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Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world. Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world. Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them. Their adventures were shared with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Henri, Edgar Hewett and Charles Lummis, Chief Tawakwaptiwa of the Hopi, and Hostiin Klah of the Navajo. Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly, and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon, and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos. Although their stories converge in the outback of the American Southwest, the saga of Ladies of the Canyons is also the tale of Boston’s Brahmins, the Greenwich Village avant-garde, the birth of American modern art, and Santa Fe’s art and literary colony. Ladies of the Canyons is the story of New Women stepping boldly into the New World of inconspicuous success, ambitious failure, and the personal challenges experienced by women and men during the emergence of the Modern Age.


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Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world. Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world. Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them. Their adventures were shared with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Henri, Edgar Hewett and Charles Lummis, Chief Tawakwaptiwa of the Hopi, and Hostiin Klah of the Navajo. Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly, and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon, and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos. Although their stories converge in the outback of the American Southwest, the saga of Ladies of the Canyons is also the tale of Boston’s Brahmins, the Greenwich Village avant-garde, the birth of American modern art, and Santa Fe’s art and literary colony. Ladies of the Canyons is the story of New Women stepping boldly into the New World of inconspicuous success, ambitious failure, and the personal challenges experienced by women and men during the emergence of the Modern Age.

30 review for Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Having just spent a lovely week in a beautifully appointed casita just off the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was delighted to find a copy of Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and their Adventures in the American Southwest by author Lesley Poling-Kempes, in its extensive library (a book that was even on my "to be read" list). This was a deeply researched book about some very interesting, talented and remarkable women that came to the desert southwest in the early twentieth Having just spent a lovely week in a beautifully appointed casita just off the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was delighted to find a copy of Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and their Adventures in the American Southwest by author Lesley Poling-Kempes, in its extensive library (a book that was even on my "to be read" list). This was a deeply researched book about some very interesting, talented and remarkable women that came to the desert southwest in the early twentieth century, falling in love with the land and the culture, and forever leaving their mark on history. "The moonlight flooded that great, silent land. . . .The senses were too feeble to take it in, and every time one looked up to the sky, one felt unequal to it, as if one were sitting deaf under the waves of a great river of melody." -- Willa Cather "The spell of the desert comes back to me, as it will always come. I see the veils, like purple smoke, in the canons, and I feel the silence. And it seems that again I must try to pierce both and to get at the strange wild life of the last American wilderness--wild still, almost, as it ever was." -- Zane Grey "The Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) Mountains rose twelve thousand feet into the sky above Santa Fe. The town itself sat at nearly seven thousand feet above sea level, and was blessed with a clean, dry, high-altitude climate. Never too hot, never too cold, the salubrious air of old Santa Fe was scented with mountain pine and aspen, and canyon sage and cedar." "The word was getting out: In New Mexico, a new society based on art and creativity was flourishing within and alongside some of the oldest and most picturesque indigenous communities found in North America." "I found that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one's deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive." -- Mabel Dodge Luhan "I want to go right back into that canyon and be mauled by its big brutality, though all my bruises are not gone yet. It's a country that drives you crazy with delight, and that's all there is to it. I can't say anything more intelligible about it." -- Willa Cather "It was August and high summer, and the sky over Pedernal was intensely blue. The road led O'Keeffe across the hot, dry landscape of red-gold sandlands and deeply carved arroyos to a cluster of adobe buildings beneath the sheer walls of the luminous cliffs. 'Perfectly mad-looking country--hills and cliffs and washes too crazy to imagine all thrown up into the air by God and let tumble where they would.'"

