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Women's Museum of California

Preserving the Past, Inspiring the Future

About Us

The Women's Museum of California is one of only three stand alone museums of women's history in the country. Founded in 1983 as the Women's History Reclamation Project, we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headed by a Volunteer Board of Directors and an Advisory Council of community members.

The Women's Museum of California currently has open seats on the Board of Directors. To apply, CLICK HERE

About Us

Founder, Mary Maschal

From 1983 until 1997, Mary Mashcal assembled an extensive collection of memorabilia and aritifacts, filling virtually every room of her Golden Hill home with historic documents, banners, posters, and books. Mary and others also reached out into the community, offering lectures on women's history to school children, professional and social organizations, and community groups. In 1995, at the urging of family and friends, Mary opened her home to the public and held exhibitions of her vast collection. The enthusiasm over Mary's collection, generated by the Open House, and the need in San Diego for a museum dedicated solely to women and their stories brought forth the Women's History Reclamation Project.


In 1997, the WHRP moved from Mary's home into the nearby ART UNION Building and opened to the public on a regular basis . In December of 2003 the WHRP changed its name to the Women's History Museum and Educational Center or WHM.

Since 1997 the Women's Museum of California evolved into a full-fledged women's history museum and valuable community educational resource. With the help of many volunteers and a dedicated staff, the WMC features a variety of changing exhibits and displays on women's history, sponsors workshop and lecture series, develops and implements educational and cultural events, including art shows, live performances and presentations; maintains a library, archive & collections; and provides speakers for the community through its Speakers' Bureau. The WMC is a co-founder and sponsor of the San Diego County Women's Hall of Fame. We collaborate with dozens of women's and girl's organizations and agencies throughout San Diego.

In 2011, we changed our name to the Women’s Museum of California with the tag line “preserving the past…inspiring the future”. We are now located at the NTC at Liberty Station in Point Loma.


  • WHRP changes its name to the Women's History Museum and Educational Center (WHMEC) to better reflect the nature of its programs and mission.
  • Traveling exhibit "Women Who Dare: Shaping the Americas" opens across San Diego County funded by a California Council for the Humanities Grant.
  • 2nd Annual Women's Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held at UCSD.


  • Created and produce the First Annual "Women's Hall of Fame" Induction Ceremony in March.
  • Five women from the community were selected as the first Inductees in the Hall of Fame.
  • 400 people (a standing room only crowd) attended the event at UCSD during Women's History Month.


  • Collaboration with UCSD Women's Center, SDSU's Women's Studies Department and the County Commission for the Status of Women established to begin planning for the San Diego Women's Hall of Fame.


  • Exhibit: "Creating Their Own Path: Women Who Paved the Way" opens at the WHRP, SDSU Love Library, and the UCSD Women's Center to celebrate Women's History Month.
  • WHRP hosts a Women's History Poetry Contest and opens exhibit: "In Our Own Voice: Women's History through Women's Poetry."
  • WHRP receives $13,000 educational outreach grant for creation of traveling exhibits.


Our mission is to educate and inspire current and future generations about the experiences and contributions of women by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the evidence of that experience.

... Respecting and honoring all women and their experiences.
... Respecting all individuals’ beliefs, cultures and ideas.
... Inviting and encouraging participation and open dialogue from women, men and children.
... Integrity of our collection and in our presentation of women’s history.
... Diversity, cultural competence, cultural democracy and inclusion in our organizational structure.
... An organizational environment that builds and fosters open, honest, considerate communication and a spirit of cooperative problem solving, consensus and community.
... Planning, responsible decision-making, well-designed systems Accountability, and fiscal responsibility.
... Enthusiasm, positive attitude, creativity, recognition, humor, commitment, support, passion, acceptance.
... Human life and human rights.

Diane Peabody Straw

Executive Director

After serving on the Museum Board for a year, Diane was the Museum's Director of Development. Her experience includes fundraising, event planning, marketing, campaigning, and volunteer management. 

