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UIS presentation will discuss works by nature writer Mary Austin

January 29, 2007

Contact: Lynn Otterson, 217/206-7173, lotte1@uis.edu

SPRINGFIELD – The Land of Little Rain and other works by nature writer and early environmentalist Mary Hunter Austin will be the focus of a presentation from 5 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, February 21, in the solarium of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Brookens 460, on campus at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The program is free and open to the public.

This discussion of Austin's life and work will be led by UIS History Professor Robert Kuhn McGregor.

Portrait of Mary Hunter Austin
Mary Hunter Austin, portrait by Ansel Adams, 1929.

Austin (1868-1934) was born in Carlinville and graduated from Blackburn College. Her family moved to California in 1888 and homesteaded in the San Joaquin Valley. She married Stafford Wallace Austin, and the house they designed and built in Inyo County is now a historic landmark.

For many years, Austin made a special study of life in the Mojave Desert and her writing reflects the intimate knowledge she acquired. Written in 1903, The Land of Little Rain, her first book, focuses on the "long, brown, and lonely land" of California between the High Sierras south of Yosemite. In it, she describes the region's climate, plants, and animals as well as the people who lived there: Indian tribes, gold prospectors, borax miners, and the descendants of earlier Hispanic settlers. The book has been called a "beautiful, poetic study" that describes the Southwestern desert in "serene, beautifully modulated prose… a place of rare, austere beauty that weaves a lasting spell over its inhabitants."

UIS co-sponsors of this program are the Center for Teaching and Learning Book Club and the Women's Center. The event is part of the Year of Ecofeminism, sponsored by the Women's Center with support from the Student Government Association.

Copies of The Land of Little Rain are available at the UIS Bookstore, located in the lower level of the Public Affairs Center. For more information about the discussion, contact the Center for Teaching and Learning by e-mail at ctlwrite@uis.edu. Additional information about Mary Hunter Austin is available at www.owensvalleyhistory.com/mary_austin/page49.html. For more information about the Year of Ecofeminism, go to www.uis.edu/womenscenter.

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The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs: 21 bachelorís, 20 masterís, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.

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