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 Mary Hunter Austin  (1868 - 1934)

About: Mary Hunter Austin


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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California/Illinois / Mexico      Known for: portrait

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BIOGRAPHY for Mary Austin
1868 (Carlinville, Illinois)
1934 (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

New Mexico/California/Illinois / Mexico

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Biography from Kern County Museum:
Mary Hunter Austin was born September 9, 1868 in Carlinville, Illinois to George and Susanna Hunter. She died on August 13, 1934 in Santa Fe, New Mexico after a lingering illness and heart attack. She has variously been identified as a feminist, naturalist, mystic, author, and even "woman of genius".

She was in fact, one of the leading literary figures of her time, the author of 27 books and more than 250 articles, stories, poems and other short pieces.

In 1888, after her graduation from Blackburn College and the death of her father, the family moved to a ranch near Bakersfield, California. She married Stafford Austin, a rancher and teacher, in 1891, and settled in Lone Pine, Inyo county. Here began her lifelong fascination with the desert. It is also here that she became acquainted with Indian lore and Mexicano history and culture that would drive her research in New Mexico.

In 1900, four years after separating from her husband, Mary Austin settled in Carmel, California. With Jack London, George Sterling, and Harry Leon Wilson, she helped to found the now famous colony of artists. Following the success of her first book, The Land of Little Rain, Austin traveled abroad where she met such luminary figures as Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells, Isidora Duncan, and William Butler Yeats.

In 1918, Austin traveled to New Mexico, hoping to continue on to Mexico to conduct research on folk traditions. In New Mexico she was contracted by the Carnegie Institution to participate in its Americanization Study. By 1924 she had decided to move to Santa Fe and in 1925 she had her home, Casa Querida built. Among her many acquaintances and friends in New Mexico were Mabel and Tony Luhan, Gerald and Ina Sizer Cassidy, William Penhallow Henderson and Alice Corbin Henderson, Frank and Alta Applegate, Sylvanus Morley, and Edgar Lee Hewett, people of creative and intellectual achievement.

Mary Austin was enamored with the pageantry of the Indian dance-drama, the Spanish fiesta, the open rituals of the church, and picturesque survivals soon to be revivals. She was associated with the Indian Arts Fund and was a founder of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. She fought for such causes as the Court of Domestic Relations, the Community Kitchen, the recognition of Indian rights, Arizona''s side in the Boulder Dam fight, as well as for the feminist cause and creative freedom in America.


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