  2. 4 out of 5

    Story Circle Book Reviews

    I love a writer who teases out the connections from a tangle of sources, a writer whose fascination with her subject shows, who recognizes a deeper truth. And I have found a writer who does all that and then some: Lesley Poling-Kempes. Her most recent work is Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest. The true stories of the remarkable women profiled here are powerfully compelling. Beginning her narrative in 1903, a time when most women' I love a writer who teases out the connections from a tangle of sources, a writer whose fascination with her subject shows, who recognizes a deeper truth. And I have found a writer who does all that and then some: Lesley Poling-Kempes. Her most recent work is Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest. The true stories of the remarkable women profiled here are powerfully compelling. Beginning her narrative in 1903, a time when most women's choices were distinctly narrow, Poling-Kempes describes a group of females who took risks, made leaps, and created lives of authenticity and grace. Giving up sidesaddles for riding astride in practical khakis, they allowed themselves to belong to the lands and people of a new place, a raw frontier. When roads were few and either dusty or muddy, "Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the Hispanic villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos." They left behind easy comfort, family and friends, and social expectations. They pushed against the norms to follow what called them and, in the process, forged larger models of what a woman's life could be. These women opened fresh territory for all of us, and played a part in shaping American culture. Yet they were nearly forgotten. When Poling-Kempes went looking for more information about one particular woman, Carol Bishop Stanley, who founded the famed Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, New Mexico, there was little to nothing written about her in histories of the place. Eventually, Poling-Kempes found some oral histories and "a handful of written accounts and letters," which sent her tracking not just Stanley but over a dozen other fascinating women whose stories were twined together through friendships and landscapes. Her research has been productive. • Natalie Curtis Burlin, for instance, was one of Carol Stanley's friends. A gifted musician, she became a pioneer in preserving the sacred songs and stories of Native Americans. She had the respectful ear of President Theodore Roosevelt and brought a new awareness of Native culture to policy makers and to Eastern Americans. •A Boston Brahmin, Mary Cabot Wheelwright became a part-time resident and a full-time supporter of Santa Fe after visiting Carol Stanley. Eventually, she founded the renowned Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian there. • Alice Ellen Klauber was a painter and a wealthy woman from San Diego. Her travels and adventures in Arizona and New Mexico, often arranged by Natalie Curtis Burlin, were great encounters with the majesty of the land and the native people, and ever after shaped her work and interests. Klauber painted the Southwest, and in San Diego, she founded and supported many art events and organizations, and brought great artworks to the city. • Elsie Clews Parsons was a sociologist and anthropologist, the daughter of a wealthy New York banker, who found herself in studying the tribes of the Southwest and Mexico. Her book, Pueblo Indian Religion, is considered a classic, and she was the first woman to become president of the American Anthropological Association. Poling-Kempes brings these women, and more, to life by giving thought to their individual realities while presenting them in the context of their time and their personal connections. Carefully drawing out an impressive web of relationships, she illustrates the power of this female network, and the support the women offered each other. She also gives a glimpse of the hardships they weathered just to experience the harsh beauty of the still-wild land, as well as the life storms they endured in order to make their lives their own. Even now, there are plenty of women, myself included, who can recognize those struggles. Weaving individual threads into a larger picture, Poling-Kempes has created a narrative tapestry relevant to readers everywhere. As she says, it is the story of "New Women stepping bravely into the New World, of Anglo America waking up to Native America, of inconspicuous success and ambitious failure." That story includes plenty of drama, politics, romance, and heartbreak, too. As it happens, Poling-Kempes is writing about women's impact on a landscape that I have explored with heart, from Santa Fe to San Diego and points in between. My experiences and interests overlapped with these Southwestern foremothers, and kept me fully engaged. This phenomenon was likely at work for the author, as well, who has lived for many years in the very places that Carol Bishop Stanley loved. Yet even readers who have never been west of the Mississippi will find themselves fascinated by these Ladies of the Canyons, who liberated themselves into lives of passion and purpose. In doing that, they loosened bonds for all of us. by Susan Schoch for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ameya Warde

    I didn't expect to love this book as much as I do. I feel like the Title isn't as descriptive as it could be. This is about so much more than what 'adventuring in the southwest' sugests! Poling-Kempes did a fantastic job with taking what seems like an unbelievable amount of source material (all those diaries alone!) and crafting a fascinating story of the overlapping lives of intelligent, passionate, philanthropic, late-to-or-didn't marry "New Women" who threw off the stuffy social norms of thei I didn't expect to love this book as much as I do. I feel like the Title isn't as descriptive as it could be. This is about so much more than what 'adventuring in the southwest' sugests! Poling-Kempes did a fantastic job with taking what seems like an unbelievable amount of source material (all those diaries alone!) and crafting a fascinating story of the overlapping lives of intelligent, passionate, philanthropic, late-to-or-didn't marry "New Women" who threw off the stuffy social norms of their elite (mostly) eastern upbringings and truly threw themselves into the New Mexican desert life and helped build Santa Fe & New Mexico into what it was/is. I am fascinated by the artistic/anthropologic social/cultural overlap in this era of Santa Fe, and I was so happy to read about these individuals and groups who were passionately fighting for Native American rights & Cultural Preservation, instead of against it. And I'm just seriously impressed by how lax the gender roles/expectations were in this area/time and just how much freedom (wealthy) women were able to experience there.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaci

