Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chance Listen: "Frontier Grit"

Chance Listen: Frontier Grit: the unlikely true stories of daring pioneer women by Marianne Monson, 2016, from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I was showing a library customer how to use the Wisconsin Digital Library. I logged into my account to show her how to check an item out and I randomly selected this book. I figured I may as well listen to the book since I had it checked out.

Several tales of frontier women. The foreword describes that "frontier" is not limited to a physical boundary or territory but every one of these stories involves the western U.S. But, the women are not all settlers. There is a variety of hotelier, doctor, artist, novelist, etc.

A couple stories were not so interesting to me. Here are the ones I recall:

1. A former slave whose family are sold off before the war and she is near 40-years-old when the war ends. She spends years looking for her family and finally hears that her husband and some children already died but cannot locate her one missing daughter. She makes plenty of money as a cook and hotel owner and spends 50 years searching for her daughter with constant newspaper adverts and telling most people she meets about her search. She makes trips to southern states and helps out other former slaves who are also on the road and looking for their own relatives.

She ends up owning businesses in Denver and is retired when a former Denver resident in Omaha sends a letter to her. He says was in the Council Bluffs, IA post office and hears the name of a woman and met someone of her description. The man asks and, sure enough, it's the daughter. The mom jumps on a train and they are reunited.

2. Wallace Stegner's novel Angle of Repose won a Pulitzer Prize but he plagiarized about 10% of the novel. Stegner used the work and personal papers of Mary Hallock Foote who lived in several mining towns in the West. In fact Stegner told Foote's surviving relatives that he would not incorporate several aspects of Foote's life but instead based a character on her and stole her own words from the papers the family shared with him. 

3. The tale of an Oregon suffragette.  The Suffragette established her own successful newspaper in Oregon and was a staunch, vocal, and enthusiastic suffragette. Her younger brother, however, was not. Her younger brother ran The Oregonian newspaper. The Oregonian had a larger circulation and more influence and the borther would editorialize against women's suffrage. After years of disagreement the brother said he would not write anything against an upcoming statewide vote on suffrage. Before the election the brother then took a long vacation, was incommunicado, and The Oregonian's stand-in editor published multiple screeds against the proposed changes. The brother was a dick.

1. So many people moved all over the damn place and never or rarely saw their family again. They would leave Iowa or Vermont and move from Western state to Western state as they chased gold deposits or new land.
2. So many people went bust, rebuilt their financial lives, and went bust again. This would happen over and over as storms and fires would destroy homes and businesses. But, in some boom towns you could quickly be flush again by providing services. One woman offered $1 meals served off a wood plank in a mining town and quickly earned enough to dig her family out of financial hole.
3. The story of a famous wagon driver who was a woman secretly living as a man. The book author theorizes on why she may have done this and continued to do so. Hell, my thought was she did not want to be raped and murdered.
4. Not much violence in these stories. I do not recall any shoot-outs, cattle rustling, silver mine stabbings, etc. The only exception might be Mother Jones and labor strife.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved ANGLE OF REPOSE and that makes me sad.

Gerard Saylor said...

Stegner is sometimes listed as being born in Lake Mills, WI which is where I live. I believe he was born in Lake Mills, IA.

I briefly looked up articles about the controversy of his plagiarisim but have not yet read of the pieces. The author of FRONTIER GIRL is very clear about his theft of Toole's work.