Three women working in a glove factory in Napa.
Three women working in a glove factory in Napa. NCHS Photograph Collection

Under both Spanish and Mexican laws, women had the right to own property and represent themselves in business.  These established precedents and the fact that many men left their wives to run businesses and take care of homesteads during the Gold Rush, pressured 1850 legislators to adopt these same rights for California women under US statehood. It is clear from the 1850 census onward women were actively owning and running successful businesses, as well as participating in the workforce. Both before Prohibition and after pioneering women have played significant roles in the Valley’s juggernaut wine and food industries.

Historic Pioneers

Photograph of Caterina and Anton Nichelini standing together.
Courtesy of the Nichelini Family

Caterina Corda Nichelini (1869-1952)

Caterina and her husband moved to Chiles Valley and established a winery in 1895.  Caterina developed the first “food wagon,” sending her husband to the mines each day with food and wine for the workers.  During Prohibition, when Anton was arrested and jailed, Caterina continued to run the food wagon, manage the winery, and raise their twelve children.  The Nichelini family still runs the winery today.

Amelia Lipp Delaney (1867-1940)

Born in San Francisco in 1867, Amelia first moved to Napa in 1905. Ten years later Amelia purchased the first of two orchards just south of St. Helena, producing prunes and grapes.  At the launch of the California Prune & Apricot Growers Association (CPAGA) in 1917, Amelia is listed as one of only 14 women members.  Along with her adult sons, Amelia managed her prune ranch until her death in 1940.

Amelia standing in her orchard in 1920. She appears to be holding something up to the camera.
Courtesy of Marie Meyer Bowen
Portrait of Mary Fulton.
Courtesy of St. Helena Historical Society

Mary A. Fulton (1828-1893)

Alongside her husband David, Mary helped establish the David Fulton winery in the 1860s.  She continued to manage the winery after her husband’s death in 1871.

Cathy Corison

Known for her exemplary Cabernet Sauvignon wines, Cathy and her partner William Martin have a reputation for wines steeped in heritage and respect for the land. 

“I am driven by a love of wine and the living systems that conspire to produce fine wines which speak of time and place.”


Photo of Cathy Corison wearing a white shirt and black vest.
Courtesy of Cathy Corison
Photograph of Fernande de Latour and Andre Tchelistcheff sampling wine from a barrel.
Courtesy of Treasury Wine Estates

Fernande de Latour (1875-1951)

Married to Georges de Latour, the couple purchased the original parcel of Beaulieu Vineyards in 1900.  They interestingly expanded during Prohibition by securing a sacramental wine contract.  After her husband’s death, Fernande continued to manage the winery. Together with legend winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, they built BV into a world renown label.

Heidi Barrett

Known as the Queen of Cult Wine, Heidi has lent her talent to numerous wineries, and now with her daughter Remi strives for excellence with their family label La Sirena.

“It’s unexpected but very gratifying when young women tell me I inspired them to become winemakers.”

Photograph of Heidi Barrett in a black dress posing in front of a tree.
Courtesy of Heidi Barrett
Portrait of Bertha Beringer
Courtesy of Treasury Wine Estates

Bertha Beringer (1883-1970)

Bertha took over the management of Beringer Winery in 1915. Faced with Prohibition restrictions, Bertha Beringer invented the “Grape Brick” with instructions on how NOT to turn it into wine.  The California Wine Association tried to market the product throughout the 1920s.  Today, Bertha is remembered as a “Whisper Sister,” a term for women who ran Speakeasies during Prohibition.

Elaine St. Clair

Known for her superior talent in both winemaking and brewing, Elaine was the first woman in the U.S. to be accredited as both a master brewer and winemaker. 

“I am very quality oriented. I want everything that I make to be the best it can be. Whether winemaking or brewing, every aspect of the process can affect the flavor and quality of the final product. That is what inspires me most.”


Photograph of Elaine St. Clair standing next to wine barrels
Courtesy of Elaine St. Clair

Mary Ann Burroughs Hatt (1858-1945)

Married to Rudolph Hatt, younger brother of the entrepreneur Captain Albert Hatt, Mary Ann, or Alma as she was nicknamed, managed the 1880s Oyster House restaurant at the Opera House on Main Street in Napa. 