    We're familiar with "Go West, young man, go West" [John Babsone Lane Soule], but this book is about the young women that went West in order to escape cultural strictures at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The American Southwest became the place where they could become women who started art movements, documented native American song and dance, and lived on their own terms. New Mexico and California were the settings and since I've lived in so many of the places mentioned, We're familiar with "Go West, young man, go West" [John Babsone Lane Soule], but this book is about the young women that went West in order to escape cultural strictures at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The American Southwest became the place where they could become women who started art movements, documented native American song and dance, and lived on their own terms. New Mexico and California were the settings and since I've lived in so many of the places mentioned, I especially enjoyed this well written history. [Thanks, Carolyn!] p.213: "I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one's deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. I made one feel good. That is, alive." --Mabel Dodge Luhan p.253: "Carol commissioned Gustave Baumann, a German-born painter and printmaker who had joined the Santa Fe art colony in 1918...to design woodcuts for the San Gabriel Ranch pamphlet."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Very interesting and well researched. What extraordinary women!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    There is much about this book that is very interesting. Especially, I found the stories of Natalie Curtis and Carol Bishop Stanley fascinating. They challenged the roles of women of their time, but they also challenged how we interact with native peoples and set the path for relating to the Indian peoples of the southwest. However, the book is not well written, and it often reads like a masters’ thesis or anthropological report. The author did amazing amount of research and I give her much credi There is much about this book that is very interesting. Especially, I found the stories of Natalie Curtis and Carol Bishop Stanley fascinating. They challenged the roles of women of their time, but they also challenged how we interact with native peoples and set the path for relating to the Indian peoples of the southwest. However, the book is not well written, and it often reads like a masters’ thesis or anthropological report. The author did amazing amount of research and I give her much credit, however, it often seemed that she had to include everything she found. There are too many lists of people who might have attended an event, including names of those who might NOT have attended. I think the author did not have a clear mission for the book. I kept thinking – WHERE was the editor! And then, I was surprised (actually shocked) that this was not self-published but put out by the University of Arizona Press. I wish the author had focused on just three or maybe four women and told their stories. All the extra lists and who knew whom (author does not seem to acknowledge the word whom) are detractions and make the book hard to read and distract from and even denigrate the roles of the amazing early women of the southwest.

  7. 4 out of 5

    June Pecchia

    Lesley Poling-Kempes has skillfully woven together the discoverable facts of the lives of four previously largely unsung heroines of our American Southwest: Carol Bishop Stanley, Natalie Curtis Burlin, Mary Cabot Wheelright, and Alice Ellen Klauber. Especially as a native of San Diego, I am very glad to know more about Alice Klauber, a founder of our own gem, the San Diego Museum of Art. Because this is scholarly non-fiction, Poling-Kempes only hints at the pure romance and unending conflict in Lesley Poling-Kempes has skillfully woven together the discoverable facts of the lives of four previously largely unsung heroines of our American Southwest: Carol Bishop Stanley, Natalie Curtis Burlin, Mary Cabot Wheelright, and Alice Ellen Klauber. Especially as a native of San Diego, I am very glad to know more about Alice Klauber, a founder of our own gem, the San Diego Museum of Art. Because this is scholarly non-fiction, Poling-Kempes only hints at the pure romance and unending conflict in the lives lead by these adventurous ladies. Each, in her own way, became a curator for future generations to begin an understanding of the native peoples and the magnificent lands found in concentric circles out from magical Santa Fe, New Mexico. After finishing the last page, I went online to find more to read about these remarkable women, and sadly found virtually nothing. I hope more will come, and perhaps even Poling-Kempes will use her in-depth knowledge to create some historical fiction that will help us further envision these lives of such vision.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diane Anderson

