Victoria Reid is a fascinating woman from the early 19th century who lived in California and who challenged conventional concepts of race, gender, and class. Reid was a Native American woman, the daughter of a chief, who lived in California in the early-mid 1830s and who is notable because of her personal life as well as the unusual role that she played in the history of land ownership in the state.
In this ArticleMyriad biography we begin with her marriage. Curiously, Reid married a Scotsman who had been attracted to her because of her aura of gentility; however, at the time they met, Reid was married and had had children with, another man. That man died of smallpox and freed Reid to marry again. When she did, Reid’s new husband was initially criticized for marrying a Native American woman; however, the criticism subsided when Reid shattered the stereotype about Native American women.
Reid became involved in landholding because her husband was involved in such business transactions. In 1830, the area of San Marino was deeded to Reid in a Mexican land grant, the only documented instance in which a Native American woman was granted land in the U.S. Certainly as a result of their marriage, Reid’s husband began to champion rights for Native Americans, as Reid herself did. Reid was strategic in her handling of the land, selling it to others at different points in the succeeding years. Like Ruiz de Burton, though, she too died impoverished, after her home was destroyed by an earthquake. She lived her final days, prior to the death of smallpox, in a Catholic mission.
Reid was a figure who has been obscured by history, and the authors of Latina Legacies do Reid, and the readers, a credit by resuscitating and reintroducing her story. Both the story of Reid and the story of Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton are important because they help expand our vision and understanding of 19th and early 20th century history in the United States. In most traditional textbooks, the roles of women are marginalized, and the roles of women of color are doubly marginalized. What Ruiz and Sanchez Korrol have done in Latina Legacies is a rescue and recovery operation that adds depth and meaning to existing texts. As individual Ruiz de Burton and Reid were important because they challenged social conventions and attempted to open new avenues for women and people of color, economically, professionally, and socially speaking. While neither of the women was an activist in the strictest sense of the word, each lived her life in such a way that it served-and continues to serve– as an example of the multiplicity of possibilities for women’s roles and pursuits.