Where before there were none, now there are 75 Official Scenic Historic Markers commemorating the contributions of women to New Mexico history. The Historic Women Marker Initiative captured the public’s imagination with every county in the state and most pueblos and tribes submitting nominations for women who left their mark on New Mexico communities.
The types of women honored shows the breadth of historical contributions women have made throughout the state. They range from the famous, such as Georgia O’Keeffe—her marker is near her Abiquiú home and studo; singer Louise Massie Mabie, the “Original Rhinestone Cowgirl” who lived in Hondo Valley; to community heroes like Sally Rooke, a telephone operator who died at her post saving countless lives when in 1908 a wall of water rushed through Folsom.
Prior to 2007, not one of New Mexico's 680 Official Scenic Historic Markers had as its central subject a woman.
Dedication ceremonies have accompanied historic marker installations sometimes drawing hundreds of family and friends to honor the women who meant so much to their communities. They packed San Antonio Catholic Church in Medanales to honor weaver Doña Agueda Martinez who continued her “dance on the loom” past the age of 100; her designs are part of the Smithsonian collection. Honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the life of Tewa language preservationist and storyteller Esther Martinez was celebrated at Ohkay O’Wingeh Pueblo.
The Initiative was possible because of a strong partnership among the New Mexico Women’s Forum, HPD, CPRC, New Mexico Department of Transportation, hundreds of individuals and local organizations and the 2006 legislature.
New Mexico began installing roadside markers in 1935. Today there are more than 600 markers commemorating important events, persons, the notorious and the honorable, and the geographic marvels of the state. Up until 2007, no marker featured women’s contributions to history. But now travelers can read about their lives and reflect upon the women who helped shape communities and New Mexico history.