One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd Paperback – Feb 15 1999
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An American western with a most unusual twist, this is an imaginative fictional account of the participation of May Dodd and others in the controversial "Brides for Indians" program, a clandestine U.S. government^-sponsored program intended to instruct "savages" in the ways of civilization and to assimilate the Indians into white culture through the offspring of these unions. May's personal journals, loaded with humor and intelligent reflection, describe the adventures of some very colorful white brides (including one black one), their marriages to Cheyenne warriors, and the natural abundance of life on the prairie before the final press of the white man's civilization. Fergus is gifted in his ability to portray the perceptions and emotions of women. He writes with tremendous insight and sensitivity about the individual community and the political and religious issues of the time, many of which are still relevant today. This book is artistically rendered with meticulous attention to small details that bring to life the daily concerns of a group of hardy souls at a pivotal time in U.S. history. Grace Fill --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Long, brisk, charming first novel about an 1875 treaty between Ulysses S. Grant and Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation, by the sports reporter and author of the memoir A Hunter's Road (1992). Little Wolf comes to Washington and suggests to President Grant that peace between the Whites and Cheyenne could be established if the Cheyenne were given white women as wives, and that the tribe would agree to raise the children from such unions. The thought of miscegenation naturally enough astounds Grant, but he sees a certain wisdom in trading 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses, and he secretly approves the Brides For Indians treaty. He recruits women from jails, penitentiaries, debtors' prisons, and mental institutionsoffering full pardons or unconditional release. May Dodd, born to wealth in Chicago in 1850, had left home in her teens and become the mistress of her father's grain-elevator foreman. Her outraged father had her kidnaped, imprisoning her in a monstrous lunatic asylum. When Grant's offer arrives, she leaps at it and soon finds herself traveling west with hundreds of white and black would-be brides. All are indentured to the Cheyenne for two years, must produce children, and then will have the option of leaving. May, who keeps the journal we read, marries Little Wolf and lives in a crowded tipi with his two other wives, their children, and an old crone who enforces the rules. Reading about life among the Cheyenne is spellbinding, especially when the women show up the braves at arm-wrestling, foot-racing, bow-shooting, and gambling. Liquor raises its evil head, as it will, and reduces the braves to savagery. But the women recover, go out on the winter kill with their husbands, and accompany them to a trading post where they drive hard bargains and stop the usual cheating of the braves. Eventually, when the cavalry attacks the Cheyenne, mistakenly thinking they're Crazy Horse's Sioux, May is killed. An impressive historical, terse, convincing, and affecting. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Written as the journal of May Dodd, a free thinking, intelligent, and independent woman, it is through her eyes that the reader sees events unfold, as the first group of women are traded and introduced to life on the western frontier as brides for male members of the Cheyenne tribe. The reader will discover what drove these women to engage in such an adventure and what it was that happened to them.
Entertaining and engaging, this is a skillfully developed story and a worthy debut novel. The only criticism is that the voice of May Dodd seems, at times, to be almost too contemporary and serves to distract the reader a bit, and some parts of the story read as if it were a romance novel. Moreover, the book seems more focused on the plot, rather than on character development, although this does not take away from the enjoyment of the overall story, as the plot is so intriguing. Those who like the historical fiction genre will not be disappointed by this imaginative and ambitious novel.
The book is very well written and, although a man, Jim Fergus has a unique gift for capturing the feminine and spunky spirit of May Dodd.
It tells of the Cheyenne and their outlook on life, nature, and respect of all things. I was ashamed of America's tactics to the Indians and at times I had to stop and let the words soak in.
I am a voracious reader, and I usually finish books this size in a day. Yet this book is different, it pulls at your heart strings and it took me a week to read it, after dinner and during breaks in the day, almost as if it were a delectable treat.
Although you wish for a happy ending, you read the book knowing the whole time that it cannot be.
So savor this book, I really, truly recommend it; it is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read.
Most recent customer reviews
This book was chosen for me by our book club. It has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2012 by Suzanne
This was a wonderful story filled with rich characters, great detail and touching emotion. Good thing I didn't have anything pressing to do the day I started it... Read morePublished on June 29 2004 by Heather R. Cooper
I just finished this book and I was actually depressed to put it down. One of the very best books I have ever read. Read morePublished on March 10 2004 by Amy G.
Although the premise of this book is creative and the writing style is polished, the characters and story left plenty to be desired. Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2004 by R. Punzel
Read this book only if you are truly interested in Indian life and their various conflicts with the white world in 1870's Old West. Read morePublished on Dec 13 2003
A woman in an unhappy life takes the opportunity to partake in a government program to pacify American Indians by sending 1000 white women to be their wives. Read morePublished on Oct. 21 2003 by R. Platten
Unlike other reviewers, I bought the plausability of this story. Either way, this is a strong piece of literature that will stay with you long after you've finished. Read morePublished on Oct. 19 2003 by Allison Jo