When former California resident John Steinbeck swung his camper through the West while preparing to write Travels with Charley in 1960, he was, again and again, surprised to discover how much social patterns in the region had changed since the days of his youth on the West Coast. The changes that Steinbeck, and many other observers, noted were manifold; but most striking were the region's rapid urbanization, its diverse blend of ethnic groups, and the fast-changing roles of gender and family. For change, more than continuity, has been and still is the hallmark of western society in the twentieth century. Even when the region followed national patterns, it likewise diverged from those patterns in important ways. And, as always, intraregional patterns often contrasted in marked ways from those broader trends characterizing the West as a whole. Thus, the timeworn stereotype of the West as the hallowed preserve of ruggedly independent Marlboro Men bore little resemblance to the real West of modernity, a land of flux and striking cosmopolitan diversity.
In the popular imagination, the West is firmly ensconced as a rural land of cowboys and Indians, mainly devoid of settle-