Land of Many Hands: Women in the American West

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Oxford University Press, USA, Nov 27, 1997 - History - 188 pages
"Come along, come along--don't be alarmed,/Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm."--popular 1852 camp songFrom 1840 to 1910, the western region of the United States was the stage for dramatic and often tumultuous encounters between people of diverse cultural backgrounds. This was a period of feverish development of western lands, often with tragic consequences for native peoples as homesteaders encroached upon ancient lands and cultures. American women--Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and European whites--played a prominent role in the migration out West. They raised families, plowed land and planted corn, panned for gold and cleared forests for new homes, opened schools and ran boardinghouses and saloons, became ranchers, missionaries, journalists, peddlers, and trail guides. Women helped to build communities and push the boundaries of the United States to the Pacific.They came west as homesteaders and teachers, artists and journalists, prostitutes and outlaws, physicians and activists, domestics and nursemaids, and a myriad of other occupations. And wherever they settled they left an indelible mark on the land and on the nation's destiny.In Land of Many Hands, author Harriet Sigerman uncovers the fascinating stories of women in the American West using primary sources and documents (many never before published). Among the women featured are: Sarah Winnemucca, spokeswoman for the Piutes; women's rights activist Abigail Scott Duniway of Oregon; Narcissa Whitman, missionary to the Cayuse Indians of Oregon; Alice Fletcher, pioneer anthropologist, an advocate for the Omaha and Nez Perce Indians; Mary Elizabeth Blair, an African-American real estate agent; journalists Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard of San Francisco and Charlotte Spears Bass of Los Angeles; Mary Josephine Welch ("Chicago Joe"), proprietor of the Red Light Saloon in Helena, Montana; Mary E. Lease, orator for the populist party; and Mrs. E. J. Guerin ("Mountain Charley"), a trail guide who made her living disguised as a man.

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LAND OF MANY HANDS: Women in the American West

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``You Will Wonder How I Can Bear It'' is the title of one chapter in a book that attempts to account for the women who helped settle the West, but its scope often includes almost every manner of ... Read full review

About the author (1997)


Harriet Sigerman is a historian and freelance writer who has contributed to The Young Oxford History of Women in the United States. She has been a research assistant to Henry Steele Commager at Amherst College and for the Stanton-Anthony Papers at the University of Massachusetts. She lives in New Jersey.

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