HomeCity NewsVideo Pays Tribute to Women’s Contributions to City

Video Pays Tribute to Women’s Contributions to City

By Eliza Partika
San Marino Tribune

Since the city’s founding in 1903, San Marino has benefited from the contributions of women — women such as Rosemary “Rary” Simmons, Suzanne Crowell, Barbara Maxwell, Jean Wang and Noly Wei molded the San Marino City Council, the San Marino Unified School District and the Chinese Club of San Marino, to name a few.
Councilwoman Gretchen Shepherd Romey recognized and celebrated these women’s contributions to the city in a video filmed at City Hall by Community Engagement Manager Nicole Cuadras and City Clerk Christina Baker. The video can be viewed at the city of San Marino’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/watch?v=G9JNTMt9fhQ.
“As a matter of civic pride it seemed that the time was right to start acknowledging the women who built and shaped San Marino. These women are known and appreciated by some in our community, but perhaps others are not fully aware of who they all are, how much they accomplished and how their efforts made San Marino the wonderful community it is today,” she wrote in a statement to the San Marino Tribune.
In the video, Shepherd Romey discussed San Marino leaders who were women.
“Each woman featured in the video was the ‘first’ in her area of civic involvement. They were the visionaries, founders and trailblazers who lead organizations crucial to San Marino’s development, including our City Council and Chinese
Club, as well as our School Board and Schools Foundation. These women not only opened doors for future generations, they also either created or strengthened what continue to be the core elements of our tight-knit community,” Shepherd Romey said.
Simmons was the first woman elected to San Marino City Council in 1982, where she served 10 years. She was also the first female mayor of San Marino from 1986-1988, during which she led efforts to get San Marino’s first ambulance and expanded the city’s influence by joining the California League of Cities.
Dubbed the “ultimate volunteer” by local newspapers, Simmons was endlessly involved with organizations in the city and the county, supporting the growth of children and young adults in the community. She was the emerita on the Occidental College Board, her alma mater, for 26 years, and became involved in the Pasadena Junior Philharmonic (later, the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts) where she was Showcase House chair and then president.
Simmons is the founder of the Hill-Harbison House, a recreational facility open to the public and used often by the San Marino Girl Scout troops and San Marino Recreation Department for their youth programs. Her favorite volunteer job, according to the Pasadena Community Foundation, was serving as a volunteer at the L.A. Coliseum Hospitality tent during the 1984 Olympics.
After Simmons’ death in 2021 at the age of 90, the Pasadena Community Foundation began an endowment in her honor.
Crowell was the second woman elected to San Marino City Council, where she served from 1984-1994. During her term, she created the first city liaison to Sacramento, as well as represented San Marino in Washington, D.C. Fulfilling a vision she shared with her late husband, Crowell led the rebuilding effort of the San Marino library, completed in 2008. She was also involved in philanthropy outside of San Marino: She co-founded the Crowell Business School at Biola University, where she was a benefactor for 14 years, until her death in 2020.
Maxwell was the first woman elected to the San Marino school district board in 1965. She served as SMUSD board president from 1968-1969. She spearheaded efforts to bring paramedic services to San Marino. In 2008, She led efforts to organize the city’s first strategic plan.
Lois Matthews served on the Board of the San Marino Schools Foundation and was elected as its first female president in 1986. She also served as president of the Rotary Club of San Marino. Matthews is a lifetime trustee of the Huntington Hospital and was the first woman to chair its Board of Trustees from 2003-2008.
Other women, such as Wang, Wei and Midge Sherwood, were also significant contributors to the city’s culture and history.
Wang and Wei were among a small group of community leaders who formed the Chinese Club of San Marino in 1979. Shortly thereafter, Wang was selected to be the club’s first president. Wei was a respected businesswoman in the community and also held a prominent role in the Chinese Club.
Sherwood was a pioneering journalist and businesswoman who founded her own PR firm in the early 1940s. She ran the bond campaign for Los Angeles International Airport. She was a notable author, historian and lecturer on local history in the San Gabriel Valley. Sherwood was the first president of the San Marino Historical Society, which she founded in 1974 to preserve San Marino’s cultural and architectural heritage.
Shepherd Romey thanked the San Marino Historical Society President Christa Lakon and Past President Judy Carter for their contributions to the video project.
“Our local history should reflect the contributions of all significant San Marino residents because we build on their legacies for our collective future. If their accomplishments were to remain unknown, then the whole story about why San Marino is the outstanding city it is today would also remain unknown,” Shepherd Romey said.


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