Mothers of Benicia…do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by shopping, cooking, cleaning, school scheduling, homework support, driving detail to and from sports practices and matches, dental and doctors’ appointments, and all of the other duties and responsibilities attendant to the care and feeding of your little darlings? Even with help from a spouse or partner, it is sometimes difficult to feel that you are doing the best job you can as a mother 100% of the time. Consider Doña Francisca Benicia, (1815-1891), after whom our town is named—and you may feel inspired about your own maternal role and tasks at hand.
Married at the tender age of seventeen to General Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Francisca Benicia bore sixteen children, six of whom died before the age of six. In spite of the heartbreak she must have endured, she succeeded in creating a series of well-appointed homes for her family throughout their many moves, with an emphasis on classical education and the arts; especially music. She was part of the local landscape of the time, recording her observations in the many letters she wrote during her fifty-eight years of happily married life; during which time California moved from frontier territory to statehood.
Her last home in Sonoma, built in 1851 and open to the public as a State Park and decorated with period appropriate furnishings, is still an example of a well-ordered domicile, both comfortable and pleasing to the eye. The journals and diaries of the period are dotted with descriptions of this strong and sensitive woman, who helped to forge and define an era. Described by one of her sons, Platon, as “… what we would call a level-headed woman,” she is a role model for mothers today, as well as being the “Mother of Benicia.”