Women of the Frontier: 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers
by Brandon Marie Miller, published by Chicago Review Press, (2013), 9781883052973
This accessible collection of illustrated short accounts of women and their roles in the settlement of the American West is a great starting point, supporting teaching and further research. Each chapter starts with a useful summary about the roles of women on the journey west: as homesteaders, during the gold rush and also during times of conflict. You could use the account of the experiences of Margaret Reed and Amelia Stewart Knight to highlight the terrible hardships and courage of women on the difficult journey west. The story of Clara Brown can be used to look at the contribution African American women made to the Gold Rush of 1859.The story of Narcissa Whitman gives an interesting insight into the prejudices held by white settlers when they encountered indigenous peoples of North America. The book includes the story of Thocmetony, later known as Sarah Winnemucca, who worked tirelessly as an activist and an interpreter campaigning for the rights of the Paiute people in the face of government oppression and mistreatment. You could use the material to open up debate about the power of and use of historical terms, with ‘Native American’, ’American Indian’ and ’Indian’ all referenced within this book. The final two stories can be used as an interesting comparison of women who were captured by the Comanche, Rachel Palmer Plummer who suffered as a ‘slave’ and Cynthia Ann Parker who married a chief and refused to return to white society.