Erna Fergusson, First Lady of New Mexico Letters

On Sunday, January 16, 2022, Librarian and Albuquerque history presenter Joe Sabatini discussed the life and legacy of Ernestine Mary “Erna” Fergusson on the occasion of her 134th birthday. An Albuquerque local aristocrat, she was the daughter of Territorial and U.S. Congressman H.B. Fergusson and the granddaughter of Santa Fe Trail merchant Franz Huning. Erna was a teacher, reporter, author, Southwestern cultural ambassador, library advocate, a founder of the Albuquerque Historical Society and the first female dude wrangler. She is commemorated by a city branch library named in her honor. The program was live-streamed on the AHS Facebook page with a question and answer session following the presentation.

Photo of Erna Fergusson

Photo of Joe Sabatini - Albuquerque Historical SocietyJoe Sabatini was born in the Bronx, but doesn’t admit to it as his family moved to Los Angeles following World War II. Educated in the Los Angeles public schools and UCLA, he received a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 1965. He served as a VISTA Volunteer, first on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation in Polk County, Texas, and then with school and community libraries in Sandoval County, New Mexico. He worked for 5 years at the U.N.M. School of Law Library, participating in the creation of an American Indian Law Collection and editing the American Indian Law Newsletter. He was a librarian at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library from 1973 to the end of 2008, serving as Head of Reference, Head of Main Library and, beginning in 2000, Branch Manager for the Special Collections Library, the system’s genealogy and local history branch. During his tenure at Special Collections, he organized or prepared over twenty exhibits on local history and gave numerous presentations to various groups. Among these exhibits were several for the celebration of the Albuquerque Tricentennial, including an extensive “Postcard History of Albuquerque” display.

Following his retirement, he has been active as a volunteer for the Archives/Library of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the Near North Valley Neighborhood Association and the Albuquerque Historical Society.