Book Review: Volume 2 Covered Wagon Women, Diaries and Letters From The Western Trails, 1850 Edited and Compiled by Kenneth L. Holmes
"The historian who would read women's diaries must 'hear' what is not written, and understand what is spoken only by allusion and indirection." Lillian Schlissel
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Published by Bison Books 1996/296 pages
Non-fiction/History/Pioneer Women/Diaries and Journals/Westward Expansion
Volume 2 of 3 Books on Pioneer Women and their Diaries, Letters
Before reading this book and the previous reviewed book on Pioneer women---I thought most women of this age were domestic, passive, servitude towards men. I guess some were, but certainly not all. Even for those women who did obediently do what their husbands or fathers wanted, they all had feelings and opinions. Inside their mind they may have been quaking with anger or fear, but society standards and the inability for most women to not be able to provide financially for themselves, they remained silent. By reading this compilation of 6 different women's diaries from the mid 1850's-----all that traveled west-----I understand them a little better. Regardless of the times we live in, or the education we've had, or the environment we live in, or even the culture and religion-----all women are basically the same-----meaning we all have feelings, hopes, dreams, anxieties, fears, personalities, quirks. It must have been extremely difficult for a lone woman living amongst men and or children without any other woman for support. Women need each other. If anything we need the encouragement and comfort and friendship of each other. Men are wonderful, but they do not fill the gap that another gal can provide in the way of girl talk, not to mention birthing babies.
I loved this book! I wish I owned it, but it is library copy.
The diary kept by Margaret A. Fink wife of Ledyard Fink was my favorite. Her writing compares more to a professional authors book. She wrote eloquently noticing details about the countryside she saw, the weather, what they ate and where they slept, the people she encountered. She wrote of the distances they traveled and how much further they had to go. She spoke of the, "rushing and boiling and yellow with mud, a mile wide, and in many places of unknown depth. The bed was of quicksand-this was the worst difficulty." When I read that last sentence I too was fearful of crossing that river. At times she was somber in speaking of those deaths from cholera. At times she was comical. She was a savvy woman and a person I just know I would have wanted to be friends with.
I admired that the editor left the women's diaries intact, he did not change the mis-spelled words nor grammatical or capitalization errors. He stated that spaces were added to help the reader.