    Fascinating! Clearly I was born 75 years too late and into the wrong family! [although my birthday is Dec. 16th! :)] I have always loved the areas described in this book, especially northern New Mexico, so it was very interesting to hear how the Ladies of the Canyons were instrumental in discovering the 'magic' of this enigmatic and beautiful place. Until reading this book one assumed Georgia O'Keeffe was the Leader of the Pack, but that is simply not the case. The book is meticulously researched, Fascinating! Clearly I was born 75 years too late and into the wrong family! [although my birthday is Dec. 16th! :)] I have always loved the areas described in this book, especially northern New Mexico, so it was very interesting to hear how the Ladies of the Canyons were instrumental in discovering the 'magic' of this enigmatic and beautiful place. Until reading this book one assumed Georgia O'Keeffe was the Leader of the Pack, but that is simply not the case. The book is meticulously researched, although with some glaring errors, like the start year of WW11 [1939 not 1942]; Paris is called the City of LIGHT not LightS; and some grammatical errors also, but nonetheless, fascinating to see how the Ladies were eventually accepted by virtue of their accomplishments and not their birthright or standing in the Social Register. This is the first book I've read by this author and would like to investigate some of her other writings.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    The ladies from the PageTurners book club LOVE this book and recommend it regularly, so we finally read it for the group. I love NM history and stories of the badass women who participated in this rough country during the early 1900s. The author made non-fiction palatable and even compelling, although I don't know exactly HOW. I read this every night before sleeping and it often keep me awake for a full chapter, something Blood and Thunder definitely did not, as a comparison. Too many names of p The ladies from the PageTurners book club LOVE this book and recommend it regularly, so we finally read it for the group. I love NM history and stories of the badass women who participated in this rough country during the early 1900s. The author made non-fiction palatable and even compelling, although I don't know exactly HOW. I read this every night before sleeping and it often keep me awake for a full chapter, something Blood and Thunder definitely did not, as a comparison. Too many names of people I didn't know or remember context or care about were thrown in, but other names were recognizable from location in SF and the area -- La Farge, like the library in SF, and the Pajarito Plateau was a common place to visit. Would have loved a map to place some of the locations more easily. Old photos were great, too, and since this wasn't on audio or ebook, I actually bought the book from Bandelier book store last spring.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    3 stars for the amount of research that clearly went into this book and for highlighting the accomplishments of these women. BUT, this book felt too clunky for me with facts that most of the time did not flow naturally for me. It was hard to get into a narrative.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K

    This book definitely has its strengths, but it also gets tedious in places when there are lists of people who were famous in their day but are forgotten today unless you're a specialist in modern art. Still, the author does a good job of pulling out a lot of information about remarkable of women -- actually far more than the four who are most prominently profiled -- who helped to "settle" Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico and establish them as influential art colonies. In doing so,, these women not This book definitely has its strengths, but it also gets tedious in places when there are lists of people who were famous in their day but are forgotten today unless you're a specialist in modern art. Still, the author does a good job of pulling out a lot of information about remarkable of women -- actually far more than the four who are most prominently profiled -- who helped to "settle" Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico and establish them as influential art colonies. In doing so,, these women not only found happiness and achievement for themselves, but they helped to preserve the music, dance, art and sacred myths of pueblo-area Indian tribes in the last generation before they would have been lost. This is an achievement that has paid benefits to all of us (most notably the Indians) for the last 100 years. I mean, consider this scenario. A woman raised in NYC was a concert-caliber pianist. She has a nervous breakdown on the even of the performance that could have been her big chance. To recover, she goes to visit her brother in Los Angeles, who's living there and in New Mexico as a ranch hand for his health. She goes with him to the pueblo regions in Arizona and New Mexico, and she hits it off with Navajo leaders who teach her their songs. And because she's a trained concert pianist, she can actually transcribe them, which she does to acclaim in music circles around the world literally bringing that music out of its native land. And that's just one of the stories in this book, though the most remarkable. The book does a wonderful job of evoking the beauty of the Southwest. Whether it's the author's quotes or her quotes from the women and their famous friends, we get a sense of the special light that infused the area, and how the stark, bright light played against the cliffs throughout the days and into memorable sunsets and evenings. We also get a sense of the strange (to Western ears) sounds of the music, but how they embraced it. Photos in the book give a window into the adobe homes and public buildings of the area and which helped to influence Western architecture ever since. All this is great. What I could do with less of is the reminder that these were women who escaped from the social strictures of their privileged New York and Boston upbringings in the late 1800s to find themselves in the West. The point was made a couple of times, and that would have been sufficient. But it's made 30 times at least. And I realize that the women deserve incredible admiration for what they did -- especially educating the rest of America about Navajo and other traditions, creating a vibrant and unique arts scene, and encouraging thousands of visitors (famous and not-so-famous) to visit a special area. I "get" all that. But these were privileged women who were able to do that because they had servants doing their washing, cleaning, hauling, and so on. And these women would just take off for 3 weeks into the pueblos (with paid guides), or catch a train back to Boston for a few months, or even a boat to Paris from New York occasionally. And yet the book doesn't credit these servants who had to stay behind while these women were trailblazers. A social historian would have a field day with that omission. So if you're interested in women's history, this is a look at a very special set of accomplishments, most done by women. If you love the Southwest, this book will teach you about how parts of it were settled early in the 20th century. If you like art, you'll learn about the rise of American modern art and how Indians influenced it -- and the same with modern American music. But what you won't learn is that there were women and men who lived in drudgery so that these privileged few could explore, even though those privileged few occasionally felt a financial pinch, too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Rodgers

