- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: High Plains Pr; First Edition edition (September 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0931271908
- ISBN-13: 978-0931271908
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #780,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West Paperback – September 15, 2008
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Reading these accounts by women homesteaders is like discovering a dusty trunk in the attic of a beloved grandmother, where you sift through stacks of letters bound by faded ribbons, open brittle pages of a diary, or leaf through yellowing magazines. Time will suspend as you are transported to another era, and you may not want to return. --Susanne George Bloomfield, author of The Adventures of The Woman Homesteader<br /><br />Staking Her Claim is doubly rewarding for its wealth of data about women who stepped outside the picture-frame of myth on the Western homestead frontier, and for the pure pleasure of hearing the stories of these women in their own words. --Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams: A Novel<br /><br />This book is an invaluable gift. Marcia Meredith Hensley achieves here what no other writer or historian has done in gathering and explaining the important writings of dozens of single women homesteaders in the interior northern West. Hensley stakes her own claim as a new authority in this rewarding collection. --Richard W. Etulain, author of Beyond the Missouri: The Story of the American West
This book is an invaluable gift. Marcia Meredith Hensley achieves here what no other writer or historian has done in gathering and explaining the important writings of dozens of single women homesteaders in the interior northern West. Hensley stakes her own claim as a new authority in this rewarding collection. --Richard W. Etulain, author of Beyond the Missouri: The Story of the American West
Staking Her Claim is doubly rewarding for its wealth of data about women who stepped outside the picture-frame of myth on the Western homestead frontier, and for the pure pleasure of hearing the stories of these women in their own words. --Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams: A Novel
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Top Customer Reviews
One has to grant that homesteading on the American prairie was a special case, a way for women to escape from housewife drudgery or other scut work disguised as a career in nursing or teaching. As well, some of these tales speak of second generation homesteaders, young women who had grown up on the family homestead. They knew quite well what they were getting into and what it would take to survive.
Now the stories come to us as though new, unworn by familiarity: homesteaders with pianos who painted watercolors to pin on walls they had plastered themselves. Good reminders that bad times can be survived, land can be lost and gained, community can be built and rebuilt in the most unpromising places.
described in this book. We felt somewhat lonely as we headed down the empty portions of the 2 lane highways that sparingly cross Nevada from south to north and then into the south-eastern most lands of Oregon that are so sparsely populated. It was so easy to identify with these heroines and at the same time laugh at ourselves for looking upon our retirement "adventure" as if it took any courage at all when compared to theirs. These women were remarkable for their determination, courage, and independent ways. I was feeling so much a part of their lives and relishing the excitement of that period in American history. When we stopped to stretch our legs in Jordan Valley I looked for a hitching post to which we might tie our horses! There were none but the "time-shift" in my mind continued when I went into a small family run espresso, soft ice cream, marbles and memorabilia shop called "the rock house." I felt like I was still in the early part of the twentieth century!...The biographical details were intimate portraits of the lives of these amazing women. The author has obviously spent many hours combing newspapers and journals as well as having contact with several of the relatives of these great Americans who helped to push our nation west. Thank you very much Marcia Hensley for this entertaining and informative treasure.
Hensley shows us that indeed there were such stories. The Homestead Act of 1862 opened the door for men and single women--"heads of households" specifically--to acquire land by a few years of "proving up," and then eventually owning the land. Revisions to the act in 1909 and 1912 continued the westering prospects for those willing, and more women tried it then than earlier. Not as many women as men tried it, but there were some, and the book puts that together for us in a compilation of historic and literary examples. Homesteading wasn't easy, and many of both genders failed along the way. But some had the necessary grit, and they succeeded. These are their stories.
Standing around and being dainty wasn't the way of the woman homesteader. Instead they coped, somehow, with the pestiferous--pack rats, mice, snakes (including lots of rattlers), prairie dogs, coyotes, porcupines, jackrabbits and more, dispatching some with their rifles, or traps, or something as uncomplicated as a shovel. Whack! Off with their heads!
Some coped with intense cold of winter, and intense heat of summer, and other difficult weather conditions. They usually lived, for several months a year at least, in small spaces, sometimes dug out of the earth, rather than more common sorts of habitations. Some walked long distances for a bucket of precious water, to be carefully doled out for too many needs. Others walked miles just to visit a neighbor and break the monotony of the wide open spaces. They tried gardening and too often lost most of their crops to rabbits, prairie dogs, birds, and grasshoppers, or conditions that were far too arid for successful crop raising. A lucky few managed, with some hired support, to yield a good crop of oats, or wheat, or alfalfa on their acreage, while some might have not much but a good crop of rocks.
Hensley gives us these stories by various means, first through early 1900s magazine articles. Then we get to read letters homesteaders sent to loved ones somewhere, which were saved. A few memoirs were uncovered, written some years later. Historical records yielded some stories of women homesteaders. A few homesteaders give oral histories of their experiences. Hensley puts all this together for us in a logical and readable fashion, integrating a varied fare into a meaningful whole, entertaining and intriguing. And a variety of photos are distributed throughout the book for our further interest and edification about the text. All has been carefully researched and documented.
Despite the arduous and frustrating struggles, most of these women earned a sense of triumph over adversity. They exemplify the often questing human spirit at its best. And they show us once more how women should not be underestimated, then or now.