The Wild West of New Mexico, with Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Geronimo, and the U. S. Cavalry center stage, is so powerful and entertaining a myth in the popular imagination that the lives and contributions of New Mexico’s women — especially those of Southern New Mexico — have been largely overlooked.
This book provides a particularly evocative means of examining the dark spaces behind the overshadowing Western myths so dominated by the concerns and exploits of men. The extensive photograph collections of the Rio Grande Historical Collections and the Hobson-Huntsinger University Archives of the New Mexico State University Library’s Archives and Special Collections Department are a great resource and give witness to the experiences of women as they helped to settle the mountains and deserts of New Mexico between 1880 and 1920. Photographs from these collections capture the unexpected: the self-reliance of women ranchers, the craftsmanship and industry of Native American women, the comfortable lives of a prominent Hispanic mercantile family, and the opportunities for women created by educational institutions. The essays in this book by noted scholars and archivists have found the lives of women in southern New Mexico to be not full of endless toil and deprivation but rather, in the words of young Mildred Barnes from the mining community of Lake Valley, “delightful, exciting, and filled with a sense of abundance.”