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Mabel Lucien Davis Pinkey Ritchardson: Singer and Church Leader

Mabel arrived in Santa Cruz in 1909 with her husband Elias Pinkney. Many members of her extended family were living in Santa Cruz at the time. Together, they helped organize and maintain the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Old Temperance Hall near Water Street and Bulkhead Street. For its short duration, this would be a nourishing space for the growing African American community. Mabel was a stewardess of the spiritual and social gathering place. She taught in the Sunday school. Her young son, Lorraine Pinkney, passed away and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Mabel would leave Santa Cruz and move to San Francisco. She was widowed and remarried Franzy Ritchardson along the way. She was a notable singer of both classical Western music and African American spirituals. Mabel meticulously preserved an archive of clippings of her performances and reviews, which her family treasures. Her family continues to grow and live in the Bay area.

Adapted from “Arterberry/King/Pinkney/Ritchardson Genealogy Page” by Marissa Arterberry; “‘Black and Tan Baseball’ in Santa Cruz: An Unknown History” by Geoffrey Dunn in Santa Cruz County History Journal, Number 8; and “African American Churches in the City of Santa Cruz: The Early Years” by Stanley D. Stevens and Joan Gilbert Martin in in Santa Cruz County History Journal, Number 8.

Four women in period dress, one sitting and two standing pose for a photograph with a little girl in a white dress stands, holding onto the leg of the sitting woman.

MAH Collections
Mabel Ritchardson and the Berry family women (image from Santa Cruz County History Journal, Number 8, pp. 114) Mabel (top left) poses with her daughter Myrle Pinkney (lower right), her mother Sarah (top right), and Sarah’s grandmother Jane Scott Venable Grundy (seated).

Ritchardson/Arterberry Family Archives
Mabel poses in hip and luxurious attire.

A woman stands in fine clothing, including a fur collared coat, heeled shoes, large brimmed hat, and holding a handbag.
A couple stands on the front stairs of a house in period clothing.

Ritchardson/Arterberry Family Archives
Mabel and Franzy Ritchardson pose for a photograph outside of their home.

Ritchardson/Arterberry Family Archives
Mabel created an archive of her life and work. This clipping, a favorable review of a recital she gave in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel, describes Mabel as “a cultural leader of her race.”

Aged newspaper clipping about Mabel.
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