Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Thursday, July 21, 2005


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Mabel Ganson Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan did as much to shape the modern identity of Taos as Taos did to save her life and her soul. Mabel was a banking heiress from Buffalo NY, born with the rare combination of good taste, the catalyst for "bringing geniuses together" -- her words--and the money to carry it out.

She was famous for bringing intellectuals and artists together in her Florence and New York salons way before she ever heard of Taos. She came to Taos in 1916 at the urging of her third husband Maurice Sterne. Much to her husband's surprise, she almost immediately fell in love with the culture of Taos and with Taos Pueblo Indian Tony Luhan, and lived happily in Taos for the rest of her life.

D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, Emma Goldman, Carl Jung, Georgia O'Keefe and so many more graced her table at the hacienda, pictured above, she and Tony built just a few blocks from where I'm staying here in Taos.

Mabel's story is legend, not only in Taos, but in cultural and artistic circles around the world. I learned something of the legend behind the legend last night from, Roberta Courtney Meyers, a local playwright and storyteller who was personally acquainted with Mabel, Georgia, Frida (Lawrence), and Dorothy Brett. Here are a few facts that make Mabel more human:
  • Mabel was a socialist/philanthropist, and enormously generous, but rarely took credit for her gifts;
  • Mabel had one son from her first marriage;
  • Mabel was manic-depressive from a young age, and spent much of her life in bed in a dark room, even when her home was filled with guests;
  • Mabel stood 4'11''; Tony was more than 6' tall;
  • Mabel was a beautiful and prolific writer and published several books about her years in Taos;
  • Tony had another life away from Mabel, he had a home, a wife and a family on the Taos Pueblo, his religion and his connection to the Pueblo; Mabel agonized when he went away and was filled with ecstasy when he returned;
  • Mabel and Tony died within a year of each other; Mabel is buried here in the Kit Carson cemetery in the middle of town; Tony is buried on the Pueblo.


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