Lewis, Nancy Owen


(1945 - 2022 Mar 16): Age 77


On March 16, 2022, the Historical Society of New Mexico (HSNM) and its Board lost a valued and active member. Nancy Owen Lewis, who died at her home in Santa Fe after battling cancer for several years, will be especially remembered for her fine work in documenting the impact of tuberculosis care in early twentieth-century New Mexico. Her wide-ranging historical interests encompassed WWII service dogs trained in Santa Fe, the cattle mutilation conspiracy, “Our Lady of Light: The Loretto Chapel” (Public Historian, fall 2007), and “Reviving the Santa Fe Fiesta: Edgar Lee Hewett and the Battle for Control” (2012). She moved to Santa Fe in the early 1980s, working with the Municipal Court, and participating in a number of local organizations. Her third book, The Hounds of El Delirio: New Mexico and the Dogs of World War II, is forthcoming.


Born in Chicago, she earned her B.A. and M.A. in anthropology at the University of Utah and her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts in 1974. A cultural anthropologist, she subsequently taught anthropology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and the University of Arkansas, while doing field work among the Navajos in Arizona, the Paiutes in Idaho, and the Caribs in the Dominican Republic (“island of Dominica”). She is the mother of a son and a daughter who have made her a grandmother and great-grandmother. Nancy is survived by her husband Paul, as well as a brother and sister-in-law who live in Santa Fe.


In 1994 she received the Outstanding Leadership in Health Promotion Award from the New Mexico Department of Health. Two years later, a Robert O. Anderson Fellowship from The Lovelace Institutes enabled her to publish the first known study of drive-up liquor windows. She presented numerous papers on this topic and served on the City of Santa Fe Public Safety Committee. She was a fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology and was named program chair for its 2017 conference, held in Santa Fe.

Her service to New Mexico’s historical community was generous and extensive. As an HSNM Board member since 2010 and Vice-President from 2017 to 2020, she chaired several committees, participated in the Speakers’ Bureau, gave presentations at conferences, and co-chaired a "mini-conference” held jointly with the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society.

In Santa Fe, Nancy was Director of Scholar Programs at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) from 1998 to 2011, afterwards serving as scholar-in-residence. A Peculiar Alchemy: A Centennial History of SAR, 1907-2007, co-authored with Kay Hagan (School for Advanced Research Press, 2007) was named Best Book in New Mexico History at the New Mexico Book Awards the following year. Up to her death, Nancy was an active member of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation in multiple capacities.

Results of her research into the history of tuberculosis treatment in New Mexico appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including: “Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: The Lungers and their Legacy,” (El Palacio, winter 2008); “The Cure at the End of the Trail” in All Trails Lead to Santa Fe Anthology (Sunstone Press, 2010); “Washed Ashore at Fort Stanton: Healing Consumptive Sailors,” (El Palacio, winter 2010); “High and Dry in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Politics of Health” (New Mexico Historical Review, spring 2012), winner of HSNM’s Gilberto Espinosa Prize in 2013; and “Adrift at Fort Stanton: Treating Consumptive Sailors,” in Sunshine and Shadows in New Mexico’s Past: The Statehood Era, 1912-2012, edited by Richard Melzer (Rio Grande Press, 2012). Her book on the topic, Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016), won HSNM’s Gaspar Perez de Villagrá Award for Outstanding Publication in New Mexico History in 2017.

(adapted from HSNM’s obituary by Julianne Burton-Carvajal for Los Luneros/First Thursday lunch group, 3/22/22)

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