A new film, now in pre-production, will recall the life of Juana Briones, often remembered as the “Founding Mother of San Francisco.” Briones lived at a time when women didn’t have rights and were often viewed as second-class citizens. Yet during her lifetime Briones raised children as a single mother, owned property, practiced herbal medicine, and was a midwife. She also excelled at business even though she could not read or write.
Briones (1802-1889) was a woman of color, which made her accomplishments even more impressive, given the era in which she lived. Her ties to the city were strong. She had a farm near what’s now the Presidio in San Francisco and owned a home in what is now known as North Beach. Perhaps the most amazing thing that Briones did was to leave her abusive husband, dropping his surname. This was something that wasn’t done during the 19th century. Briones was a feminist long before the word was coined.