Clarissa Pinkola Estés is an American poet, psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist who was raised in a now nearly vanished oral and ethnic traditions. She is a first-generation American who grew up in a rural village, population 600, near the Great Lakes. Of Mexican mestiza, and majority Magyar and minority Swabian tribal heritages, she comes from immigrant and refugee families who could not read or write, or who did so haltingly. Much of her writing is influenced by her family people who were farmers, shepherds, hopsmeisters, wheelwrights, weavers, orchardists, tailors, cabinet makers, lacemakers, knitters, and horsemen and horsewomen from the Old Countries.
As post-trauma specialist, she began her work in the 1960s at Hines VA hospital and in other institutions caring for severely injured children, 'shell-shocked' war veterans, and their families. Her teaching of writing in prisons began in the early 1970s at the Men's Penitentiary in Colorado; the Federal Women's Prison at Dublin, CA, and in prisons throughout the Southwest.