Performer enlivens presentation about women in the Wild West

By Tempo staff
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 10/2/19

For anyone interested in finding out about "The Amazing Women of the Wild West," the Taos County Historical Society has a program coming up just for you.Van Ann Moore is probably one of …

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Performer enlivens presentation about women in the Wild West

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For anyone interested in finding out about "The Amazing Women of the Wild West," the Taos County Historical Society has a program coming up just for you.

Van Ann Moore is probably one of the best known Chautauqua performers in the Southwest and she will present a program by that title Saturday (Oct. 5), 2 p.m., in the Kit Carson Electric Coop Boardroom at 118 Cruz Alta Road, Taos. This program is presented with the generous support of the New Mexico Humanities Council and is free to the public.

What is "Chautauqua"? It is any of various traveling shows and local assemblies that flourished in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts and plays. They were modeled after activities at the Chautauqua Institution of southwestern New York. It continues through the efforts of performers like Moore.

"One of the most dramatic eras of New Mexico's rich history is the Territorial period when the United States first raised the American flag on August 18, 1846, over the plaza in Santa Fe for the first time," a press release states. "This program examines the Territorial women through living history portrayals of Doña Tules (Gertrude Barcelo), Susan Shelby Magoffin and Lydia Spencer Lane. These women represented what it took to survive and thrive during very colorful and extremely challenging times in New Mexico's Territorial Era. It brings history into an understandable and personal reality."

"In another place and time, [Doña Tules] might have been prosecuted or even condemned to death for her chosen profession," according the New Mexico History Museum. "But in the rowdy, rough-and-tumble gambling center that was Santa Fe in the mid-1800s, the legendary Doña Maria Gertrudis Barceló was an influential and respected member of the social elite … Madam and courtesan, monte dealer and mule trader, Doña Tules was a shrewd businesswoman and exceptionally skilled at separating men from their money. Without ever learning English, the Sonora, Mexico, native amassed a fortune as the proprietress of a popular gambling salon on the southeast corner of Palace Avenue and Burro Alley, near where the Santa Fe County Courthouse sits today."

Through Magoffin's detailed journal we understand the beginning of New Mexico as a territory. "Magoffin was the young wife of a trader from the United States who traveled on the Santa Fe Trail in the late 1840s," according to womenhistoryblig.com. "She recorded her experiences in a diary - 'Down the Santa Fe Trail and into Mexico: The Diary of Susan Shelby Magoffin, 1846-1847 (1926)' - which has been used extensively as a source for that period in history."

Lane is one of "only a few women who have written about her life as an Army wife," Moore writes on her own website (vanann.com). "She lived throughout the isolated southwestern frontier, and through her eyes we receive an education of the charms and challenges of life at an Army camp in the 1800s. For 16 years, Lydia crossed the Great Plains by wagon seven times, traveled 8,000 miles, raised three children and became accustomed to tours of duty that required the family to move at least every six months to a different set of frontier military forts, across New Mexico and Texas."

In addition to being a Chautauqua performer, Moore is a researcher who has brought historical characters alive for the New Mexico Humanities Council for over 14 years. From Belen, New Mexico, she earned degrees from the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. She teaches theater and music for the University of New Mexico. She has performed and taught master classes in music and theater at numerous festivals and colleges throughout the country. She performs internationally as a singer-actress who researches, writes, directs and stars in her own one-woman musical theater performances.

The New Mexico Humanities Council, since 1972, has sought to engage New Mexicans with history, culture and diverse humanities topics through public programming. Its Speakers Bureau program offers living history, performances and talks that are imaginative and accessible public programs that lead to a greater understanding of our human experiences and heritage.

The Taos County Historical Society preserves the irreplaceable and "brings together those persons interested in history, and especially in the history of Taos County." For additional information, visit taoscountyhistoricalsociety.org.

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