By Elverhoj Museum of Art and History Staff


August 26 is Women’s Equality Day and this year’s celebration is of particular note because it is the centennial of the ratification in 1920 of the amendment that gave women the right to vote. 

Since its founding, Solvang has attracted strong women dedicated to equality and growing the town and our country. Some were farm wives, juggling demanding schedules in primitive pioneering conditions, taking care of their families and households, and earning money to support the family. Some were educators at the Atterdag College and others managed businesses in the growing community.

Every woman in early Solvang was important. Here are some town “firsts.”

Solvang Postmistress Clara Hornsyld, 1928-1934.
Photo contributed

Solvang’s first and only female head of the post office was Clara Hornsyld. She was formally appointed by the U.S. Senate as Postmistress in 1928 and served in the position until May 9, 1934. She was very influential and aided her husband Peder in overseeing the construction of Solvang’s first stand-alone Post Office in 1925.

In 1985, Elaine “Willie” Campbell became the first mayor of the newly-incorporated City of Solvang. In the early 80s Willie became convinced the town should incorporate to determine its own priorities and retain sales and bed tax revenues that went to Santa Barbara County.  

Willie served as co-chair of the Committee for the Incorporation of Solvang, which succeeded in getting the issue on the ballot in 1985. Voters approved the measure, and a new city was born along with a 5-person City Council. Her fellow council members chose her to be the first mayor. She served 2 more terms as Mayor during her 10-year tenure on the Council.

The support for Solvang women to achieve occurred in part because the town was founded in 1911 – the same year that California became the sixth state where women could vote equally with men. While we think of 1911 as a long-time ago, it was still 63 years after the founding of the women’s suffrage movement and 19 years beforeratification of the 19th amendment granting all US women the right to vote. 

Solvang’s first mayor (1985) Elaine “Willie” Campbell.
Photo contributed

The women’s equality movement is recognized as being born at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848. The Convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and featured the Declaration of Sentiments which Mott helped to write. The Declaration created the agenda for women’s activism and was used for decades to come.

We are proud there is a direct link from that founding to Solvang and the Elverhøj Museum! Lucretia Mott’s great-granddaughter Martha “Patt” Mott Brandt-Erichsen moved to Solvang with her husband Viggo and family in 1947. Together, she and Viggo hand-built the Danish manor house that is the Elverhøj Museum today. Patt was an independent-minded woman, world-traveler, an avid artist and teacher, and proud of her great-grandmother’s accomplishments.

Today, Solvang women continue to hold leadership roles in the community, a testament to the success and sacrifices made by those who fought for the right to vote.

Stay safe and celebrate the women in your life!

Your friends at Elverhøj

Want to learn more about the history of Solvang?
The Spirit of Solvang book is available for shipping or curbside pick-up. Call 805-686-1211 or email to place an order.