A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922 Paperback – Apr 2000
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From Library Journal
The 34 writers included in this impressive anthology originally published their fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and occasional writings during the settlement years of the American frontier. All of the women were professional authors at a time when women generally had difficulty finding publishers. Their abilities reinforced their physical isolation yet offered them outlets not available to most women and men. Miller, who lives in Arizona and has degrees in history, anthropology, and geology, has done a particularly fine job of finding voices that aren't often represented in frontier literatureDwomen of Native American, Hispanic, Chinese, and Anglo ethnicity are included. Each selection is preceded by a brief biographical and historical reference establishing context. Miller's admiration and respect for each author is evident. Recommended for women's studies, American studies, and frontier literature collections in academic and public libraries.DPam Kingsbury, Florence, AL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Not simply paeans to the West, the selections examine substantive social, political, and racial themes and explore issues of identity, marriage, and autonomy."
"This useful and accessible collection has great appeal for general readers with an interest in western, nineteenth-century, or women's history. Moreover, college and high school instructors will find it a welcome source and textbook."
"The frontier and American women are intertwined in the collected pieces through the issues of race, the clash of indigenous and invading or intermingling cultures. The feminine voice is heard throughout--voices rich in detail and less impaired by territorial imperative."
"In this book are bits and pieces of dreams, lives, experiences, and vistas, like squares cut from old cloth and assembled into a crazy quilt of writing styles and forms. The patchwork design mirrors both the complexity of the chroniclers and the stark lines and angles of the American frontier." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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With the exception of a few such notable writers as Willa Cather, Mary Austin, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the women represented here have not been read since their original publication. The search that turned them up was a "treasure hunt," Miller says, as she followed trails of footnotes and buried references to bring us reports from the wild places of the frontier, written by women who traveled the difficult roads sometimes alone, sometimes in company, but always in partnership with their pens. They wrote letters home, or wrote essays for publication, or wrote after the fact, but they wrote. And wrote, and--luckily for us--kept on writing.
Four of the writers in the anthology are Native Americans. More than half wrote before the years of the Civil War. One, Elizabeth Custer, wrote to immortalize her husband; another, Frances Gage, immortalized Sojourner Truth. The intrepid Isabella Bird wrote with her heart in her mouth about her climb up Long's Peak (what in the world was she wearing?). Caroline Kirkland wrote with her tongue in her cheek about the enormous lot of gear that was packed into the wagon that carried her and her family into the wilderness, "which we then, in our greenness, considered indispensable. We have since learned better."
All of these women writers had an appreciative eye for domestic detail. We read about adobe houses in Los Angeles (Helen Jackson) and the tents and earthen lodges of the Western tribes (Alice Fletcher), about food and gardens and husbands and children and births and illness and deaths, about women's hopes and dreams and disillusionments. Men don't record these homely details in their stories--they can't. Women do, at least, these women have, and it's a good thing, too, for how else can we know about the lives of real people as they heroically settled down to carving homes and schools and towns out of a wild land? I must personally confess to a happy moment of recognition when I turned a page and found a long poem by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, "Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight," which I memorized as a girl for my own personal pleasure, because I loved the poem's story and its strong, ringing lines.
Miller has also given us brief but valuable biographical essays about each writer, placing her in the context of her time and giving us a sense of the shape of her literary work. These, together with sources, a full bibliography, and the rich treasures of the writings themselves, make for an extraordinarily powerful and unique volume. Many, many thanks to Susan Cummins Miller for an remarkable anthology that belongs in every collection of women's and Western literature.
by Susan Wittig Albert
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Some of the writing is `old fashioned' with flowery descriptions and archaic syntax. Other selections are clean with a vibrancy that brings the telling into the present and makes for a delightful read. All of the women were well known to their contemporaries; their reports from the West were "a way of distilling on paper the stranger-in-a-strange-land experience...." Some of the women wrote to supplement their family's income. This book deserves a place alongside other compilations of women's experience of the early days out West.
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