Biographical Sketch of Ruth Barbara Laughlin Barker Alexander

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ruth Barbara Laughlin Barker Alexander, 1889-1962

By Erin Morse, undergraduate student, University of New Mexico

Ruth Barbara Laughlin was born on May 14, 1889, in Santa Fe, Territory of New Mexico, to Judge Napoleon B. and suffragist Katie Kimbrough Laughlin. Raised in a prominent family, Ruth Laughlin graduated with the first class of Santa Fe High School, and she studied journalism at both Colorado College and the Columbia University School of Journalism. She was active in politics and the women's suffrage movement.

She wrote and traveled extensively, working on archeological projects Guatemala and Mexico, as well as in her home state, and she was considered an expert in Indian Pre-History. Her first husband, William Judson Barker, worked as a lawyer with a general practice in Santa Fe, and they had three children. Her second husband was Henry S.A. Alexander, a Scottish immigrant and physician.

A 1916 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on a suffrage rally in Santa Fe. The meeting was attended by national leaders Doris Stevens and Ella St. Clair Thompson, and one of the speakers was Ruth Laughlin Barker. Barker advocated strongly for the federal amendment for woman suffrage. In addition to supporting woman suffrage, she was active in the New Mexico State Federation of Women's Clubs. By 1918, the Barkers were involving themselves in war relief efforts, such as serving on a committee to support fatherless children in France. After the federal suffrage amendment passed, she became involved with the League of Women Voters.

Widely published under her maiden name, Ruth Laughlin wrote articles for the Ladies Home Journal, Home and Garden, as well as the New York Times. Laughlin's articles focused on contemporary political and social issues centered around the Southwest. At one point, she was the state correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and she served as chair of New Mexico Press Association. She was also editor of the social section of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Her first book Caballeros: The Romance of Santa Fe and the Southwest was published in 1931 and revised in 1945. It is an extensive history of her hometown, from its initial foundation by Spanish Conquistadors to World War II. Her second book was a historical fiction novel, The Wind Leaves No Shadow. Published in 1941, it follows the story of a young woman living in Santa Fe in the 1830s and her struggle for respect and influence in a male-dominated society. Both books are considered classics of Southwestern literature.

A lifelong resident of Santa Fe, Ruth Laughlin Barker Alexander died on July 30, 1962, and is buried with family in Fairview Cemetery.


"50 Years Ago." Santa Fe New Mexican. November 2, 1962, p.4.

"435 National Lawmaker-Politicians Hard to Control, Suffrage Leader Finds; Telling Blows for Votes for Women." Santa Fe New Mexican. February 29, 1916, p.2.

1910 United States Federal Census, Santa Fe Ward 1, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Roll: T624_913, Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0223, FHL microfilm: 1374931.

1920 United States Federal Census, Santa Fe Ward 1, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Roll: T625_1080; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 127; Image: 98.

1940 United States Federal Census, Santa Fe Ward 1, Santa Fe, New Mexico Roll: T627_2452; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 25-6A. "U.S., Women of the West, 1928.", Provo, UT, USA 2011. Accessed December 10, 2016.

"Committee Organized to Help Fatherless Children of France." Santa Fe New Mexican. August 31, 1918, p.6.

Find a Grave. Ruth Barbara Alexander. Accessed October 10, 2018.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "New Mexico." Chapter XXX in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, 434-439. [LINK]

Laughlin, Ruth. "Caballeros." Goodreads. Accessed October 10, 2018.

Laughlin, Ruth A. "Uncle Sam a Good Host: In the National Parks He Provides Well For the Growing Number of His Guests." New York Times. September 12, 1937, p.XX4. ProQuest: New York Times Historical Backfile.

Laughlin, Ruth. "The Wind Leaves No Shadow." Goodreads. Accessed October 10, 2018.

"New Suffrage Society Organized." Spanish-American (Roy, N. Mex.). February 17, 1917, p.2.

Sze, Corinne P. "Fairview Cemetery Santa Fe." New Mexico History. New Mexico Office of the State Historian. Accessed October 10, 2018.

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