Press "Enter" to skip to content
Peggy Breeden sits as Mayor in a 2019 City Council meeting. Breeden served on the City Council as Mayor and as an appointed Council Member collectively for approximately eight years. / Laura Austin File Photo

March, Women’s History Month, celebrating milestones

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–

    March is Women’s History Month, “A reminder to celebrate women’s milestones and their extraordinary roles in all spheres of society.” (nationalww2museum.org) The celebration has its origins in 1978 in Santa Rosa, California, when the Education Task Force of Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women launched “Women’s History Week.” Nationally, Women’s History Week began in 1982. It became a nationally proclaimed month in 1987.

When asked to talk to The News-Review about Women’s History Month, Peggy Breeden, owner of the Swapsheet, former Mayor, and former City Councilwoman, thought that she was “former” and that we should talk to other Ridgecrest women and we would. Still, for this story, we talked to Breeden. She says, “I’m a has-been; I’m 78. Everybody has had their time to make their contribution. It’s not that you ignore them. That’s not what being a has-been is. It is that you’ve stepped aside. And hopefully, the people you’ve helped nourish, you’ve helped grow, and you’ve helped understand what their responsibility is carry on. Because if you’re going to stand up and be a leader, you better accept that responsibility. You better understand that it is not for your own glory.”

Breeden is not a fan of Women’s History Month. She doesn’t pull her punches when she says, “Everybody should be celebrated every single day. Not in a month. So I hate it. I think it’s outrageous that we have to celebrate it. Do we have a Men’s History Month? Do we have a Child’s History Month? Do we have a Dog’s History? We don’t need those. We celebrate each other every day. We honor each other simply by existing learning and sharing what we’ve learned. I think it’s it’s obscene to celebrate somebody once a month. It sounds like they shouldn’t be celebrated.”

Although not a poster child for the month, Breeden is a great resource for our region. You can read an article about her online in the January 13, 2023 edition of the News Review, news-ridgecrest.com. Susan Read profiled Breeden in a story titled, Peggy Breeden capped her City Council service in December. The article tells of her journey from a dairy farm in upstate New York through her professional journey of being elected to be Mayor of Ridgecrest for three terms.

One can expect a well-thought-out opinion when discussing politics with Breeden. Asked if she would like to make a general statement about equal rights for women, she replies, “We already have more equal rights. I mean, we basically control the future of this country,  women do because of who they are. Either do it themselves, raise children to do it, raise grandchildren or support other kids to be who they can be. I never had any children; I married into a family with sons and daughters. I never had my own, so I have grandchildren. And I think that you don’t have to be a man or a woman. You have to be a good person. And that’s where it comes from. That’s how you make changes but women already have that. For the most part, women are family-oriented. I’m not saying that men aren’t, but they are the ones who grow the future. Whether it be kids, organizations, governments, colleges, schools, women basically grow them with the help of able-bodied men and women.”

Being responsible was a role that Breeden assumed early in life. Her mother died when she was seven years old, and at the age of 10, “I had a brother and sister, and I was a mother.” Both of her grandmothers were there for her. Our discussion went off track when we talked about her maternal grandmother’s Sauerbraten. “She was a good Irish lady married to a strong German man.” But, we digress.

One wonders how Breeden got off of the farm. A major influence was a teacher. (Is there a Teachers’ History Month?) “He listened to my questions. And he said, ‘Hey if you don’t get off the farm, you’ll never be anything but a farmer’s daughter. Is that what you want? If it is, celebrate it, and be the best farmer’s daughter you can.’ I said, ‘I’m going to be President of the United States.’

“Every Thursday in his class, we had to read a story in The New York Times.  I read a story about Appalachia. I didn’t know anything about Appalachia; I thought it was a country.” She was appalled by the state of poverty-stricken children. She wrote to all of the senators and congressmen that she could find in the Appalachian region. “I started saying, ‘Why don’t we do something for these kids? Do you see the pictures?’  I would include the pictures of these kids who looked like war orphans. We didn’t have any money, but we weren’t destitute by any means. And I started writing them.” She was furious to hear from her own congressman, who said, “I can’t do anything for people in Kentucky. So thank you for your letter.” She thought, “Jerk. You could do a lot of things; just you’re saying something would help.” She started getting involved, “Saying, ‘why not? Instead of No, we can’t, why can’t we? Why can’t we do this?’” She decided, “I’m going to be president. I disagree.  I’m going to work. Well, I got sidetracked a number of times and I wasn’t ever President of the United States, but I wasn’t ever not involved. I knew what was going on.”

Many women have inspired Breeden, but for the sake of this story, she wanted to highlight someone local.  “When I first decided to run for office (Board of the Inyokern Airport), Nancy Bass was the manager at the Inyokern Airport. I was living in Inyokern and the airport was not too far away from our house.  I would see these planes go over; I really thought it was part of the Base. I didn’t realize it was our airport.” She worked with Bass, who had her own way of helping folks develop. “She was just an amazing woman – smart, brilliant, read people well, arrogant but sweet. Can you imagine those two things together? But she was. She would do things for people without their knowing about it. Sometimes, she’d come back and throw it at you and say, ‘Look what I did for you. Now you get better, you can do better.’  And, wow, I just love that woman. So, if I had to pick a local one, it would be Nancy Bass. I don’t know if I fulfilled her expectations, but she certainly got me started.”

Breeden does not want to be glorified. She wants to be portrayed as someone who cares and wants to do okay. She wants us to understand that working with others is what we need to make things happen.