A Women's History

Victoria Lamont

Postwestern Horizons Series

210 pages
5 illustrations


August 2016


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

At every turn in the development of what we now know as the western, women writers have been instrumental in its formation. Yet the myth that the western is male-authored persists. Westerns: A Women’s History debunks this myth once and for all by recovering the women writers of popular westerns who were active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the western genre as we now know it emerged.

Victoria Lamont offers detailed studies of some of the many women who helped shape the western. Their novels bear the classic hallmarks of the western—cowboys, schoolmarms, gun violence, lynchings, cattle branding—while also placing female characters at the center of their western adventures and improvising with western conventions in surprising and ingenious ways. In Emma Ghent Curtis’s The Administratrix a widow disguises herself as a cowboy and infiltrates the cowboy gang responsible for lynching her husband. Muriel Newhall’s pulp serial character, Sheriff Minnie, comes to the rescue of a steady stream of defenseless female victims. B. M. Bower, Katharine Newlin Burt, and Frances McElrath use cattle branding as a metaphor for their feminist critiques of patriarchy. In addition to recovering the work of these and other women authors of popular westerns, Lamont uses original archival analysis of the western-fiction publishing scene to overturn the long-standing myth of the western as a male-dominated genre.

Author Bio

Victoria Lamont is an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo. She is a coauthor of Judith Merril: A Critical Study.


"Westerns does far more than add women and stir; it is a tremendous gift to scholarship, restoring women's contributions to American literary history and laying a more accurate and inclusive foundation for future work."—Jennifer S. Tuttle, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

"Compelling. . . . A valuable read for all those interested in the intersections of gender and culture in early twentieth century America."—Michigan Historical Review

"Westerns: A Women's History is a readable excursion into female authors, their experiences, and their perspectives, within an important genre. In unmasking and then undoing female erasure from the beginnings
of the American Western novel, Lamont makes important points and deftly defends them. Her book is enjoyable and significant."—Thomas E. Simmons, Journal of American Culture

"Westerns: A Women’s History introduces a whole new set of woman authors and texts to be included in the study and teaching of Western American literature as well as a new and compelling origin narrative of the Western literary genre."—Randi Tanglen, English: Journal of the English Association

“Lamont has made the subject of the western important all over again. . . . As a piece of feminist recovery work, Lamont has reordered the scholarly record about a canonical national tradition. By definition this is a major work.”—Krista Comer, author of Surfer Girls in the New World Order

“This book promises nothing less than to ‘tell an alternative origin story of the popular western,’ and it succeeds in spades. Through a series of brilliant readings, canny archival research, sheer wit, and even laugh-out-loud moments, Lamont decisively changes the face of women’s westerns. In the process she makes her reader rethink not just the genealogy of popular westerns, but the gender, class, and race dynamics of the literary marketplace, early feminisms, and scholarly blind spots. . . . This book leads the way in that rethinking, with wit, flair, and deep persuasiveness.”—Christine Bold, author of The Frontier Club: Popular Westerns and Cultural Power, 1880–1924

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Western Violence and the Limits of Sentimental Power
2. Domestic Politics and Cattle Rustling
3. Women’s Westerns and the Myth of the Pseudonym
4. Why Mourning Dove Wrote a Western
5. Cattle Branding and the Traffic in Women
6. The Masculinization of the Western

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