Many see this as an early feminist work as The Walking Woman holds herself equal with those around her, mainly the men she meets on her travels, including the Basque shepard. Upon meeting the shepard, she works side by side with him, and makes no apologies for her abilities nor does she look to him for approval or instruction. She develops a passionate relationship with the shepard, ultimately becoming pregnant. Again, she makes no excuses for her sexuality, and feels no guilt about a babe out of wedlock.
Ultimately, she even gives up her "social" name, becoming nothing more than the legendary Walking Woman, a woman who makes her own way on her own time, bowing down to no man or social mores. Yet, rather than being portrayed as a heretic to society, Austin shows her to be a person of value. Specifically, by casting off the restraints of society, she learns what is most valuable; working, loving, and bearing children.