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Professor Valerie Matsumoto Presents City Girls

By Anne Petersen

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Kevin McGarry, Kay Van Horn, Anne Petersen, Valerie Matsomoto, Mika Thornburg and Terease Chin. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.


On September 31, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation hosted Professor Valerie Matsumoto, faculty in both the Asian American Studies and History Departments at UCLA, to speak about her new book, City Girls: The Nisei Social World in Los Angeles, 1920 – 1950.  Professor Matsumoto’s project explores the ways that young Japanese American women’s social clubs helped them navigate discriminatory environments before WWII, through internment and resettlement after the war.

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Valerie Matsumoto presents, City Girls. Photo by Dr. Paul Mori.


More than sixty guests attended the lecture at the Alhecama Theatre, and stayed for the book signing and reception with the author that followed.  Professor Matsumoto’s presentation included amazing historic photographs she collected during her research. In a special highlight of the evening, SBTHP Asian American History Committee member Kay Van Horn spoke during the Q&A about her family’s long history in the Santa Barbara Presidio Neighborhood and her mother Masako Saruwatari’s participation in similar Nisei social activities in Santa Barbara.


Professor Matsumoto has been a good friend and partner to SBTHP over the last twelve years, participating in a 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities advisory workshop to develop themes for a new visitor center, and then again in 2009 to advise on a Visitor Experience Plan for the Historic properties SBTHP manages in downtown Santa Barbara. Her research on Nisei women’s social clubs helps inform our understanding of similar experiences in Santa Barbara’s Nihonmachi, or Japantown, which was located on the site of

We look forward to staying informed about Professor Matsumoto’s next research project.  Did you miss the lecture?  You are in luck.  City Girls in available at La Tiendita, the gift shop at El Presidio de Santa Barbara SHP, and on the website here.

Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

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