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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (The Western Frontier Library Series) Paperback – December 15, 1975

4.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

In 1854, at the age of twenty-two, Isabella Bird left England and began traveling as a cure for her ill health. Over the years she explored Asia, the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii, and both the Eastern and Western United States. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains contains letters written to her sister during her six-month journey through the Colorado Rockies in 1873. Traveling alone, usually on horseback, often with no clear idea of where she will spend the night in what is mostly uninhabited wilderness, she covers over a thousand miles, most of it during the winter months. A well-educated woman who had known a comfortable life, she thinks nothing of herding cattle at a hard gallop, falling through ice, getting lost in snowstorms, and living in a cabin where the temperatures are well below zero and her ink freezes even as she writes. She befriends desperados and climbs 14,000 foot mountains, ready for any adventure that allows her to see the unparalleled beauty of nature. Her rare complaints have more to do with having to ride side-saddle while in town than with the conditions she faces. An awe-inspiring woman, she is also a talented writer who brings to life Colorado of more than one hundred years ago, when today's big cities were only a small collection of frame houses, and while and beautiful areas were still largely untouched. --Erica Bauermeister

Book Description

The further American adventures of the indefatigable Isabella Bird, from lone rides across the prairies to an encounter (if it was nothing more) with that western archetype, the one-eyed, romantic, courteous, poetry-declaiming outlaw. --This text refers to the Printed Access Code edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Western Frontier Library Series (Book 14)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; Revised edition (December 15, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806113286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806113289
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"It is hard to recall another woman in any age or country who traveled as widely, saw so much, and who left so perceptive a record of what she saw," says Daniel Boorstin who wrote an introduction to this edition of "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains."

The daughter of a respectable English clergyman, Isabella Bird was a short, dumpy, 41-year old spinster in 1873 when she visited Colorado. She found there a bunch of people she mostly disliked, but a place -- Estes Park -- on which she lavished pages of Wordsworthian nature worship. She climbed Long's Peak -- no small feat of physical endurance -- described Denver, Colorado Springs, and other Colorado cities, and lived briefly the life of a pioneer ranchwoman in a mountain wilderness.

The reader should be aware of a romantic subtext not fully described in "A Lady's Life." Isabella met "Rocky Mountain Jim" Nugent, a famous desperado who she described as an "awful looking a ruffian as one could see." Jim became her guide and companion in Estes Park, but she only hints in her book at a romantic attachment. In letters to her sister in Scotland, she tells much more of the relationship and of Jim's ardour and his marriage proposal. Was she fantasizing? Was Jim, known as a ladies man, putting out a lot of Irish blarney to this less-than-glamorous gentlewoman? Or was his infatuation with her real? The relationship between the two is explored in several biographies of Bird. In any case, Isabella left Jim behind and headed back to Scotland after a couple of months. Jim was killed in a gunfight a few months later by another man Isabella had known. A romantic triangle? Who knows?

With a story like this -- and a backstory of frustated love and gunfights -- "A Ladies Life in the Rocky Mountains" can hardly fail to be fascinating.
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Format: Paperback
A must for the reader who is searching for a first hand description of life in the Rocky's in the 1800's. It includes wonderful sketches by the author and great descriptions of characters and adventures in the untamed West. A great book for bedtime and rainy day reading.
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Format: Paperback
Isabella Bird's adventures in the 1870's west are amazing. She travels courageously across the Rockies by horseback, alone, as a woman, and dressed in garb which should have resulted in her death from exposure. Yet she is very matter-of-fact about her travels, detailing a vivid life of Western pioneers - their isolation, their poverty, their difficulties as immigrants, in the post-Civil War time period. I'm surprised this didn't make the San Francisco Chronicle's list of best non-fiction books about the West.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book to bring on your vacation to the Rockies. Miss Bird travels to what are now popular tourist destinations, only she does it before the convenience of a SUVs, Motels, or even plumbing. She meets overworked settlers, fascinating (and surprisingly polite) desperados, and English dandies. She revels in the mountain vistas, sunrises, sunsets and orange moonlight. Her many mile treks on horseback over frozen landscapes, alone in the wild west are an inspiration.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book while visiting Estes Park, CO...hungry for books about life in the West that may not be so readily available here in NJ. I found it to be one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read! Isabella's descriptions of the Rocky Mountains and the climate through which she travelled are vivid and gripping. But more than that, she gives a detailed and honest account of what life was like for settlers on the frontier. How she managed to ride thru the mountains where the only "trails" were tracks of wagons or animals, when often those were covered with the seemingly constant snow, boggles the mind. Her love for Colorado sings out in every word she writes. I too was deeply touched by its beauty, and hope to return again, this time with an enriched appreciation due to this wonderful recounting of Isabella Bird's journey.
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For many years I saw this book in National Park bookstores and passed it by thinking it would be an example of the overwritten, rather tedious journals of other Victorian travelers. When I finally found it at a used bookstore and rather reluctantly bought it, I was surprised to find out how exciting and relevant her story was.

Because I live in Colorado, I recoginize and travel through many of the places she describes. Just this weekend as we traveled along Highway 67, my husband and I remarked on the likelihood, that this was the same route she'd taken out of Colorado Springs.

Her accounts lend life to the grey, weatherbeaten cabins, abandoned roads and rusting rails that we see. Even though many parts of Europe and the US were relatively modern at the time of her adventures, it is surprising to read just how primitive and precarious was the life of many Colorado settlers.

Even if you aren't from Colorado, read this book to become aquainted with a Victorian woman who found a way to live life fully. Read it to learn about life in the west. Read it just because it's a good read.
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Format: Paperback
Did you ever read any of the BEANY MALONE novels by Lenora Mattingly Weber? In them I first read about Isabella Bird and her remarkable life in the American West. Beany's older brother, Johnny Malone, is a teenager when the series begins, a young Denver boy with a remarkable passion for unearthing the memoirs and daguerrotypes of Colorado pioneers and taking notes on the old-timers who settled the state. Their colorful lives make his ordinary life seem rather pastel, so he often sinks into a nostalgia of the past, while his family members tease him about the dreamy look in his eyes. He helps a veteran journalist, Emerson Worth, complete his magnum opus, OUR CITY HAS DEEP ROOTS. And among the pioneers Johnny obsessed about was none other than Isabella Bird, so when I found this book on a recent trip to Boulder, I added it to my rucksack.

If you are reading on horseback, as Isabella Bird did, this is perhaps the ideal book to carry with you. She was a woman used to the English-style horse with its Ascot breeding and high carriage. What she found in Colorado were, naturally, the horses of the West, more perfectly adapted to the mile-high atmospheres, but slung somewhat lower than anything she's been used to and slightly swaybacked. Bird adapted quickly, and the fun of her autobiography is to see her taking in her stride a series of calamities and hardships that would have Job complaining bitterly! No matter if it's an insect infestation or tumbling right through a sheet of ice into zero degree river chills, for Isabella Bird it's all part of a day's fun. Travel writing in the 19th century was, of course, the leading genre of prose. From no other source were English-speaking readers able to find out more about other people's lives, and the curiosity was immense.
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A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (The Western Frontier Library Series)
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