|Introduction - Come to the Mountain|
The rich stories of great women are often lost to history. Their achievements are in a vein that ill fits the genre of heroic male biography that has predominated for centuries. They slip quietly from this life leaving their greatest achievements in the hearts of those who have known them. Their stories must be gleaned from those they have touched and from the fragments of their lives saved in drawers and cupboards, private diaries, and records. Their achievements are measured in terms of inner strength and beauty, the evidence of which is seldom tangible.
Ina Pruitt was a great woman. Born in a shack on the Western frontier, she struggled against the odds to educate herself. In college she was a free spirit. She married for love and became a devoted mother. Raising four children in desperate poverty, she forsook personal aspirations until the task was complete. She suffered with courage and silence the plights common to women: miscarriage, childbirth, kidney infections, vaginal cancer, hysterectomy, osteoporosis, glaucoma, blindness, and heart disease. Her special triumph is seen in her art, inspired by the wilderness that produced her, expressing a beauty that transcended her life experience.
Much of her life, the summer and fall for nearly 40 years, was spent on Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon. A geological uplift in the midst of arid desert placed sage and mahogany at the foot of aspen groves, and glaciers carved deep gorges where crystal streams water wildflower-strewn meadows. Gentle mule deer shared this beautiful, silent world with both artist and hunter in an era that is now past. But the beauty remains, both on the mountain, and on the canvases which Ina painted.