Women Making Calaveras History

Pictured Above: The Late House in Valley Springs

Calaveras has always been an area where women needed to be strong, just as strong as any of the men who came to seek their California fortune in 1849. Sometimes, they had to be even stronger and more innovative because coming to and living in the wild west was not for the weak. Many times, men lost their lives due to sickness, in mining or ranching accidents, or serving their country in wartime, leaving women to carry on alone. Read about some of the Calaveras women, past and present, who inspire their communities and the world with their individual fortitude and ingenuity.

Grandma Rolleri – “Angel of Angels Camp” – 1844-1927

Born in 1844 in a small Italian village, Olivia Antonini Rolleri came to Angels Camp in Calaveras with her mother and sister when she was 16 years old. Her father has worked in the mines, saving his money until he could send for his family to join him in America. At 17, Olivia married a miner and ferryman, Gerolamo Rolleri, and together they built a life operating a general store in Angels Camp. For 27 years, they lived a happy, prosperous life, until Gerolamo became sick with pneumonia and passed away, leaving Olivia with 10 children to care for. Knowing she would have to find a way to provide for her children, Olivia purchased a small hotel in Angels Camp, which prospered because of Oliva’s hard work, entrepreneurship, and unending generosity. Everyone loved Olivia “Grandma” Rolleri as she loved and took care of everyone she met regardless of their race, religion, creed, or station in life.

Amanda Foldendorf – Mayor of Angels Camp & Calaveras County Supervisor

Amanda Folendorf

Amanda was born and raised in Angels Camp, the only incorporated city in Calaveras County. When she was born, Amanda experienced significant medical issues, and the medication used to keep her alive caused her to become deaf as an infant. But, she learned at an early age to acclimate and adapt to the world around her. In fact, no one realized she was deaf until she was seven years old because she taught herself to read lips in order to interact with the world. With parents who instilled in her a “you can-do anything” attitude, Amanda played sports in high school and attended mainstream classes, exceling right along with her hearing peers. After graduating from Bret Harte High School, she attended Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. – the only deaf university in the world – then transferred to Sacramento State where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in International Relations.

During her internship in Sacramento for a local congressman, Amanda realized her interest in local and federal government relationships and the importance of being involved. In 2014, Amanda was elected to Angels Camp City Council, and in 2018, elected mayor of Angels Camp. Upon her election, Amanda became the very first deaf mayor, male or female, in the United States. Under her leadership as Mayor, she was able to set goals, develop strategies, balance the budget, and create financial policies that led to a robust community. She continues to work for and inspire her community today serving as the District 4 Calaveras County Supervisor and currently the only woman serving on the Board. Amanda continues to inspire her community and women, in particular, to work together and not shy away from being more involved in local leadership and government. In a 2018 article in Deaf People Magazine, Amanda said “When anyone jumps into something that is changing the status quo, remembering who you are and where you are from is what will bring you back to reality of what is important…doing this was not just for myself, to make change you have to show change can happen. If one thing can come out of this time as a council member and Mayor, it would be inspiring others to participate and helping others achieve their goals”.

Miriam Michelson – American Journalist & Writer – 1870 – 1942

Miriam Michelson

Born in Murphys in 1870 to Polish immigrant parents who escaped Jewish persecution, Miriam was the seventh of eight brothers and sisters, the most recognizable being Albert Michelson who was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in science. Miriam herself was a revolutionary journalist, writing for a few San Francisco newspapers and focusing on articles supporting suffrage causes, race relations, and many gender and political issues of the time. She was strongly involved in working to establish women’s voting rights and wrote the powerful article, “Women’s Great Gain; Has Ballot Right” in theĀ San Francisco Call, in which she pointed out that “…women had gained the right to vote, but they should realize that their vote affected everyone in society who did not vote and that suffrage was just a small step as suffrage would now allow for more development”. Just as noteworthy, Miriam was considered a successful and popular author of her time, writing fictional novels “In the Bishop’s Carriage” and “A Yellow Journalist” whose main protagonist is “a girl reporter” who breaks many of the rules in the male-dominated field of journalism of her time – very similar to Ms. Michelson.

Julia Costello – Archaeologist & Historian

Dr. Julia G. Costello of Mokelumne Hill is a recognized authority on historic-period archaeological sites in the United States, holds a Masters and Ph.D. in Prehistoric Archaeology, and has traveled the world on archaeological excavations as well as the New Melones Lake Archaeological Project. A long-time resident of Calaveras County, Dr. Costello co-founded the cultural resource management firm, Foothill Resources, Ltd. with county historian, Judith Marvin. Their firm has successfully completed hundreds of cultural resource management projects for public and private agencies all over the western United States for over 40 years. She is also a widely-published author of the work she did on sites associated with the Spanish Colonial and Gold Rush Periods, with mining and industrial activities, and with sites associated with Chinese, Japanese, and Italian immigrants. In 1978, Julia moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills to become the Co-Director of the New Melones Lake Archaeological Project for the US Army Corps of Engineers. At that time, this was the largest archaeological project to have taken place in the US, involving over 700 sites, 22 miles of river valley, as many as 100 archaeologists, numerous specialists, several federal and state agencies, and strong public controversy. When the project ended, Julia remained, making Calaveras her home. Dr. Costello has published her professional work in academic journals, edited volumes, and monographs. She was appointed by Governor Brown to the California State Historical Resources Commission in 1979 and was elected to serve as its Chair. She has been honored by her colleagues by serving on the Board of Directors of the Society for Historical Archaeology, serving as President of the Society for California Archaeology (SCA), and on the Board of Directors of the California Mission Studies Association.

BONUS: Woman-Owned Businesses in Calaveras

Want to visit a woman-owned business in March? Here’s a small list of those businesses belonging to the hard-working and innovative women of Calaveras County:

Angels Camp: Crafty Chicks, Hide & Barrel, Prestige Art Gallery, Raven’s Basket, The Pickled Porch

Historic downtown Angels Camp
Historic downtown Angels Camp by Carol Richardson

Arnold: Artsy Parts, Kalamata, Lackler Ceramics, Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen

Sarafina's Italian Kitchen
Outside dining on the deck.

Copperopolis: Griff’s BBQ, Gateway Adventure Company, The Tipsy Frog

Griff's BBQ & Grill
Griff’s BBQ & Grill

Mokelumne Hill: Petroglyph Art Gallery, Moke Hill Nuts & Candies/Moke-A-Java, For Succ Sake

Petroglyphe Gallery, Mokelumne Hill
Petroglyphe Gallery, Mokelumne Hill

Mountain Ranch: Wildlife Cafe

Murphys: Creative Cookware, Joma’s Artisan Ice Cream, Marisolio Tasting Bar, Murphys Grade, Serendipity, & V Restaurant

Creative Cookware, Murphys CA

San Andreas: Pickle Patch Deli

Pickle Patch Catering

Valley Springs: Grocery Outlet, Hawg Dawgs