If you’ve been reading my books, you know my fiction is set in San Francisco and the Bay Area. I mention a little about my story with San Francisco in my author biography (which you can find by clicking on the About Pages on the menu bar above). San Francisco was the place of both my psychological and literary maturity back in the 1990s.
So why is this blog post about Sacramento? First, parts of Book 2 of the Adele Gossling Mysteries take place in Sacramento. And second, I became interested in Sacramento’s history unexpectedly.
Back when I was writing my Gilded Age family saga, the Waxwood Series, I had a chance to visit Benicia, California, a small coastal town not far from San Francisco. I was so fascinated by the lovely surroundings and the way Benicians took their history seriously that it became an inspiration for the town of Waxwood. I wrote about that here.
What does Benicia have to do with Sacramento? In my research, I found out Benicia was, for a very short time, the state capital before legislators settled on Sacramento. In fact, Sacramento had to fight five cities for the honor of state capital, including Monterey, San Jose, and Benicia.
What Sacramento had to offer might not seem like competition with the charm of coastal towns like Monterey and Benicia. And, in fact, the choice of Sacramento as the state capital was almost incidental and certainly very practical. After moving the capital around five cities within five years, legislators accepted Sacramento’s offer to use their home ground as a state capital — and it stayed there. Not a very exciting story but history is filled with stories that aren’t all that exciting.
What Sacramento had going for it at the turn of the 20th century, however, was something else. It took the Progressive Era ball and ran with it. For example, people were slow to embrace the automobile since its inception in the late 19th century, but in 1900, the first car appeared in Sacramento (for comparison, people started buying cars only when the 1908 Ford Model T made them more affordable.) The first automobile race took place during the California state fair in Sacramento in 1903 (the year the Adele Gossling Mysteries begins). People who have read Book 1 are familiar with the opening of Adele roaring down the main street in her Beaton Roundabout (a fictional car manufacturer) and causing a shock among the town’s Victorian-minded residents. You can bet if it had been Sacramento instead of Arrojo, people wouldn’t have turned a hair!
Another area of progress Sacramento embraced was worker’s rights and free commerce. Tired of the Southern Pacific Railroad domination (a company run by San Francisco giants like Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker), Sacramento politicians allowed the Western Pacific Railroad to build tracks in the city, giving many workers jobs and helping to put a halt to the SPR’s cartel over railroad transportation in the West.
And let’s not forget the women! We know women’s suffrage was a big issue for the progressives and women fought to gain the vote, which they did in 1920. But in Sacramento, as in all of California, women already had the right to vote in 1911. In the years following before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women in California were already making strides with their vote, such as encouraging Chinese-American women to go to the polls (with the first going in 1912) and putting Native American suffragism on the political agenda.
Sacramento may not be as famous as San Francisco, but if you want to read a bit about life in that city, take a look at A Wordless Death coming out at the end of this month. You can pick up a copy at a special price for preorder here. And how about Book 1? That’s on sale too! Get all the information here.
If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy my novella The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers and you can get it here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!