Letters of a Woman Homesteader

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Houghton Mifflin, 1914 - Frontier and pioneer life - 279 pages
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This charming book is made up of letters from an admirable and resourceful woman who homesteaded in Wyoming in 1909. Her accounts of the people and the landscapes and adventures she encountered were so interesting and well-written that they were serialized in Atlantic Monthly. Mrs. Stewart's daughter was named Jerrine, and I picked up this link today from her granddaughter Jerrine's Facebook post. I had read this book and loved it in the 1970s, and when I came across the link to it this morning I couldn't stop reading through the book again, until I was done. Jerrine of the present day just happens to be my ex-husband's first ex-wife; we were acquainted before I met him. But that's another story.
This quote from the book pretty much sums Elinore Pruitt Stewart's personna up for me, "[A]ll my own efforts have always been just to make the best of everything and to take things as they come." I never met anyone like her for her ability to pitch in and make something charming and picturesque out of circumstances that could have been dreary and dull. In one of the letters, she wrote about how she created a memorable setting for a impromptu wedding reception in a pantry that was under construction in a boarding house. She made tables by covering wood trestles left by the work crew, swept up the sawdust, cleaned a big window that let onto a fine view of the mountains and put some wild flowers in a cracked jar on the window sill, and somehow pulled together a feast from what was at hand. And I'm guessing that the bride was more thrilled than any modern bride who has a $30,000 wedding could ever be.

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I enjoyed this book, it was optimistic and realistic. Not all struggle like most stories. It made me wish I could be woman homesteadeer!




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Page 215 - At the same time, any woman who can stand her own company, can see the beauty of the sunset, loves growing things, and is willing to put in as much time at careful labor as she does over the washtub, will certainly succeed; will have independence, plenty to eat all the time, and a home of her own in the end. Experimenting need cost the homesteader no more than the work, because by applying to the Department of Agriculture at Washington he can get enough of any seed and as many kinds as he wants to...
Page 282 - SUCCESS November, 1913. DEAR MRS. CONEY, — This is Sunday and I suppose I ought not to be writing, but I must write to you and I may not have another chance soon. Both your letters have reached me, and now that our questions are settled we can proceed to proceed. Now, this is the letter I have been wanting to write you for a long time, but could not because until now I had not actually proven all I wanted to prove. Perhaps it will not interest you, but if you see a woman who wants to homestead...
Page 8 - Shades of Shakespeare! Songs of David, the Shepherd Poet! What do you think of us? Well, we got behind it, and a more delicious 'it' I never tasted. Such coffee! And out of such a pot ! I promised Bo-Peep that I would send him a crook with pink ribbons on it, but I suspect he thinks I am a crook without the ribbons. The sagebrush is so short in some places that it is not large enough to make a fire, so we had to drive until quite late before we camped that night. After driving all day over what...
Page 191 - I have n't got, but I don't want them enough to be discontented and not enjoy the many blessings that are mine. I have my home among the blue mountains, my healthy, well-formed children, my clean, honest husband, my kind, gentle milk cows, my garden which I make myself. I have loads and loads of flowers which I tend myself. There are lots of chickens, turkeys, and pigs which are my own special care.
Page 17 - I was afraid to tell him I could mow for fear he would forbid me to do so. But one morning, when he was chasing a last hope of help, I went down to the barn, took out the horses, and went to mowing. I had enough cut before he got back to show him I knew how, and as he came back manless he was delighted as well as surprised. I was glad because I really like to mow, and besides that, I am adding feathers to my cap in a surprising way. When you see me again you will think I am wearing a feather duster,...
Page 4 - Well, I am not and I'm sure the robins would have the time of their lives getting leaves to cover me out here. I am 'way up close to the Forest Reserve of Utah, within half a mile of the line, sixty miles from the railroad. I was twenty-four hours on the train and two days on the stage, and oh, those two days! The snow was just beginning to melt and the mud was about the worst I ever heard of. The first stage we tackled was just about as rickety as it could very well be and I had to sit with the...
Page 59 - Two of the cowboys from other ranches helped serve and carried coffee, cake, and ice-cream. The tablecloths were tolerably good linen and we had ironed them wet so they looked nice. We had white lace-paper on the shelves and we used drawnwork paper napkins. As I said, we borrowed dishes, or, that is, every woman who called herself our neighbor brought whatever she thought we would need. So after every one had eaten I suggested that they sort out their dishes and wash them, and in that way I was saved...
Page 42 - ... to be born on the same day of the month. And then he played the fiddle until almost one o'clock. He played all the simple, sweet, old-time pieces, in rather a squeaky, jerky way, I am afraid, but the music suited the time and the place. Next morning he called me early and when I went out I saw such a beautiful sunrise, well worth the effort of coming to see. I had thought his cabin in a canon, but the snow had deceived me, for a few steps from the door the mountains seemed to drop down suddenly...
Page 134 - I am still entitled to one hundred and sixty acres more. I shall file on that much some day when I have sufficient money of my own earning. The law requires a cash payment of twenty-five cents per acre at the filing, and one dollar more per acre when final proof is made. I should not have married if Clyde had not promised I should meet all my land difficulties unaided. I wanted the fun and the experience.
Page 19 - ... tempt us. I started, though, to have just as good a time as possible, so I had a fishhook in my knapsack. Presently, about noon, we came to a little dell where the grass was as soft and as green as a lawn. The creek kept right up against the hills on one side and there were groves of quaking asp and cottonwoods that made shade, and service-bushes and birches that shut off the ugly hills on the other side. We dismounted and prepared to noon. We caught a few grasshoppers and I cut a birch pole...

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