LUCIA: The first woman winemaker in California was Hannah Weinberger, who took over the family winery when her husband was killed in 1882. She ran their winery in Napa until 1920 when Prohibition was enacted. In 1973, MaryAnn Graf became the first woman winemaker at a California winery; she was also the first woman in California to get a college degree in fermentation sciences.
By then, a couple of things had happened: the women’s rights movement was making progress, and in the middle 1970s, California became recognized for its wines. Suddenly, everyone started buying land and planting grapes, and they needed more winemakers. And so there were more opportunities for everyone. More women started going into the field.
But it’s hard work, especially during harvest when you’re working 80 to 90 hours a week. And for women who had children, it takes a village for their needed support, as they say. But for many who started out, there was no family leave act, or pregnancy leave, and no laws against discrimination, all that kind of stuff.
It was also really important for us to have a framework to discuss the careers of these women winemakers. We started off with the question, “When did you know you loved wine?” and from there, we developed four particular career paths they followed: sensory, family, science/agronomy, and enology.
We are hoping young women or people who are thinking about this field, or changing fields, can read about these career paths and begin to see themselves and how they can move along that career path. Imagining yourself successful in a field is really important because if you cannot imagine a place for yourself in that field, you won’t study it.