Laura Gilpin


She packed her equipment in on horseback to photograph the source of the Rio Grande, did studio portraits for society matrons, directed pilots to “fly low” over Shiprock to capture the light and shadows from every possible angle. Laura Gilpin experimented with every subject and extant photographic technique for over fifty-five years before receiving widespread national recognition for it.

In this show meet Miss Gilpin as she was in the year 1954 – a confident, ebullient woman in her early 60’s, a native Westerner from Colorado and resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Miss Gilpin narrates a slide show which includes images from her first Lumiere color prints to many from her best known book The Enduring Navajo. She answers questions and tells some of the behind-the-camera stories about the photographic retrospective that parallels her life. She fills the room with her work and her presence.

Funding available to New Mexico presenters and schools through the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities Chautauqua program.

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It was really like having Miss Gilpin herself right here!”

Professional Staff
National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Museum
Fort Worth, Texas

Jeannette Rankin

The Disarming Dissenter

Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana, of “Western frontier stock", Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to be elected to United States Congress or to any major legislative body in any free country in the history of civilization. She was a leader in the struggle for women's suffrage and instrumental in passing the 19th Amendment on to the states for ratification. During her two terms (1917-1919 and 1941-1943) she cast the only dessenting vote against entry into World War II and was among the minority to vote against World War I. The latter defined her as a pacifist and to a lifetime of work for peace and social justice.

With story, song and dramatization this show rolls back the calendar to the days of suffrage rallies and union meetings, war fever and peace protest, ecomonic depression and public demonstrations as it highlights Miss Rankin's life from 1917-1968. She answers questions, delights, provokes, and challenges us to re-examine and re-affirm our common humanity.

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   A tremendous performer! She captivated the audience and held its attention to the end.”

Activities Director
Montana Tech University

Elizabeth Bacon Custer

Mrs. Custer's Last Stand

George Armstrong Custer's career ended in 1876 at the Little Big Horn, but you won't have the last word on Custer until you've heard from his widow. Elizabeth Bacon Custer was an intelligent, vivacious and stalwart woman of the 19th century who lived well into the 20th. In 1864 she married her “dashing boy general” in their hometown of Monroe, Michigan. It was a match that dominated both their lifetimes. Libbie often made a tent her home, rode with the ranks, and accompanied the U.S. Cavalry on many of its expeditions. After Custer's death, Libbie stepped through the barriers of fear and upbringing to earn her own living as a writer and lecturer at a time when this was considered inappropriate “for a lady", and she spoke out against the prohibitions that made it difficult for other women to do the same. Like “the General” she was often the object of criticism and controversy.

In Mrs. Custer's Last Stand Libbie is on the lecture circuit as she was in the early 1890's. She brings out photos, maps, and memorabilia of her past, and she foreshadows her future as the ultimate “army widow.” Libbie fields the audience's questions with wit and finesse as she shares experiences and emotions usually hidden in so public a context.

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   From the moment ‘Libbie’ (Deborah Blanche) flounced onto the stage of the Brass Rail Dinner Theater, she held the large audience in the proverbial palm of her hand.”

Program Coordinator
Aspenade Festival
Red River, New Mexico