History ETDs


Brian King

Publication Date



This dissertation explores the lives of John Muir, the Taos Society of Artists, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Everett Ruess, Edith Warner, and the Taos hippies who journeyed to the American West in search of freedom. In the Western setting, with its diverse yet distinctive and stunning terrain, these individuals felt that their mind or soul—not just their physical body—had been liberated. They felt reborn. In the grand Sierras, John Muir discovered that physical and spiritual freedoms were intertwined. The Taos Society of Artists and Mabel Dodge Luhan found their connection with the natural world in northern New Mexico where three cultures mingled against the backdrop of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Everett Ruess spent four years wandering the Four-Corners canyonland region writing poetry, numerous letters, and painting, intermittently returning to Los Angeles and San Francisco. His connection with the West grew as he felt free—physically, socially, and spiritually. Edith Warner fled Pennsylvania and awakened along the banks of the Rio Grande. She increasingly valued the culture of her San Ildefonso Pueblo friends and neighbors as she laid aside her civilized life a little at a time. The Taos hippies sought freedom for themselves and for America, believing that they would spearhead an awakening from northern New Mexico. Like their predecessors, the Taos Artists Society and Mabel Dodge Luhan, the communards fled from mainstream society and found in Pueblo culture a possibility for healing a spiritually ill country. Their stories are not unique. Countless radical thinkers have turned to the West for freedom and rebirth and have sought to share their discoveries. And millions more have been attracted by their tales.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Cahill, Cathleen

Second Committee Member

Hall, Linda

Third Committee Member

Weisiger, Marsha



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