Claudia Castro Luna, Washington state poet laureate, returns to Port Townsend for a First Friday Lecture on May 1. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

Claudia Castro Luna, Washington state poet laureate, returns to Port Townsend for a First Friday Lecture on May 1. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Looking forward, with women ‘Little’ and powerful

WE’RE DUE FOR stories of triumph as we start this new year, don’t you think?

It’s easy to feel defeated now and again. But here we are on the doorstep of 2020, centennial year of U.S. women’s suffrage.

While we always have more to do, let’s not ignore the signs of victory all around us.

The Jefferson County Historical Society is geared up to celebrate. Its First Friday Lectures, a by-donation series of talks open to everyone, will be devoted to 10 formidable females this year.

Whatever your gender, seize these opportunities and enter them into your calendar.

The venue for the 7 p.m. lectures is the second-floor room at the Northwest Maritime Center, beneath the totem pole at the foot of Water Street; there’s room for 220 people, so come on up.

In the First Friday Lectures, “We wanted to feature different kinds of women and explore aspects of history that are underrepresented,” said JCHS executive director Shelly Leavens.

She added that this is all about bringing women, girls, men and boys together. The more voices at our table, the better, after all, as we strive to understand one another.

A quick tangent here, and another glimmer of hope on that front: “Little Women,” the Greta Gerwig movie drawing capacity crowds to Port Townsend’s Rose Theatre, is an inspirational portrait of how the sexes can bring out the best in each other.

Now let’s take a look at those lectures. First up is Heidi Yantz on Feb. 7: a Portland-based hydrogeologist who’ll usher us inside the world of STEM, as in science, technology, engineering and math. Her talk is titled “STEM and the Women Who Persevered.”

A topic close to my heart comes up March 6 as photographer Lee McIntyre of Seattle gives a first Friday talk on the women photographers of history.

How refreshing, since the pioneering photographers I can think of are mostly male.

McIntyre is creator of “Photographs, Pistols & Parasols,” a podcast about early artisan photographers who were women.

And, coincidentally, she shares a surname with Port Angeles photographer Amy McIntyre.

Yet another presenter who speaks straight to my soul is Claudia Castro Luna, the Washington state poet laureate who’ll give the May 1 First Friday Lecture.

A native of El Salvador who lives in Seattle, she crisscrosses the state, coaxing people’s inner poets out to play. Last summer Luna came to the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference to teach classes and give public readings — and singlehandedly revealed to me how wondrous and liberating poetry can be.

Just when you think this mind-blowing stuff cannot keep up, it does.

On June 5, historian Candace Wellman of Bellingham steps up. She’s author of “Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast through Cross-Cultural Marriages,” and “Interwoven Lives: Indigenous Mothers of Salish Coast Communities.”

In these books, Wellman teaches us about the role mixed marriages played in our region’s history, while dispelling stereotypes about the relationships between indigenous women and non-native men.

Jumping ahead to fall: The Oct. 2 First Friday Lecture brings together a panel of local women involved with growing our food, including Crystie Kisler of Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Natalie Swope of White Lotus Farm, Kateen Fitzgerald of Compass Rose Farm, and Melony Edwards of

It should be a nourishing harvest.

2020’s last first Friday, I’m thrilled to report, will be devoted to live music. Soul singer Grace Love is slated to present her new album, “Sing into the Dark,” on Nov. 4.

This is a woman who has triumphed personally and professionally — like so many in our state and nation.

Leavens notes the undercurrent of these first Fridays: “We’re all in this together,” she says.

“We can learn together, and move forward as a community.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Jan 15.

Reach her at [email protected]