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July 28, 2020 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Hosted online
Lindsay Archuleta

“Shaping the American Frontier: Women of the Santa Fe Trail” with Dr. Frances Levine

Tuesday, July 28 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (MDT)
Watch here. 

The School for Advanced Research, in partnership with the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, is pleased to present as part of its Online Salon Series this lecture with Dr. Frances Levine, who will be exploring how women helped shape the American frontier by way of the Santa Fe Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail linked two frontiers—the far northern frontier of the newly formed Mexican nation with the westward expanding American nation. Because it was as much a road of military expansion as mercantile commerce, it is not often associated with stories of frontier women, but women of many cultures found their place on the trail alongside the men they were accompanying. The stories about the families in these frontier regions are fascinating, if seldom told in the usual canon of American history. In this Online Salon, Frances Levine examines the history of several women in particular from the Santa Fe Trail, including María Rosa Villalpando Salé dit Lajoie and María de la Cruz Carmen Benavides Robidoux, who along with others traveled between Missouri and Santa Fe between 1828 and the 1880s. There, from the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail, when the midcontinent was governed by French, Spanish and Americans, women contributed to the mixture of customs, traditions and laws that defined the expanding frontier.

Thomas Easterly Photo of St. Louis Levee, 1853

Thomas Easterly Photo of St. Louis Levee, 1853. Missouri Historical Society Collections, St. Louis.

Furniture, crates and barrels were loaded on steamboats on the St. Louis levee, ferried up the Mississippi River to the Missouri River, then transported over the Santa Fe Trail. The ties between St. Louis and Santa Fe were forged by commercial enterprises in both cities, military history and family relationships.

Emile Herzinger’s Drawing of  Helene LaJoie LeRoux, 1863, daughter of  Maria Rosa Villalpando Sale dit Lajoie. Missouri Historical Society Collections, St. Louis.

Emile Herzinger’s Drawing of  Helene LaJoie LeRoux, 1863, daughter of  Maria Rosa Villalpando Sale dit Lajoie. Missouri Historical Society Collections, St. Louis.

Maria Rosa was captured by Comanches in Taos in August 1760, and eventually brought to St. Louis in 1767 by one of St. Louis’s original settlers. Her family history illustrates the long and deep ties between New Mexico settlers and St. Louis, as well as the often tragic circumstances of women who were themselves trafficked in the fur trade.

This online event is free and open to the public.
We hope you will consider making a suggested donation at any level to help us continue to offer remote programs like this one. Watch here.

Generous funding provided by the Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Foundation.


Frances Levine

Frances Levine. Photo by Daniel Quat.

Dr. Frances Levine became the President and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society and Missouri History Museum in the spring of 2014.   She was previously the director of the New Mexico History Museum from 2002 until spring 2014.  Her museum positions have given her a unique perspective on the history of the American West, having seen it from both ends of the Santa Fe Trail.

A native of Connecticut, Frances received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Southern Methodist University, Dallas.  She was the Division head for Arts and Sciences at Santa Fe Community College (in Santa Fe, New Mexico). She is a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the American Society for Ethnohistory, and the Santa Fe Trail Association. She has served as an evaluator for the American Alliance of Museums Accreditation review process for museums in the US and Mexico.

Dr. Levine is the author, co-editor or contributor to several award-winning books including Our Prayers Are in This Place: Pecos Pueblo Identity over the Centuries (1999, UNM Press), Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe (2008 MNM Press, with MaryAnne Redding and Krista Elrick), and Telling New Mexico: A New History  (2009 MNM Press, with Marta Weigle and Louise Stiver) as well as a chapter in All Trails Lead to Santa Fe (2010 with Gerald Gonzalez, Sunstone Press), and the recently published Frontier Battles and Massacres: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives (with Ron Wetherington, editors). University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2014), and  Doña Teresa Aguilera y Roche Confronts the Spanish Inquisition: A New Mexican Drama (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).

She has served as co-producer of several historic documentary films on New Mexico history with Michael Kamins, Executive Producer of the NM PBS Colores series.

This event is presented in partnership with:

Historic Santa Fe Foundation

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