 21st century.    

Writing on the heartwood of the old desk, each woman is influenced by the ancient message as she views mankind’s escalating destruction of the natural world through the eyes of her time. The women learn to listen to the silence, hold the earth in their hands, gather the women, then do what must be done.

Heart Wood is a compelling family saga set in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Its characters shift from one generation to the next, as do the struggles they face in saving their homestead from the ravages of climate change, fire, and human greed. But it’s mankind that poses the most dire challenges to the land and to those who seek life upon it. Heart Wood speaks of the collective power of feminine energy to protect the Earth. If you feel you’re not doing enough or that it’s already too late to make a difference, Heart Wood may change your mind. An eco-speculative-historical-magical-feminist novel.

Family Myth-Makers

A cherished story in my family is that Great Grandma came to California by covered wagon during the 1849 Gold Rush.  Only she didn’t.  Hard as I try to hold on to the version of my great grandparents making  a tortuous six-month wagon “road trip” from Michigan to California to start  a new life together, the evidence just isn’t there.

Nonetheless, I refuse to be swayed by facts. So what if dusty historical biographies and frayed yellow obituaries record that it was actually 1874 when Emily Anna Bacon Hoppin accompanied her new husband, Charles, back to his 800 acre ranch in Yolo, California. She might even have taken the new transcontinental railroad, recently opened in 1869 for all we know.  But inside of me is a small child who won’t release her fingers around a favorite shiny pebble. In my heart, Great Grandmother did come to California by covered wagon during the Gold Rush.

“It’s the storyteller’s right to embellish the story,” my Grandma Dot-Dot once confessed as she spun yet another legendary tale about her mother’s life in the late 1800’s. I interviewed Grandma before she died and transcribed her stories into a book which I gave to the extended family. It was a meritage of memory and facts. From her child’s-eye perspective of early California ranch life, Grandma fashioned her mother into a larger-than-life figure who was not to be reckoned with. “Emily Hoppin was known as a woman who stood by her principles,” Grandma told us. “Why she and her women friends threatened to close down the local saloons so many times, they were known as the Three Musketeers. Grandma delighted in planting family stories into our fertile imaginations. She was our myth-maker.

I learned from Grandma Dot-Dot that stories are more important than facts.  Stories nurture the heart; facts languish in the head.  This is why I describe the novel I’m working on as part historical fiction, part memoir, and part future-fantasy. Despite my struggle to be historically accurate, I’m finding that the family’s mythology is much more enduring.

In my next blog, I’ll describe my discovery of an historical detail while traveling through the Nevada desert – a fact that somehow never made it into the family’s records or mythology.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2015, except as otherwise noted.

Back to Blogging

5 am at desk

Well, folks, after taking a year and a half off, I’m back. I don’t promise to blog on a regular basis, but I do promise to write as I’m inspired.  I don’t know how daily bloggers have the time!  Time?  Isn’t that supposed to come with retirement?  Hardly. My days are filled with more than ever – but at least I’m doing what I love – writing about the history and landscape of women, California, and  the future we’re shaping  – all part of my novel – The Desk(Note: “The Desk” was the former working title for “Heart Wood” before 2020)

In my last blog (April 2014 – really?!) I had just taken on the editorship of our community’s small newspaper – The Camptonville Courier – rescuing it from near drowning. Nineteen issues later, it’s again thriving.

In spite of being distracted by running a newspaper (which I love), I’ve made decent progress on my novel this year. I’m semi-disciplined to rise before dawn and with a steaming cup of coffee, write for a few hours. The darkness keeps the real world out, and I can float back into Great-Grandmother’s world of 1850-1915, or forward to the future world of Great-Granddaughter, Amisha, end of this century and into the 2100’s, or stay right in the present and witness the slow deterioration of our planet.

Like the racing tortoise, (slowly, but Shirley), I’ve been steadily working on this book for over six years now.  As I look back at 2014, I’m amazed at some of my accomplishments.

First, the novel is now fully fleshed out, thanks to a few personal writing retreats at Skyline Harvest Retreat Center.  Having days alone with few interruptions enables me to immerse myself in the other worlds I’m creating.  There’s an unseen energy at Skyline that beckons me into a much deeper place.

I’ve made a few historical site visits.  Woodland, Yolo County, is where my Great-Grandmother lived and worked. I drove past where the family farm used to be (now a trailer, rusted cars and barking dogs), and left a bouquet of lavender on her grave in the Woodland cemetery. This summer I followed traces of her little-known life in the Nevada Desert before California – but that’s another blog!

I’m now standing at a new plateau in writing this novel, getting ready to interweave the three women’s stories with the legacy they inherited with the desk. Time to get out the cork board and move those 3X5 cards around.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2015, except as otherwise noted.

Writing the Middle – Like Crossing a Desert

Immigrant Trail  Nevada Desert
Immigrant Trail – Nevada Desert

Sometimes I feel I’m writing across a desert  – that vast stretch between the beginning and ending of a novel.  The only way through is to take it one step at a time.

My Great-Grandmother had to do it literally.  Immigrants on the California Trail would make one last water stop in their covered wagons before leaving the Humboldt Sink where the river fanned out and disappeared into the Nevada desert. Forty miles and several days of waterless, hot parched desert lay ahead and there was no choice but to roll through.  Along the way animals died, prized possessions were jettisoned, despair set in.  Rather like writing through the middle of a story, I’m finding.

It’s humbling to learn that a great story takes more than a great idea. Writers have to craft this passage well so the reader wants to stay with the story.  But it’s also where authors can get stuck in boggy, soggy ground.  Between the beginning and end, there are elements of plot and character development, back stories, turning points, cliff hangers, triumphs, setbacks, reversals, and ever-present conflict and tension.  Add to this, layers of character arc, motivations, subplots, story theme, and . . .  Whew!  It’s why I immerse myself in writing classes, conferences, critique groups, and reading, reading, reading.

When will The Desk be finished?  Well, I’d say I’m about two-thirds across the desert.  Like Beulah the Ox who detected the faintest whiff of water and quickened her pace, I can feel the pieces coming together, but I’ve still many miles to go.  And when I do finally tie it all together, I’ll still have a steep granite mountain range to traverse, called Revisions.

(Note: “The Desk” was the former working title for “Heart Wood” before 2020)

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.