VIRTUAL EVENT: Join us online as we welcome Sherry Smith, distinguished professor of history, in conversation with Geoffrey Dunn to talk about Smith's new book, Bohemians West: Free Love, Family, and Radicals in Twentieth Century America, a historical biography of a radical relationship at the dawn of the 20th Century.
The opening years of the twentieth century saw a grand cast of radicals and reformers fighting for a new America, seeking change not only in labor picket lines and at women's suffrage rallies but also in homes and bedrooms. In the thick of this heady milieu were Sara Bard Field and Charles Erskine Scott Wood, whose love story uncovers a potent emotional world underneath this transformative time, from the political and artistic circles of Portland, Oregon to creative connections in Northern California and beyond. Self-declared pioneers in free love, Sara and Erskine exchanged hundreds of letters that charted a new kind of romantic relationship, and their personal pursuits frequently came into contact with their deeply engaged political lives. As Sara's star rose in the suffrage movement, culminating in her making a cross-country car trip in 1915 and gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures for a petition to Congress, she began to ask questions about her own power in her relationship with Erskine. Wood and Field eventually moved from Portland to San Francisco to be together. In the 1920s they built a personal retreat near Los Gatos where they could pursue their own work and welcome creative friends over the years. Two large sculptures of native bobcats mark the entrance to the estate; a pullout by the statues on Highway 17 includes a historical plaque with additional information. Charting a passionate and tumultuous relationship that spanned decades, Bohemians West offers a deeply personal look at a dynamic period in American history.
"Sherry Smith is a scholar whose books read like the best fiction, character-driven page-turners. In Bohemians West, Smith takes the reader on a journey with two of the most interesting characters we have never heard of, who were among the thousands of literary figures and activists who were ahead of their time." —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
This is a free event. The book may be purchased below.
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Sherry L. Smith is University Distinguished Professor of History (Emerita) at Southern Methodist University. She now lives in Moose, Wyoming and Pasadena, California with her husband, Robert W. Righter (also a historian) and their English Setter named Una. A historian of the American West and Native America, Smith's other books include Hippies, Indians and the Fight for Red Power and Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940, both published by Oxford University Press. She is Past President of the Western History Association and received the L.A. Times Distinguished Fellowship at the Huntington Library, which supported research for Bohemians West. Smith has also been honored with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Fulbright Foundation, and Yale University's Beinecke Library.
Geoffrey Dunn is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker with more than three decades experience as an investigative reporter. He is a senior correspondent for Metro Newspapers in California and a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle and Huffington Post. He is the recipient of several national awards for investigative journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including: The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power, Santa Cruz Is in the Heart: Volumes I and II; and Chinatown Dreams: The Life and Photographs of George Lee. He is the recipient of a Gail Rich Award; the Distinguished Historian Award from the History Forum; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chamber of Commerce. He was named Santa Cruz County’s Artist of the Year for 2015.