    Long before artist Georgia O’Keefe and patron of the arts Mabel Dodge Luhan fell in love with New Mexico, other gutsy women from privileged families back east set out to explore “The Land of Enchantment” and claim it as their own. But their names were lost to history until recently. Just as Natalie Curtis Burlin left the comfort of privilege in New York City to capture the songs of the Hopi, author Lesley Poling-Kempes left the comfort of sitting on her literary laurels to dive into the past and Long before artist Georgia O’Keefe and patron of the arts Mabel Dodge Luhan fell in love with New Mexico, other gutsy women from privileged families back east set out to explore “The Land of Enchantment” and claim it as their own. But their names were lost to history until recently. Just as Natalie Curtis Burlin left the comfort of privilege in New York City to capture the songs of the Hopi, author Lesley Poling-Kempes left the comfort of sitting on her literary laurels to dive into the past and recreate the lives of some remarkable women who blazed new trails in the American Southwest. As I savored this engrossing and educational tale, it was almost like the author had gone back in time and accompanied her subjects as they bounced along in lumbering touring cars or trotted on horseback under the blazing sun, taking notes that would become The Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest. Even now, a year after the release of this amazing book, I like to envision the author seated at a place of honor in a tiny casita a few blocks off the plaza in old Santa Fe. “The Ladies” are all gathered around Lesley when Natalie Curtis Burlin bustles in and offers her special guest a nice cup of tea. And with piano music drifting in through an open window, Carol Bishop Stanley (founder of Ghost Ranch), stands up and declares, “Dear Lesley, we knew you would come. It was just a matter of time.” Highly recommended! Kathleen M. Rodgers, author of the award-winning novel, Johnnie Come Lately

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen Levi

    Extraordinary they were, these intrepid women who came West to venture on their own, in the company of their friends and some openminded men who welcomed them. I was in New Mexico in August 2017, and I always like to bring back books, to further my knowledge of an area and extend the aura of a new place. I thought the book would be a dry recounting, but it is a well-written, interesting account of a period between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries in Northern New Mexico and Southern Utah and Extraordinary they were, these intrepid women who came West to venture on their own, in the company of their friends and some openminded men who welcomed them. I was in New Mexico in August 2017, and I always like to bring back books, to further my knowledge of an area and extend the aura of a new place. I thought the book would be a dry recounting, but it is a well-written, interesting account of a period between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries in Northern New Mexico and Southern Utah and Eastern Arizona.This was the last great unexplored--by Americans of European descent--wild areas of the United States, with the exception of what was to become Hawaii and Alaska. Well-off, well-educated women from "good" families left the comfort of homes in the east and midwest to live their dreams. They were artists, musicians, scholars, writers, and dilettantes. They had money, class, and guts. They didn't fit the mold and didn't care, as difficult as it may have been. Eventhough, American society was more conservative then, these women managed to pull off a life of independence. Of course, there was no social media, no cell phones for constant contact and no airplanes for family members to whisk off and "rescue" their sisters and daughters. There is something to be said for slow communication, in the form of letters and telegrams. I highly recommend this book. By the way, the book only mentions Georgia O'Keefe at the very end. I appreciated this. O'Keefe, genius as she was, has dominated too much of the modern art history of the region.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I enjoyed this book and delighted in learning the history of these ladies and of the incredible lives they lived. It's also a story of place and a story of southwestern arts. In its way, it proves a historical truth about the ladies past, and current for whom the West and New Mexico, in particular, is a strong draw. Poling-Kempes is an excellent writer and I've enjoyed quite a few of her books. This book is well-written, obviously well-researched and a real page turner, a historical work that re I enjoyed this book and delighted in learning the history of these ladies and of the incredible lives they lived. It's also a story of place and a story of southwestern arts. In its way, it proves a historical truth about the ladies past, and current for whom the West and New Mexico, in particular, is a strong draw. Poling-Kempes is an excellent writer and I've enjoyed quite a few of her books. This book is well-written, obviously well-researched and a real page turner, a historical work that reads like fiction.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Holmsten

    In the early 20th century, the Southwest welcomed a group of adventurous, strong, creative women. They found a fit in the landscape and cultures here that did not exist for them in the wealthy Eastern society most of them came from. Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley Bishop, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, and Alice Klauber get the most narrative in the book, but others floated in the same circles. Poling-Kempes did an amazing amount of research for this book and writes so well it feels like we're on these j In the early 20th century, the Southwest welcomed a group of adventurous, strong, creative women. They found a fit in the landscape and cultures here that did not exist for them in the wealthy Eastern society most of them came from. Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley Bishop, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, and Alice Klauber get the most narrative in the book, but others floated in the same circles. Poling-Kempes did an amazing amount of research for this book and writes so well it feels like we're on these journeys of a hundred or so years ago.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sidney

