The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail At the end of this week Women Writing the West will hold their annual conference in Redmond, Oregon. Perhaps for that reason, Susan G. Butruille’s 1993 work Women’s Voices from the Oregon Trail called from my bookshelf.

It begins: “Some thought they were brave. Some–like Horace Greeley (contrary to popular belief)–said they were nuts: those people who traveled more than 2,000 miles across prairie and sage, mountains and valleys and rivers and God only knew what else, in search of–what? Free land. Free-dom. Better health. Adventure. Themselves. Some went because they couldn’t say no. Those in that last category were women.”

The book draws extensively from diaries, letters and reminiscences of women who actually went west on the trail. The back matter includes a lengthy bibliography.

I was entertained by the following statement about women by a “new husband.”

I calculate ‘taint of much account to have a woman if she ain’t of no use…every man ought to have a woman to do his cookin’ and such like, [because] it’s easier for them than it is for us. They take to it kind o’ naturally…I reckon women are some like horses and oxen, the biggest can do the most work, and that’s what I want one for.”

I hope that new wife set him straight!


Published in: on October 12, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Writing Women Back Into History #1

Writing Women Back into History --Special Program History Revisited - A Guide to Women's History DVD
March is National Women’s History Month. My posts for the month follow the 2010 theme of the National Women’s History Project.


          Many female writers today are interested in giving women their place in history. Some do this by writing family histories for their children and grandchildren. Such works may include letters and recipes from great aunts and grandmothers, the most likely surviving documents in a woman’s own handwriting. Capturing the stories of family life in past generations is a wonderful legacy. 
          Women like author Jane Kirkpatrick offer their ancestor’s stories to a wider audience through books. In A Flickering Light, Jane weaves a compelling coming of age story based on the life and times of her grandmother, Jessie Ann Gaebele, a turn of the century Midwestern photographer. This work was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2009. The sequel, An Absence So Great, will be released March 16, 2010.
          Harriet Rochlin’s research into her Jewish roots in the Spanish, Mexican and American West became the illustrated social history Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. Then she turned to fiction, exploring the lives of these pioneers through the eyes of a character called Frieda Levie in her Desert Dwellers Trilogy.
          In Harvey Girl, Sheila Wood Foard captures the unique world of adventuous young women who travelled far from home in the late 1800s and early 1900s to serve meals to passengers in the famous Harvey Houses along the routes of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
conference logoThe courageous female pilots of the World War II era Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) are the focus of Sarah Byrn Rickman’s work. Her biography Nancy Batson Crews: Alabama’s First Lady of Flight tells the story of an original member of the WAFS. These women “flew top-priority P-38, P-47, and P-51 high-performance aircraft from factory to staging areas and to and from maintenance and training sites” to support the war effort.
          For more authors publishing women’s stories, visit this list of writers in the organization Women Writing the West.

Chipeta is a WILLA Finalist!

WWW Finalist seal GIFAdjustedChipeta: Ute Peacemaker  was named the Finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards competition for the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction category. The announcement was made late yesterday by Women Writing the West.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pathfinding in the Misty Past

A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there, thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning half-forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy, to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar songs that nobody sings now.

–  From “A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain in Sketches New and Old, copyright 1903, Samuel Clemens.


This year I have been writing short story. I don’t need the comfort of a fireplace to see faces from the past or hear voices long silent. They live in my head until I let them speak through my stories. 

            My story “Working Girl” won third place in the 2008 Women Writing the West short story contest. It will be published in 2009 by Women Out West Magazine. Set in 1918 Denver, it is based on true experiences of my late friend Marie Richey Collins. Researching Denver newspapers of the period gave me new perspective on the years of World War I along with similarities and contrasts to our current era of war. I knew Marie in the last decade of her life. Through writing her story I met the woman of her youth with hopes and dreams yet to be fulfilled. 

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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