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Moving Out: A Nebraska Woman's Life (Women in the West) Paperback – December 1, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although this book covers great events world wars, depressions, elections and blizzards Spence is at its center. The author, who died in 1998 at age 84, wrote this account of growing up in a small Nebraska farming community with a piano teacher mother (whom she disparaged) and a newspaper publisher father (whom she worshiped); she left it to her son, Kyle Spence Richardson, to edit. The life Spence captures embodies the American woman's world pre-Feminine Mystique, a woman's magazine world where females struggled "to create the perfect marriage." In the hands of a less talented writer, this book would appeal primarily to archivists and historians, for it concerns the basics of farming life: marrying, giving birth, rearing children, raising cattle and enduring quiet marital miseries. But Spence's story is a cornucopia of vivid scenes, including images of frontier dentistry, the Klan, church suppers, barn building and rattlesnake killing that will appeal to a much wider audience. The retelling of how Spence's aunt got into her nightclothes in front of a young Spence without revealing any nakedness combines lightness with weighty implications about women's lives, as does her recollection of the long hours women spent in the kitchen. Spence renders these moments unsentimentally, yet with emotional depth, richly informative detail and noteworthy balance. To the deluge of memoirs by "ordinary" people, Spence contributes one that is much more than a nice remembrance for her grandchildren. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Not only does Spence relate her own story, but also the stories of people around her, making Moving Out a collection of humorous and touching narratives."—Utah Historical Society
(Utah Historical Society )

"Compelling reading. . . . Spence is an astute, thoughtful writer."—Great Plains Quarterly
(Great Plains Quarterly )

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Product Details

  • Series: Women in the West
  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (December 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080329297X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803292970
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,468,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on April 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Polly Spence begins her Nebraska memoir with a brief discussion of early pioneer days and "the ghastliest death of all - the death that is the leaking away of life without love or warmth or closeness to another human being." Loneliness is the one aspect of life that hasn't changed with roads and telephones and TVs. And it's what led her to leave her husband and "everything familiar" to make an urban life at age 56.
Born in a small town in 1914, Polly Spence grew up among fine people with conservative, narrow-minded values. She tells of the coming of the Ku Klux Klan and her newspaperman father's public outrage, she tells of her mother's complacency when the ladies' club blackballed a less conventional woman. In 1927 her family moved further west to cow country where ranchers were affronted by a locked door, and your private life was your own affair. "Political attitudes are conservative, personal attitudes are loose and relaxed." She describes hard times and storms, pigheadedness and kindness, friends and work and parties and the stories of old relatives. She gives one woman's perspective on the Great Depression, the aftermath of one war and the coming of another, and the changing face of a rural land.
All this and more is the backdrop and fabric of a life. In lively, reflective, anecdotal prose, Spence fleshes out her family, from her beloved father and older brother to her tempestuous relationship with her mother, her early joyous years as a rancher's wife, the coming of babies and the long, slow decline of her marriage. Spence packs a lot of life into this slim, captivating volume.
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Format: Paperback
The title of this well-written memoir is misleading. It's less about moving out than it is about staying put and doing the best you can with what you've got. The author's moving out (leaving a marriage of 40 years) occurs in the closing chapters, after she has lived a life as wife and mother, married to a rancher in the northern Nebraska Panhandle.

Polly Spence (1914-1998) grew up in Franklin, Nebraska, the daughter of a small-town newspaper editor and of Irish immigrants. This is Willa Cather country and you can recognize the kind of shallow social world found in Cather's "One of Ours" and Sinclair Lewis' "Main Street," a place where small minded men dress up in white robes and the city fathers have to confront an insurgence of the KKK.

In her senior year, the author's family moves suddenly to western Nebraska, where she meets the man she marries - both of them just out of high school. The year, 1929, marks the beginning of a long hard-won struggle to make a go of it, both as ranchers and as a family, as she becomes the mother of three boys in quick order. Determined, strong-willed, and independent, Spence eventually faults herself for being too much like her mother - rigid in her beliefs and unyielding in her temper. Yet, given the circumstances of her life, it's hard to see how she might have lived it differently.

There are moments of sudden and terrible personal loss in her story that will leave readers stunned, even if reading between the lines you can see them coming. (I didn't.) Finally, hers is the account of a life lived with a kind of courage that confronts obstacles without flinching. The account of her later years in Los Angles is something of an epilogue to the achievements of her life raising a family in the isolated grasslands of high plains Nebraska.

Thanks to the University of Nebraska Press for seeing this find book into print. Also recommended reading: Judy Blunt's "Breaking Clean."
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Format: Paperback
If you have ever had to look at your life in perspective and ask: "What about ME?" then this is the book for you. In a very matter of fact way the author reviews her life from child hood through to mature adult. She eloquently describes the typical woman of her era. But as she ages, she becomes less and less typical and more her own person. I was greatly taken with her desciptions and obvious love for the land and the people. But that alone could not hold her there. Although she is describing her own life journey, many readers will certainly identify with her along the way.
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Format: Paperback
Wow. What a story. I've always loved personal accounts of historical events. But this one is awesome.

Perhaps I'm biased because I've been to the places that Polly describes in her autobiography. But I never knew that Polly even existed until I read her story. I think what makes her story so remarkable is the way in which it's told. She takes an honest appraisal of the events of her life and gives a no-excuses account of what happened and why. She shares with us her victories, her triumphs, her tragedies and her faults, all in the context of early twentieth-century western Nebraska.

Polly Spence gives me, as a modern-day Nebraska woman, a sense of where, as women here in the Midwest, we've come from and inspiration to help shape where we're going. Can I look at myself with the same honesty and integrity as Polly does in her story? And do I have the same courage to shape my future the way she shaped hers?

Polly's story is one of overcoming adversity in circumstances I can only imagine. Yet, her story is also a testament to the adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same." It's easy to find yourself connected to Polly across the miles and the years as she struggles with many of the same problems modern-day women still face every day.

Well worth the read!
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