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to learn about the arts colony of Sante Fe and how these women helped in creating it. I'm most fascinated by those who were able to write down the songs and stories of the native Americans.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Gunning

    I won this book via Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brenna

    Thoroughly researched, well written and engaging the pure love of the desert; this book made me homesick and inspired.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kitty Kolb

    I've always been enthralled by a poster I saw 20+ years ago with the famous photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe on a motorcycle taken by Maria Chabot, variously titled "Georgia O'Keeffe hitching a ride to Abiquiu," or as the poster proclaimed, "Women Who Rode Away." It resonated with my independence, my love of archaeology, and my fieldwork in the Southwest. Thus, when I happened across the book Ladies of the Canyons while browsing the shelves at my library, I knew I wanted to read it. The book is a I've always been enthralled by a poster I saw 20+ years ago with the famous photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe on a motorcycle taken by Maria Chabot, variously titled "Georgia O'Keeffe hitching a ride to Abiquiu," or as the poster proclaimed, "Women Who Rode Away." It resonated with my independence, my love of archaeology, and my fieldwork in the Southwest. Thus, when I happened across the book Ladies of the Canyons while browsing the shelves at my library, I knew I wanted to read it. The book is a history of a dozen or so wealthy Anglo women who all "rode away" to the American Southwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, living adventurous lives away from "traditional" women's roles of their times. If today we measure relationships to people by "Kevin Bacon Units," surely something must have also been in place for the inhabitants of this book. I was continually amazed by how many of them knew each other or were related to places I had been to (Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Los Alamos, Bandelier, Ghost Ranch). The book introduced me to people like Carol Stanley Pfaffle and Mary Cabot Wheelwright, as well as giving more background on people like Louisa Wetherill, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Natalie Curtis Burlin, whose names I was familiar with but did not know their full life details. The chapters are each loosely organized around one particular woman, but many others come and go like movie cameos. It seemed they were either friends or knew somebody who was business partners of somebody who rented a house from somebody until they are all interconnected like so many macrame strands. One character will fade out of view until suddenly popping up later as providing a letter of introduction to someone else. Georgia O'Keeffe is only tangentially mentioned in the book, but the book culminates in the complex roller-coaster backstory of the famed Ghost Ranch as a tourist destination. The one drawback to the book is that it is primarily about rich and Anglo women. I found myself wondering what life was like for women who were Native American or Hispanic or poor Anglos? You only rarely get glimpses of women like these in the book. At one point a servant girl is mentioned to have smashed a Zuni olla, for example. The book never promised to tell the history of all women in the Southwest, however, only the dashingly notorious ones who were rebelling against the ideas about appropriate gender activities for rich white women held by their families conveniently far away in more populated areas of the United States. So, it lives up to its promise in that regard. The book is a definite read if you are interested in learning about the nascent arts and ethnographic projects in the turn of the 20th century Southwest, are a fan of Willa Cather or Georgia O'Keeffe, love Southwestern National Parks, or are just sick of looking at one more spreadsheet and dream of running away from it all and exploring.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    "Ladies of the Canyons" is one of those books that seems to have been written just for me. I read everything I can get my hands on about the history of the American Southwest. I love the landscape, find the history fascinating, and wrote my dissertation on Chaco Canyon (I have a vested interest, so to speak). The Southwest is a truly magical place and they don't call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing. In addition, I'm always eager to read about the live of women from the 19th and ea "Ladies of the Canyons" is one of those books that seems to have been written just for me. I read everything I can get my hands on about the history of the American Southwest. I love the landscape, find the history fascinating, and wrote my dissertation on Chaco Canyon (I have a vested interest, so to speak). The Southwest is a truly magical place and they don't call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing. In addition, I'm always eager to read about the live of women from the 19th and early 20th centuries. So at first glance, this is a dream book for me. Unfortunately, it does not live up to its promise. My problem with this book is in the details. Specifically, which details are included and which are not. The book weaves together the stories of several women who each came west for various reasons, discovered the beauty and freedom of the Four Corners region, and spent much of their lives there. These are women of privilege, born into wealth and high society, whose circumstances (yes, even those who were down on their luck) gave them the opportunity to remake their lives in the west. The early chapters, which focused primarily on Natalie Curtis, were quite interesting and filled with wonderful detail about the landscape and Ms. Curtis' explorations. Unfortunately, once the author begins to bring in other women, the narrative devolves into a great deal of name-dropping, becoming mired in lists of people, places, and dates. Yes, there is a lot of information here about these women and who they interacted with, but where is the majesty of the open desert? Where are their own words about the beauty and mystique that kept drawing them back to New Mexico? Such moments are few and far between. Instead, we get paragraph-long lists of artists and writers, detailed itineraries for wealthy visitors to dude ranches, and meaningless accounts of the ranch hands who worked for women owners. I truly wanted to love this book because it has so many elements I love, but in the end, it became a chore to read through yet another list of the movers and shakers of early 20th century Santa Fe. I wanted the author to put me in Santa Fe at that moment, make me see it and smell it and hear it. I wanted to feel the Southwest rather than be told about it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This is the fascinating story of four monied women who broke with the norms of their time to strike out for the American Southwest: researcher Natalie Curtis, musician Carol Stanley, artist Alice Klauber, & heiress Mary Wheelwright. Each woman found herself in the Santa Fe area of New Mexico between 1910-1920. I found each woman's story to be incredible and not just because they went to interesting places and did unexpected things. What struck me most in this book is how these women truly broke This is the fascinating story of four monied women who broke with the norms of their time to strike out for the American Southwest: researcher Natalie Curtis, musician Carol Stanley, artist Alice Klauber, & heiress Mary Wheelwright. Each woman found herself in the Santa Fe area of New Mexico between 1910-1920. I found each woman's story to be incredible and not just because they went to interesting places and did unexpected things. What struck me most in this book is how these women truly broke with the expectations of their families and their peers to end up living the lives they chose to live on their own terms. A few of the supporting characters in this book include Teddy Roosevelt, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Robert Henri, Gertrude & Leo Stein, Jack Lambert, and Hostiin Klah to name just a few. And the photographs included, although black & white, are amazing. I adored this book the whole way thru and look forward to reading the author's book about the Harvey Girls soon. A great read!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    I thought the book was interesting, it was heard to keep straight each of the women at times. I was disappointed that after 7/8 of the book, the author hadn’t gotten into the portion about ghost ranch. I actually stopped reading the book months ago and gave up on it. Then the other day I said you know I never got to the part about Ghost Ranch, which was the whole reason I had interest in the book. I decided to read the last few pages and see if she ever got to it, and found where the author touc I thought the book was interesting, it was heard to keep straight each of the women at times. I was disappointed that after 7/8 of the book, the author hadn’t gotten into the portion about ghost ranch. I actually stopped reading the book months ago and gave up on it. Then the other day I said you know I never got to the part about Ghost Ranch, which was the whole reason I had interest in the book. I decided to read the last few pages and see if she ever got to it, and found where the author touched on how Ghost Ranch came about and it was a few short pages. It did make me want to go to New Mexico!. I may read some of the authors books to see if they touch on more of the artists life and struggle.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Read this book for a Friends of the Library book club, and I was surprised that many in the group described it as a "slog," and some didn't even finish it. I enjoyed it. The author's research is meticulous, although the sheer number of characters renders it somewhat confusing at first. Once you get everyone straight, it gets more interesting. It seems that an entire book could be written about each of the four subjects of this book. I'm looking forward to reading more about them and this time an Read this book for a Friends of the Library book club, and I was surprised that many in the group described it as a "slog," and some didn't even finish it. I enjoyed it. The author's research is meticulous, although the sheer number of characters renders it somewhat confusing at first. Once you get everyone straight, it gets more interesting. It seems that an entire book could be written about each of the four subjects of this book. I'm looking forward to reading more about them and this time and place. Editor's note: The plural of Roosevelt does not take an apostrophe, and All Saints Day is not Oct. 31. Please, publishing company, hire me as a proofreader: lisawaltersediting.com. :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Silvio111

