The Commission is mandated to study and advise the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on areas of concern to women’s lives and needs in San Diego County. Some of these include:
- Domestic Violence
- Human Trafficking
- Human Care Services; Child Care Needs
- Education Opportunities; Medical and Health Services
- Welfare and Social Services; Elder Care and Fraud
- Criminal Justice Policies and Procedures; Legal Services
- Employment Opportunities; Sexual Discrimination and Prejudice
- Housing; Credit and Loan Policies
- County Programs and Policies Affecting Women
- Legislative Issues to Promote Women’s Equal Rights
In June of 1973, the formation of the new City of San Diego Advisory Board on the Status of Women was announced. A June 13, 1973 San Diego Union article pointed out that the women appointed to the newly formed board were announced by their own names, not their husbands' names as was the custom then, e.g. Mrs. David Porter, or Kay Porter (Mrs. David Porter). Also, the seldom seen Ms. was used, i.e. Ms. Lynn Schenk. This was a big deal in 1973, a visible message to the San Diego community that things would be done differently at City Hall during Mayor Pete Wilson's administration.
On June 29, 1973, another San Diego Union article titled "Status Unit Has Nine Women" appeared. It announced the appointment of nine prominent women to the board. The chair was designated by the Mayor and the women named to chair the Board was Ruth Skolil, former San Diego YWCA President and a member of the American Association of University Women. The other eight women appointed were: Lynn Schenck, an attorney with the San Diego Gas & Electric Company; Carmen Sproul, President and founder of PHASE (Protective Health and Safety Education); Mary Lindenstein Walshok, Director of women's daytime programs at the University of California San Diego Extension; Jean C. White, former legislative secretary to the California State Assembly; Mary Drake, Treasurer of the San Diego YWCA; Nayade Cabrera Keiger, coordinator for the social services component of the Chicano Federation; Valleta Linette, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at San Diego City College; and Kathleen Porter, a member of civic organizations that included the Junior League of San Diego and the Women's Committee of the San Diego Symphony. In the June 29 San Diego Union article, "The Mayor charged the women in their first meeting as an official body to "determine what you conceive to be the priorities, examine them and recommend solutions, or present the problems without solutions." Aides Pamela Hall and Donna Damson of the Mayor's office proved to be firm supporters of the Advisory Board over time.
What is particularly interesting is that the formation of the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women took place on September 4, 1975, after the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women on June 25, 1974. Only two years separated the City and County formal inaugurations. Yet, the County Commission is still a vital entity, while the City Board no longer exists.
In ensuing years, the Board tackled many identified problems, including the establishment of a county-wide system for dealing with sexual assault, finding ways to provide legal aid for low and middle income women, providing information about career choices, and later, establishing day care services for San Diego City employees, as well as making available training services for women attempting to qualify as fire fighters and higher level police officers. Women's right to choose was strongly supported by the Board and Mayor and Board members joined other women in a candlelight march on behalf of pro-choice. What began as a city wide Women's Work Week outreach evolved into the highly successful annual Women's Opportunities Week (WOW). These extensive annual fairs which emphasized all aspects of vocational training and job opportunities were run by the Board for many years. In the later 1980s a subcommittee of dedicated women operated W.O.W with a professional Director at the helm, but the group reported to the City Board. In 1986, Mayor Maureen O'Connor officially opened WOW, which that year adopted the theme This Week's For You! Some other themes for WOW were New Voices, More Choices and Facing the Future.
In 1977, the name of the advisory group was changed from the City of San Diego Board Advisory Board on the Status of Women to the San Diego City Advisory Board on Women and the number of Board members was increased from nine to 11. (Ordinance no. 12109) The San Diego Union noted the change in an article on September 29, 1977 with a headline "Board Changes Name, But Focus Same. " Chair Skolil made it clear that the only change was that the word "status" had been dropped. The new title was used for the rest of the Board's life.
Many pro-active women served on the City Board until it was deemed inactive during Mayor Susan Golding's administration (1993-2000). In the 1980s, for instance, attorney Melinda Lasater served as Chair. Later, during her term as Chair, she was appointed to a judgeship. She was succeeded as Chair by Kitti Johnson, a well known radio host. The 1984 WOW printed program which touted the theme of Facing the Future, listed the following Advisory Board members serving at that time: Kitti Johnson, Marilyn Boxer. Mararita Carmona, Katherine Cline, Paula Doss, Darlene Davies, Elizabeth Dickinson, Marjorie Lee, Kim McAlister, Sandra Sherman, and Helene Wolf, with Melina Lasater as Honorary Member. Maria Velasques assumed the Chair's role following Kitti Johnson and set the goal of opening a day care center for City employees. That goal was accomplished during her tenure.
Two of the original appointees to the 1973 City of San Diego Advisory Board on the Status of Women have also served on the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. They are Lynn Schenk and Mary Walshok. Unfortunately, the City Board was discontinued. However, the County Commission retains the support of the County Board of Supervisors
and it remains strong.
The San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women & Girls studies important issues, identifying areas of needs and concerns to women and girls. The Commission gathers information and shares it with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and, in so doing, functions as an advisory body. It reports to the Supervisors.
Along with San Diego State University Women's Studies, the University of California San Diego Women's Center, and the Women's Museum (now the Women's Museum of California), it founded the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame in 2002. All four entities came together to create WHoF. Each year, notable women are elected and inducted into WHoF, where the honorees represent diverse areas of accomplishment. Among the numerous worthy achievers who have been honored are Dr. Charlotte Baker, Judge Madge Bradley, Dr. Anita Figueredo, former State Senator Christine Kehoe, Grace Molina de Pick, Deborah Szekely, Belle Benchley, Dr. Li-Rong Cheng, Martha Longenecker, Viviana Enrique Acosta, former State Senator Dr. Lucy Killea, Irma Castro, Anne Hoiberg, and many other equally iconic figures.
In 2016, a symposium was launched by the CSW&G establishing an annual event which has been highly successful. Each year, the symposium addresses the topic of violence against women and girls in San Diego County, focusing on human trafficking and domestic violence. This gathering is attended by members of major organizations that regularly address women's rights, social services, public service, and health rights. It is also intended for individuals interested in supporting these vital areas. In 2019, the scheduled keynote speaker was Summer Stephen, San Diego District Attorney since 2018, and Deputy District attorney for 28 years before that. State Senator Toni Atkins served as a keynote speaker, and Congresswoman Susan Davis was an earlier participant.
A very popular and successful event over the years has been the annual Salute to Supervisors. At the gathering, Supervisors are thanked for their support of the Commission and there is a good exchange of information and sharing of goals.
Meanwhile, the Commission holds hearings in the community and invites speakers to its monthly meetings. CSW&G has kept in mind its mission and remained mindful of its community of women and girls.
-Written by Darlene G. Davies, Former Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women
On September 4, 1975 the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors established the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women, Article IV, Section 85, San Diego County Code of Administrative Ordinances. The Commission also operates under Board Policy A-74, and CSW ByLaws. For County information click here for Status of Women.