Mabel Dodge Luhan: Following Your Intuition
Updated: Feb 15
From a wealthy conservative family in Buffalo, New York, Mabel Dodge was born in 1879 and raised with a focus on image, class, wealth, and societal mores and rules. But this world didn't resonate with Mabel, she felt empty on the inside due to a lack of emotional or spiritual nurturance. This set her on a lifelong search for inner meaning.
Like many of us, as a young adult her path wandered through rebellion, compromise, and a search outside of herself for some kind of satisfaction in life.
She moved around often in those early years, spending time in Europe and New York; married several times for the wrong reasons -- to get away from her parents or to provide security for her son - and was constantly searching for more.
Because of her status, Mabel made many contacts during her time in both Europe and NYC, mingling with artists and writers such as Gertrude & Leo Stein, Alfred Steiglitz, and Georgia O'Keefe. She had a natural gift of bringing people together to talk, explore and opine. But it took a friend, journalist Lincoln Steffens, to point out her innate talent, telling her,“You attract, stimulate and suit people, and men like to sit with you and talk to themselves! Why not organize all this accidental, unplanned activity around you, and see these people at certain hours. Have Evenings!"
Recognizing the value of her natural ability, Mabel took this talent and became a catalyst for the avant-garde. She created famous salons in New York and Europe and like a movie director, she brought together the best talent and guided them to their greatest work.
Move to Taos, New Mexico
In 1918 Mabel traveled to New Mexico and instead of staying in Santa Fe, she was drawn to Taos. When she arrived, she uttered a similar sentiment I often hear from women who are reinventing themselves. “My world broke in two right then, and I entered into the second half, a new world.” Mabel, forever restless, had found her place. She trusted this internal feeling and began building her vision.
She set out to make Taos a cultural center, not one based on the old guard of money and social rules, but on appreciation of the arts, culture and beauty of the land. Although married at the time, in a dream she saw the face of an Indian man and when she met him in real life, she realized the prophetic power of her dream. She fell in love and married Tony Luhan, a Taos Pueblo Indian, which was her fourth, final, and rewarding marriage that lasted 40 years.
Tony encouraged her to buy 12 acres of land in Taos on the edge of the Indian Pueblo and achieve her vision of building and setting up a “salon,” like those she hosted in NYC. In this house she lured many famous and talented guests of the time, including D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin, Aldous Huxley, Willa Cather; artists such as the brilliant Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams; and choreographer Martha Graham. Taos became a world famous cultural center.
A Legacy of Courage & Trusting Her Instincts
Mabel died in 1962, but The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is a legacy to her life, determination and spiritual quest. It operates as a retreat, an Inn, and a major center of art “salons” and workshops in Northern New Mexico. People come from all over the world to take workshops and explore their creativity while enjoying the land and unique light of Taos. Her powerful spirit shines as a model of discovery, creative realization and self-fulfillment.
Throughout her life, Mabel refused to be swayed by her family and status, and followed her inner voice to find her purpose, her passion, and her great talent as muse, catalyst, and inspiration.
Mabel inspires me because of her courage, willingness to risk and her persistence in following her spirit. Against all odds, she found herself and love in this small town in Northern New Mexico.
“I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever.” – D.H. Lawrence
Mabel’s life’s work carries on in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. https://www.mabeldodgeluhan.com/