Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Women of the Frontier

Women of the Frontier
Published By: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Page Count: 256
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult/Middle Grades - Nonfiction

March is Women's History month. I'm always seeking great nonfiction reads to recommend to my students this month that feature strong women and can help them learn more about social history. I have always been fascinated by Women's History. For so much of written history, the story of the female experience was largely ignored. Modern historians have realized how important the contributions of women were  to the creation of a successful nation. You cannot ignore the stories of a whole group of people unless you want a biased account of events. I, for one, am so pleased to see more nonfiction books shining spotlights on the previously unheard stories.

Women of the Frontier spotlights the experiences of women who braved the frontier in order to expand the United States and create homes in new lands. I cannot imagine the amount of courage these women possessed to leave behind everything they had ever known and travel into the unknown. I don't know that I would have been able to do such a thing. A portion of myself longs for their sense of adventure, but I would prefer to do the moving and traveling with modern conveniences. I would not have been cut out for this time period and this form of adventure.

One of the strongest aspects of this text is that it doesn't just tell the stories of white women. I loved that it included women from minority groups as well. I was particularly interested in the portion of the book that dealt with Native American women. The merging of White and Native cultures is something that I have studied at length. I enjoyed finding more stories and perspectives concerning this topic. In the past, a bulk of my studies have been focused more on the male experience. 

The mixture of primary and secondary sources provides an entertaining read. I found myself immersed in the lives of these women. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Women's History and Westward Expansion. Also, this would be an excellent nonfiction resource for a classroom library; this text could be used to address various Common Core standards.

Using journal entries, letters home, and song lyrics, the women of the West speak for themselves in these tales of courage, enduring spirit, and adventure. Women such as Amelia Stewart Knight traveling on the Oregon Trail, homesteader Miriam Colt, entrepreneur Clara Brown, army wife Frances Grummond, actress Adah Isaacs Menken, naturalist Martha Maxwell, missionary Narcissa Whitman, and political activist Mary Lease are introduced to readers through their harrowing stories of journeying across the plains and mountains to unknown land. Recounting the impact pioneers had on those who were already living in the region as well as how they adapted to their new lives and the rugged, often dangerous landscape, this exploration also offers resources for further study and reveals how these influential women tamed the Wild West.

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