Top positive review
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Completely Unique and Completely Wonderful
on October 8, 2016
This book was just SO very wonderful. It is sort of an alternate history...a 'what if'... Fact, a Cheyenne chief in 1854, requested that the U.S. present the tribe with 1000 white women to be brides. Since Cheyenne children belong to the mother's tribe, this would enable children of the Cheyenne to become part of the White Man's world. The conference when this idea was present fell apart and NO wives were sent. But what if?
Women in that time in had little way to be independent Without a husband or family to support them... not much of a life. What if the proposal was secretly accepted and the gov't asked, secretly, for volunteers?
Now the story with characters so real, so rich, begins.
The main character, May Dodd, was one of the volunteers and kept a journal. She volunteered to escape life in an insane asylum...as did others. Many women were sent to asylums for reasons hard... nearly impossible... to believe today. Others were widows, former slaves, prisoners, adventure seekers, poor. Each one became totally, real to me - and I could not help but love each of them. I am stunned by Jim Fergus' ability to create so many women, each so very different from eachother, each so complete and detailed. Without effort, I came to know each of the women.
Then, on their travels, I saw the country in the 1860s and met soldiers, women passing as men, good and bad people, and saw the casual shooting of the 'endless' buffalo and other animals. Finally, they and I met the Cheyenne. I learned how they lived. Their lifestyle was described with rich detail - not as a 'noble savage' picture or as 'evil savage' - but as a complete way of life. With the women, I was able to grow in understanding - sometimes approval - sometimes anger.
Fergus tells the story of the wives, the husbands, love, sex, religion, danger, and politics. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills - land that the Cheyenne and other tribes had been promised would belong to them forever - changes everything.
Despite Jim Fergus making it clear that "One Thousand White Women" is a work of fiction - but the characters - they will become 100% real to you. They certainly did to me.