The American West was formed through the “making and defending and reclaiming of home places,” write Virginia Scharff and Carolyn Brucken in Home Lands: How Women Made the West. The exhibit corresponding to the book opened Friday at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.

Scharff and Brucken’s definition of “home” transcends the household to become the “process of inhabiting places”. By taking this wider view, they show the West as a diverse network of homes, made possible by women who gathered food, built houses, created art, became involved in real estate and government, and everything in between.

Home Lands explores how women have claimed and shaped homes over the centuries in three different regions: through a relationship to the earth in northern New Mexico, to transportation and mobility in the Colorado Front Range, and to water in the Puget Sound area. Objects in the exhibit—a cast iron pressure cooker, a Cheyenne parfleche, a Spanish marriage chest, baskets and clothing, woven blankets, paintings, and poetry, as well as photographs of women working in canneries and tool-sharpeners and building adobe houses, reveal the diverse meanings of home in the West, and the still-unfolding stories of the women who created those homes.

Home Lands: How Women Made the West is at the Autry National Center now until August 22, 2010.