    The subject matter is fascinating, but the focus is disjointed. This is not a story about a tightknit community of like-minded women, but rather, many converging stories about independent, determined, RICH women who pursued their desires for art, research, music, and the New Mexico desert experience. What is disappointing in is that there is too much Information. The book would have have been more coherent with less listing of people and relationships, and more focused storytelling. Still, a lot of The subject matter is fascinating, but the focus is disjointed. This is not a story about a tightknit community of like-minded women, but rather, many converging stories about independent, determined, RICH women who pursued their desires for art, research, music, and the New Mexico desert experience. What is disappointing in is that there is too much Information. The book would have have been more coherent with less listing of people and relationships, and more focused storytelling. Still, a lot of research went into this and there are plenty of rare photos of people and landscapes. Worth reading, but don't feel guilty if you skip over some of the underbrush.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Really enjoyed discovering this part of history I'd never known. I had the general idea that Georgia O'Keeffe lived among a thriving art community in Santa Fe, but not that New Mexico was a hotbed for independent, progressive women who had fled the stuffy, sexist East Coast cities of the early 1900s. (Most didn't marry or have kids.) My favorite was Natalie Curtis, an ethnomusicologist who recorded and preserved the songs and chants of the Hopi and Navajo. She railed against the horrific U.S. go Really enjoyed discovering this part of history I'd never known. I had the general idea that Georgia O'Keeffe lived among a thriving art community in Santa Fe, but not that New Mexico was a hotbed for independent, progressive women who had fled the stuffy, sexist East Coast cities of the early 1900s. (Most didn't marry or have kids.) My favorite was Natalie Curtis, an ethnomusicologist who recorded and preserved the songs and chants of the Hopi and Navajo. She railed against the horrific U.S. government policy of taking native kids to boarding schools and discouraging their cultural beliefs.

