A Novel Based on the Life of Doņa Tules
Foreword by Marcia Muth
Blanche Chloe Grant was born in 1874 in Leavenworth, Kansas. Like many other women of her time, she was from the first an independent spirit. She was interested in the arts and literature and saw a role for women that did not include the usually prescribed domestic life. A graduate of Vassar College, she also studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, The Pennsylvania Academy and the Art League in New York City. She soon became known for both her landscape paintings and her career as a magazine illustrator.
In 1918, she was asked to go to France as head of an art project under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A.
A move to Taos, New Mexico in 1920 brought about dramatic changes in Grants life. She developed an intense interest in the rich and varied history of the area. She took on the job of editor of the Taos Valley News and began her years of research into the history of Taos and the Southwest. This led then to a series of books, many of which were about Taos and the people who lived there.
Her art also changed and she painted Native American and Western subjects. Although an active participant in the Taos art scene, she continued to show paintings in New York. Gradually her main interests turned to her writing. Her books included "When Old Trails Were New," "Taos Indians" and she edited a biography of Kit Carson based on his notes called "Kit Carson's Own Story of His Life."
One of her last books was Doņa Lona: A Story of Old Taos and Santa Fe. It is an exciting and a true story about life, love and politics during the time when Manifest Destiny was the slogan of choice in the United States. It was in the first half of the nineteenth century and the land we now call the American Southwest was a place of turbulence, turmoil and trouble. Grants heroine is based on the real person Doņa Tules Barcelo but for literary reasons, she calls her Doņa Lona Barcelona, although other persons in the book are given their real names. She may have taken as her example Willa Cather who, when she wrote "Death Comes for the Archbishop," used another name for her main character even though she was writing a true, historical account.
Doņa Lona like her counterpart was a woman who went from a poor background to a place of wealth and power. Leaving Taos for Santa Fe, she became the owner of the most famous gambling establishment in the Southwest. It was here that Doņa Lona got to meet and know all the men of importance in the area. She was privy to the secret political machinations and later used this to help the American army.
Grant in her own preface to the book says that she felt some of the early writers had maligned Doņa Tules and because of her own research, she gives a gentler portrait of her and her life. This does not contradict the facts that are historically correct.
After a long and busy life in art and literature, it was one simple fact that Grant wanted to be remembered for after her death. Her tombstone in the Sierra Vista Cemetery in Taos has this inscription: Historian of Taos.