Cindy Pawlcyn

Known for her Valley restaurants and cookbooks, Cindy champions the use of locally grown produce and sustainable meats in her food.

“I like making people happy.  It is fun to be creative and it is really rewarding.  My forty years as a chef have been a real treat.”

Portrait of Cindy Pawlcyn wearing a white chef's jacket
Courtesy of Cindy Pawlcyn
Photograph of Sally Schmitt
Courtesy of Sally Schmitt

Sally Schmitt (1932-2022)

Sally is known for her locally sourced produce and straight forward recipes.  In 1978, with her husband Don, she transformed the former stone laundry building in Yountville into the now famous French Laundry, making the Napa Valley a foodie destination, in addition to its reputation for fine wine.

Anne Hatt Brownlee (1870-1942)

Daughter of entrepreneur Albert Hatt, Sr. and Hellen Horrigan Hatt, Anne went to work for the Bon Marche Milliner’s Shop as a teenager in the late 1880s.  She soon bought the business on Main Street in Napa and ran it successfully for years.

A newspaper advertisement for the Bon Marche Millinery parlors, owned by Miss Anne Hatt, with the slogan "See the latest things in hats. The stock is complete."
A family portrait of Angelina and Frank Lazzari and their two children.
Courtesy of St. Helena Historical Society

Angelina Lazzari Signorelli (1854-1906)

Purchasing the Roma Hotel in 1894, the Signorellis gained a reputation for fine dining under Angelina’s management and the hotel dining room was the site of many local meetings and gatherings.

Elvy Elliott Lewelling (1815-1907)

John and Elvy Lewelling came to St. Helena in 1864 and purchased over 5,000 acres for their winery.  They flourished in the 1870s wine boom, and even after John’s death in 1883, amid the phylloxera epidemic, Elvy continued the winemaking and expanded her real estate holdings. Lewelling Wines still exist today.

Portrait of Elvy Lewelling.
Courtesy of St. Helena Historical Society
Photograph of the natural baths at Pacheteau resort taken in the 1970s
The natural baths at Pacheteau resort, circa 1978. NCHS HRI photograph collection.

Georgiana Pacheteau (1881-1959)

Georgiana and Jacques bought vineyards north of Calistoga in 1903 creating a well-respected wine. In 1911 the Pacheteau’s purchased the land that would become the spa Indian Springs.  In 1919 Jacques died. Georgiana, although six months pregnant, took up management, building out the resort to include a plunge pool and golf links. The resort still exists today.

Hellen Horrigan Hatt (1838-1898)

Married to Albert Hatt, Sr., Hellen and her husband grew a substantial warehousing business in the 1860s on the Napa River at the foot of Main Street, known today as the Hatt Building.  Later, Hellen partnered with her sister-in-law, Alma, running the Oyster House restaurant on the first floor of the Opera House.

The Napa Opera House photographed in 2023.
Napa Opera House in 2023. Courtesy of the Napa Register
The Napa Hotel circa 1900.
Napa Hotel circa 1900. NCHS Photograph Collection

Ellen Barrett Hogan (1838-1891)

John and Ellen Hogan purchased the Napa Hotel in 1867 on the corner of Main and First Streets. After John died in 1877, Ellen continued to run the hotel, raise her seven children, and invested with the developer John Crowley to build the 1879 Opera House adjacent to the hotel.

Josephine Marlin Tychson (1855-1939)

Josephine settled in St. Helena with her husband and children on a 147-acre vineyard in 1881.  Five years later she was widowed.  Josephine went on to finish the construction of the wine cellar with a 20,000-gallon capacity.  Tychson continued to produce wine until her crops were severely affected by phylloxera.  She sold the winery which would become Freemark Abby in 1892, but continued to live next door until her death in 1939.

Studio portrait of Josephine Tychson.
Courtesy of St. Helena Historical Society
Portrait of Hannah Weinberger as an older woman.
Courtesy of St. Helena Historical Society

Hannah Rabbe Weinberger (1840-1931)

With husband John, the couple moved to St. Helena in 1871 and bought 240 acres, where they established a three-story winery.  John was murdered in 1882.  Hannah took his place as Director of the Bank of St. Helena and assumed the management of their winery, producing over 50,000 gallons of wine annually.  The winery continued operations until Prohibition in 1919.