Friday, September 18, 2009

In their own words: Homestead Books from the Homestead Period

The list of books below describes homesteading as written by settlers in their own words.

Books written by settlers during the Homesteading Period

Letters of a Woman Homesteader
By Elinore Pruitt Stewart
Foreword copyright 1988 by Houghton Mifflin Company

In 1909, Elinore Pruitt Stewart and her young daughter set out for a ranch in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, where an acre can be had for $1.25 and a bit of determination. Stewart’s letters create a colorful account of her new life on the prairie, the eccentric characters who inhabit it, and the community they built together. It was first published in 1914 and inspired the movie Heartland.

Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 11
Diaries & Letters From the
Western Trails, 1879-1903
Edited and compiled by Kenneth L. Holmes
First Bison Books printing: 2000

In this concluding volume of the Covered Wagon Women series, we see the final animal-powered overland migrations that were even then yielding to railroad travel and, in a few short years, to the automobile. The diaries and letters resonate with the vigor and spirit that made possible the settling and community-building of the American West.

Staking Her Claim
Women Homesteading the West
By Marcia Meredith Hensley
Copyright 2008 Marcia Meredith Hensley

Instead of talking about women’s rights, these frontier women grabbed the opportunity to become landowners by homesteading in the still wild west of the early 1900s. They tell their stories in their own words, through letters and articles of the time-of adventure, independence, foolhardiness, failure, success, and freedom.

Bachelor Bess
The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909-1919
Edited by Philip L. Gerber
Copyright 1990 by University of Iowa Press

In July 1909 twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her claim to a South Dakota homestead. Over the next ten years, as she continued her school teaching career and carved out a home for herself in this inhospitable territory, she sent a steady stream of letters to her family back in Iowa. Irrepressible, independent-minded, and evidently fearless, the self-styled Bachelor Bess gives us a firsthand, almost daily account of her homesteading adventures in these 180 letters.

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey
Edited by Lillian Schlissel
Foreword copyright 2004 by Mary Clearman Blew

Through the diaries, letters, and reminiscences of women who participated in this migration, Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey gives us primary source material on the lives of these women, who kept campfires burning with buffalo chips and dried weeds, gave birth to and cared for children along primitive and dangerous roads, drove teams of oxen, picked berries, milked cows, and cooked meals in the middle of a wilderness that was a far cry from the homes they had left back east. Still (and often under the disapproving eyes of their husbands) they found time to write brave letters home or to jot a few weary lines at night into the diaries that continue to enthrall us.

(Each book summary is from the back of the book jacket)

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