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Mary Hunter Austin Collection

Identifier: MS-605

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of published articles and biographies by Austin; reviews and interviews about Austin or her work; correspondence with Charles Fletcher Lummis and Frederick Webb Hodge; a book prospectus; and advertisements promoting her publications.


  • 1868 - 1954


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Appointments to view materials are required. To make an appointment please contact library staff at An item-level inventory is available from library staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been assigned to the Autry Museum of the American West. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Research Services and Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Autry Museum of the American West as the custodian of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Biographical Note

Mary Hunter Austin (born September 9, 1868 in Carlinville, Illinois; died August 13, 1934 in Santa Fe, New Mexico) was the fourth of six children born to George and Susannah (Graham) Hunter. Austin graduated from Blackburn College in 1888. Her family moved to California in the same year and established a homestead in the San Joaquin Valley. She married Stafford Wallace Austin on May 18, 1891 in Bakersfield, California. He was from Hawaii and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

For 17 years Austin made a special study of Indian life in the Mojave Desert, and her publications set forth the intimate knowledge she thus acquired. She was a prolific novelist, poet, critic, and playwright, as well as an early feminist, suffragist, and defender of Native American and Spanish-American rights. She is best known for her tribute to the deserts of California, The Land of Little Rain (1903). Her play, The Arrow Maker, dealing with Indian life, was produced at the New Theatre, (New York) in 1911, the same year she published a rhapsodic tribute to her acquaintance H.G. Wells as a producer of "informing, vitalizing, indispensable books" in the American Magazine.

Mary Hunter Austin wrote about her Independence, California home in The Land of Little Rain.

Austin and her husband were involved in the local California Water Wars, in which the water of Owens Valley was eventually drained to supply Los Angeles. When their battle was lost, he moved to Death Valley, California, and she moved to Carmel, California. There, she was part of a social circle that included Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and George Sterling and was one of the founders of the Forest Theater.

In 1929, while living in New Mexico, Austin co-authored a book with photographer Ansel Adams. Published a year later, the book, Taos Pueblo, was printed in a limited edition of only 108 copies. It is now quite rare because it included actual photographs made by Adams rather than reproductions.

Mount Mary Austin, in the Sierra Nevada, was named in her honor. It is located 8.5 miles west of her longtime home in Independence, California. A biography of Austin by Helen McKnight Doyle was published in 1939.


Hammond, Ann (2002). Ansel Adams: Devine Performance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

"Mount Mary Austin". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved from

McKnight Doyle, H. (1939). Mary Austin: Woman of genius. New York, NY: Gotham House.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



  • Biographical information, 1908-1954
  • Correspodence and ephemera, 1899-1933
  • Published writings by Austin, 1899-1934
  • Reviews of Austin's work, 1931, 1934

Custodial History

Several of the articles were originally from MS. 7 Frederick Webb Hodge Collection. Per a 1923 index for the Hodge Collection, the are articles were originally part of folder 622. Other parts of the Mary Austin Collection also comes from MS.4 George Wharton James Collection and the Southwest Museum Library general acquisition fund. The Mary Austin Collection was assembled by Southwest Museum Library staff circa 1977.

Acquisition Information

Assembled by Southwest Museum Library staff circa 1977.

Related Materials

Related archival materials: Papers of Mary Hunter Austin, 1845-1950 (bulk 1920-1934) (mssAU 1-5456). The Henry E. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.

Carey McWilliams Collection of Material About Mary Hunter Austin (Collection 278). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

Processing Information

Processed by Glenna Schroeder, circa 1977-1981. Revised by Sarah Buchanan, 2007. Finding aid updated by Anna Liza Posas 2012 July. Final processing of collection and publication of finding aid made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
Finding aid to the Mary Austin Collection
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Library and Archives at the Autry Repository

210 South Victory Blvd.
Burbank CA 91502 USA US