These days, Fran Levine serves as the president for the Missouri Historical Society and the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, but up until 2014 she was the director of the New Mexico History Museum and played an instrumental role in the execution of the location on Lincoln Avenue. Levine returns to Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse (6 pm, free, 202 Galisteo Ave., 988-4226) this Thursday to read and discuss her new book, Doña Teresa Confronts the Spanish Inquisition, a gripping historical account of a governor's wife from the late 1600s who was incarcerated and subjected to the terrifying Inquisition.
What are you up to out there in Missouri?
I'm working for the Historical Society and the History Museum. It's a wonderful, private museum at the other end of the Santa Fe Trail. In 2014, they were looking for a new president, and they were taking note of the work I'd done in New Mexico and, to me, it just feels totally logical to be here. I don't have to miss New Mexico. I still have a house there and I spend holidays there.
Why is this topic so fascinating?
It's based on the governor of New Mexico from 1659-1662 and his wife, and they both kind of ran afoul of the powers that be in New Mexico. They were both arrested—she was arrested inside the Palace of the Governors. I knew about him, but not her ... I'm one of these people who reads footnotes and this came out of a footnote I read. One reason was that she was accused of being Jewish. She wasn't Jewish, but it was about the only way the church could get to her. Also, there were about 38 houses in Santa Fe at the time, and she talks about something like 70 people who may have wished her harm. It's about the power of church and state and a woman acting out of the norm. She was held and endured 20 months of the Inquisition. She really made me look at the Palace and Santa Fe and there was this intrigue after working at the Palace for 12 years.
Will the event be more like a reading or a lecture?
I'll read from the book, and then we'll talk about it. People can ask questions just like this. It's unusual to have the words of a 17th century woman in New Mexico, that's what's so unique about this book.