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Western Women: Their Land, Their Livesby Lillian Schlissel
Synopses & Reviews
In recent years the study of western history has been transformed by scholarship on the actual experiences of the women who settled the West. The essays gathered here, first presented at a 1984 conference sponsored by the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, analyze and interpret this new body of research.
Each essay is accompanied by several commentaries that reveal the complex multicultural character of the West through the experiences of American Indian, Mexican-American, and Anglo-American (including Mormon) women. The discussion of domestic ideology examines what values Anglo women carried west and how their values influenced their perception of women of other races, cultures, and religions. An exploration of the religious experiences of indigenous women leads to a consideration of cross-cultural marriage as a catalyst of social and cultural change. A study of the Anglo family raises questions about its stability and the western values of individualism and self-determination. Essays on women's attitudes toward landscape, the place of Mexican-American women in the workforce, the legal rights of Indian women, the experiences of women on other frontiers, and on the public interpretation of women's history point toward exciting scholarly work that lies ahead.
These essays analyze and interpret studies on women's roles in the American West.
Professor Myres gives frontier women a voice they never had. She uses extensive new material by and about women--letters, journals, and reminiscences from over 400 collections-- to study the impact of the frontier on women's lives and the role of women in the West. She offers a major reinterpretation of the experience of pioneer women, including that of Indian, Mexican, French, black, and Anglo-American women. The account recreates in detail the frontier experience of all these women, beginning with their physical and intellectual responses to the trek West, and concluding with their struggle for political suffrage and economic opportunity.
Women moved from civilization to the frontier encumbered by more than baggage. They also had to overcome literary and social stereotypes. We learn their views on wilderness, Indians, race, and religion as well as how they reacted to the daily challenges of keeping house, raising a family, and gaining a measure of equality.
A strikingly original, highly readable, and informative history that will be used by scholars and lay readers alike.--Howard Lamar, from the Foreword
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