Although Women’s History Month has ended, we are still celebrating the exceptional women of Mendocino. Here is an excerpt from the Kelley House publication From Maidens to Mavericks: Mendocino’s Women, Mendocino Historical Review Volume XXIX, written by local author, Molly Dwyer. The book can be purchased in the museum or on our website; the author’s lecture from May 17th, 2015, is available to watch on the Kelley House YouTube channel.

Studio portrait of a young woman

Studio portrait of Lupy Feliz Gorden, 1894. Photographed by Ira C. Perry.

Lupy Feliz Gorden (1865 – 1959) was a survivor. Her grandfather, Fernando Feliz, had been a wealthy powerbroker before Mexico lost California to the United States. Subsequently, the Feliz family lost its standing to prejudice and bad luck. Born and raised in Hopland, Lupy was proud of her Spanish heritage but hid her mother’s Pomo blood. Lupy followed an older brother to the Mendocino coast in 1881. She was 16, “dark and beautiful,” and a “fine horsewoman.” She took a job as a maid for Daisy MacCallum. Not long after, she advanced from domestic help to secretary for the Mendocino Lumber Company and caught the eye of Henry Gorden.

Gorden was a liveryman at a busy stable near the corner of Lansing and Main. They married, and moved into a house Henry built on School Street, a cottage that still stands. When Henry’s drinking got out of hand, she posted a notice in the Mendocino Beacon: “I hereby warn any or all persons against furnishing my husband, Henry T. Gorden, with intoxicating liquor in any form.” When her son began to follow in his father’s footsteps, she posted a second notice: “My son, Archie F. Gorden, having left home, I hereby give notice that I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by him.” Henry left the property to their son rather than Lupy, but she raised the money to purchase the house, living the rest of her life as a landowner. Though confined to a wheelchair in old age, having had a leg amputated due to diabetes, she’s said to have remained “cheerful and laughing” to the end.

The Kelley House Museum is open from 11AM to 3PM Friday through Sunday. If you have a question for the curator, reach out to to make an appointment. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly.