Friday, August 20, 2010

Looking at profiles of Taos women: a beginning

Photo (left to right): Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett (circa 1938) Courtesy of Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT

A search for sources that profile women of Taos led to a recent discovery, More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Women of Taos. Curious to see which women the author chose, I found that three of the twelve women or groups of women portrayed in the book resided in Taos: Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence (two of the “Three Fates”) and Millicent Rogers. Five of the others—Georgia O’Keeffe, photographer Laura Gilpin, anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, the sisters of Loretto and the Harvey girls—spent time in Taos. How interesting that two-thirds of the women profiled had Taos connections.

One of this blog’s goals aligns with what More Than Petticoats: Remarkable New Mexico Women works to achieve. The telling of their stories and the identification of qualities and characteristics of remarkable women of Taos (and elsewhere) are meant to provide role models that inform and inspire girls and young women.

Responses to the Mabel Dodge Luhan and the Remarkable Women of Taos blog have helped me prioritize some of the past and contemporary women I will be featuring. The readership request list includes Natalie Goldberg, Sas Colby, Eya Fechin, the sisters Anita Rodriguez and Sylvia Rodriguez, Hilda Street, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Art Bachrach, author of D.H. Lawrence in New Mexico : the Time Is Different There (and co-owner with his wife Susan of our local Moby Dickens Bookstore), has also pondered the question of why Taos has produced so many independent-minded women. Just today we revisited this, and “Uncle Art” observed that when certain women come to Taos, their full capability gets expressed and recognized. He spoke to a certain spaciousness: “These women have a freedom to be who they are and do what they want. There is a freedom of movement and expression here that is quite unusual. I love it!” Art recently supplied me with his list of past and present grande dames of Taos, including Mabel, Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett, Rebecca Salsbury James, Blanche Grant, Agnes Martin, Corina Santistevan, and Susan Bachrach.

If some of these women’s names are unfamiliar, let them be a mystery for now. As I introduce them to you, you will see that they are all remarkable in their own way. In fact, two of them—Millicent Rogers and Corina Santistevan—are subjects of two forthcoming books. Art Bachrach and Nita Murphy are putting the finishing touches on Millicent Rogers: A Life in Full. I’m awaiting copy-editing on my labor of love, Stones Into Bread: The Correspondence of Peggy Pond Church and Corina Aurora Santistevan.

This brings me to some questions that Karen Young (my “co-conspirator” and brain trust at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House) and I are pondering. What are the qualities or attributes that combine to make a remarkable woman?

What do you think? What constitutes a remarkable woman?

Looking forward to your answers.


NEXT: Mabel Dodge Luhan: Who Was She?

The "More than Petticoats" series is published under Two Dot, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. To date books from this series about remarkable women cover 36 of the 50 states in the US.


  1. This will be an interesting blog--thanks for doing it. In your enthusiasm, you accidentally got the subtitle of the "More Than Petticoats" book wrong in the first paragraph.

  2. A remarkable woman who visited Mabel in 1927 was Bertha Pope (later Bertha Damon). She accompanied Ansel Adams and Albert Bender when they drove there from California, a visit that led to the publication of Taos Pueblo with text by Mary Austin and photographs by Ansel Adams. I'd love to know of any references to Bertha in Taos in sources other than the Adams literature.

  3. I've never blogged before. I can't think of a better one with which to
    begin. Thank you Elizabeth. This is exciting.

  4. Thank you Susan and Ann for your comments. Ann, I will keep my eyes open for Bertha Pope references. Tell me more...