I love reading about things that happened in history. I’ve always loved historical fiction. But it’s a treasure to find books that are non-fiction that captivate you like a fictional book does. Frontier Grit by Marianne Monson tells the stories of 12 women who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These women are amazing! I love reading their stories that give me both a sense of awe of how much they encountered and overcame and also a feeling of strength. That I can be like these women and work hard and serve others.
Frontier Grit – Daring Pioneer Women
With themes of women’s suffrage, entrepreneurs, pioneers in careers, and activists, these women of multiple races were alive during a time where women could not vote or do certain jobs or own land. But they all took their skills and strengths and worked their whole lives to give women a voice. And many helped others along the way. And I think because they lived in the frontier where certain rules didn’t always apply and the law was not always present, these women were able to become more than they ever could have in confined society. Even with it being a harder life to live in the wild west.
Luzena Stanley Wilson
One of my favorite stories was Luzena Stanley Wilson, a frontier entrepreneur. When her husband caught the gold rush fever, he wanted to go to California and would send for Luzena and the children when he made his fortune. Not wanting to be left behind, she brought her two young children and started on the trail with her husband. They asked to join another pioneer company of only men so they would have better chances against the odds of the trails. When the company refused to allow a women and children to accompany them, the Wilsons trekked on. They later found this company with few starving survivors. Luzena gave them food and water and they begged for her forgiveness.
Luzena soon found that she was one of very few women on the trail and many men hungered for good meals. So when they arrived in California, she set up shop and charged men for her home cooking. A flood happened in San Francisco and destroyed their home. So they started over in a new place building a restaurant, hotel, and a store. This was not the only time the Wilson’s would start over penniless. A fire took their businesses and home in Nevada. So they moved and started again. Luzena started a school for children and became a general practitioner and apothecary when they didn’t have one. She was eventually abandoned by her husband, but she carried on.
Luzena Wilson is just one example of the amazing women who did what they could to survive, learned trades when they were needed, raised a family, and were true pioneers in every way. What a role model and an example of strength. There are so many great stories to read! You need to get your hands on Frontier Grit!
The Only Flaw
The only thing I didn’t like about this book, is that I feel the commentary by the author sounds a little bitter. Yes, this time period was very hard and ruled by mostly white men who could be oppressive and corrupt and the laws were often outrageous, unfair, and biased. And these white men are the lives we hear about while many women and minorities are forgotten. I love that Monson is bringing these stories to life! But do we have to tear down the white man in order to lift the women and minorities? Why can’t we celebrate the lives of everyone?
As a middle class white woman, I often feel like I need to apologize for my race. My ancestors were white men – Irish, German, British, Welsh (you guys, I’m pretty much as white as you can get). I love other cultures and I often feel envious of deep traditions of other cultures that I don’t have. Many of my ancestors have been in the United States since the American Revolution and many cultural traditions were lost among the American melting pot. So I celebrate the great things the white man did. But I also celebrate equality and great things that women and minorities have done in this country as well. I think we all have things that are sad and even ashamed of in the history of the United States, but without them we wouldn’t be where we are or know what we know. A great example of this is the famous Broadway show Hamilton. If you haven’t, check out the documentary on PBS. The Founding Fathers were great men, but many had terrible flaws as well.
I’m grateful for the women in this book. That they were willing to make the world better, raise families, serve others, and stand up for women’s rights. These will be great stories that my daughters can one day read and will hopefully inspire them that they can flourish in any trial life throws their way.
You can find this book at Deseret Book or Amazon.