A Note from the Author
Dear Amazon Readers:
My first memory of Great-Aunt Clara was from 1950: I sat on the edge of her bed beside her, looking down as she struggled to draw stockings over gnarled and vein-roped feet. I didn’t know it then, but fifty-four years earlier, those feet had trodden 4,000 miles in a heroic trek with her mother from Spokane, Washington, to New York City.
Clara and her mother, Helga Estby, had taken hundreds of pages of notes along the way, intending to write a book when they returned. But when they reached their farm, they discovered that two of Clara’s siblings had died of diphtheria before they could get home. The family vowed never to mention the ill-fated trip again. The notes were burned.
I couldn’t shake the injustice I felt. Clara and Helga had done what no women had dared to do before, and instead of being treated as heroines, they were made to feel ashamed for having done something as unladylike as tromping across the country. Snippets of their adventures from two surviving newspaper articles kept nudging me on. Escaping drowning in a flash flood by hanging on to shrubs, demonstrating their curling iron to the Native Americans they camped with, shooting an attacker, visiting President-Elect McKinley in his home—each of those incidents deserved the attention of a storyteller.
Some people are natural-born writers and storytellers. I knew I wasn’t one of them, but I still ached to be the one to tell their story. I quit my job as a librarian so that I could take classes, conduct research, and write. If there was anything I inherited from my ancestors, it was persistence. I kept learning and rewriting, submitting to agents and publishers, accepting rejections as a sign that I had to learn more and try again. I felt that Great-Aunt Clara wanted me to tell her story, and I would not let her down.
After fifteen years and twenty-nine rejections, I have finally given Great-Aunt Clara and Great-Grandmother Helga voices of the forward-thinking women they were, in The Year We Were Famous. --Carole Estby Dagg
"Pulse-pounding encounters--outlaws! rattlers! flash floods!--will leave readers invigorated and inspired" - Horn Book
"Truth can be stranger than fiction in this outsized adventure that encompasses women's suffrage, mother-daughter relationships, economic catastrophe, the presidential race that put McKinley in the White House, and 8 million steps over four thousand miles...this is a page-turner." - Voya