Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are re-publishing Julie Stires’ article “In Her Words” about Pasadena icon Eva Scott Fenyes.
“There are a troop of female bull-fighters in our hotel, very nice decent women—modest & quiet & gentle…I asked permission of one of the bull-fighters to take her photo. She was very obliging & took me to her room & showed me her magnificent costumes made in Spain, also the smallish sword with which she recently killed twelve bulls in three nights here. I asked her if she were afraid. She said ‘not very much.’ Her husband is also a bull fighter, her sister is a picadora. They were born in Matanzas & she has been performing only three years.” Eva Fenyes wrote these words in her travel journal in March of 1908, while staying at the Hotel Francia in Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico.
Eva’s journal entries are always succinct and well-informed, selective and enticing, but they also leave us with questions. What does she think about women as bullfighters? What does she think about bullfighting as sport? While she does not express an opinion on either subject, it is clear that the women and their work captured her interest, and she made an effort to spend time with them. “After our usual evening’s stroll…we come home. I find the bull fighter women playing lotto & I ask to join in. We play for penny points…a quiet pastime & I learn some Spanish thereby.”
The “Toreras Mexicanas” entertained in other towns outside Córdoba that season, but Eva was still able to visit with them throughout the spring of 1908. In April she wrote, “The Toreadoras are back for one night. They have killed 10 bulls since leaving & are going for Easter Week, to two towns far from here to not kill some more. They say they think it cruel to use horses in bull fighting & that the protective leathers are no longer employed – as heretofore. They are going to fight at San Juan de la Punta about 25 miles away – part of the way on horseback.”
While the troop was away at other venues, Eva, never idle and always observant, roamed the countryside painting en plein air the idyllic settings that presented themselves on her long walks. “…At a turn in the road I see a picturesque tienda. I borrow a chair to sit on while I sketch the building. An old man insists on having a boy carry the chair & has him bring a piece of paper to lay on the seat. Where should I find such attention in the U.S.?”
By early May, the toreras had returned for their final bullfights in Córdoba. Just before one of these fights, Eva photographed the troop posing in front of the Hotel Francia. She later noted that one of the women was “slightly wounded.” Eva had focused so much attention on these women, yet one final question remains. Did she ever attend one of their bullfights? She doesn’t say. However, she did save several posters promoting Córdoba’s “Gran Acontecimiento Taurino,” its “¡¡Unica Corrida!!” featuring “La Verdadera Cuadrilla” “La Valiente Cuadrilla.” Around the edges of one of these posters, Eva wrote each woman’s name along with her sobriquet, a gesture that seems to acknowledge and honor their individual work even if she never did sit in the stands at Córdoba’s Plaza de Toros to watch the performances of the “Señoritas Toreras Mexicanas.’’
A time for honoring women and their historical contributions is the month of March when we celebrate “Women’s History Month.” Reading and learning about Eva Fenyes’ life and work would be one way to celebrate. Her papers are available to researchers at Pasadena Museum of History Research Library and Archives, and the Finding Aid for these papers can be accessed at the Online Archive of California. The papers reveal a talented, intelligent, and incredibly active person. Eva was a business woman, real estate investor, patroness of the arts, charity benefactor, historical preservationist, and an artist. She was born Eva Scott in New York City in 1849 and settled in Pasadena in 1896 after years of world travel and two marriages. At about the age of fifty, Eva moved out west and started buying property in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. All the while and until her death in 1930, she continued to travel, paint, and advocate for the preservation of the Native American, Spanish, and Mexican cultures of the American Southwest. Notably and importantly, her gender never stopped her from planning and accomplishing her goals. Her second husband Adalbert Fenyes was a Pasadena physician and internationally renown entomologist; yet, despite skepticism and preconceptions about women’s roles in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was Eva with her business expertise, artistry, and intellect that built the family’s legacy. Part of that legacy is the Fenyes Mansion which still sits on the corner rise overlooking Orange Grove Blvd. and Walnut St. The Beaux Art style house, designed by noted architect Robert Farquhar, is home to Pasadena Museum of History, and it is an excellent place to start exploring the life and contributions of Eva Scott Fenyes.
Julie Stires, Project Archivist
Pasadena Museum of History
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 Travel Journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 24-25 March 1908. Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers, FCP.35.5, vol. 2, pp. 24-27. Pasadena Museum of History Archives.
 Travel Journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 25 March 1908. FCP Papers, FCP.35.5 vol. 2, p. 28. PMH Archives.
 Travel Journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 13 April 1908. FCP Papers, FCP.35.5, vol. 4, p. 37. PMH Archives.
 Travel Journal of Eva Scott Fenyes, 29 March 1908. FCP Papers, FCP.35.5, vol. 3, p. 22. PMH Archives.