Melissa Jones

Director of Marketing

Melissa has a BA in History and a masters in International Relations. She manages all aspects of the Museum's social outreach and has a background in digital organizing. She is passionate about sharing women's history and accomplishments with others.

Julia Friedman

Library, Archive & Museum Collections Manager

Julia received her BA in History from California State University San Marcos. She joined us as an intern, focusing on digitizing our collection of San Diego NOW audio tapes. She now is managing our collection, library, and archives. 

Cece Morrison

Gift Shop Manager

Cece manages our beautiful gift shop, which gives local artists a platform to sell their pieces, as well as bring in revenue for the Museum. Her warm smile and dedication keep us going! 

Tracey Balsdon

Office Manager, Newsletter Editor

Tracey holds a BA in Psychology from the University of San Diego. She maintains our gift shop and office inventory, and edits the newly redesigned museum newsletter, In Our Own Voice. She has experience in hospitality, fundraising, and event planning. 

Virginia Salisbury Shapland

Volunteer and Events Director

Virginia holds a BA in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College and recently completed an MA in Applied Anthroplogy. Her previous work focused on gender and identity politics. She currently manages our volunteers and coordinates Museum events in addition to grant acquisition and oversight.

Duane McGregor

Artistic Director

Background in Architecture, Graphic and Textile Design. Duane creates all the graphics for exhibits, as well as helps with installation, lending her impressive artistic eye to each exhibit. 

Hannah Cohen


President of the Cohen Policy Group, Hannah recent served as the consultant for Sustainable San Diego where she formed the collaborative of 40 agencies to address the implementation of Sustainable Communities Strategy. Her area of expertise is in affordable housing and homelessness policy.

Amy Spear

Vice President

Amy Spear has broad experience in public affairs, government relations and strategic communications. She serves as Manager of Public Affairs at Southwest Strategies. Amy has served on the Board for many years and has been an integral part of the fundraising efforts. 

Linda Babcock


Retired after 40 years as a commercial property manager, Linda most recently spent 12 years with Jone Lang LaSalle dedicated to managing Bank of Amerca commercial branches in SD.  Always interested in giving back to the community, Linda recently joined the WMC Board.

Shawn VanDiver


Shawn has 12 years of military experience coupled with relationships with executive, political, and policy leaders spanning the private, public, and NGO-sectors at federal, state, and local levels.

Anne Hoiberg

Board Member

A writer, speaker and research psychologist, Anne has written and presented extensively on women's health, women in the military, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, health promotion, workman's compensation cost containment, stress related disease and role of military in society.

Divya Kakaiya, Ph.D., M.S.

Board Member

Divya Kakaiya  Psychologist, Neuroscientist, School Consultant, CEO of Healthy Within Brain Health and Wellness Center. Member San Diego Rotary. Working with families and teens, she empowers healthy communities.

Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, Ph.D.

Board Member

Huma Ahmed-Ghosh is Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University. Ahmed-Ghosh has published extensively on women in Afghanistan, Muslim women in India and in the US diaspora, and gendered violence and conflict with a focus on Afghanistan.

Stefanie Benvenuto

Board Member

Stefanie Benvenuto is the Policy Manager at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce where she heads the Chamber’s advocacy and political efforts on behalf of the healthcare, land use, infrastructure.

Bob Alden

Pictured with Wife Carol Dentz-Alden

Bob is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and served in the Navy for 20 years. He currently works for L-3 Communications, running computer training systems for the Navy in Point Loma. He has been one of the Museum's most loyal supporters. 

Stacey Blanchet

Public Relations Consultant

Stacey established Your Own Girl Friday in 2005, which handles Public Relations, Marketing and Business matters for the individual and company.

Marley Healy

Historical Textile Consultant

Marley Healy is a fashion and costume curator working as a freelance consultant in San Diego. She reviews fashion-based exhibitions along the West Coast and is working on a long-term curatorial research project around dress-based collections in Southern California.