"A Woman's Place: Women Writing New Mexico" (New Mexico paperback, $21.95), a collective biography of six remarkable 20th-century New Mexicans, sheds light on the distinct role of women in shaping American multiculturalism.
Author Maureen Reed recounts the lives of Mary Austin and Mabel Dodge Luhan, both Anglo American literary figures; Cleofas Jaramillo and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, both Hispanic authors and folklorists; Kay Bennett, a Navajo writer and political activist; and Pablita Velarde, a Pueblo Indian painter and author.
Reed shows how the emerging ideal of multiculturalism guided these women's efforts to preserve tradition even as it limited their ability to speak honestly about their lives. What emerges is in many ways a picture of the changing roles of women almost anywhere.
They endured painful conflicts between the romanticized New Mexican home they boosted publicly and the traditional gender roles they resisted privately. Their lives illustrate the difficulty of prioritizing both tradition and individualism, but they also testify to the invigorating possibilities of cultural change.