Frances Gillmor

(1903-1993)

 

Frances Gillmor was a novelist, folklorist and anthropologist whose studies and research were primarily focused in Mexico and the American Southwest. She always had a passion for writing and was encouraged by her parents to pursue that. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Arizona, although her studies included courses in geology, anthropology and philosophy. She lived with John and Louisa Wetherhill well-known explorers and operators of a trading post, on a Navajo reservation in Arizona during her years as a graduate student. It was this experience which culminated in her thesis Traders to the Navajos (1934), a collaborative effort with Louisa Wetherhill. She briefly taught at the University of New Mexico before accepting a position in the English Department of the University of Arizona.

Although she continued publishing fictional works such as Windsinger (1930) and Fruit Out of Rock (1940) based on her experiences among the Navajo, her attention turned to more focused research and she became interested in studying Mexican culture. She spent many summers in Mexico taking courses at both the Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, where in 1957 she earned her doctorate degree. In 1949 she published Flute of the Smoking Mirror, which was a biography of Nezahualcoyotl, a fifteenth-century Aztec ruler. "Working from the codices she reconstructed not only his life but the political and cultural climate. She vividly portrayed details of life in