  26. 4 out of 5

    C

    I would have given this book four stars but the author really needed to do a better job of editing - or maybe she needed a better editor. A fascinating true story of extraordinary women who forged a life in the still Wild West. We listened to the book on a road trip to Santa Fe New Mexico & Monument Valley. Those were the areas covered by these women. We made a special detour on our drive to see Ghost Ranch. It happened that there was a small display of memorabilia from these women & the author I would have given this book four stars but the author really needed to do a better job of editing - or maybe she needed a better editor. A fascinating true story of extraordinary women who forged a life in the still Wild West. We listened to the book on a road trip to Santa Fe New Mexico & Monument Valley. Those were the areas covered by these women. We made a special detour on our drive to see Ghost Ranch. It happened that there was a small display of memorabilia from these women & the author had been there just the week before. Well worth reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Amazing history of the women who shaped the arts and feminist movements in the Southwest. Well researched with beautiful descriptions of the land and places. I thought I knew something about this time in the history of the Southwest, but I found I had lots more to learn. This book has inspired a summer road trip to many of the places described in the book. And I will learn more about Carol Stanley before I go -- a woman who made so many things happen but lost it all to the gambling habits of 2 h Amazing history of the women who shaped the arts and feminist movements in the Southwest. Well researched with beautiful descriptions of the land and places. I thought I knew something about this time in the history of the Southwest, but I found I had lots more to learn. This book has inspired a summer road trip to many of the places described in the book. And I will learn more about Carol Stanley before I go -- a woman who made so many things happen but lost it all to the gambling habits of 2 husbands!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Margo

    Good. Interesting stories of adventurous women. What I liked was the women were interested in learning about the Indians and found ways to help preserve their culture. Women also were integral in creating the artist communities in New Mexico. Downside for research like this is the author has to depend upon letters and published works that are at time impersonal. You feel like you know what all these women did, but not always how they felt during these amazing lives. The other takeaway is that al Good. Interesting stories of adventurous women. What I liked was the women were interested in learning about the Indians and found ways to help preserve their culture. Women also were integral in creating the artist communities in New Mexico. Downside for research like this is the author has to depend upon letters and published works that are at time impersonal. You feel like you know what all these women did, but not always how they felt during these amazing lives. The other takeaway is that all of them had inherited money. Tough to be an adventurer without the resources.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carie Steele

    Enjoyable read about women from elite families who fall in love with the southwest. It's interesting to me that all of these women come from wealthy families and staying in the southwest is what enables them to free themselves from family expectations and build their own Independence and pursue their own interest. But interestingly, the only reason they can stay in the southwest is because of personal wealth. Also, I found the debunking of the O'Keefe related mythology about Ghost Ranch very int Enjoyable read about women from elite families who fall in love with the southwest. It's interesting to me that all of these women come from wealthy families and staying in the southwest is what enables them to free themselves from family expectations and build their own Independence and pursue their own interest. But interestingly, the only reason they can stay in the southwest is because of personal wealth. Also, I found the debunking of the O'Keefe related mythology about Ghost Ranch very interesting

  30. 4 out of 5

    Riah

    A thorough history of 3 blueblood, East coast women who decided to buck social expectations and come West to discover themselves and invest in the future of America. This is well-researched, full of names and networked connections, and a testament to all that women have been doing but not getting credit for. It lacks a perspective of any POC, although several specific Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Paiute connections are mentioned. I did not "enjoy" the book per se, but would certainly recommend it to s A thorough history of 3 blueblood, East coast women who decided to buck social expectations and come West to discover themselves and invest in the future of America. This is well-researched, full of names and networked connections, and a testament to all that women have been doing but not getting credit for. It lacks a perspective of any POC, although several specific Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Paiute connections are mentioned. I did not "enjoy" the book per se, but would certainly recommend it to someone interested in the subject matters.

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