Erna Fergusson

New Mexico's First Lady of Letters

Dude wrangler and Indian Detours guide, newspaper woman and historian, traveler and Pan-American ambassador, consummate storyteller and the most loyal of friends to people of all backgrounds around the globe. This was Miss Erna Fergusson of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her fourteen books on the American Southwest, Latin America and Hawaii are forerunners of “new journalism.” Reading them is like taking a trip with Miss Erna in charge and making her characteristically dry, pithy commentary all along the way.

This presentation leads the audience through three periods 1926-1959 in Erna Fergusson's life and three distinctive decades for the American West. In the final scene ample time is allowed for questions as she entertains on the portal of her home, watching the sunset on the Sandias and surrounded by the sound of the breeze in the cottonwoods.

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   "I am always impressed with the way Deb weaves thoroughly researched events into believable action. She creates a fascinating variety within each work as her characters change between ages and stages … besides, her heart is in the right place."

Arts Writer
The Albuquerque Journal

Lincoln County Women

They Knew Billy and the “Troubles” in New Mexico

Billy the Kid, The Santa Fe Ring, Pat Garrett, and all the details of the turmoil that erupted in New Mexico Territory over one hundred years ago appear again and again in books and film. This historical dramatization gives a unique slant by telling the story through the eyes of four women who lived it— Barbara “M'am” Jones, the first Anglo woman to settle permanently in the Pecos River Valley; Juanita Maria Chavez de Baca, a prominent resident of Lincoln town; Susan Homer McSween (Barber), in whose home the climatic five day battle was fought; and Deluvina Maxwell, a young Navajo servant at the ranch where Billy Bonney was killed.

Although the conflict was focused around what were then predominantly “male” concerns—cattle, politics, banks and guns—everyone who lived in the area felt its ricochet effect. The Lincoln County War was not just a war between economic and political factions, it was in “M’am” Jones’ words “a war between neighbors and friends.” After the play “M’am” answers questions from the audience.

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   As a scholar Deborah Blanche equaled her talents as a performer. In all ‘Lincoln County Women’ ranks among the best humanities and theatrical programs I have attended."

Former Professional Staff Member
National Endowment for the Arts

Emma Tenayuca

La Pasionara de San Antonio

In 1934 Emma stood across the street and observed a picket line of the second Finck Cigar Strike—one that was filled primarily by “Mexican” women. When violent police action erupted, she was jailed for the first of many times to come. This was the incident that turned a radical thinker into an activist. Shortly afterward she joined the Workers' Alliance and became the best known labor organizer of San Antonio's Hispanic community and ultimately of the historic 1938 Pecan Shellers' Strike. The newspapers dubbed her “La Pasionara” for her impassioned speaking style.

The show takes place in 1973 when Ms. Tenayuca was nominated to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. Those Depression days when she was organizing the picket lines, giving interviews to reporters, speaking from the steps of City Hall and commenting on her “commie” activities come alive again in flashback dramatizations as she remembers them.

Chautauqua style includes questions and answers in character and commentary afterwards.

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   "I wanted to get out of my chair, stand up and join the cause.… At the conclusion, I looked around the auditorium. Many of my ethnically diverse colleagues as well as myself had tear stained faces. Emma, as portrayed by Deborah Blanche, had touched our lives.”

Federal Women’s Program Manager
Department of Veterans Affairs