The American West: A Modern History, 1900 to the Present

By Richard W. Etulain; Michael P. Malone | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight A New Western Generation,
Mid-1980S–2005

All four are westerners. They come from different subregions, illustrating the West's racial-ethnic, social, and economic diversity. In their varied backgrounds they epitomize major ingrethents of the late twentieth-century West. The lives and careers of Dolores Huerta, Bill Gates, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and Nancy Landon Kassebaum also demonstrate once again how much change and complexity are hallmarks of the modern American West.

Dolores Huerta was born into a Hispanic migrant worker family in New Mexico in 1930. Successful as a high school and college student and spurred on by palpable ambition, she rose above her hardscrabble beginnings. In the 1950s she began registering Chicano/a voters, and in the 1960s she became a labor organizer and activist César Chavez's most valued colleague. Despite her humble origins and the challenges of mothering eleven children, Huerta achieved notoriety as the country's best-known Chicana. Her career illustrates the rising importance of a very small group of women ethnic leaders in the West in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

Bill Gates also rose to quick prominence in another subregion of the recent West, but by a much different path. Born in 1955 into an upper-middle-class family in the Pacific Northwest, Gates gained a superb education in public and

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