WPA New Mexico Collection, Museum of New Mexico, The Palace of the Governors, Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New MexicoGeorgia B. Redfield letter to Ina Sizer Cassidy, Ina Sizer Cassidy, the State Director of the New Mexico Federal Writers’ Project, April 19, 1937.
In 1936, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) hired Roswell, New Mexico resident Georgia B. Redfield, an unemployed writer of local history, to collect stories and facts on her community.
Like thousands of writers, editors, researchers and clerical workers on relief during the Great Depression, Redfield performed hours of spadework to fill a few pages of a state WPA guide.
Georgia Brigham Redfield (1877-1956) moved from Louisiana to Roswell in its pioneering days. She had published a book, “Our Mammy, Her Songs” in 1934. Working for the FWP, Redfield roamed Roswell, gathering stories on ethnic groups and pioneers, floods and fires, the town’s schools and the annual barbeque of the Catholic Altar Society.
At one point, Redfield thought she had enough material to develop a city guide for Roswell. She wrote a manuscript offering 90 points of interest for the small ranching town of approximately then 13,000 people. The points included entries on a CCC camp and a cotton gin, a Catholic church and a sunken garden. At the end of her manuscript, Redfield wrote in pencil, “should I go on.”
For all of her work, the Roswell entry in the New Mexico American Guide Series spans less than two-and-a-half pages. From the pasted galley proofs, only a few lines of her voluminous city guide survived.
Georgia B. Redfield’s work, most of it typed on onion skin paper, survives in five folders of the WPA New Mexico Collection in the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library in Santa Fe. Here can be found not only Redfield’s history pieces, but also correspondence between herself and Ina Sizer Cassidy, the State Director of the New Mexico FWP. In one, multi-page letter, Redfield complains about her assigned NYA typist, who is vilified for leaving her job too early in the day.
The collection contains entries for Roswell and other towns in New Mexico, as well as oral history transcripts, interviews, recordings of folklore and stories about Hispanic culture.
Redfield’s efforts were vindicated after her death, as her WPA manuscripts have informed several history books, on subjects ranging from cattlemen to Billy the Kid.
Hobson, Archie, editor. Remembering America: A Sampler of the WPA American Guide Series. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. WPA New Mexico Collection, Museum of New Mexico, The Palace of the Governors, Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Writers’ Program of the Works Projects Administration in the State of New Mexico. New Mexico: A Guide to the Colorful State. New York: Hastings House, 1940.
Project originally submitted by John Murphey on March 11, 2015.
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